Power2Max NGeco power meter - review

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Power meters

Power2Max NGeco power meter – review

Can a sub-£500 crank-based power meter still deliver accurate and reliable data?

Power meters have been becoming ever more accessible for years and, alongside Stages, Power2Max was one of the early disruptors, launching its first spider-based power meter in 2010 at a price undercutting rivals by hundreds of pounds. The NGeco, launched late last year, is the even more affordable version of its third-generation power meter, the NG, with simplified features to lower the price.

As with its previous models, Power2Max has packaged the meter into the spider, so you’re free to choose from a range of cranks according to your budget. In the spirit of the product, we’re testing the most affordable version with FSA Gossamer cranks. This model starts at €490 (Power2Max sell direct from Germany); our test bike required a BB386Evo axle, adding €50. The full-fat NG starts at €990.

To achieve that saving, the temperature compensation system in the NGeco is a step behind that in the NG, claimed accuracy is two per cent rather than one per cent, the battery is replaceable as opposed to rechargeable, the warranty lasts two years rather than five, and you don’t get analysis features such as left/right split, pedalling smoothness and torque, unless you buy them as upgrades for €50 each. We’ll examine the relative value for money later.

The NGeco is German brand Power2Max’s sub-£500 power meter (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/Factory Media)

The mechanicals

Now to some mechanicals. The NGeco spider itself weighs 175g on our scales, the entry-level FSA Gossamer cranks are a stout 592g, and the Rotor 53/39 chainrings and bolts also supplied (a €150 option) another 148g, for a total of 915g for the complete chainset. For reference, at the same time I also weighed the Rotor 2InPower chainset that came out of my bike (859g), and its original Cannondale Hollowgram SI chainset (625g with no power meter). So, while the FSA cranks are rather chunky, the total weight is only 56g more than Rotor’s equivalent power meter, and 134g over the lightest power meter crankset I’ve had on my scales in the same size, Quarq’s Elsa RS at 781g with rings.

The NGeco comes needing some minor assembly onto the cranks. The special tool costs a cheeky extra €30 and still doesn’t include the crow’s foot adaptor you will need to tighten it with a torque wrench in order to meet the conditions of the warranty. Garmin supplied a crow’s foot with the Vector 2s; Power2Max should do, too, if it’s a warranty requirement. That aside, the captive crank bolt makes fitting easy, but the instructions don’t mention which spacers are needed for BB386Evo, so the ensuing trial and error turned a five-minute job into an hour. Decals are provided in green, black, red, white, and blue. I left them off. Because stickers.

The rubber battery cover is easy to remove and refit but we initially wondered about its longevity and ability to cope with bad weather and subsequent bike washing. Further testing would tell. Beneath the cover is a CR2450 coin cell. It’s an oddly large size (most meters use CR2032) but with that comes a claimed 400-hour life. It’s a commonly used battery for car alarms, so it’s readily available for just £4 or so. The ANT+ ID number is printed on the outside, as is now the norm. This is immensely useful for journos trying to pair multiple meters and computers, and also handy if you happen to be pairing yours in the proximity of any other ANT+ devices, such as at a race or sportive. An LED light lets you know the unit is active.

In the spirit of an entry-level power meter, our NGeco was supplied with FSA Gossamer cranks (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/Factory Media)

Left/right? Not quite

Power2Max describe their meters as dual-sided but this needs clarification. Whereas the Verve Infocrank and Rotor 2InPower measure each leg independently, with strain gauges in both crank arms, the NGeco does not. It measures power at the spider and calculates your left/right split based on crank position. If you were to push harder with your right leg but also pull up more with it, you could trick it into reading more evenly than was the case. That said, Quarq also measures at the spider and it hasn’t stopped those being hailed as great power meters, nor, crucially, from reporting the same split as I get from independent measurements.

“Left-right power split is a far less important metric than many believe. In years of testing and training with power meters, I’ve only ever looked at it a few times in relation to injury recovery”

A calculated left/right split is enough to avoid the compromise of a single-sided meter (inaccurate data unless your left and right legs are equally powerful), while anyone needing the forensic detail of independent left/right measurement of the up- and down-strokes almost certainly has a pro team to supply their power meters. Besides, it’s a far less important metric than many believe. In years of testing and training with power meters, I’ve only ever looked at L/R split data a few times in relation to injury recovery.

Power2Max NGeco power meter (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/FactoryMedia)
Power2Max NGeco power meter (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/FactoryMedia)

Practicality and performance  

There are two aspects to power meter testing: practicality and performance. The former is straightforward – how easy it is to fit the unit and swap the battery, what weight it adds, and what intrusion it has on ride experience. The latter is more complicated. A power meter must be accurate and consistent, and also able to handle variances in temperature (which effects the strain gauges at the core of the hardware). Assessing power meter performance is impossible if it’s ridden in isolation because you have no reference point. If you run a second power meter then you have one reference point, but still little clue as to which is telling the truth or, if they’re in agreement, whether they’re both accurate or equally inaccurate.

  • Power2Max NGeco

  • Price: from €490
  • Weight: 175g (spider)
  • Website: Power2Max

The established method by experienced testers of power meters is to always run three meters simultaneously, made possible by the availability of hub and pedal meters, reporting to three Garmins (all set to one-second recording and started, lapped and stopped in the same order). This still isn’t foolproof but becomes very robust when you have extensive data on the two reference point meters, as I do from years of testing almost every power meter on the market. Simply, we can track a new product against two known quantities and deliver confident judgements.

I ran the NGeco in parallel with a PowerTap GS hub and Garmin Vector 2 pedals. I have a lot of recorded data and experience with both, so they’re good benchmarks. Throughout the 30 hours of test rides, the NGeco tracked almost identically with the Vectors at all cadences, and from low to very hard efforts, only diverging beyond around 1,000 watts, at which point the Vectors are prone to significant over-readings.

This makes the PowerTap appear to be the outlier, reading 2-4% higher than the Vectors and Power2Max NGeco, however in previous testing it has always concurred with the best cranksets (Infocrank, Quarq, SRM).

To cross-reference this data, therefore, I put the PowerTap and Vector 2s on a different bike with an Infocrank. Sure enough, the hub and crank agreed, while the pedals were now alone in reporting lower, so I’m confident to conclude that, in my 30 hours testing the NGeco read slightly low (as did the Vector 2s).

To its credit, however, the NGeco is resolutely consistent, and that’s important. Sure, all your numbers may be a little lower, but because the most important comparison is always to your previous data and your FTP, it’s all valid. A lack of consistency is what really screws up data, or even worse, swapping between different power meters that don’t agree.

Where the low reporting is more of an issue is if you’re trying to hit a TSS (Training Stress Score) target set by a coach and derived from an FTP set on a different meter, such as your coach’s Wattbike. On a four-hour ride, during which the meters all performed typically, the NGeco reported an average of 237W and TSS of 204 versus the Garmin at 234W/199 TSS and the PowerTap at 248W and 249 TSS. Missing out on 20% of your TSS would be a problem for a pro who has to hit targets. For the rest of us, you’re simply not seeing a true picture of how hard you’re training. It’s important to note that this wouldn’t be an issue if all of your data, including your FTP and your zones, were from the NGeco because the TSS would be based on a lower FTP.

The NGeco provided consistent power readings throughout our three-way test (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/Factory Media)

Power2Max say that it isn’t necessary to calibrate (manual zero offset) the NGeco before every ride because it auto-calibrates whenever you stop pedalling. I always did a pre-ride calibration because it’s good practice but I also tested the unit without one. I still calibrated the other two power meters at the start and again after 15 minutes of acclimatisation, lapping the Garmins at the same time, and recalibrated all three after a further 20 minutes to gauge their relative performance.

The NGeco reported a few watts higher when left to sort itself out, then back in line with the pedals once re-calibrated mid-ride. If you’re in a panic to get to a start line then you will still get good data without a pre-ride calibration, but otherwise I suggest that you always do in order to get a cleaner reading without your feet clipped in.

Power2Max NGeco power meter (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/FactoryMedia)
Power2Max NGeco power meter (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/FactoryMedia)
Power2Max NGeco power meter (Pic: Jamie Wilkins/FactoryMedia)

Value for money

Onto the key question then: does the NGeco suffer for being a cost-cut version of the NG? No, I don’t think it does. This temperature compensation system appears entirely adequate and its accuracy of +/-2% is sufficient for all the most data obsessed pros. The battery is claimed to last 400 hours against 150 per charge for the more expensive NG power meters, so that’s fine, and you don’t have to pack a charger if you travel with your bike, just a coin cell. The longer warranty on the NG will add some peace of mind but probably not €500 of it. There are cases to justify buying the analytics upgrades for calculated left/right split (injury recovery), pedalling smoothness (if you’re new to cycling or know you pedal choppily), and torque (sprinters, especially on track), but these are all very marginal.

“I always start by splitting power meters into one of two groups: those that misbehave in some way, and those that don’t. The NGeco goes in the latter group; it was near faultless throughout testing”

As a crank-based power meter, the NGeco isn’t as transferable as a pedal system but with a captive bolt in the left crank it’s quick to fit and remove, and this model’s BB386Evo standard fits any 30mm frame, so if you have two or more compatible bikes you could swap this meter between them. If that isn’t the case, you still need a pedal system or separate meters. A downside of the BB386Evo is the extra axle width which reduces heel clearance. Testing in winter, wearing overshoes, these cranks became scuffed in just a couple of weeks. Despite the weather, and my earlier fears, the battery cover proved robust, showing no signs of water or dirt ingress after riding or washing.

Conclusion

I always start by splitting power meters into one of two groups: those that misbehave in some way (e.g. Garmin Vector 2s over-reading sprints), and those that don’t. The NGeco goes in the latter group; it was near faultless throughout testing, despite some really harsh weather that included snow, heavy rain and temperatures down to -4 degrees. The only bug was a repeated false low battery warning, a glitch Power2Max is aware of and will hopefully fix with an update. That isn’t a deal breaker, and nor is the fact its reading is slightly low because the impressive consistency makes up for that.

Although the NGeco doesn’t measure your left and right leg independently, it does measure both pedal strokes, so it avoids the compromise of a left-only meter which measures one stroke and doubles it. For me, that puts it ahead of single-sided pedals and cranks – its only current price rivals. This is a very good power meter and outstanding value for money.

Pros

  • Value for money
  • Consistency
  • Crank options
  • Long battery life
  • Easy battery swap

Cons

  • Reads slightly low
  • Special tool not included
  • FSA cranks are relativelyheavy and scuff easily

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