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PowerTap P1 power meter pedals review

PowerTap P1 power pedals and Joule GPS+ computer
1 Feb 2017
Verdict:

The PowerTap P1 pedals are one of the most intuitive and effective power meters on the market

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
Update February 2018: £850
For 
Simple, intuitive and consistent
Against 
Heavy, more data available from other products

A lot has been happening when it comes to power. Largely, that’s been centred around the newly born entry-level market, with numerous power meters now being available for close to £500.

When PowerTap, having entered the power market way back in 1997, announced a big product update we expected to see it undercutting the competition, but instead were slightly surprised to see another pair of power measuring pedals join the numerous offerings already on the market.

Having now spent two months (and over 100 hours) with the pedals it’s clear that, far from following the crowd, PowerTap has set a new standard.

On the surface of it the PowerTap P1 pedals simply don’t leap out, and the reasons are numerous – why spend more compared to Stages? Why not get all the data from Garmin? Why accept the extra weight?

Indeed, at £1,050 and 398g for the pair (double that of lightweight pedals), they do seem a raw deal.

On the data side, the pedals do offer left and right power split but they fall short of the streams of data about each degree of the pedal stroke that is offered by SRM, Garmin Vector or InfoCrank.

Be assured, though, that when it actually comes to installing them and real world usage, the PowerTap P1 pedals are in many ways the best power meter available. 

Installation of the PowerTap P1 pedals

Let’s begin with the very first installation. Out of the box, I screwed the pedals into the cranks, I turned on the accompanying Joule GPS unit and, after a very speedy calibration, I had a power figure.

The PowerTap P1 pedals are virtually foolproof. Each ride requires only a manual zero to ensure the maximum accuracy, but even if you were too technologically primitive to undertake this (it is a fairly obvious option on the calibration screen) then the pedals still emit consistent and seemingly accurate data.

Powertap P1 installation

Crucially, working for Cyclist, I change bikes numerous times per week, sometimes several times a day. For two months I have switched the pedals with every bike switch, and never once had a problem.

Garmin vectors require a specific torque measurement when installing the pedals and, in our experience, can be glitchy on first installation. Stages, similarly, require some time after installation for the new torque on the crank to settle down and allow the power meter to provide accurate data.

The PowerTap P1 pedals create no such fuss, and even without calibrating the pedals to reset the axle angle, the pedals usually work out the new angles and begin to pump out accurate data after two minutes of use. 

When it comes to accuracy, I didn’t do the multiple power meter, multiple head unit test but I found these pedals exactly in line with my (extremely specific) expectations of my power based on testing with a range of power meters.

Whether my 10-mile average wattage was really 326 watts or actually 327 I can’t be certain, but does that really matter? It was well within the realms of what I would expect, and crucially it was always consistent.

Batteries

Powertap P1 battery

When it comes to the detail, the pedals have some admirable attributes. Firstly, and although it has divided opinion, I’m extremely happy to see the use of AAA batteries in these pedals.

I find it an incredible faff to find coin cell batteries, and it’s a relief that virtually anywhere in the world you can easily get your hands on a set of AAA batteries if you end up running out of battery.

Not that battery life is a problem. PowerTap claims 60 hours of battery life, and I found that the right pedal ran flat after 62 hours of use. With the right unit dead, the left unit was still able to offer me an overall power figure (by multiplying its own figure by two), but without the left-right balance.

Replacement is also very straightforward, with a simple allen key fitting to remove the battery’s outer compartment.

The use of bigger batteries is part of the reason for the pedal’s bulky appearance, as is the fact that all the sensors sit inside the pedal (rather than in external pods as we see with Garmin and Polar pedals).

The bulkiness is also down to the extremely robust nature of the pedals – these are bomb proof.

Powertap P1 mounted

I raced several crits on the pedals, and evidencing one of the pedal’s disadvantages (lightly less ground clearance when pedalling through a corner), I struck both pedals while racing at a particularly technical circuit.

Despite that, both bodies survived apart from a scuff on the aluminium exterior. PowerTap also considered the dangers of over-torquing the pedals, and found that most cranks would experience stripped threads before any damage would occur to the pedal itself.

PowerTap assures us that the pedals should survive everything short of throwing them off a bridge.

There is one disadvantage to the robust build quality – the bearings are not user serviceable. So once the bearings begin to fail, the pedals will need to be returned to Powertap USA for servicing.

Data

Powertap Joule GPS

 

In terms of the data on offer, the PowerTap P1 pedals outdo most of the competition by offering left and right balance; a feature not offered by any entry-level system or indeed SRM.

PowerTap still doesn’t offer the level of analysis available with many of the more expensive power meters on the market. SRM and new players such as InfoCrank have extremely extensive torque analysis data, while Garmin has its Cycling Dynamics data.

At the moment the PowerTap P1 pedals have nothing of that nature. The strain gauges and sensors in the pedal are capable of generating all manner of dynamic data, but at the moment the ANT protocol used to transmit it is reserved only for Garmin’s own technology although PowerTap assures us that we should watch this space.

Garmin compatibility

Some rumours have spread that the P1s don’t communicate particularly well with Garmin’s head unit, hence its eagerness to promote the Joule.

This has actually been a consequence of a specific difficultly in adjusting crank length on the Garmin, creating a margin of error proportional to the difference between the preset crank length in a Garmin (172.5) and that used by the end user.

The problem will be eradicated with the latest Garmin firmware update.

Conclusion

Powertap P1 pedal

So for us, the PowerTap P1 pedals have been extremely impressive. For my part, they are simply the best power meter on the market given my own needs to switch between bikes quickly and without hassle.

But we had to hold off giving the pedals a full five stars for its two penalties in terms of performance – a sacrifice in weight and also a lack of more detailed data.

The latter may be on the horizon, but until then we have to make do with a diminished level of data. That, however, pales in comparison with the benefits of a seemingly bomb proof power meter that works every time, exactly as we expect it to, all with the intuitive design and simplicity that has long since been missing from the power market.

Contact: powertap.com

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