Many cyclists took to Zwift during lockdown to keep up with group rides or training and many newbies got their first taste of turbo life and soon became addicted to the virtual world. But how can you continue to collect relevant data, moving from indoors to outdoors to make sure you're still getting those gains on the open road? The answer is power meters.
If you want to be consistent in your training and hit those vital numbers during races too, a power meter will, similarly to a smart trainer on Zwift, provide insights into your pedalling technique and efficiency straight to your bike computer.
Why should I train using 'power'?
Quite simply, power output is easily the most consistent way of measuring your performance and is straightforward when comparing your rides against each other, even when you are doing different types of sessions. It is more efficient and accurate than using heart rate data, as heart rate can also be affected by external measures such as sleep, caffeine and hydration. Therefore it is difficult to compare one ride, even if the same, whereas with power, cyclists can determine increases over specific sessions as a way to gauge progression.
Types of power meter
The main types of power meter are made for the pedal, the crank or the wheel. There's no right or wrong when it comes to choosing which one to purchase, it's mainly down to preference and will depend on your bike, how you can place it on your bike, if you need to switch the device between multiple bikes and of course, your budget.
The best crank power meters
When it comes to crank power meters, you can either purchase a single left side crank or a full chainset power meter. The left side crank is ideal as a cheaper option and will ensure overall improvements in training, but are not as accurate as power meters that measure left and right independently (power meter chainsets). If you're particularly desperate to know the ins and outs and geek out on the data or you're going pro, chainsets are the way to go. For those wanting a step up from just using speed/cadence sensors on your outings, left side meters are a fantastic option.
Let's start with one of our favourites. The 4iiii Precision left-hand crank ticks the box in regards to value for money and although it may not be as well known as the likes of Garmin or Shimano, it more than does the job. It is ANT+ and Bluetooth enabled making it very compatible with many bike computers as well as easily controllable through the app (to check the battery etc.) The connection is quick so your metrics update as soon as you start riding. It's easy to fit, is lightweight (9g!) and one of the best features is the ability to correct the single-leg imbalance.
The Stages Cycling Power Meter G3 is known for its accuracy thanks to its individual calibration on the non-drive side crank. It is compatible with many computers and software systems with Bluetooth and ANT+ including Garmin, Strava and Training Peaks. The main feature we love on this device though is the Active temperature Compensation - meaning your data will correct itself in line with the conditions you are riding so you don't report false data.
The FSA Powerbox Alloy Road ABS Chainset is simple to use and fits both Shimano and SRAM 10 & 11 speed systems. The power and cadence data is precise within +2% and transmits all the information you need via Bluetooth as well as ANT+ making it possible to connect to a variety of computers.
The higher end of the scale in terms of cost, the Shimano Dura Ace R9100-Power Meter chainset is a dual-sided meter that ticks a lot of boxes. It is easy to calibrate, easy to charge with an integrated battery and is internally hard-wired so is extremely reliable in all weather conditions. This chainset has been updated to work with disk brakes too. The Shimano Dura Ace R9100-Power Meter is stable and gives stable readings overall.
The best pedal power meters
You'll get extremely accurate metrics from the Garmin Vector 3 Pedal Power Meter but what we love about pedal meters is that you can easily transfer them between bikes and any type of bike. You can measure the overall power, left/right balance as well as cadence and dynamics.
The Favero Assioma DUO Power Meter Pedals have a power sensor on both the left and right pedals and are great value for money. They are reliable with their readings (Accuracy Power Measurement: ± 1%), can handle all weather conditions and are rechargeable.