Monday, January 16, 2012

Quarq Power Meter

Power meters have definitely become the "tool du juor" for the competitive cyclist. As I've moved up the road racing ranks, the kit used has become lighter, stiffer, more technical and yes, more expensive. Carbon frame? Check. Aero wheels? Check. Power meter? I can check that one off as well.

My new Quarq Power Meter ( is finally installed and I've got 3 rides so far on the unit. Beyond being a super sexy piece of black aluminum and carbon, its proved so far to be a simple and functional bit of kit that will help me reach my lofty cycling goals this year.

To be honest, there is a bit of an arms race going on in amature cycling. A power meter and other training tools should actually be higher on the list than a pimped out bike or the latest electronic grouppo. The limiting factor in most people's performance isn't their equipment but their motor. Improving one's fitness is the most cost effective way to better results. I could spend $10,000 trying to get my bike under 14 lbs, but its free to cut 500 calories from my day and drop 10 lbs in a few weeks. I'm guilty of participating in the arms race, but a power meter is my next step towards the goal of improving my fitness.

Since picking up the road bike after a long hiatus in 2006, my training has become more and more dialed and focused. It started with some weekend rides with neighbors then evolved to taking in some centuries in preparation for my first LOTOJA in 2007. I invested in a heart rate monitor at that point and began tracking my training and focusing on "periodization". That got me through the 2011 season and I accomplished a huge goal...upgrading to Cat 3. But I plateaued in what I can accomplish with a HR monitor and self coaching. So for 2012, I have hired Dave Harward at Plan 7 Coaching and invested in a power meter.

In my mind, I've been comparing using the power meter to all the instruments used on a racing sailboat. While its possible to go out by yourself on a 14 foot dingy with a compass and find your way around, many larger racing boats have a host of instruments to fine tune performance. There's heading, velocity made good (VMG), true wind, apparent wind, boat speed and even rig tension. All these measurements are available to the crew on large displays on different parts of the boat. My bike computer now looks like the sailboat displays. I now have multiple reference points to gauge my performance: time, speed, distance, cadence, heart rate and now power.

I chose the Quarq over other options for a number of reasons:

  • Crank based. I use multiple wheelsets, so having a crank based power meter was key. CycleOps Powertap hubs are popular and cost effective but limits wheel choice.

  • Cost. Once I decided on crank based, there's really only 2 options: Quarq or SRM. SRM meters are a good $1000 more than the Quarq. Pedal based systems are also well north os the Quarq in price.

  • Simplicity. The Quarq's battery can be changes with a trip to The Shack. SRM require sending the unit back to SRM for servicing.

  • Calibration. Spin twice backwards and twice forwards. Done.

  • There are two drawbacks however. First, the non-drive side axle sticks out a bit from the bottom bracket shell of my frame. This set up could potentially be less stiff than my previous Sram Force crank which was flush. Second, the cranks arms are a bit flatter and so my heels rub when I'm out of the saddle. To protect the finish from my heels, I've put some clear sticky back on the crank arms. While the finish is now protected, I'll have to get used to my heel rubbing every now and then.

    Functionality is great however. The system is super smooth and the Sram Red chainrings are stiff and quite sexy in black.

    So, so far so good. As I get more rides and start analysing the data, I'll be able to comment more. I'm using Garmin's 500 computer as well and I'll report on that in another post.

    A huge thanks to The Bike Shoppe and Sram for the Grassroots sponsorship, which made this purchase possible!

    1 comment:

    1. That is one neat pack! I got Shimano sets for mine but those stuffs you got there mate are one for the books! I'm envious!