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SRM power meter & PC8 review

SRM Campagnolo power meter
25 Jan 2016
Verdict:

The SRM power meter and PC8 computer are the pro's choices, but are they usable for the average joe?

The SRM power meter has been the staple of pro cyclists since the mid-90’s. Greg Lemond indentified it as the future of training but it took a convincing win at the World Champs by Johan Musseuw to cement its place in history. Until the emergence of other brands around 2013 the SRM was the king of the peloton, but can it still hold onto its crown?

Compared to newer power meters it does seem a little behind the times. It still requires a cadence magnet to transmit power for instance, and it doesn’t offer independent left and right measurement. SRM argues that the first is important for accuracy and the second doesn’t really matter unless working back from an injury. There is also the matter of the price, so I thought it was about time I tried one out.

Installation

SRM power meters are ‘built’ into existing crank designs, so they disrupt a groupset the least. The Campagnolo variant I tested was very nearly a direct replacement for the crankset it replaced – only a swap to a low profile bearing retention clip was required.

SRM cadence magnet

Installing the cadence magnet did require quite a lot of trial and error however. The frame I fitted the SRM to had a PF30 BB that, with the Campagnolo cups installed, placed the power meter quite far away from the frame. This meant the magnet guide had to be filed out quite a bit to reach the crank. Without it there is no cadence measurement, and without cadence there is no power data.

It’s not the end of the world however, and if you were to buy the product a dealer would likely do the installation, but when others offer gyroscopic cadence calculation it does seem a tad archaic.

SRM also recommend you install the speed sensor. This isn’t essential now that the PC8 has a GPS receiver, but without it the PC8 won’t auto stop/start. The two come ready synced, but if you’re using an alternative bike computer you just sync the two, perform a zero-offset and you’re ready to ride.

PC8 bike computer

SRM PC8

After quite a bit of use I’m convinced that, apart from history, the PC8 is one of the reasons that the SRM is still so well used in the pro-peloton today. The interface is quite simple and the shape of the screen is such that it displays all of your important info in a clear and concise way.

Using the PC8 can be a little confusing at first. The buttons are particularly bad, as none of them refer to the function they perform: Pro goes to the interval page - Mode swaps the info pages.

Once I’d got used to it, going back to any other bike computer seemed like a step backwards. The horizontal shape of the screen is much easier to glance at than the vertical screen of a Garmin. As standard it displays Power, Heart Rate, Speed and Cadence in the middle with Distance, Ride Time and Ascent along the top. Up the left hand side is a mini-graph that indicates what power zone you’re currently riding in. With all of those metrics, it’s very easy to adjust your effort as you ride.

SRM speed sensor

If you want to change any of the metrics, it has to be done through a computer but the what-you-see-is-what-you-get program is incredibly simple to use. The PC8 is rechargeable, through a dedicated cable, and since it never switches off (it just slips into stand-by automatically) you can always see the power level, meaning there are no flat-battery surprises come training time.

The PC8 files are fully compatible with all the popular training programs such as TrainingPeaks and Golden Cheetah, and now there is a GPS receiver it’s compatible with Strava too.

In use

After a few duff rides thanks to my poor cadence magnet placement, the SRM soon settled in to working and once I’d totally nailed the magnet placement I didn’t suffer a single info dropout. The included SRM heart rate belt was a little patchy at times, so I swapped that out and suffered no further troubles.

SRM low profile clip

Although it seems disappointing that the SRM doesn’t offer Left/Right leg splits, I didn’t miss those metrics in my post-ride analysis. The power numbers were consistent across rides and fell in line with the data I was getting from other power meters.

Although I didn’t have it long enough to run the battery down, it will eventually run out and when it does you have to send the whole unit to an SRM service centre. This means no data for up to a few weeks at a potentially crucial time. SRM says it’s working on a rechargeable option but it’s not ready just yet. 

So should you buy one? That’s hard to say. After testing the InfoCrank, I’d struggle to recommend the SRM over that. The InfoCrank is more accurate, cheaper, doesn’t need to be sent back to have the batteries replaced etc. The InfoCrank does daub the aesthetics of your groupset though (unlike the SRM that is as beautiful as the product it replaces) and it doesn’t have the provenance of SRM either. The PC8 almost saves the package but ultimately it’s the sheer cost that raises the biggest question. 

SRM.de

Price: 
£3,049 (inc. PC8)

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