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Best power meters 2022: An aid to better training

2 Nov 2021
Verdict:

Here a selection of the best power meters on the market and a what you should be looking for when buying

The more data a cyclist has access to while training, racing and riding, the more the rider is able to measure their efforts and harvest invaluable feedback that’ll guide them towards their goals.

Letting you see how you’re improving, power is the most crucial metric you can use. Having long since overtaken heartrate in its perceived importance, the power meter shows not just how hard you’re working, but the result you’re achieving.

Power is measured in watts, the very same units you might use to assess the energy efficiency of your toaster. To determine how many you’re producing at any particular moment, most power meters use a mixture of strain gauges and intelligent electronics to measure the microscopic bending of metal or carbon as you transmit pedalling forces to the road.

Allowing you to choose specific training zones, keep to a sustainable effort on a long climb or simply brag about how many household appliances your legs can power, wattage is a very useful number to know.

Previously the preserve of elite athletes, nowadays many power meters cost a few hundred pounds rather than a couple of thousand. Making the insight they provide more attainable than ever, it’s not unusual to also find them being employed by riders with no interest in racing.

How to pick the best power meter for your needs

The power you produce can be measured from various parts of the bike, the most obvious being the crank. But the energy from your legs also travels through other components on its way to the tarmac, meaning it can just as readily be measured at the pedals, chainring, or rear hub. Each of which has benefits and drawbacks.

For instance, the rear hub used to be a favourite place to locate a power meter. But, as many people use different wheels for training and racing, this has fallen out of fashion.

Pedals offer another viable location. Yet, while quickly transferable between bikes, they restrict the choice of pedal and cleat system. Originally expensive, the development of cheaper options has seen their popularity boom.

Chainring and spider-based meters were among the first styles to be introduced. They remain popular and can come either as part of the crankset itself, the spider alone, or even built directly into the chainring.

No one system is better than another, as each has pros and cons. For more, head to our guide to choosing the right type of power meter for you and our feature delving into power meter accuracy.

The best power meters currently available 

Stages Cycling G3 Power Meter

The Stages Cycling Power Meter range started out with just three Shimano left-hand cranks but has grown into an offering of a dozen options for road riding, covering Cannondale’s Hollowgram SI, FSA, SRAM, Campagnolo and of course multiple Shimano versions.

They come as either a left-hand only crank (which measures power in one leg and multiplies to both legs) or as a full crankset with a power meter in both crank arms.

Stages also offers carbon fibre models (in Campagnolo, SRAM and FSA-compatible versions), something no similar company has achieved yet – but we tested the mid-level Ultegra option in standard alloy, which uses the same electronics as higher-end models.

A superbly simple system, Stages takes an original Shimano crank, prepares the surface, attaches strain gauges and the electronics in a sleek package that runs on a CR2032 watch battery.

Compatibility is huge – we’ve yet to meet a frame that clashes with the add-on, which sits on the inside of the left-hand crank arm. At 20g it’s very light and comes packed with features such as temperature compensation and an accelerometer to measure cadence. It transmits both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ protocols and accuracy claims to be within 1.5%.

Accurate, easy to fit and competitively priced, it’s easy to see why Stages is so widely used and with the third generation, they’ve proved to be long-term reliable too.

SRAM Integrated Power Meters

Saving you shopping around, SRAM’s Red, Force and Rival 12-speed eTap AXS groupsets now each come with the option to add a dedicated power meter. However, each takes a slightly different form depending on the groupset in question.

On the fancy Red groupsets, the power meter is built into the chainrings themselves. Making it extremely neat, the downside is that when the rings wear out you’ll be looking at £250 plus to replace them. Yet with SRAM promising they’ll last 50% longer, it’s an option many people seem keen to take it up on.

A level down, the Force groupset employs a more conventional spider-based strain gauge. Meaning you don’t need to junk the power metering parts each time you wear through a chainring, it’s almost as neat, and a lot cheaper to keep running. 

SRAM’s more egalitarian Rival system also now gets the option to fit a power meter. Either bought together in one lump or available as a single left-hand crank to add to your existing crankset, for just a few hundred quid extra (£230 to be precise) it’ll read the watts you’re generating via the spindle.

So three different options, but with each being made by SRAM in collaboration with power experts Quarq, you can bet on reliability, ease-of-use and accuracy all being excellent.

Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 power meter

Getting your power meter from the same supplier as your groupset is a pleasing concept.

Shimano has recently updated its headline Dura-Ace groupset and so has also refreshed its associated power meter too. A system that’s discreet, dual-sided, light, and accurate, with great battery life and minimal calibration faff. With the ability to swap rings independently of the power measurement, it’s versatile too. 

Early reports suggest the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 power meter has ironed out some of the glitchy data reads of its predecessor, which is certainly a big plus.

Look/SRM Exakt power pedals

A collaboration between French pedal giant Look and German power meter giant SRM, these pedals look and feel conventional. With no additional pods or attachments, they’re less bulky than most competitors and only 26g more than a standard Look Keo 2 Max pedal.

Look also claims the stack height is just 1.9mm higher, and otherwise, they look remarkably similar. The Exakt pedal body is made from carbon and uses the same carbon leaf-spring retention system.

With the power-measuring gubbins tucked neatly inside, SRM’s ultra-accurate strain gauges are what sets the Exakt apart. Rechargeable via a magnetic cable connector that pops into the end of the spindle, battery life is around 100 hours.

Connectivity is via Bluetooth LE and ANT+, meaning it should connect to any bike computer or smartphone. Cadence is taken care of using a small magnet in the pedal body that rotates past the spindle.

 Garmin Rally RS200 Pedal Power Meter

The latest pedal-based power meter from navigation giants Garmin comes in the form of the RS200 Rally pedals, the brand's first pedal power meters to be compatible with Shimano SPD-SL cleats.

A +/- 1% accuracy is claimed as is a 120 battery life while a pair of these pedals weigh 320g. Versatilty is ensured as you can swap pedals between bikes without any need for further setup or calibration. The spindles can also be removed and tranferred into XC pedal bodies allowing you to use power on your off-road bikes too.

At £969.99, they are one of the more expensive options however.

Favero Assioma Duo-Shi power pedals

The newest player to the pedal-based power meter market is Favero and its latest offering is the Assioma Duo-Shi power pedals. These are not actually complete pedals but rather spindles that need to be fitted into Shimano pedal bodies after purchase. This sounds like a bit of a faff but it's actually straightforward enough.

Favero will tell you its accuracy is partly down to the pedal’s in-built gyroscopes, which allow angular velocity to be measured in real-time, rather than averaged over several strokes as with some alternatives.

There is also the Favero Assioma Duo option which is a set of complete Look Keo-compatible pedals which boast the same accuracy as they rely on the same power measurements.

Rotor 2INPower Crankset

Rotor INpower offers a very different take on the single-sided power meter – instead of attaching it to the crank, the electronics are hidden inside the bottom bracket spindle, so they really are out of harm’s way.

With four strain gauges measuring the twisting effect on the axle, the system adds a few grams, including the USB rechargeable battery to fuel it. A single charge should see you provided with data for around 250 hours.

Adaptable to fit most frames thanks to Rotor’s UBB (Universal Bottom Bracket) adaptor system, this works with most common bottom bracket standards. INpower transmits power, cadence, OCA (Optimum Chainring Angle – useful for those who run Rotor’s elliptical Q-rings), torque effectiveness, and pedal smoothness. Data is transmitted via ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, so it’ll work happily with most head units.

We were impressed with the speed of the updates displayed on the head unit and the sleek design of the system. It all works very well indeed. It's available as just crank arms, weighing 596g, or with various chainrings configurations from 775g.

PowerPod power meter

This cheap and unusual power meter eschews the usual strain gauge, instead using a filter with a Gore-Tex membrane to measure frontal wind force, along with elevation and atmospheric pressure. Run through an algorithm, the PowerPod then promises to combine these to determine your power output.

Able to communicate this to your computer in real-time via Ant+, in our experience, it manages this feat with accuracy and consistency. However, there are a few caveats.

First, it won’t work for indoor training. Then there’s the setup, which can be time-consuming thanks to the product’s clunky software, and demands a level of understanding from the user. However, considering its low price, these may be worth putting up with, especially if you’re already a science nerd.

Five pro coaching tips for power meters

Felix Lowe - Trial by data

Fitting your power meter and getting the numbers is just the start of your fun. Growing those numbers is the key to getting fitter, but where do you start?

1. Learn how to use it: There are lots of resources online that can help but understanding how power can help is crucial. Like any tool, you’ll only get the best out of it if you really understand how to use it properly.

2. Test yourself: Regular self-testing will give you an idea of your current level if you’re improving. Simple tests you can do include FTP (functional threshold power) or MMP (maximum minute power). Use these to set your training zones.

3. Train in zones: What change do you need to see in your body? Train in the appropriate zone using a structured training program to help you reach your targets, such as riding faster for longer.

4. Track your data: All that data is no good if you don’t use it properly. Use systems like TrainingPeaks to monitor progression and so you can structure in your recovery.

5. Learn your limits: Effective pacing can change the way you ride in events, dramatically increasing speed. Use power zones to manage your efforts so you don’t go too hard too early.

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