Power Meter Pedals are a sensible way forwards for most cyclists looking to get into the “training with power” game. The main caveat to a decision to buy power meter pedals is their COST. Let’s assume you CAN afford a price tag of around £/$/Eu500 and upwards. This leaves the question “Which model to go for?“.
The best power meter (link to: ‘best power meter’ guide) is a somewhat elusive beast and, in reality, your perfect power meter will depend on your precise usage intentions.
Background – Power Meter Pedals Through The Ages
Power meters are still expensive. Dial the clock back a few years and they were even more expensive than now.
It just made theoretical sense to have one power meter that the more serious cyclist could easily swap from bike to bike. You should get super-consistent readings from one calibrated device (pedals) across several bikes AND also save yourself a pretty sum by not having to buy two, three or more power meters to cover all your bikes. You would probably even pay a premium for that one ‘cover-all’ solution.
Garmin thought so.
Bring on Garmin’s Vector (1) at $1500 in 2013
There was clearly a big margin there for Garmin at $1500rrp. To counter that price tag, there were also many benefits from training with power and the market was steadily growing as a result. Such price tags in a growing market also sounded like a business opportunity to PowerTap, who already made bike power meters. And it also sounded like a business opportunity to Favero, who had little to do with cycling at all.
Before we knew it the power meter pedal market had competition.
These are the timescales showing the new models:
- Garmin Vector: Q3.2013
- Garmin Vector 2: Q2.2015
- PowerTap P1: Q3.2015
- Favero bePRO: Q3.2015
- Favero ASSIOMA: Q3.2017 (Q2.2018, notable firmware update)
- Garmin Vector 3: Q4.2017
Look KEO Power/Polar and shoe-based products excluded.
There are single-sided power versions available which might count as new models, despite being otherwise identical.
We will look in more detail at some of the following points but what stands out to me the most in the evolution of the power meter pedal over recent years is:
- The designs have evolved to, err, look exactly like proper pedals. That means Garmin’s pods have gone on Vector 3 and ASSIOMA’s hub doesn’t get in the way so much.
- The designs have refined to be more easily moved from bike to bike – which, after all, is one of the key reasons why you might buy power meter pedals!
Current State of Play
There are still nuances between current power meter pedal models and their detailed compatibilities with all flavours of headset (cycling computers) and tri watches. The general state of play in May 2018 is:
- Accuracy – generally ‘good‘
- Ease of Installation – pretty much as simple as it can get in the latest models
- Price – from several hundred to around on thousand Eu/$/GBP… prices should adjust downwards as time passes.
- Consolidation of features – ANT+ & BLE/BTLE (to cover Zwift), single-sided and dual-sided, easy calibration, battery type & performance, cadence and other peripheral metrics.
- Durability/Servicability – not widely appreciated. Changing a battery or bearing or even the initial installation might require your power meter to be sent away.
- Customer Service – generally good.
Despite being a highly credible option, PowerTap P1 sales have notably declined. ASSIOMA may even be the market leader over Vector 3. ASSIOMA and Vector 3 are highly similar in most respects, except price. Perhaps Garmin looks sleeker.
- Favero ASSIOMA – 45%
- Garmin VECTOR 3 – 45%
- PowerTap P1 – 10%
Source: Guestimates by PowerMeterCity & Me
Whilst many might note how difficult it is to bring out a new power meter that works. I’d point out that Favero did it with the bePRO and with the ASSIOMA – both of which pretty much worked as described from day 1. Yet it is Garmin’s Vector 3 that has hardware issues that require a redesigned battery cap (May 2018). That kinda negates the premium for the Garmin name, in my opinion. Is it $200 prettier?…probably not. But it is pretty.
Other current issues are a general lack of availability. This should start to be rectified from now to mid-June 2018.
Product Pricing (as at 15 May 2018):
This gives you a flavour of what to expect
|PowerMeterCity||CleverTraining||CyclePowerMeters||CleverTraining||PowerMeter 24||PowerMeter 24|
|Garmin VECTOR 3||$999||$999||£849||£849||£878.24||Eu998|
|Favero Assioma Single||$519||$519||£449||£455||£430.32||Eu489|
|Garmin Vector 3 Single||$599||$599||£499||£499||£526.24||Eu598|
|PowerTap P1 Single||$529||$529||£475||OOS||£491.92||Eu559|
|includes GST+ delivery||includes GST+ delivery||includes vat+ eu delivery||includes vat+ eu delivery|
|Import Taxes/Duties always Excluded|
I had a quick look in the UK at SigmaSports, Wiggle, Evans, SingleTrack Bikes, BikeFast and the prices are near-identical. Except for PowerTap.
Pricing in the USA tends to be more controlled by the manufacturers whereas in the EU it is more controlled by the manufacturers lowering the dealer margin, making discounting difficult.You can get a 10% store credit for DCR with Garmin at Clever training or you can get a 10% store credit from here with Garmin at PowerMeterCIty and your local bike shop may even give you a similar discount if you bought your bike there. There is very little point in devoting too much time to shopping around in the market as it is now. Maybe you will save a tiny amount of money from buying from a smaller dealer. There will be a reason for that….go figure.
When discounts are not allowed by the manufacturer, then companies like CleverTraining and PowerMeterCity could (& do) offer store credit to be used against later purchases of other products.
Wherever you live I would buy from a dealer in your country/region. You might save $/£/eu10 by shipping from overseas but if ever a return is needed you will have notable costs.
The product release timelines suggests that PowerTap will be due a P2 some time soon. It’s unlikely there will be an ASSIOMA 2 or a Vector 4 until 2019-2020.
I can’t see any great new ‘invention’ to materially change pedal power meter functionality (famous last words).
I would expect a P2 to be a little smaller and a little more accurate.
Otherwise, I expect the evolution new models to chip away at the relatively small number of issues that need addressing, which range from: accuracy; cleat compatibility; battery type; support for carbon cranks; support for elliptical chainrings; battery life; durability; special metrics; and dimensions (stack height and Q-factor).
I’d say that, for most people (including myself) that all those issues are sufficiently sorted out in the 3 major products as of now. But there ARE differences so let’s come back to the present and look at the differences that exist in more detail.
Power Meter Pedals – cleats
I like Shimano cleats. They just seem to clip in better for me. Unfortunately only the older Garmin Vectors supported those (via a kit).
ASSIOMA and Vector and LOOK/KEO compatible. P1 effectively is.
I use the KEO GRIP grey 4.5 degree float. They seem a tad tight on the ASSIOMA and a tad looser on the Vector, cleat wear is also a factor in any apparent tightness or looseness. They seem fine on the P1 although other reports suggest the degree of wear of the cleat might be a factor in the snugness of the fit.
0 degrees and 9 degrees (red) float are also available on LOOK. The meaning of the colour varies on other brands (eg Shimano red has no float whereas an Xpedo red has 6 degrees)
There are probably a lot of people who would rather not use LOOK/KEO cleats but would it be a sufficiently compelling feature to get us to switch brands if someone produced an otherwise inferior but Shimano-cleat compatible alternative? Probably not.
Summary – pretty much the same across the 3 offerings
Power Meter Pedals – Accuracy
There’s a whole can of worms waiting to be opened on this topic that I discussed in a little more detail here
With ASSIOMA’s new firmware for April 2018, here are the stated manufacturer accuracy levels which are now
- Vector 3 – +/- 1%
- PowerTap P1 – +/-1.5%
- ASSIOMA – +/-1%
Even if you’ve trained hard enough to get your FTP over 300w then I reckon that level of accuracy will be alright ie +/-3w to +/-4.5w. Can you spot a 3w difference on the road? I can’t. (Naturally the absolute +/- numbers get bigger with higher then FTP efforts).
Sure I could spot -3w one day and +4.5w (ie 7.5w difference) the next day. But that hasn’t happended in my experience. My experience is that the accuracy seems consistent on calibrated power meter pedals.
Favero claim with their ASSIOMA pedals that their new IAV power algorithm can deliver accuracies for the vagaries of ‘normal’ cyclists pedalling and riding characteristics. That sounds at least plausible and therefore you might wonder if the stated accuracies of PowerTap and Garmin are actually correct for your style.
Summary: Probably alright for nearly all of us.
Power Meter Pedals – Battery Type & Battery Life
- Vector 3 – LR44 (over 100 hours)
- PowerTap P1 – AAA Lithium (60 hours)
- ASSIOMA – USB with custom pin connector (up to 50 hours)
Battery life is self-explanatory and I suspect even 50 hours is sufficient for most of us. Not for all though. Garmin nails the uber-battery life but PowerTap wins on the practicalities of being easily able to buy a spare in a random French Alpine village in the middle of summer.
Summary: Generally alright for everyone but Garmin wins for those with special battery needs.
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Power Meter Pedals – Clever Metrics
Total/L/R power and cadence are going to be most useful and will save you having a pesky additional cadence sensor. In the ANT+ world all should be good from the humble Lezyne Super GPS up to the Edge 1030. However even Suunto’s top end tri-watch will only read one-side of your power (and double it) but a 3 year old Polar V650 will happily read right and left power over BLE from the ASSIOMA.
The clever ANT+ metrics like Torque Effectiveness and Pedal Smoothness can be useful to spot an anomaly and can be further useful if you can hone in on that anomaly in the Left/Right balance of the same metrics.What to do about such an anomaly is another matter entirely!! These metrics are well-supported on ANT+ compatible head units and watches but not on BLE ones.
PowerTap have some special additional metrics and Garmin have even more super-clever ones. I would say that most of these are of little use to most people. But having said that if you have a specific bike fit need or if you are contemplating setting up OCP Q-Ring positions then some of the additional metrics (PCO and Power Phase respectively) will be super-useful for very narrowly defined use-cases.
Summary: Generally alright for everyone but Garmin wins for those with special data metric needs.
Power Meter Pedals – Sizings, Spacings, Form
These differences range from the obvious to the very subtle. For example Garmin have dropped the pods from the Vector 2. If you look closely, ASSIOMA now effectively has an inbuilt spacer compared to the bePRO- the bePRO nearly always needed one or two washers whereas the ASSIOMA occasionally needs one washer to ensure its hub does not touch the crank arm.
The allen key/wrench or spanner are now super easy ways to fit your pedals. Apparently having the right torque is no longer as mandatory as it was with previous versions.
Looking at the dimensions of the products, some may say the P1 looks slightly chunkier. It looks fine to me. Then the key physical factors that might have a bearing on your riding are weight, Q-Factor and Stack height. If you don’t know what the last two are they are almost certainly of no relevance to you whatsoever.
- Garmin Vector 3: 53mm
PowerTap P1: 54mm
Favero Assioma: 55mm
Stated Stack Heights
- Garmin Vector 3: 12.5mm
PowerTap P1: 14mm
Favero Assioma: 10.5mm
If you are under 100kg then the limits of rider weight will not affect you. If you are over 100kg then perhaps consider more closely the P1.
Most of us are weight-weenies to some degree. ASSIOMA is about 305g/pair, Vector 3 316g (ie the same) but the P1 is over 100g heavier than the Vector 3 for a pair.
Summary: 95% of you will be alright with the physical side of the pedals. But even I would look twice at an extra 100g on the P1. Garmin is the prettiest
Power Meter Pedals – Pricing
It seems like PowerTap are matching Garmin’s pricing when they should be matching that of the ASSIOMA. It also seems that PowerTap and Garmin think their brands command a premium. Perhaps PowerTap’s price is staying where it is as it is hard to get hold of Vector 3s and ASSIOMAs right now.
If you look for Vector 2 and bePRO models you will find that they are no longer produced and that old stock is hard to come by. So even if PowerTap do release a P2 then P1 prices might only fall by $100 or so until all the stock is gone. Then the price competition reverts back to the price differences between the 3 leading pedals and between alternative places to measure power.
Unless a P2 is offering some special feature it will sit in the same $200-or-so price bracket that separate the ASSIOMA and VECTOR 3. Maybe PowerTap would want to go on the low side to regain market share? nah! If a P2 is priced at a premium to a Vector 3 then I’d like to know how it is justified.
The consensus would be that general power meter prices will EVENTUALLY fall. When? Who knows. With a current lack of supply of Vector 3 and ASSIOMA units simple Economics 101 tells you that finding a ‘deal of the century‘ is going to be tricky. My guess is that a lack of production capacity (intentional or otherwise) will keep prices where they are now but you might expect a deal as winter approaches and you can buy a PM that you won’t be able to use much until Spring.
*IF* there is a stock of several 10s of thousands of P1s somewhere AND also an imminent P2 then you could imagine a drop in the price of the P1. But that is fantasy shopping. Just get one now so you can actually use it in the warm weather. Don’t rue the $50-$100 you might, just might, have saved.
Competing power meter locations probably don’t affect pricing of power meter pedals too much. Cheaper products like WatTeam’s PowerBeat and PowerPod, I suspect, are products that have a near-zero bearing on a person’s likelihood to spend over $500 on a power meter pedal. A discounted PM-Crank might switch some people towards crank technology. However such price drops are hard to justify for a variety of reasons including the fact that we all have different cranks (models & sizes); too many people prefer cranks anyway; and the increased volume of sales would not be there to support the lower price.
Summary Pricing: The prices aren’t going to change much untill the Autumn/Fall unless PowerTap do something unexpected with the P1 price or a P2 price. Your main problem is going to be getting hold of either an ASSIOMA or a VECTOR 3 before mid-June
Power Meter Pedals – Other Factors
- Cornering – if you’ve never hit a pedal on the road when cornering then this is unlikely to affect you. Try to put the other pedal down 😉 It might become more of an issue if you have longer cranks and if you pedal through corners.
- LEDs – I particularly noted with the Vector 2 and bePRO that you either couldn’t decipher what the number of LED flashes meant or you could never quite see the LEDs whenever you wanted to. But you aren’t buying either of those pedals so you’ll be fine.
- Charging – Having temporarily mislaid my ASSIOMA charger recently I was somewhat shocked by the potential £50 replacement cost. The earlier bePRO’s generic, micro-USB charging port and cover were alright but I was nervous about the longevity of that aspect of the product even though mine are still perfectly fine. The ASSIOMA has charging pins and that is the correct solution for a rechargeable battery. Garmin currently has an issue with the battery cover, I would REALLY ensure that the one you buy has had this rectified or guaranteed for life that it will be fixed.
- Clearance – there was a relatively minor issue with the clearance of the Vector 2 on some frames and with the width of some cranks. I don’t think that’s a factor any more. There is/was an issue with Favero where the ‘hub’ must never touch your shoes/cleats. This varies by shoe and requires shims in some cases, this did (kinda) affect me on the bePRO but not the ASSIOMA.
- Servicability – Your pedals might need some attention if you bang them or if you wear them out through use. For example, try to laterally move your oldest, dearest pedals to test bearing wear. I have an issue on my right side that wears out that side’s bearings after LOTS of miles. I’ve not encountered that eventuality yet with any of the power meter pedals over 3 years but, as a test, I did swap out and clean the bePRO’s bearings and it was simple enough to do. Similarly changing a Vector 2 pod is a simple task as bike mechanics goes. However as both the measurement and transmission components get ever-smaller and placed inside the pedal spindle then the ability of you to tinker with it might be a DIY job you’d rather entrust to the manufacturer.
- Carbon cranks – I don’t think this is an issue with any model.
- Elliptical chainrings – Not an issue with the ASSIOMA or P1. I think it is with Garmin.
- Single-sided vs. dual-sided – if you are concerned about accuracy and you want a single-sided solution then you might want to think more carefully as I am sure that you are not perfectly symetrical. There is a $200-$300 premium for a dual-sided solution. Which is a lot.
- Upgrading from single-sided to dual-sided – whilst you will be able to do this I’d really suggest waiting until you can afford dual-sided or take the jump with single-sided and then stick with single-sided for a long period.
- Bike Swapability – yes it’s all easy now. Gone are Garmin’s tricky pods and bePROs unusual tightening routine.
- A 5 second pre-ride calibration is recommended by all 3 device manufacturers, your head unit or watch might even prompt you.
- Other: If someone prompts me I will look in to issues of activation whilst transporting flattening the battery or time to a full charge from flat or over the air firmware updating or calibration or status indicators on headunits. Though much of that info will be in the detailed product reviews (on this site!!) or in the manufacturer links above.
It’s Christmas. Santa has just bought you a new set of power meter pedals. Let’s face it you’d be VERY HAPPY with any of these three options. You should be. Santa was very generous and you clearly avoided the naughty list this year. They are all good products and in some way or other could each be classed as ‘proven’.
If you have a VERY SPECIFIC & GENUINE requirement then an overview, albeit fairly detailed, like this article provides might not be enough to help you choose (use the links above). However for the rest of us, with relatively general needs for a power meter pedal, the choice is tricky as they are all relatively similar products.
- You want data metrics you’ll never use? You buy the Garmin Vector 3
- You want the lightest? You won’t buy the PowrTap P1
- You want the prettiest? You buy the Garmin Vector 3
- You want the longest battery life for your round-the-world tour? You buy the PowerTap P1
- You want the cheapest? You buy the ASSIOMA or compromise for a single-sided solution (Don’t !! unless you really can’t afford dual-sided)
- No really. You want THE CHEAPEST? You buy a single-sided, manufacturer-refurbished PowerTap P1 (see comments section, below)
- You want one that’s compatible? If you cycle in BLE-world, then consult with your headset/watch vendor. Otherwise ANT+ and BLE for Zwift should be good-to-go for you for any of the 3.
If you want my opinion then I would say that there is NO COMPELLING reason for not buying ASSIOMA and save yourself $200. ie the compelling reason to buy the ASSIOMA is the price.
If they were all the same price I’d personally still be tempted to get the ASSIOMA. I’d think it MIGHT be the most accurate. I’d be nervous about the Vector 3 right now until the battery cover is sorted out. I’d be expecting a P2 any day soon and wouldn’t want a superseded product. They are all great companies with generally good customer service. I might be tempted to go for the Garmin because it ticks quite a few boxes on my ‘nice-to-have-but-won’t-ever-use’ list but that would only be if I already had Garmin-branded everything else.
Summary: Buy the ASSIOMA.
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