Training with power allows you to monitor your performance in absolute terms. Monitoring your speed isn’t always reliable, because weather conditions will have an effect. Heart rate is a popular measurement tool, as well – but temperature, training load and other factors are also involved so it’s hard to measure absolute improvement.
Though many (most) professionals train with power, it’s taking a little longer for training with watts to become common place. In the past, it has been very expensive – but new evolutions in technology are lowering the cost. The new toy on the market, the Stages Cranks, retail from £599.00 and we’ve got them in-stock now.
The Stages crank is different to many other power meters as it measures power from only one crank, and does a mathematical equation to work out the actual wattage produced.
Head buyer at Evans Cycles and category 2 road racer, Joel, has been testing out a unit.
I’ve been using power for over five years and have been surprised by how long it is taking to become the norm. The barriers to entry have always been quite high, either a heavy and expensive wheel if you wanted some bike flexibility or a very expensive crank if you were just going to have one bike set up.
Once you have a powermeter realising its potential takes some time thereby probably doubling the barrier – not just the cost but the amount of research required to understand what the numbers mean. However, seeing how SRM has taken over the peloton (Editors note: for a giggle, check out: http://chrisfroomelookingatstems.tumblr.com) it’s clear that power is here to stay and will be making its way onto more people’s bikes in time.
Stages really shook up the game in the US, coming in with a much lower priced product with a low weight that was relatively flexible. The competition and the powermeter snobs cried that only measuring on one side would lead to fallible results. This shows a complete misunderstanding of what you need your powermeter to do though.
Fundamentally it’s about a consistent number to benchmark your improvement. That number could be measure in golden dabloons, as long as it reads 5 today, 10 tomorrow and 20 in April you know you’re improving. How my FTP (Editor’s note: Functional Threshold Power – a measure of the average watts you can hold for an hour) matches with yours is really pretty irrelevant – so it doesn’t matter that much if one powermeter gives a slightly different number to another – as long as it is consistent.
However, if you are a power user already like myself there’s an element of calibration that needs to take place shifting from one unit to the next – so you do want to know if there is a difference in readings, and what the difference is.
Opening the box to your new Stages is a no-frills affair. There’s a crank, a month’s membership of Strava and training peaks and that’s about it. Fitting it to your bike is merely replacing the left arm crank and calibrating takes a matter of seconds.
My first job was to try and learn how well my Powertap G3 and the stages were going to match up. A couple of rides with both devices on (and two Garmins) showed that although there appeared to be a slight difference with the relay of information the 30 second power average was identical and my heart rate was matching very well to the power on the device.
This was really great news because I was worried about my FTP artificially going up. Yeah, I know all that ‘golden dabloons’ stuff I mentioned but I don’t want my watts/kg to jump to the levels people might start suggesting I’m using performance enhancing aids!
Stages have the full support of the crank manufacturers – they are buying cranks from the brands directly and it’s incredibly rare to see somebody co-brand a Shimano component. Currently there’s no way to measure through a carbon crank but most aluminium cranks are available.
Having used the Stages powermeter for a month now it’s been reliable, it’s allowed me to drop 250gm of the weight of my bike and I think the biggest decision a potential purchaser would have is about the cranks themselves.
Although the cost of the unit is not that high, if you have to make a decision between upgrading your cranks at the same time or buying a unit for your current crank that’s when it may seem more expensive.
Stages look like it’s here to stay to me, with good mountain bike and track options as well as the road. Regardless what you go for, fundamentally, one universal truth remains: power is the future – it’s quicker to react than your heart rate and less likely to fool you. Coming into the winter it’s a great time to make the switch whichever option you go for, so you best get saving!
The Stages powermeter is one of a few options. We’ve got a selection you can browse, here. For a hub based system, check out our CycleOps Powertap selection, or you could try the new Garmin Vector Pedals, which are easily transferrable between bikes. For another crank based option, we also sell Quarq SRAM powermeters.