Easily the most versatile power option on the market today
Still best known for their iconic hub-based power meters, Powertap have been busy over the last few years and developed not one but two more options: the C1 chainring and these, the P1 pedals.
Now the beauty of pedal-based power measurement is something that Powertap had already realised with the G3 hub. A rear wheel can be moved from bike to bike really easily unlike say, cranks, that require a little more time and effort and you wouldn’t want to have to transfer every time you wanted to change bikes.
Of course, whether or not you need an easily movable power meter depends on you having more than one bike. But seeing as most cyclists aspire to have as many bikes as they can at any given time (I’m definitely guilty of that one), it’s fair to say that a moveable power meter is a hell of a lot cheaper than multiple units.
LOOK figured out pedal-based power first, followed by Garmin, but one of the key issues with both was fussy installation, like exact torque ranges and in the case of LOOK’s pedals a strange installation tool that looked rather like a torture device.
Anyway, in case you’re wondering Powertaps pedals need none of this. Installation is very easy, and you need an 8mm allen key like almost any other set of pedals on the market. There’s no required torque range, either, and Powertap suggest you simply tighten them up to the same range as most pedals. What that means is that you can switch them between bikes in about a minute with no problems at all.
The pedals are individually powered by a AAA in each – not the lightest or most elegant of power solutions but super easy to source and cheap, which is definitely a bonus. Powertap reckon a set should do you for up to 60 hours. If you want to replace them, you just need a 6mm allen key to undo the bolt and slide the battery out. Dead easy.
On the subject of batteries, the pedals send a warning signal to your head unit when you’re within 20 percent of the batteries dying. Even better, if the right dies before the left, the left pedal – which is the master – will continue to operate as a left-only power meter and give you a reading by doubling its output like Garmin’s Vector 2S. That also means if you fancy going for a ride and only have one battery spare, you can just stick it in the left pedal and still get a solid approximation of your power during the ride.
One minor irritation is the stack height. The P1s have a stack height of 14mm, which is quite high. Higher, in fact, than most other LOOK-style pedals meaning you may have to adjust your saddle height if the discrepancy is too big. If you want to ride on these all the time, that won’t be an issue, but if you want to change between them and normal pedals it might start to become a bit annoying.
The other thing to note is that because the batteries are housed in the pedals, they extend lower than standard road pedals. That means slightly less cornering clearance, but given that I didn’t suffer the misfortunate of clipping a pedal once during testing – and I wasn’t riding any more conservatively than usual – I can’t say that you’re likely to find it too much of a problem.
Powertap suggest you calibrate the P1s before every ride. This is nowhere near as difficult as it sounds and basically just amounts to pressing ‘calibrate’ on your head unit to let the pedals zero themselves after you’ve ridden a few hundred metres. Just stop, unclip and press calibrate. When that’s done, you’re good to go. It’s the same principle as pressing the zero button on a set of electronic scales before you weigh something – you want to make sure that the sure that the starting point really is zero.
Accuracy is always the hard thing to measure when testing a power meter, and it really needs lab conditions to be done anywhere near properly. For what it’s worth, the P1s compared very favourably with the Quarq that I’ve run for a couple of years now, tracking consistently and closely to the crank-based unit both in terms of power readout and cadence. There were no spikes in readings or dropouts according to post-ride data analysis and while I can’t definitively say Powertap’s claimed +/- 1.5% accuracy is bang on, I have no reason to doubt it based upon what I’ve experienced.
The pedals can also measure left-right balance and have the ability to measure a whole selection of more complicated metrics as well using what Powertap call the ‘Multipole ring’. It’s basically a smart little sensor containing 20 magnets positioned around each pedal spindle. The catch is that Powertap don’t have a way to display the data yet, but they’re working on it.
Connectivity in the pedals is dual ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, so they can communicate with head units, smartphones, computers and all sorts. It’s very useful, and frankly just makes life easier because you can use the pedals with whatever recording device you fancy.
They have many plus points, but the biggest bonus of Powertap’s P1 pedals is simplicity. There’s no other power meter on the market besides maybe Powertap’s own G3 hub, that’s as easy to install and use. And that makes them probably the most transferable item between bikes available. Sure, the battery life might be lower than some other units and the look is a little bulky, but the pros vastly outweigh the cons. They’re a superb piece of equipment.
– Simple to set up, install and use
– Comparatively cheap
– Have more capabilities than current head units can display
– High stack height means you might need a saddle height adjustment
– Bulky look and lower ground clearance
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