Here’s what the disappearance of PowerTap might mean
A little under two years ago, SRAM acquired the PowerTap power meter range of components and accessories from Saris. SRAM integrated PowerTap into its Quarq family based in Spearfish, South Dakota, and while it continued to offer PowerTap hubs and pedals, SRAM immediately discontinued the C1 power meter chainring.
In the interim period, SRAM has continued to manufacture and sell PowerTap G3 hubs and P2 pedals, even integrating support for these devices into its new AXS app.
That was until last week when SRAM dropped the entire PowerTap range from its website and confirmed it would no longer offer the current range. Fear not PowerTap product users: SRAM has assured customers it will fulfil existing orders and honour the full warranty period on all devices.
Dropping the G3 and P2 ranges will come as little surprise given the pedals are now nearly three years old, while the G3 hub is fast approaching its 10th birthday. However, SRAM has stated previously that it did not acquire PowerTap to kill off a market competitor. So what does this mean for the PowerTap and SRAM? Can we expect any new offerings from the brand this spring?
Perhaps the most likely new product may be one we have seen before. As far back as Eurobike 2018, PowerTap, then under the Saris umbrella, announced a new G4 hub which has not yet come to market. The acquisition would have undoubtedly delayed the G4 launch as SRAM got to grips with the PowerTap technology. It is worth noting that SRAM acquired the power meter range and intellectual property; all the PowerTap staff and engineers stayed with Saris.
In fact, at the time of the acquisition, SRAM’s Category Manager for Digital Integration, Jim Meyer, stated his admiration for the G4 hub and reiterated SRAM’s intent to make the product.
When presented at Eurobike, the new hub’s highlight features were centre lock rotor compatibility, 142 and 148 boost thru-axle compatibility, and a rechargeable battery. Could SRAM be ready to release the G4 in the coming weeks?
SRAM road pedals?
The P2 pedals have proved popular since their introduction in 2018. Their disappearance will disappoint many, but is this the end of the road for the P series pedals?
SRAM initially stated the PowerTap brand could remain within its range, much like the Quarq brand has, and the continuation of the pedals would seem logical. Now under the Quarq umbrella and based out of the same HQ in Spearfish, it is reasonable to believe a P3 pedal-based power meter could be more refined, lighter, and rechargeable.
The timeline fits much the same as the potential G4 hub. It is logical to believe PowerTap would have been working on a new pedal before the acquisition. In the two intervening years, SRAM/Quarq engineers could have brought this to fruition.
Could SRAM apply the PowerTap pedal tech to a new mountain bike pedal? MTB power meter pedals are not a new idea. SRM announced its X mountain bike power meter pedals in 2019. We have also seen riders swap the road-going Favero Assioma pedal bodies for Xpedo MTB bodies.
While a new MTB power meter pedal may seem less probable at first, another trawl through the FCC listings makes this possibility much more likely. While wireless Shimano and Rival Etap AXS have grabbed the headlines, SRAM also filed several other requests. Amongst these was a “Bicycle power meter” with “DUBPMB2” listed as the FCC ID.
Could this be an off-road version of the P2? That’s perhaps a bit of a stretch based on current information, but what we do know is that the application filing contains an “ARTWORK CERT LASER PM SLED COVER” with dimensions that seem to fit with those of a pedal spindle.
SRAM has also filed applications for a “Pedal Sensor with BLE, and AIREA Radios”, a “Rear Shock with BLE and AIREA Radios”, and a “Front Suspension with BLE, AIREA and ANT+ Radios”.
Again, we only have the FCC filling details to work off, but we can start to piece together a picture with a little imagination. Last year SRAM announced its AXS web app designed to control, personalise and monitor data-enabled components. The app allows riders to analyse power data, GPS ride recordings, tyre pressure readings, and gear shifting patterns to optimise equipment selection. Could the new filings with the FCC expand the AXS ecosystem to incorporate more off-road integration? Perhaps automated live suspension tuning uses power meter pedal readings to assess a rider’s stance and engagement level on the bike.
If SRAM was to introduce a new PowerTap pedal using the DUBPMB2 listing on the FCC site, could this provide an advancement in pedalling analysis technology? Cycling Dynamics is currently available in Garmin Vector and Favero Assioma pedals. Having previously only had the crank- and chainring-based Quarq power meters, SRAM has not offered any pedalling analysis software.
Let’s assume for a second the mountain bike ecosystem mentioned above comes to fruition. In that case pedalling analysis could play a key role. Such technology could inform the system if a rider is seated or standing, how the rider shifts their weight on the pedals and applies torque – valuable insights in the off-road environment.
However, for this to work, SRAM would need to create a much faster recording rate to collect pedalling data more frequently than is currently possible. Most head units do not presently read at the same rate as current power meters can transmit, so perhaps that is where the “Pedal Sensor with BLE, and AIREA Radios” can step in to record the data for transmission to the AXS app.
Suppose SRAM did create a power meter pedal capable of recording at a much higher rate. In that case, this could also unlock and improve a host of options within current pedalling analysis standards. With a higher recording rate, pedal smoothness and torque effectiveness could become more accurate. Pedal balance could become more insightful also. Rather than a single left:right balance figure we currently get, it might be possible to delve deeper and see exactly where the imbalances occur and the effect they create.
As mentioned above, SRAM already has a wide-reaching AXS road ecosystem and the brand has said it hopes to refine this to provide rider feedback on gear selection, shifting patterns, and tyre pressure. Could the integration of pedalling analysis to the ecosystem open up the possibility of automatic shifting? Automatic shifting is not new to electronic groupsets – both Shimano and Campagnolo have applied a version of this to their road and off-road groupsets either shifting the front derailleur or rear derailleur based on rider input.
However, a fully automatic shifting system is not something we have seen. If a new power meter pedal offered the pedalling analysis capabilities we mentioned earlier, combined with the analysis capabilities of the AXS app, this might now be a possibility. Theoretically, an automatic shifting system could understand from a rider’s force on the pedals, position on the bike, road gradient and speed, which gear they’ll need next, perhaps even before the rider knows.
Power meter technology advancement has stalled over the past number of years. The next step is unclear, but it will seemingly take a major player, with the combined forces and technology of SRAM, Quarq and PowerTap, to lead the way. SRAM has ambition for the AXS app and its AXS ecosystem; ride analysis and telemetry for the entire bike, minus the frame, seems to be the end goal. Pedal-based power meters open a lot of opportunities in that field.