After a few delays, the Garmin Vector pedal-based power meter has officially launched, with stock shipping to retailers immediately. That means you might be able to get your hands on a set as early as next week.
The Garmin Vector system will retail for $1,699 in the US and Australia and £1,349 in the UK. For that you will get the pedals, pods and cleats but no head unit. Our UK test set weighed 428g including cleats and bolts. All parts are replaceable in case of damage or wear, too.
With eight piezoresistive strain gauges in both spindles of the Exustar (Look compatible) pedals, the Garmin Vector power meter offers a wealth of data using the ANT+ wireless protocol.
Garmin are claiming the system is "essentially two power meters in one", as both pedals measure power, with each pod attachment able to transmit data. The left operates as a slave, delivering data via ANT+ to the right, which assimilates the information and sends it to any ANT+ head unit, Garmin or otherwise.
The advantage of using pedals to measure power is that they can easily be transferred from bike to bike using a 15mm spanner. Unlike those on the Look/Polar Keo power pedal system, the pods, which clip into the ends of the axles, don't need to be aligned perfectly with the cranks. Garmin advise that they point down when the crank is in the forward position, but that's mainly to keep them out of the way.
Once the pedals and pods are on, you do an initial sensor alignment calibration via your head unit, which takes less than half a minute. You only need to do this when you swap pedals over.
The Garmin Vector power meter pedal system is finally a consumer reality
For those who use an Edge computer, available power-related data from the Vector system includes left and right leg balance, displayed in real time or a rolling 3sec average in L/R percentages, plus TrainingPeaks metrics such as Normalized Power, Intensity Factor and Training Stress Score.
While there are a handful of ANT+ power meters on the market, Garmin are one of the first to bring the technology to the pedal, allowing the use of virtually any crank (lengths between 110mm and 240mm are supported) and certainly any wheel. The Look/Polar pedal-based power system has been in play for more than a year now but is a non-ANT+ system.
The Garmin Vectors use Exustar pedals which are compatible with Look cleats
Garmin executives said a mountain bike version of the power meter will likely be next, and that lower priced road options "are certainly a possibility". Further, adding new types of data with the existing Vector system is also on the table.
"It’s not just a product, it’s a platform," said Clark Foy, one of the cofounders of MetriGear, the company that began the power-meter project that Garmin purchased in 2010. "Because we are at the man/machine interface, we can see where in the pedal stroke and where on the pedal power is actually applied.
"Watts is interesting for a subset of the market, but we need to go beyond that. This is a three- to four-year vision, and it will be doable through updates to your pedals. What we are starting with is a fairly straightforward metric of balance – left and right power output."
While it opens up options for cranks and wheels (most alternatives are crank or hub based), Vector does lock users to the Look-style pedal. As the power meters are in the spindle, why not use other styles of pedal? Foy said Garmin have been approached by "virtually every pedal manufacturer".
"It really comes down to a business decision. and just getting this out of the door," he said. "Think about most pedal companies – they are not electronics specialists. Sharing margin, sharing channel – all of a sudden it gets very expensive. This way [by working with Exustar for manufacturing of the body], we can control for quality."
BikeRadar testers in the UK and US have now tested the Garmin Vector against other power meters – read our first ride review here.
Garmin Vector power meter specifications
- Total power (watts)
- Normalised power
- Intensity factor
- Training stress score
- Left/right balance (%)
- Cadence (rpm)
- +/-2% accuracy
- Transmits via ANT+ protocol
- Pedals: 305g (pair)
- Pedal pods: 46g (pair)
- Cleats and hardware: 77g (pair)
- Total: 428g
- Lightweight injected carbon fiber body
- CNC machined, hardened stainless steel spindle
- LSL bushing and sealed cartridge bearings
- Adjustable tension binding
- Look Keo compatible
- ANT+ transmitters and cadence measurement via accelerometers
- User replaceable battery (CR2032 coin cell)
- 175 hours cycling
- High durability thermoplastic with anti-slip surface pads
- Rubber button to reduce free float action between shoe and cleat
- 6 degrees float (0 degrees available as accessory)
- Look Keo compatible
James Huang, Jeff Jones and David Rome contributed to this report