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Over the weekend was the first public showing of the Garmin Vector powermeter at the Ausbike Expo. The guys from Garmin were flat out showing it to the hordes of people interested in seeing this long anticipated pedal-based power meter. Will it live up to expectations?
A Silicon Valley upstart called MetriGear originally developed the technology for measuring power via the pedal axel. They started showcasing it at Interbike back in 2009 and originally used Speedplay as their pedal. It was due to be released in Q1 of 2010 but then Garmin acquired MetriGear and began productising it. Here we are a year and a half later and Garmin has set a release date of March 2012.
The price was rumoured for a long time to be under $1,000, however $1,495 AUD is what Garmin has communicated. That puts them right in the middle of the powermeter price range. Don’t forget that you need to spend $300-$500 on an ANT+ head unit to go along with it.
The pedal itself is a Look KéO-compatible carbon injected pedal built by Exustar. For the initial launch this is the only pedal available, however in the future Garmin will look at providing other platforms as options (e.g. Shimano, Time, etc).
The Garmin Vector looks very similar to the Polar/LOOK Power Pedal, but Garmin wisely made their unit ANT+ compatible.
How It Works
Bascially, there are strain guages, accelorometers, temperature sensors and other electronics built into the pedal spindle that work together to measure the force applied to the pedals. By detecting thestrain of the magnitude and direction of the pedal effort, power can be calculated. This data is transmitted via ANT+ protocol to the head unit (a Garmin 500 for example). It’s claimed accuracy is +/- 1.5%, which in line with other high end powermeters.
The biggest benefit that I can see from this power unit is that it’s easily transferable between bikes and doesn’t rely on a specific wheel such as the Powertap. Other benefits include:
– Power can be measured from each leg. This doesn’t really do much until you find good software that will put meaningful context around this. There will be firmware upgrades pushed out to the Garmin head units that will show % power from each leg and Garmin Connect will have enhancements that will feature more power data that it currently does. I’ve been told that Garmin Connect will have upgrades including L/R leg balance, L/R power plot over distance and time, TSS, IF and NP.
– If you’re a weigh weenie, you’ll appreciate the fact that the Vector adds only 50g relative to a non-Vector equipped bike.
– Pedals often take the brunt of the damage during a crash. I can see the pedals of this powermeter being in a vulnerable position and taking a beating over time. Pedals and power sensors will be sold as spare parts, however the guys from Garmin tell me that a process for installation and calibration is yet to be determined. It’s not clear whether the owner will be able to do this or if it will need to be taken to a service center.
Update: Garmin got in contact with me with this statement regarding crash replacement:
I have some more information for you on the Garmin Vector power pedal, I am happy to report that in the event of the pedal body needing to be replaced through wear and tear or crash replacement, this is something that a store or end user will be able to do with the appropriate pedal tool.
– It remains to be seen if there will be ANT+ problems with the transmitter being located on a part of the bike that has a large radius of movement (i.e. the pedals).
Those of you who know me will understand that I’m a powermeter junkie. I’ve had one for the past 10 years and have seen quite a bit of progress made in their development. It’s disappointing that the $1000 rumoured pricetag wasn’t achieved, but the reality is that they’ll still sell heaps of these units at $1500.
A powermeter is certainly not required to make you a good cyclist, but without a doubt it’s a useful tool. I’m keen to see this how well this new tool for measuring power works when it’s released next year. If the Vector is anything like the rest of Garmin’s products, it’ll be a huge success.