Anticipation for a pedal based power meter has been out there among the triathlon community for some time, and we finally are seeing the resultant product hitting the shelves in the form of the new Garmin Vector. And being the ever diligent coach that I am, I purchased a set – so that I could check them out for you, of course.
The Garmin Vector has several advantages over current hub based or crank based systems.
- Power measured at the pedals, where it is applied.
- Power contribution by both left and right leg
- Can be used with any wheelset
- Can be relatively easily switched between different bikes
On the downside, the Vector system has only a few drawbacks when compared to other systems out there.
- SRM: $2000+
- Vector: $1700
- Quarq: $1500
- PowerTap: $800+
- You are restricted to the Look Keo pedal.
After several rides on both the CompuTrainer and the road, I believe the Vector is an excellent choice for power on the bike. When compared side by side with the CompuTrainer data, the Vector data was consistently slightly lower. Reading reviews from leading journals, I found that others were getting similar results. Garmin claims +/-2% accuracy, which is similar to other systems on the market. When looking at these power numbers, you should remember that it’s not the absolute accuracy, but the absolute consistency that’s most important for a power meter to function well for you.
Garmin claims 175 hours of operation on each battery, but we’ll have to see. A cool function if you use the Vector system in conjunction with a Garmin Edge computer, you’ll get a warning message when battery life drops to 20 percent. The battery installation is simple; the pod unlocks with a screwdriver.
Initially, I was worried that the pods (seen in the photo above) would hit the ground when cornering. However, after reading reviews and conducting experiments of my own, I’m convinced that the pods won’t come into contact with the ground; the pedal will strike first.
The pods house a battery and an accelerometer, and will end up within 1 to 3cm of the inside of your shoe, depending on foot size and cleat placement. But, aside from the unique looks, the pods work well.
Installing the Garmin Vector is not much more complicated than setting up a standard set of road pedals. It’s just a matter of screwing them in and tightening them down to a torque value of 34-40Nm. This does require a torque wrench and a special wrench attachment, but your local bike shop should be able to do this for a small fee.
Sometimes the wait is worth your while, and I believe that is the case with the Garmin Vector. For an accelerometer-based system, power data shows up quickly (about three revolutions) and the signal was never dropped. The L/R function is cool at first go, and promising down the road – what if you could identify an imbalance, improve it through exercises, then measure the resulting power improvement? And, coming from a company that manufactures the most popular cycling computers in triathlon, the Vector has a huge advantage over the competition.