Stages Gen 3 Review (G3 LR Dual)
In this detailed Stages Gen 3 Review (G3), we will look at Stages Cycling’s latest dual-sided (LR), crank-based power meter. Ever since Stages sponsored TEAM SKY, they have had good awareness throughout many levels of cycling abilities. More recently, as we entered 2020, a notable permanent price cut has piqued customer interest even further.
Stages Cycling is a leading brand to be reckoned with…but is the Gen 3 LR/Dual PM any good?
Let’s start off with a summary, which might be enough for most people, and then I’ll follow that immediately below with all the supporting detail for those who want that as well as a link to a separate post on data accuracy.
Price - 90%90%
Apparent Total Power Accuracy - 95%95%
Build Quality & Design - 95%95%
Features, Including App - 90%90%
Openness & Compatability - 95%95%
Stages should be seen as a trusted manufacturer to those cyclists who have never heard of them and they have a good power solution that is well-executed across a great range of manufacturer cranksets. With recent, permanent price reductions they are sensibly priced and you won’t have to look too hard to find someone who sells them.
For those of you wanting to cover multiple bikes on a budget, then the left-only Shimano 105 crank has to be a contender, you really can switch it easily between bikes. And if you run the exact same crankset across several bikes then swapping over the LR cranks is fairly straightforward too and certainly cheaper than multiple power meter purchases. Having said all of that I just feel that a crank-based solution, in my head, implies a degree of permanence on any given bike.
The claimed total power accuracy of +/-1.5% is good enough for most of us to never notice any minor fluctuation and I found the power levels to be more than sufficiently actionable ride-after-ride.
The list of pros and cons that follows is easy to state, however, the hard part is the decision you have to make regarding which TYPE of power meter is best for your situation. If you’ve chosen “CRANK” then Stages is a good choice to further narrow down your research…
- Stages G3 Dual ticks all the boxes – ease of installation, ease of use, metrics supported, communication protocols supported, battery life, manufacturing quality, waterproofing, durability, design, etc etc
- Let’s you use your pedals/cleats of choice
- Some will seek greater accuracy than +/-1.5% overall accuracy
- Some will question accuracy of LR split on Shimano cranksets
- Some LR changes between bikes will be easy…some less so.
- Multi-hundred dollar items are always expensive to some people.
- You’ll need to carry around two CR2032 batteries
- Two BLE channels would be nice for some Zwifters
Table of Contents (Click to Expand)
Stages Power Background & Future
The Stages Cycling Gen 3 power meters started shipping to customers in Q1.2018. There were initially a couple of firmware fixes and since then there have only been very occasional fixes and enhancements to the product through 2019 and to date. It’s a stable product.
However, Stages Power PM solution go back many years before that and perhaps Stages became best known for their first single-sided crank product in 2013. Since then they have expanded their product to cover different crank manufacturers, cranks made from carbon and, of course, dual-sided cranks too.
No doubt the future will see Stages keep compatibility with new manufacturer crank constructions and crank materials. Hardware compatibility aside, there’s only so much data you can get from an L or LR crank. Those metrics are all known and also available in various guises from Stages’ competitors too. You’ll probably only be interested in power and cadence after the initial novelty of a power meter has worn off though! Surprisingly you probably won’t even be that interested in accuracy after a while too, although you’d never admit it, let alone be able to realise that your PM is slightly ‘off’. Yet one of the directions in power meter development WILL be to increase accuracy; pedalling is a complex action as you push, pull and twist the cranks every which way you can even though you could swear you were pedalling in circles.
Naturally, the other development as we move forward will be to lower the cost of production/distribution. Indeed we might well see a separation in the power meter market between accurate (enough) consumer-grade cranks and then slightly more accurate but much more expensive ‘pro’ models for those who need, or think they need, precision. This increased accuracy will come, in part, from more frequent measurements in the pedal stroke.
Buying A Stages Generation 3 Power Meter – Product Options
The Stages Power product offering is highly varied adding some confusion. Like most things, once you understand it …it’s obvious.
I’m sure that the options and nomenclature used are confusing to some cyclists. Here’s my take to hopefully simplify the understanding for those of you who need it
- L vs LR – There are two basic products, a left-only crank (L) and a full dual-sided crankset comprising a left crank, right crank (LR), spindle and spider.
- Gen 3 or Gen 2? G3 or G2? Gen 2 (G2) is the older model. You don’t want that.
- SRAM, Shimano, Cannondale, Campagnolo – these are the manufacturers of the groupsets which most likely include all of your derailleurs, cranks, cassettes and related bits. Stages sell identical cranksets to the normal manufacturer cranksets, except Stages have pre-installed two power sensors. You will probably be just swapping what you have for the exact same cranks(set) or, perhaps, ‘upgrading’ within the cranksets offered by your current crank supplier.
- Each manufacturer has a range of ‘qualities’ of crank(set). Thus Shimano ranges from the most expensive Dura-Ace to Ultegra and to the cheapest, heaviest 105.
- You will also have a choice of crank length. You will probably want the same length that you currently have which will be one of these; 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm or 175mm. Sometimes you might consider a shorter crank on a TT bike as this can aid pedalling in aero.
- Then there will be a choice of chainrings for the LR model and the combinations refer to the size of the largest and smallest front chainrings which come as a pair eg 50/34, 52/36, 53/39. You might sometimes see a ‘T’ suffix which stands for ‘Teeth’. If you are a recreational or average cyclist you will want a spinny combination like 50/34T.
- Instead of swapping like-for-like, you could upgrade or you could, potentially, pay for a more environmentally-friendly factory install of the L & R power meters on your existing cranks (supported models, here)
- There are other options including mixed sets, R upgrades and carbon cranks.
As an example, this product: GEN 3 STAGES POWER LR | Shimano ULTEGRA R8000 CRANKSET WITH BI-LATERAL POWER 172.5mm 52/36 is
- The latest generation, G3
- Dual-sided power, LR
- Shimano branded (and Stages branded)
- Ultegra (middle-range crankset), Shimano model number R8000
- 172.5mm length cranks (standard)
- 52-Toothed larger front chainring and a 36-Toothed smaller one. You can probably use the chainrings you already have if they are from the same model
The cheapest option is often the single-sided Shimano 105 crank and that’s a GREAT starter option if you currently use Shimano. It’s cheaper as it’s a higher-selling item and, in reality, this is all that most cyclists will need. A Shimano 105 crank may well be able to replace your existing, non-Shimano left-side crank. You’ll have to check.
Stages Gen 3 Review – Contents & Installation
I find buying a crankset a bit daunting.
Will your new crankset fit the width and diameter of the bottom bracket bearing that’s in your ageing bike? If it won’t you can get bearings with a different inner diameter. But then you also need to know the outer diameter too.
In a nutshell…ask & support your Local Bike Shop.
Yet once you have got through those machinations in your mind, what actually comes in the box is VERY straightforward.
The box has the two main bits in it, already preassembled if you got a set of chainrings too. There should also be a special tool included. More on that later.
Stages Gen 3 Review – Design Elements
It’s an Ultegra crankset with some bits stuck on right?
That’s pretty much it.
There are two, pre-installed sensors, one on each crank. As you can see on the image above, the first sensor on the left crank is hidden away nicely on the inside surface. The factory installation of such products these days looks like someone has done a proper job rather than just glueing a sensor on as a bit of an afterthought. You can also see the easy-to-open (when you need to) left-side battery compartment and there’s also a status LED in the middle of the Stages logo to the left of the battery compartment.
The design of the right-side sensor HAS to be different. Were the same pod used as on the left side, merry-havoc would be played if/when your chain came off. So you can see in the image above a somewhat different-looking right-side pod and battery. Both sides take a CR2032 battery.
Cadence data is also calculated from within the sensor so, unlike with older designs, there is no need for any kind of external magnet. This is a much neater design in that respect.
Then we come to the power supply and here Stages chose to go down the route of CR2032 batteries. I guess when we are talking 150-200 hours of battery life then my preference for some form of rechargeable battery mostly goes away. After all, it’s only a slight ‘faff’ when it comes to changing the battery on each side. The left side is super easy to change and so is the right side…providing you have a screwdriver.
We should all carry a multi-tool with us when we cycle so put in two extra CR2032 batteries and all is good? Really the only thing you have to watch out for is the rubber ‘O’ ring inside the battery housing. Make sure you don’t lose it or damage it when changing the battery, otherwise you are asking for trouble later due to water ingress.
Installation – Swapping Bikes
Installation is potentially MUCH easier than you might think. Once you’ve removed the tag from each battery compartment and made sure the battery door tab is closed, there’s not too much you need to do.
Left-Only (L Installation)
Changing or swapping a left-only crank is really, really easy. It’s easier than changing power meter pedals.
Undo the pinch-bolt, and slide off the old crank. Clean and grease, then slide on the new one. Make sure there are ZERO side-to-side movements then tighten the bolt you previously undid to a scientifically ‘tight’ level of tightness. Done.
OK, there are other things to do with tightening a pre-load cap, making sure the battery cap is in the right position and the crank’s safety catch is in the right place. But the principle remains simple and here’s a full video if you are not sure, the video also equally applies to the installation of the LR version.
There’s not a lot that can go wrong with the L installation and you can change from bike to bike without having to worry about some of the other things I’ll talk about in the installation of the LR crankset.
Dual (LR Installation)
A like-for-like swap for an LR crankset should be nearly as easy as changing a left-side crank. The only additional step is sliding out the right-hand side and axle, you’ll probably also grumble a bit at that point as you will get your hands covered in chain oil and dirt. IT REALLY DOES TAKE A MATTER OF MINUTES.
However, there are many more things that can complicate and elongate that part of the process, like these:
- The spindle might not easily slide out and, instead, be effectively stuck onto the BB bearings. A good whack might free it up as equally as it might damage the bearings. A specialist tool may be required to remove and replace the spindle/bearings
- A different spindle width will require different BB bearings
- A different spindle length may require different spacers
- If you’ve chosen different chainring sizes then your derailleurs will need adjusting, and possibly your chain length too.
If in doubt you should be able to get someone to install it for you for a small amount and your bike shop should, in my opinion, do it for free if they sold it to you.
I found that the tag in the right-side battery compartment snapped when pulled. I had to unscrew the two screws to remove the remnants of the tag before it powered up.
Stages Power Gen 3 – Pairing
You pair by BLE (Bluetooth Smart) to your smartphone for device maintenance and then by ANT+ to multiple simultaneous devices such as your watch or head unit. You can also ACTIVELY pair to one BLE watch, head unit or app eg Zwift.
I was somewhat confused by the ANT+ IDs that were displayed. Here’s how it should work, the bottom line is to know what the ANT+ ID of your left PM is:
When your Stages L and Stages R are linked, the Stages R assumes the Stages L’s ANT ID, thus you should only see the Stages L ANT ID when connecting via ANT+, so if you see both ANT+ IDs then you may not have the two sides correctly linked in the app but make sure you are only searching over ANT+ when you expect to see just the L’s ANT+ ID.
When searching via Bluetooth, the L ANT+ ID is used in the Bluetooth name. Confusingly, both Stages L and Stages R ANT IDs will be visible regardless of if they are linked. Select the Stages L ANT ID in order to receive L/R power it will be fully named as ” Stages 12345″ if “12345” is the ANT+ ID.
Stages specifically recommended to me that I use a BLE connection to a Stages DASH head unit when, personally, I would tend to favour using ANT+ to get the extra metrics. This recommendation was made by Stages, I believe, to improve the integrity of the data transmitted (I’m not entirely convinced).
Whilst you can’t change the ID numbers, your watch or bike computer might let you assign a more friendly name. When you have lots of ANT+ IDs then it’s important to assign a friendly name. Garmin, Wahoo and others are good in that respect, although with Wahoo you have to rename the sensor via the app.
If you unlinked the two sensors I assume you could pair to the left side only and you should see the data correctly doubled. I only mention this as it made me think about the eventualities of an empty battery. I think that if the left-side battery fails then the Stages PM handles this and doubles the right-side. If the right-side battery fails I can’t see how you could automatically flip to the left side as it’s a different ANT+ ID. I guess you could pair the left side mid-ride if this were to happen. I might try that.
Stages Power Gen 3 – Stages Power App
The STAGES POWER app is available on iOS and Android, with Android seeming to be the one which first has new functionality. Either version should be able to update your power meter firmware and give you details of your PMs as well as performing these maintenance tasks.
- Link together R and L cranks as a pair
- Calibrate (Zero-Reset)
- Update Firmware
- View installation, environmental (temperature) and live usage (watts, RPM) parameters
- Enable right-side gyroscope (Android only) – Enable this after unlinking the L & R sides, I’m not entirely sure if you then re-link them that the gyroscope stays enabled.
Firmware Update History
Update to the latest version of the firmware for the most accurate results.
Here is the full version history ( here ) and the version I used was 1.6.1
Sensor Pairing & Sensor Data Types
Pairing is like any other sensors and is, pretty much, pair and forget. After pairing it just works, spinning the cranks wakes the PM up.
I normally prefer ANT+ to BLE and this gives you extra geekery with Pedal Smoothness (PS) and Torque Effectiveness (TE) metrics. Here’s what is transmitted
- Left/right power balance (Stages tell me that BLE can now DISPLAY LR balance)
- Battery level information
- Pedal smoothness (ANT+ only)
- Torque effectiveness (ANT+ only)
Only 1 BLE connection is supported, so if you try to simultaneously pair to Zwift and your Polar Vantage V and only one of those connections will work at any one time.
Stages Gen 3 – LEDs
The sensor on each crank has an LED indicator located in the centre of the power meter housing that indicates the status of the power meter under certain conditions, which are:
- Zero-Reset – Three blue flashes while completing a zero reset.
- Battery Level – Green (16-100%), yellow (6-15%), or red (1-5%) flash to indicate battery level every 10 seconds for the first minute after startup. For LR, the left sensor will flash the left, then right battery level in succession.
- Linking LR – Two orange flashes when the left and right sensors are successfully linked.
- Firmware Updates – Steady flashing based on battery level while the firmware is being updated via Stages Power app
Stages Gen 3 – Technical Headlines
The specifications are in the next section. Much of that, to me, is too techy so here are the key aspects of the Stages Gen 3 as I see them
- Own developed strain gauge (not necessarily good or bad), it’s a DFPM – direct force power meter. A ‘proper’ power meter.
- Improved higher frequency/resolution data and enhanced signal strength.
- Good waterproofing
- BLE (single connection, total power) and ANT+
- Coin cell CR2032 batteries give up to 200 hours of ride time
- Easily change chainrings without affecting power
- Claimed 1.5% accuracy (overall, measured power)
- Magnet-free cadence
- Integrated, pre-installed design
- Active temperature compensation
- Thin profile pods to aid frame clearance
Stages Gen 3 – SPECIFICATIONS
These are the Stages Generation 3 Specifications according to Stages
• Battery: CR2032 – Approx. 150-200 hours use. (200+ hours is specified elsewhere)
• Wireless transmission: 2.4GHz, ANT+™ and Bluetooth® Smart
• Accuracy: +/-1.5% of total, measured power (the manual below says +/-2% but I’m pretty sure it’s +/-1.5% ?)
• Weight: 15g (L) + 20g (R) = total 35g (LR)
• Power measurement range: (watts): 0-5000 (0-2500w is specified elsewhere)
• Cadence range (RPM): 10-220 (20-220rpm is specified elsewhere)
• Water rating: IPX7
• Storage Temp: -30 to 60° C (-22 to 140°F); Dictated by typical lithium cell range.
• Operating Temp: -18 to 50°C (0 to 122°F)
Stages Gen 3 – User Manual
Here it is: Stages Gen 3 Power Meter User Guide
Stages LR – Daily Use
Just like any other power meter, you perform a dismounted, daily calibration with the bike and the cranks both vertical. This is just another name for a Zero-Reset. The expected range of values resulting from the calibration is within +/- 50 from 890 and this number might fluctuate slightly from day-to-day, like this…
I found the Stages power meter to be very particular about having my cranks vertically aligned. Whenever I was told they were not quite vertical…Stages were right. Once properly vertical the calibration was always cool. This makes me wonder somewhat about the accuracy of other vendors’ successful calibrations in not-quite-so-vertical calibrations.
I’ve had the Stages PM since the back end of 2019, so I’ve done a few rides both indoors and out. I’ve taken quite a while to get around to producing this review for a variety of reasons but one reason for the delay was that I was experiencing some ‘radio interference’ and never quite got to the bottom of the problem except nothing that when I used the Stages PM with the Stages Dash indoors AND WITH GPS turned on, I got dropouts. The more sensible amongst you would point out that I should disable GPS when indoors and I can only agree ;-).
To cut a long story short I reverted to a BLE connection with the Stages Dash and all was cool.
Visually on the head unit, the reported headline power levels seem plausible and the cadence seems plausible when I compare it to other PMs
I have a pedalling imbalance that I’ve previously determined to be something like 52:48 (L: R), which I am actively trying to correct with strength and flexibility work in the gym. Consequently, I am not 100% sure of what I am seeing from Stages with the power balance, superficially I would say that the right side is slightly under-reporting my imbalance but, as the total power seems fine, I’m not 100% sure. I have seen some potential vagaries in the L/R power split from Stages however those vagaries sometimes tracked the same vagary with dual-sided power pedals, so I assumed all was good on that basis.
For completeness: There are several reports on the net about quite technical issues with Shimano Ultegra/Dura-Ace cranks for all dual-sided, crank-based PMs ie Shimano are said to cause power meters to report incorrect power balance.
BTW: I’m not entirely sure that ANY of the fancier metrics PS/TE and any kind of balance are accurate on ANY device out there. But that’s another story entirely. And yet another story would question whether it mattered in any case.
Stages on Pro Teams
Stages were sponsors of pro athletes, like triathlete Flora Duffy. However, they were most famous and most productive sponsors of Team SKY since 2014. Sure it was a paid-for relationship but surely even a cynic would acknowledge that Froome, Thomas, Wiggins and Bernal must surely have used the data at least some of the time.
Stages Tips & Tidbits
- Apparently, you can split the left and right side PMs and use each on a separate bike. Though why you’d want to do that, I don’t know. Handy for the perfectly symmetrical cyclist with a perfect pedal stroke.
- Enable the right-side gyroscope (currently only with the Android app)
- Later on, you can buy the right side separately as an upgrade to your initial L purchase
- Really make sure the bike and crank are vertical when calibrating
- Make note of the Left side ANT+ ID, that’s the one you need to remember.
Stages Gen 3 Review – Accuracy Testing
For the purposes of this Stages Gen 3 Review, I can only test 3 simultaneous devices, indoors like this: Kickr 2017 (+ Wahoo cadence sensor); Stages Gen 3 LR; Assioma Duo. When I go outdoors I only have 2 devices so I don’t know which one is right.
Other PMs I have include, a Shimano R9100P and Garmin Vector dual-sided as well. But the Vectors are not as accurate as the Assioma Duo, so I never use them and I’m not going to waste my time using them against the Stages for the purposes of these tests…so that’s that. I also have got some lesser-known brand PMs but they aren’t as accurate either so there is no point in using those. Then, I need a PowerTap G3 to compare 3 devices outdoors but haven’t got one. Finally, I’ve already posted the stats of the R9100P vs the same power meters (here) so you might be able to compare the variances and make inferences about how the Stages behave on the same indoor tests.
I’ve done the GPLAMA test several times and one set of those files is available for anyone that cares to use them, these are the indoor workouts that compare three simultaneous power meters over 10 minutes of 200w & 250w efforts and a few sprints.
Accuracy Summary: With some caveats discussed in the following post on accuracy, you should expect your Stages LR to meet the overall 1.5% claimed accuracy level. That claim probably doesn’t follow through to the accuracy of each side.
I like the regular Shimano R8000 cranks so switching them for a pair that also had a dual Stages power meter was no big deal for me aesthetics-wise. Better than that, at least for a short while when not testing, I used them with my old Shimano Ultegra pedals and hence I enjoyed the Shimano cleats too. You probably didn’t want to hear that ‘trivial’ comment when thinking of buying a $/£/Eu600++ power meter/crankset…but after a while, it’s precisely those things that are important ie what is important are the cycling things you have to do again and again and again and again – like clipping in and out of pedals that you like. You might be constrained to pedals you don’t like if you go for a pedal-based power meter (you’ve been warned 😉 )
Many cyclists who use a half-decent power meter will tell you that, once the initial excitement wore off, they RARELY, if ever, look at any of the fancier metrics that the power meters broadcast (TE/PS). MAny/most cyclists use ANT+ for pairing when riding outdoors and all they are looking at are various power averages over time and perhaps occasionally cadence too. #SimpleData
Contrast that with those of you who are a Garmin/Wahoo Zwifter. You’ll probably only have that same basic need for power/cadence data BUT you will also love to have it broadcast over BLE as well as the ANT+ one. So, all is good for Stages in this respect but, of course, most competing power meters these days will give you ANT+ and BLE too.
Finally the accuracy. You’ve perhaps not yet seen the details of what I found but if you look at those comparison charts they were usually pretty-much highly similar at a high level. If you’re only using one power meter or two+ of the same power meter then the Stages will be fine – even with 3s smoothing on your headset, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference to another PM.
The bottom line for me was that even though I have a balance issue, I don’t look much at the balance data. I’m only interested in the headline power figure averaged over a few seconds.
Buy Stages Gen 3 Review Price, Availability & Discounts
There are a lot of product variants and so a lot of prices I could post here for those of you looking to buy one now. To keep it simple, I’ll post the Left only Shimano 105 R7000 price and those for the Shimano Ultegra LR R8000. Each retailer I list below usually offers the entire range to buy. As you can see from the list of retailers, the list is relatively limited and Stages products are not universally available from all retailers.
|Shimano 105 G3 |
|Competitive Cyclist||No Shimano 105||–||–|
|Shimano Ultegra G3 |
Prices will vary and the blue banner below gives you a choice of retailers to help you shop around in your local country.
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