CyclingTips podcast, Episode 30: Is your power meter as accurate as you think it is?

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In 2012, Stages Cycling singlehandedly blew the power meter market apart when it launched its single-sided, crank-based unit. Whereas nearly every power meter cost well upward of US$1000 at the time, Stages forced everyone to reconsider what consumers were willing to pay for the devices, and costs have dropped precipitously since then.

Although the feature sets offered on modern power meters vary, one aspect that has remained constant is their claimed accuracy. Almost without fail, every one is said to be accurate to within +/-2% of the true figure — and some are said to be as good as +/-1%.

Yet what exactly does “accuracy” mean in this context? Are the claims based on static load tests in a lab, or dynamic ones while actually riding? And how would one independently verify those claims, anyway?

For this week’s CyclingTips podcast, technical editor James Huang brings an expert panel on board to discuss the ins and outs of power meter accuracy: Bryan Taylor, president of InfoCrank maker Verve Cycling; Pat Warner, senior vice president of Stages Cycling; and Jon Tarkington, a power-based coach and consultant for Teton Consulting in Boulder, Colorado.

As it turns out, the answers to all of these questions aren’t nearly as straightforward as one might assume — and unfortunately, not everything may be what it seems.

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