Garmin gets the power

Garmin, “the global leader in satellite navigation” according to its own press release, has announced at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas that it has purchased MetriGear, a smaller start-up company with expertise in measuring power output at the pedals of a bicycle.

“Power is becoming the must-have information for cyclists who want to improve their performance,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin President and COO. “Adding MetriGear’s talents and technologies to the Garmin family is a natural fit as we share a passion for fitness and are dedicated to making advanced technology affordable and easy to use.”

MetriGear won new technology awards at last year’s Interbike for its Vector product consisting of a pair of sensor/transmitter units that mount in hollow pedal spindles – Speedplays as shown at Interbike – and around each crank, but the kit never actually made it to market despite being promised for 2010.

garminmetrigearvector02.jpgMetriGear’s CEO Clark Foy explained why things had gone a bit quiet, “From the start, our vision has been to deliver an easy-to-own cycling power meter with unique capabilities. Garmin’s world-class engineering, wireless, manufacturing expertise and their ability to deliver an end-to-end solution from sensors to displays will be instrumental in realizing this vision. We can’t imagine a more capable partner to bring Vector to market, and we are absolutely thrilled to join the Garmin team.”

There are no dates or prices yet for the new accessory but the fact that the Vector sensors communicate by means of Garmin’s own Ant+ wireless technology is likely to be a huge training advantage for users of Ant+ products which include some of those from Bontrager and Specialized as well as existing Garmin units like the Edge 500 and new 800.

It remains to be seen which pedal manufacturers are on board but hollow axles look like being a prerequisite and Speedplay must be a done deal. Possibly less enthusiastic will be French manufacturer Look that showed off its new Keo Power alliance with the Finnish heart rate monitor company Polar at the recent Eurobike show.

Although Keo Power is not an Ant+ system, Polar is signed up for the Ant+ protocol as a company so it could be Look have a job on their hands. All will be clearer once pricing is available, both for the forthcoming Garmin/MetriGear Vector product and for Look Keo Power.

One thing we’re excited about, apart from the presumed lower price than existing hub and chainset-based systems and the ability to measure power output from each leg individually, is that the Vector modules also contain accelerometers in their microchips which means cadence can be monitored, in addition. Could it mean an end to fiddly little zip-tied cadence sensors?