Garmin Vector Review
In this Garmin Vector Review we take a detailed look at all aspects of the Version 2 pedals from Garmin.
This detailed review of Garmin’s Vector 2 power meter offering will give a thorough coverage of most aspects of installation and usage.
Vector 2 gives an improved installation over and above the original Vector but other than: a significantly new & better ‘pod’ design; a new one-sided power version; and an upgrade kit for original Vector uses, it’s essentially the same product. although it is now also possible to modify them to use Shimano cleats.
The Vector 2 was released in Spring 2015 and its firmware has progressed notably over the 18+ months since then and the firmware is now on v4 <here>
Summary of the Garmin Vector Review
Garmin’s Vector 2 pedals are ANT+ compatible, dual-sided power meters with a one-sided option. They are compatible with LOOK KEO cleats.
Nearly all power meters can be considered to be accurate-enough for ‘most’ people these days and Garmin’s Vector 2s also fit into that broadly defined category.
Vector 2s come at a premium price to a comparable bePRO offering but below PowerTap’s P1 pedals. Bearing in mind the alterantives are broadly as accurate then you’d probably justify the specific price-point over other options for a variety of reasons including
- You want a one-manufacturer solution
- You want a ‘trusted’ brand
- You prefer a pedal-based solution over alternative locations
- You want a single-sided solution but the option to upgrade later to dual
- You delight in the extra data metrics offered by the pedals
- You are only interested in ANT+
So if you tick lots of those boxes and you are happy paying the list price (Garmin seem to frown on discounting) then, as at October 2016, you are looking at approximately Vector 2 at US$1000/£900/Eur1150 and the 2s at US600/£550/Eur700 – or up to 100 less in local currency if you do some research. You might as well just go ahead and buy them or read the 1 Minute Summary Review <here> or, if curiosity or doubt still exists, then read on.
We partner with powermetercity.com and if you buy there you help support this site but in reality you will pay a similar price everywhere else. Other brands are sometimes on offer at PowerMeterCity and you could be clever with exchange rates buying a Vector 2 from overseas – but you should always watch out for import taxes and consider the international support issues for your product when buying overseas.
This section is first as you need to buy the right Vector. You can check general compatibility <supposedly here, but I couldn’t find it>. Consider these general issues
I would have thought your Garmin can work on most bikes’ frame geometries. The problems might be connecting the ‘flap’ on the inside of the crank arm to the pedal innards and some highly unusual clearance for the pod.
- In the ‘fastest’ gear you need 5mm of clearance between the crank arm and chain before installation (you might get away with 1-2mm less but 5mm is the official figure)
- IMPORTANT: You need to purchase the correct thread-length for your crank ie 12-15mm or 15-18mm thread length. If you want to use more than 2 spacers (not recommended) then you would need to buy the size up.
There’s a nice box with the main 4 bits: 2 pods and two pedals
There are also a few spares and other odds and ends which are all useful and worth keeping safe. Here they are in all their Garmin-glory
- The Park Tool TWB-15 is a high-quality, Garmin co-branded crow’s foot adapter/’spanner’ which you can use with your torque wrench (ahem, maybe)
- Two spare bolts that keep the pod secure (you get 4 in total)
- A small allen key/wrench for the aforesaid bolts
- A USB Dongle for the ANT+ link to Garmin’s special firmware updating software (if you do not own a Garmin Edge you will need this)
- 4 washers/spacers. These might be importantly required for getting the correct contact with your specific crank. Or they could be to get your Q-factor just right or you could use them to fine-tune your platform centre offset stats (see later) and eek out an extra watt or two.
- 2x Look-compatible cleats (not shown)
- Online Manual <here>.
Installation is different to the V1 pedals.
You install like you would any other normal pedal. The pedal needs to be ABSOLUTELY FLUSH with the crank arm for it to work properly. The pedal ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT touch the crank arm in any other place. Judicious use of either 1 or 2 washers will most likely sort out any unlikely issues in this respect. Simple really.
Well it would be simple if you had a torque wrench and then you could easily dial in the required torque of 25 to 30 lbf-ft. (34 to 40 N-m). The use of a torque wrench is apparently REQUIRED.
In the absence of torque wrench then set your right hand to ‘QUITE TIGHT’ and use your normal spanner as shown below (apologies to my left-handed reader). Obviously I never do that and always use the recommended torque wrench method. Always. Maybe. Perhaps (I don’t).
You now install the pods. With the crank you are working on horizontal and forwards you fasten the pod on and tighten the bolt with the allen key/wrench. The pod needs to dangle down as near to vertical as you can get (you’ll calibrate later).
Finally you make an electrical contact between the pins on the flap of the pod and the pedal spindle by pushing in the flap:
There are two physical problems that could happen here. Firstly the 4x tiny little pins may not all be properly sprung in a used item. They need to spring out of the cap, as shown, in order to make an electrical contact with the 3 concentric rings that are just visible inside the pedal/crank – in this case it’s probably broken. Secondly if you have the wrong length of thread on the pedal then the pins (as shown) will not be able to reach the concentric rings.
You didn’t quite align those pods vertically did you? Come on, be honest! 🙂 For that reason you need to go for a one-off ride to enable the Vector 2s to figure out the exact installation angle. The calibration process may vary from device to device and the following prompt is given on Garmin’s top-of-the-range Edge 820. Normally even Garmin’s tri-watches have a subtly different procedure and other manufacturers will no doubt be different too. But all the calibration is trying to achieve the same end goal.
Apologies for the poor picture quality. It’s then simply a case of pedalling in the 80-90rpm range on a reasonably flat/smooth road (turbo trainer is fine). I’d imagine if you chose to skip this step then your readings will be quite wrong. I’ve never tried it.
Then your daily pre-ride, static calibration is required. This checks for any small environmental changes that may have caused, essentially it is a reset of the calibration to make and check each side is equal. I tend to find this is either OK or wildly wrong and fails. When it fails, hopefully it’s just as simple as “you’ve done something wrong”. Do your pre-ride, static calibration off the bike with it standing near-vertically and the pedals near-horizontal.
And you’ll get something like this
There are also scenarios where you might think your pedals are sending out asymmetric readings. To check this there is a procedure where you can look at the torque calibration reading (above) whilst dangling weights alternately from each pedal and wiggling the back wheel. You probably will never need to do that. If you do then this is the procedure for <torque tests>.
In many cases a pre-ride calibration will make little or no difference. I do it every time but if you forget it probably won’t be the end of your data recording world.
Before a triathlon race you might consider doing this calibration before racking and leaving your Edge/Forerunner device ‘on’ to remember that calibration has been performed.
Also please note that dynamic calibration is now performed automatically and silently.
IMPORTANT/Useful: Removing the flap/cap effectively reboots the pedal as far as the computer is concerned. A full re-calibration is then required and you might as well pull the cap off both sides for good measure.
Your crank length must also be set. This can be set with the Vector updater software v3.2.x <here> and also with Garmin head units. Support for this will vary by manufacturer and by model. You will most likely forget to do this at some point when you switch between bikes with differing crank lengths – have a think through that as that might affect your choice of power meter type.
Maintenance, Error Codes & Firmware Updates
Ideally you will use lithium grease on the threads when installing. If, however, you plan to change bikes regularly then it is unlikely that the pedals will be that hard to remove especially because you used that torque meter, right?
Stated battery life is 175 hours for a CR2032 battery fro each side. You should change both together. Not all batteries are created equal as <this> shows. Not even all Duracells are as identical as they should be when bought from cheaper outlets and some Energizers appear to be the best of the lot. A ‘proper’ battery can last several hours longer than a ‘less than proper’ one.
As equipment error state codes go, the info on the Vector 2 is quite interesting <here>.
The Green LED, below, should blink once every 10 seconds on each pod. If not, there could be a problem and <here> are the meaning of the pattern of LED flashes
Firmware updates require either a recent Garmin Edge Device or the Vector updater software v3.2.x from <here> and the supplied ANT+ dongle, the older ones work fine as well.
The pods are IPX7 ‘waterproof’ but do not use a pressurised washer.
The pedal assembly can be self-serviced, lubricated and bearings changed. You might think twice about doing it yourself. Even though, to me, it looks straightforward. I used Vector 1s for an extended period and never had problems with freely spinning pedals. From time-to-time you should check the play/lateral movement on the pedal to see if the bearings have ‘gone’ this might indicate some form of impact damage or they could just be worn out but, more likely if one-sided damage, that could be an imbalance in your pedal stroke. You might consider trying to discover the cause or even, as I did, risk using less floaty (grey/ay or black) pedals, possibly risking knee problems doing so.
Those pods look like they will catch the road if you lean too much and pedal but they really won’t. Look at this:
There could be some very unusual pedal+road camber scenario but I can’t see it happening.
Damage will most likely come from the pedals getting caught when throwing your bike into the back of a car or when using them on a mountain bike – the use of which is NOT supported by Garmin.
Garmin have sold LOTS of Vector and so there are many and varied issues that come up on the forums. Have a look <here> to get a flavour/or for it. You’ll see all sorts of “installation” and “inaccurate reading” threads. Of course you won’t see the thousands of people who are happy with them. I’m certainly not saying your Vectors will be guaranteed to be trouble-free but I would say it is an established product that Garmin cares about and, IMO, is pretty reliable.
In terms of the use of the data that comes from them then this is where it gets more interesting for me.
Data – Power Data and (Advanced) Cycling Dynamics
Well this a whole post in itself so I’ll keep some of the better-known and more general stuff brief.
a. basic data
- Whilst ‘power’ is transmitted many times a second your cycling computer may well slice, dice, sample, average and present it in many ways. You cycling computer may well display 1s power (average for the last second) but your technique will likely exhibit significant fluctuations. You will probably instead choose 3s or 5s power as a measure of your ‘instant power’ and maybe 30s power as a measure of some sort of recent average. There may well also be various kinds of other lap-type averages
- NP – Normalized Power – just think of this as a ‘proper’ average taking into account lots of clever things (the link explains it)
- FTP – Functional Threshold Power – this is NOT produced by the power meter but can be calculated by some Garmin devices or by manually by you. This is, sort of, the power you can maintain for an hour
- CP = Critical Power – this is NOT produced by the power meter. This is the power you can maintain for a given period. So CP60 is your hour power or FTP. (Not strictly true).
- IF – Intensity factor – This compares your NP to your FTP for a workout. So if you matched your FTP for an hour it should be 1.00.
- TSS Training Stress Score – Is a measure of the stress of your workout taking into account duration and intensity to give a score. Over 300 is high
- Cadence – gone are the days of the magnet. Many crank/pedal power meters also transmit perfectly accurate cadence.
- w/kg – especially when going up hills your weight and the weight of your bike will make a significant impact on your performance compared to similarly powerful riders around you
b. Advanced Cycling Dynamics – tranche 1
These were the first set of ‘new’ metrics that came out with the first Vector and they are also supported on the bePRO: power balance, torque effectiveness and pedalling smoothness.
Consider this chart showing your power throughout one entire revolution of one pedal.
- TE – Torque Effectiveness looks at how bad your P- is. P+ is positive power created in the stroke normally by pushing down. If you fail to de-weight the rising foot then you create a slowing down power (P-). If TE=100% then you de-weight the rising foot. In theory if you ‘pull up’ you could get more than 100%. Aim to get it as close to 100% as you can, over 70% should be a minimum target IMO. Transmitted for each pedal so can be displayed for each pedal or both combined.
- PS – Pedalling Smoothness is a crude measure of the evenness you apply power through the stroke comparing the average to the maximum. I don’t think this is particularly useful and if you can consistently turn in over 30% you are doing well. Transmitted for each pedal so can be displayed for each pedal or both combined.
- L & R Power to give L/R Power Balance – Ideally yours will be close to 50:50. After an injury mine went from 50:50 to 54:46 and I have struggled to get it back
c. Advanced Cycling Dynamics – tranche 2
These were introduced in late 2014 before the Vector 2 and many edge devices will display a special screen like this:
- PCO – Platform Centre/er Offset is an interesting metric. Initially it seems a bit rubbish or just a bit dull. However it is something that you can quite easily action upon and then forget. My understanding is that in the above image the cyclist’s right foot applies maximum force 3mm to the right of the centre of the pedal. So perhaps adding 3x 1mm washers can give you a bit of extra power? (It might also break your Vectors as you can only add 2 washers). I’ve tried adding washers and it didn’t make any difference to my power output. BUT it did make my dodgy right knee hurt a bit less…maybe. So this info could be useful for injury or bike-fit purposes. For a bike fit, the fitter may well specify your Q-factor indicating how far apart from each other your feet should be – a whole host of pedal/seat/crank/axle factors count towards this rather than just a few washers.
- Seated/Standing Position – you can have metrics showing the amount of time you stand or sit when pedalling. For me that’s next to useless but if you spend all your time in the hills then this may well be interesting.
- Power Phase – Shows the phase of the pedal stroke fro each leg where you generate most power. If, in the above example image, you do NOT generate the most power at or around the 3 o’clock position then you might consider a bike fit or elliptical chainrings. The latter can align the peak power phase with the widest part of an elliptical chainring.
Head Unit Metrics/Cycling Computer Metrics
Garmin’s top-end devices have an unenviable list of possible pedal- and power-based metrics to use on-screen. These are all calculations in one form or other based on the data transmitted by the power meter. Other manufacturers vary and are generally not quite as good but usually sufficiently good for my purposes. Clearly a dual-sided crank based power meter could not transmit PCO but it would be possible to transmit PP, TE, PS and L/R balance.
Your post-ride data analysis fest can then begin. As of October 2016, Garmin Connect displays the metrics below from the Vector 2s. Some of these measures are ale to be analysed with Training Peaks and SportTracks – I’m not 100% sure that all of them can be viewed as I’ve never checked SportTracks for PP and PCO. I’m also not quite sure why Garmin Connect does not display PS and TE, whereas that information is definitely available in SportTracks (ST3.1).
Garmin claims Vector is accurate to within +/-2% (max 150rpm) and I have no reson to doubt that.
These are the same innards as the Vector 1 and we can only assume they give the same accuracy although Garmin forums report that there were differing hardware revisions. I would hope that from a hardware point of view the Vector 2 is now unchanging but I do not know that. Vectors have been tested against other power meters by other individuals and by reputable sources like road.cc <here>.
Here is a good table showing comparisons to 3 other leading brands.
From the TSS they look like relatively short rides but they give you a flavour of what +/-2% might mean in real-world scenarios when comparing to your mates.
The averages are great for an easy comparison but of course could mask a multitude of frequent discrepancies throughout the rides that just happen to cancel out. Indeed on this ride it seems that the Vector does slightly under-report relatively consistently. I would point out that these tests were done quite some time ago and not by me. so I cannot vouch for firmware changes since then or if calibrations were carried out or if there were any special in-ride conditions.
The following test from 2013 also shows a notable variation between the Vector and PowerTap (orange line)
And, from the same series of tests, 30s smoothed data seems comparable, this time with the PowerTap seeming to under-report slightly at times.
Currently, I have found a 6% under-reporting variation when compared to a ROTOR 3D+ one sided crank. You might think that is bad. However that is because I have an imbalance/injury that I am working my way through. The problem is that the ROTOR is actually doubling my strongest side whereas Vector is counting together the strong AND weak side, in fact the 6% under-reporting is broadly in line with what I get from the bePROs. ie the ROTOR is wrong in my instance at the moment. Clearly a single hub/wheel-based reading like the Powertap in the previous links gives a ‘correct’ overall power reading. I will update this in late October when I should have access to a PowerTap – otherwise I can only post charts that won’t really add much to yoru decision-making.
So is all that accurate enough for you?
Firstly I’m only ever interested in the last 3 month’ worth of my data. I can’t see that my training before that timeframe has much bearing on my current (in)abilities. Therefore I’m concerned mainly with consistency/repeatability over that time frame. I’m probably not going to have the Vectors long enough to be satisfied with this aspect of accuracy.
So whether or not it will be accurate enough for you depends on how you plan to use the Vectors. If it is your only power meter and you plan to use it on several bikes then you’d probably feel reasonably comfortable.
If you plan to use multiple different kinds/locations of power meters then you might have some reservations. But, for example, if you are a PowerTap (hub) users and have several PowerTaps ‘lying around’ you obviously have the means to buy any gear you want. You’d most probably be consider PowerTap’s P1 pedals if a pedal-solution was something you were looking to add to your armoury.
If you plan to use your gym’s Wattbike and your Vectors at home then you will need that comparison. I will try to do one if my gym will let me. But even then you need to be confident that the Wattbikes have been properly serviced and calibrated regularly.
I’ve used the Vector 1s quite some time ago for several months and I’ve used Vector 2s once before. Currently I have a loan set from Garmin which I will be using for much of the rest of the year (2016). I’ve listed in the detailed review all the problems I personally encountered. There have NOT been many and not ANY of any particular note. However I’m just a sample of 1. I will add problems here if they arise.
The Garmin support forums DO list problems and you are encouraged to view issues other people encounter <here>; where Vector is one of Garmin’s most active support forums.
Which Pedal? PowerTap vs bePRO vs Vector 2
It’s a hard choice. But if you have a budget then your budget should make the choice more obvious. For me I would buy the P1 if I could afford it. I can’t.
You’d go for the Vector for, perhaps, the reasons I outlined right at the start.
Otherwise, for me, the weakness of the Garmin is the pod (see below, Boris and others elsewhere state that Garmin are good at replacing them). The weakness of the bePRO is the circular housing design which scruffs up too readily. The weakness of the P1 is the AAA battery increasing the pod size – although they are readily replaceable when you carry a spare.
Edit: I use my Vector 2s relatively infrequently. I am already on my 4th pod – they are not cheap. I still have my scuffed up bePROs and I use my new ASSIOMAs a lot. In hindsight (12 May 2018) I really can’t see why anyone would buy the Vector 2. Even the Vector 3 is not better than the ASSIOMA. As at the time of writing there are new hardware iterations coming out to fix a problem. I had one of the first bePROs and one of the first ASSIOMAs…they’ve hardly even needed a firmware update (about 2 each).
Garmin’s data metrics are genuinely interesting, to me, but really you are buying a power meter for other reasons – simple cadence and power balance are WAY more important and actionable than seated/standing metrics to most people. Similarly, for most people, Garmin’s metrics like TE, PS and PP are not quite so actionable as they could be leading back to decision to change your technique and/or kit.
The crank alternative: I Personally don’t like a single-sided crank solution (even though I use one as ‘backup’) BUT, and it is a BIG BUT, it just makes a lot of sense both financially and practically. If you want to go for that then go for it. They really can be moved from bike to bike very easily in most cases.
I suspect that Garmin chose to go down the PEDAL route as it makes the product able to work with a very wide range of bike standards/geometries. It’s possible that in the future Garmin could introduce BIKE power measurement in some other way but I doubt it. My money would be on a Vector 3 at some point in the future. 2017 at the earliest.
Whilst the Vector 2 was only a functionally marginal upgrade to the Vector 1, I would expect something more substantial in the future. My crystal ball does not work on bike power meters but one area for improvement could, for example, be an increase in the number of times and depth of data that is sampled, transmitted and received on each pedal stroke.
The Powertap P1 makes 40 measurements a revolution and, unlike Garmin (quote: “Vector measures the force you apply a few hundred times every second“), the P1 claims full support for elliptical chainrings. Perhaps something like ROTOR’s MAS spider positioning tool to maximise optimum chain-ring angle could be developed with enhancements to the Vector 2? Tthat would be a refinement on Garmin’s Power Phase data.
Another area could be the battery. bePRO’s pedals have a rechargeable battery and PowerTap have the AAAs – both of those competing solutions have their benefits and avoid the need for the dangly pod which no-one likes. Maybe a smaller dangly pod could be sited closer to the crank? Would that then fit as many cranks? Best bet would be to get rid of the pod entirely and build the innards into the inside of the pedal axle.
Spec Sheet, tidbits & Resources (Summarised from above)
- Battery: CR2032, 175 hours stated life
- Weight: 350g/pair + washers and cleats
- Forum: <here>
- Error codes: <here>
- LED Codes: <here>
- Online Manual <here>.
- Prices: 2 and 2s – US$1000/£900/Eur1150 and the 2s at US600/£550/Eur700.
- Firmware notes: <here>
- Bike compatibility <here?>
- Torque test procedure: <here>.
- Vector updater software v3.2.x <here>. Note a Garmin Edge device can also update the Vector firmware.
- Installation torque: of 25 to 30 lbf-ft. (34 to 40 N-m).
- Crank lengths supported: 110mm to 236.5mm
- Crank width supported: 44mm (Source: competitivecyclist.com)
- Elliptical chainrings – statement of LACK of support <here>
- Under torqueing – statement of LACK of accuracy <here> , note there is no comment about OVER torqueing.
- Re-torqueing/checking – IMO this is not required but it can’t hurt.
- Product variants: 12-15mm or 15-18mm thread length, Vector 2, Vector 2s (one sided), Shimano cleat upgrade kit (DIY), upgrade kit for Vector 1 to Vector 2.
- Garmin Cycling Dynamics: Supported (obviously by Garmin) but also supported by bePRO (not the later advanced dynamics, tranche 2) although not supported at all by Powertap’s P1s.
- As far as I know it is NOT possible to configure a 2-sided Vector 2 as a single sided Vector 2s (bePRO can do this – and it is very handy when testing cranks grrrrrrr fro Garmin)
- The Powertap has a higher Stack Height because of it’s AAA battery and, with a bePRO, shims may be required for some shoes; again increasing effective stack height.
Price, Discount & Availability
There is good availability from a wide range of authorised Garmin dealers or from Garmin directly. Garmin dealers tend to have similar prices and Garmin.com should be a little more expensive than those. HOWEVER if you have a some sort of corporate health arrangement you might want to check if it will include the purchase of bike parts (some do) – there might, for example, be a deal to get a special discount directly from Garmin by your employer that would bring the price down to below the dealer-norm (typically buy about 100 in local currency)
October 2016: garmin.com (US) shows Vector 2 at US$1000 and 2s at US460. Garmin (UK) shows £900 and £550. In Germany Eur1150 and Eur700
Remember you are not buying a low-cost tyre. Make a considered purchase when you get a power meter. You will be covered by a Garmin warranty BUT check with your dealer what their support and returns policy is.
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