On the heels of a good 2014 cyclocross season, I decided to make an investment in my training and started working with a coach, Patrick Brock of Bike Science Coaching. One of Patrick’s first suggestions was that if I seriously wanted to improve, that investing in a power meter to really dial in my performance was critical. But which one to choose?
I didn’t want a hub-based power meter so that I could easily swap out my training clincher wheelset for my racing tubulars. I wanted the battery to be easily serviceable. I wanted to be able to move it to other bikes and I didn’t want to pay a fortune.
After some research and talking to Nick, our trusty Belgianwerkx bike gear guru, I settled on the Stages Power Meter. I use a Shimano Ultegra crank on both my road and CX bike, so I would have the ability to easily swap it between bikes. The price was right and from watching videos, changing the battery would be no big deal. I was sold.
The Stages Power Meter
The Stages Power Meter is a small electronic device that lives on the inside of your non-drive side crank arm. You buy the crank arm/power meter combo from Stages (you can’t send in your existing crank arm and have them retrofit the power meter). It measures left leg power by way of the crank’s deformation. It only adds about 11g of weight (including the battery), so measuring watts really isn’t adding much to your overall bike weight.
Getting used to training with power
I started with the power meter on my 2009 Felt F1X on the trainer in February 2015, and the first few months really opened my eyes up to a few things, most notably that training with power is hard, both mentally and physically. Training with power completely shifted how I thought about my effort. I thought I was working hard before I got the power meter, but I was way wrong. I would work hard in CX races, but for training, my perceived effort was always higher than what my numbers were telling me.
At first, seeing the power numbers that I needed to hit for my workouts (which was based on my FTP test done at the end of CX season) felt nearly unobtainable. But after a few months of work, I had the realization that I could work that hard and that was amazing. Once I wrapped my head around how hard I needed to work to hit the numbers, I realized I totally COULD work that hard.
Swapping it between bikes
When the time came for a new cyclocross bike (a sweet Giant TCX Advanced Pro 1) in August 2015, I was able to swap the power meter myself thanks to Nick’s handy video. Clearance was a little tight with the frame, so he ended up putting a spacer on, but the fact that I could swap the crank arm out so easily was really awesome.
- Pairing with my Garmin Edge 510 is easy as long as you manually type in the power meter’s ANT+ ID rather than let it search for it automatically. I very rarely run into connectivity issues between it and my Garmin. It has been super reliable from that standpoint.
- Battery swaps (I’ve had to do it twice in a year) were easy. Stages provides a great training video on their website.
- Firmware updates were super easy with their iPhone app.
After over one year of use, I’d totally recommend a Stages Power Meter and would definitely buy one again. Plus, since Stages added carbon-based cranks to their previously alloy-only product line, it really opens up this product to more people. And I’d definitely recommend a power meter in general to anyone looking to take their cycling to the next level!