G : REVIEWED : 015
It seemed hokey on its face; a DI Y power me- ter? Can they do that? Like, really? They can. I glued a power meter to my
own crank arm and... by Jove, it works.
We’ve all been enjoying the downward spiral in
the cost of power meters. It’s a technical product,
but then again, it’s not; a strain gauge simply measures microscopic levels of deflection when you
put power to the cranks. That deflection produces
a number that measures your power outlay.
We pay to relay of that data to our computers and
to install the device on our bikes in the form of a crank
arm, chain ring spider or hub set. But what if we cut
out the installation part... and did it ourselves?
A group of Israeli engineers decided simplify the
installation to a level that the average consumer
could manage. Their first effort a year ago had
enough bugs that the company refunded the customers, stood back, and redesigned. It was a smart
move, because generation two is ready to roll.
Using a simple process and a smartphone app
with follow-along video instructions, Powerbeat
made a simple, light and inexpensive dual-leg add-
on power meter that you install yourself. All pieces,
The equipment itself is easy: a strain gauge
is bonded to the top of each crank arm, and a
plug-in rechargeable processing unit relays data to
your ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart head unit (or your
smartphone). The set of sensors and processors
weighs in at just 24 grams; it’s nothing. The pro-
cessors have to be recharged after 60 hours of use
(you can check the charge level from the app), so
you simply unplug them from the strain gauge and
remove them from the bike by removing your ped-
als, which fix them to the bike via the pedal axles.
The joy in Powerbeat? You can mount them
on nearly any bike. Well, at least if it’s a hollow
alloy crank arm. (Carbon bonding is coming—but
not yet, Watteam says.) Road, mountain, gravel,
whatever, so as with Stages, you can get your
data in the dirt, too. Watteam also has a rubber
receiver protector, though if gets damaged, the
CPU is replaceable; the strain gauge’s flat mount
to the crank arm is so small, it shouldn’t ever be
in danger of damage on the dirt.
We did the installation process in two days:
day one was less than an hour of my time to prep
the crank arms and bond the strain gauge to them
(which was incredibly simple thanks to the app
directions). On day two, I spent maybe 30 minutes
calibrating the unit (again, using the app). A set of
water-filled bags calibrates the load at four points
through a pedal stroke. After that, I paired it with
my Garmin head unit and went riding.
It only took that first ride, a three-hour day, to
realize this was the real deal. I’d not only installed
my own power meter, but did so successfully; the
data was accurate, from actual power (177 watts
normalized) to left-right data (52/58). We’ve used
a Stages power meter, and the comparison was
pretty spot-on. There was some low data variance
at higher wattage (sprinting, maxed at 501 watts),
but for 99 percent of my riding, which consisted
of three-hour sessions of high-cadence efforts,
recovery, 4 × 5 minute efforts at 240 watts, the
accuracy was there. It works beautifully.
If you overextend the charge life and a power
pod goes to zero, your ride data isn’t lost; the
unit goes into survival mode, isolating to the one
working unit and doubling it for your total power.
Don’t want to go through the install process? Any shop will do it for a fee, but really, it’s
so dang easy, passing off the installation is a
waste of money. Further, doing the install gives
you as the user a better understanding of what
the equipment is doing underneath you.
At $499, it costs less than a Stages power
meter on a Shimano 105 crank arm, but is still
$100 more than 4iii. However, the Stages and
4iii are single-leg only, drawing power data by
doubling the single-side number. Points to Watteam for a dual-leg power meter at this price.
Heck, points to Watteam for making a power
meter that’s so simple to install and passing
the savings on to the consumer.
Getting it is pretty easy, too: order online. Watteam is building out its distribution, but it can be
ordered in the U.S. and Europe with ease.
WATTEAM POWERBEAT G2
POWER METER ($499 )
WAT TEAM.COM BY JAY PRASUHN