Best power meters 2020: everything you need to know before you invest

Looking for a power meter but not sure where to start? We list our favourite models reviewed and looks at pros and cons of popular styles

Love them or hate them, when it comes to tech controversy, power meters are right up there with disc brakes on road bikes.

However, there’s no denying the befits of  riding with power data, knowing your numbers enables you to track and measure your performance, and ultimately improve it.

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Used wisely, a power meter can ensure you get the best out of every ride, help you work towards specific goals, and most importantly, when to rest and recover.

>>> Italian ProTeam to ban power meters during races for 2020

What is a power meter?

A power meter is a device fitted to a bike that measures the power output of the rider.

Most commonly, power meters use strain gauges that deflect slightly when a force is applied. By measuring this torque and combining it with angular velocity, power (measured in watts) can be calculated.

>>> What is FTP and how do you improve it? 

If you want to get the most out of your training then a power meter is the best tool to quantify your workouts.

As ever, there’s no single power meter that is the best. This will depend on how you intend to use it, your bike, your bike placement options, your budget and if you want to use it with more than one bike.

We’ll start this guide with our immediate product recommendations, but don’t worry if you’re not sure what’s right for you, further down the page is a in-depth guide to help you understand how each power meter measures power, what power actually means and how it’s calculated, and even a helpful link to help you get the most out of riding with power.

Best power meters reviewed 2020

You may notice that the majority of our favourite power meters are crank based. We’ve found many of these to be reliable – whilst others, pedals in particular, can be a bit vulnerable in poor weather. Hub based options have proven themselves hugely reliable, too, but they do limit you in wheel choice.

We’ve included some examples below – with each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Favero Assioma Duo power meter pedals 8/10

Read more: Favero Assioma review

When we reviewed these pedals back in 2018, our main gripe was with the pedal itself – but that’s since been updated and we do have a new set en route to the Cycling Weekly office.

Where some power meter pedals have had mixed reviews, with battery draining issues a problem, the Assioma model consistently gets glowing reports all round. These pedals are rechargeable, and use a magnetic port which plugs into a power source via a USB.

These weigh in at 299g, and have a stack height of 10.5mm – so there shouldn’t be a notable difference between these and standard pedals.

The stated accuracy is +/-1 per cent, and these can be purchased as a dual or single sided unit.

Buy now: Favero Assioma pedals at Sigma Sports for £699

PowerTap G3 Hub £550 9/10

best power meters

Read more: PowerTap G3 hub review

Hub based power meters have been overlooked a bit in recent years, their lack of popularity largely comes down to the way they limit wheel swapping between training and competition. However, a crank based power meter limits you between bikes, and the G3 from PowerTap is a hugely reliable piece of kit.

We’ve really rated this version, and as fans of Power Tap for many years, we can speak highly of it’s overall reliability. Battery changes can be a bit fiddly, but that means the unit is incredibly water tight – which results in next to zero problems. It’s a shame you don’t get left/right power but not a deal breaker.

The hub weighs 325g, so it does add a bit of weight in an uncomfortable place at the rear wheel, but it’s not a huge price to pay for detailed and trustable numbers.

Buy now: PowerTap G3 Rear Hub from Wiggle for £453.99

Quarq DZero power meter £858 10/10

Read more: Quarq DZero power meter review

A winner in our 2019 Editor’s Choice awards, the Quarq proved to be accurate, durable and reliable, without being anywhere near one of the most expensive on the market.

It’s also good to know that while we tested the carbon version, there’s also an alloy Quarq DZero power meter for nearly half the price.

Our tester escaped dropouts and power spikes during testing, and found the data reliable – reading about four watts above a Wahoo Kickr, which is a reasonable number accounted for via drivetrain losses.

Our testing found the the Quarq DZero power meter is a solid unit for those seeking easy, reliable and accurate numbers from a power meter.”

Buy now: Quarq SRAM Red DZero Power Meter Crankset from ProBikeKit for £628.99

S-Works Power Cranks £1050 10/10

The S-Works cranks from Specialized come fitted to some of their top end bikes, pre-installed, but the unit is available aftermarket too.

Specialized has used the technology created by 4iii – but it’s housed it within its own external crank, with a major focus on ensuring sufficient waterproofing.

The strain gauge itself is within two black pods, on the inside of the cranks, make these duel sided and weigh just 15g so there’s no real penalty.

If you find the price tag of the full carbon S-Works version a tad out of your price range, it’s good to know that there’s also an Ultegra version for under half the price.

We found the unit reliable, and didn’t suffer with dropouts or power spikes, with the whole experience  close to flawless – the only downer was that it was a tad fiddly to fit.

Buy now: Specialized Power Cranks Shimano Ultegra Power Meter from CycleStore for £349.99

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P power meter £1,499 8/10

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P power meter

Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P power meter

Read more: Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P power meter review

Shimano’s first crack at a power meter is a reliable and easy to use dual-sided meter that looks the business.

We’ve listed in our ‘best of’ guide, because it’s an option under high demand. Touches like the USB recharging port are great, and tester Richard Windsor found it was easy to calibrate and change batteries.

It wasn’t perfect though, being a first generation we’d expect some of its issues to be rectified through updates. For such a high price, it’s worth considering if other options might suit your needs and save you some cash too.

Buy now: Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 power meter at Wiggle from £887.99

FSA Powerbox power meter £614.95 9/10

FSA PowerBox power meter

Read more: FSA Powerbox power meter review

With its comprehensive range of chainsets, a power meter is a natural extension of its product portfolio for FSA. It paired up with German power meter experts Power2Max to develop the Powerbox crank based power meter.

We got hold of the alloy FSA Powerbox for our test, but there’s also full carbon versions available too, although expect to pay about double the price.

When we tested the Powerbox, we found that it was accurate and reliable and also coped well with the odd dousing with a hose pipe. It’s ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible, comes in carbon and alloy versions and with  a wide range of chainring size options, including supercompact options.

Buy now: FSA Powerbox power meter at Wiggle for £439

What are the different types of power meter?

Currently, power meters can be placed in five key areas of a bike. Of course, each has their own advantages and disadvantages. These are:

  • The rear wheel hub
  • The bottom bracket/spindle
  • Chainrings and crank spiders
  • Crank arm
  • Pedals

Hub based systems such as the PowerTap G3 are amongst the most simple power meters on the market. With fewer forces acting on the strain gauges, many engineers regard the hub as the most accurate location to measure power.

Power measurement will be slightly lower here than on a pedal or crank system as you’re measuring what is left, post drivetrain losses. It also means your power output can be a bit lower if your drivechain is very dirty.

Bottom bracket systems can be accurate and low maintenance. However, installation is more difficult and is made all the more complicated by the varying bottom bracket standards available today.

Bottom bracket systems can be accurate and low maintenance

Factor in that a system of this type may not fit your bike and it is also likely to mean you have to run a different brand chainset to the rest of your groupset. Examples include Rotor INPower.

Chainring based power meters can be very accurate but it is worth factoring that they don’t actually measure individual left/right power. They can estimate it, though.

Similar to bottom bracket systems, they are not as easy to swap between bikes, as say pedals, and there can be compatibility issues. Examples include the fabled SRM (the most popular choice amongst pro riders), Power2Max and Quarq.

Crank arm based systems can be relatively easy to swap between bikes, too. Like pedals, they have the potential to be single or double sided and popular examples include the Stages crank arm and 4iiii precision meter.

Pedal based systems are easy to fit and swap between bikes, but can be less accurate owing to the complexity of the force measurement and being exposed, makes them at greater risk of damage.

Popular examples include Garmin Vector and Look/ SRM Exakt pedals. Power meters of this type can also be single or double sided.

Single, double and combined power meters

Single sided power meters

You can buy single sided power meters that measure power from one side, usually the left, and then double the reading to estimate your total power output from both legs.

4iiii precision 2.0 power meter 2

A single sided only measurement means doubling a single legs power may not be a fully accurate representation of your power, but it can mean they are more affordable.

>>> Stages lower power meter prices with immediate effect 

It may be worth checking if you have significant imbalances before opting for a single sided meter. Note a 48/52% balance between legs is common.

Combined power meters

These units effectively combine the power from both right and left legs and do not measure it independently. An example would be a PowerTap G3 hub or SRM.

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Note that these systems, although accurate, will not differentiate which leg the power comes from.

Left/right side independent measurement

This is found on more modern and more expensive power meters that have gauges in multiple locations, such as pedals and some crank based units.

This can be useful in establishing if you have an imbalance (one leg much more powerful than another) and for working on pedalling technique.

This can be especially useful if you are recovering from a single leg injury.

This is limited to power meters that measure power in more than one location, such as pedals, but also more expensive crank based units, such as Rotor 2InPower.

Power meter connectivity 

The vast majority of power meters transmit via ANT+ (including all in this test) allowing them to connect to most bike computer system, including Garmin.

Newer power meters are also offering Bluetooth Smart connectivity, which is useful for connecting to smart phones or updating firmware.

Power meters explained

We spoke to Professor Louis Passfield, currently based at the University of Kent Centre for Sports Studies.

The maths: power (W) = force x distance / time

Watts are the energy required to a move a mass a certain distance in a known time period. 1W = 1Nm/s in other words to move one Newton one metre in one second costs one watt of energy.

So in bike speak, the mass is you plus your bike, and the distance is the ground covered.

Moving a bike, though, is a far more complicated scenario, as its resistance to motion is far from consistent.

In layman’s terms, then, this equates as: power = force x velocity

And that is the key to understanding how a power meter works. It’s essentially applying that equation to a given part of the bike – be that BB axle, crank, hub, pedal axle etc.

Accurate measurement of this force is one of the biggest challenges power meter manufacturers face. So the smallest details become important.

For instance, the placement of the gauges, the quality of the gauges themselves and even the temperature of the measured material.

How much do power meters cost?

Entry level – typically £400-£700

At this price you are likely to get a single sided measurement, that doubles the reading to estimate both legs. PowerTap hubs are also available at this price. Stages 105 crank £449, Powertap Hub £500 and Vector 3 £500.

Mid level – typically £700-1100

zwatt power meter

Mid-price starts to see pedal based systems and dual-sided meters. Crank and chainring systems also become available. Professional athletes are increasingly using meters at this price point. Examples include PowerTap P1 Pedals.

Top end – £1200 +

At the top of the market we find dual sided measurement and crank and spindle based systems. Examples include Rotor 2InPower £1200.

How to use a power meter

If you want to learn about how to ride with a power meter, click on the link here.

It has lots of useful information about how get the most out of your gadget and how to apply the numbers to your training.