Stages power meter promise reliable power meter recording at a relatively cheap price. Whilst many SRMs can go for over £2,000. Stages power meters will be £599 (For Shimano 105) to £799 (Shimano Dura Ace 7900). Not only that but they are lightweight (20grams) and easy to switch between bikes.
This summer I spent quite a bit of time researching power meters and I came to the conclusion, I wanted to get the cheapest one. For me, this was Quark, I ended up spending £1,400 and it was a big hole in the cycling budget.
Firstly, the Quark experience has not been so good. A few weeks after buying (and after one race) it broke. We spent ages trying to fix the power meter reading, but the problem was in the crank arm itself so with help of Beeline we sent it back to the distributor. After a delay they sent it back saying it worked. But, it didn’t work, and they hadn’t even put a battery in it. Then we had to send back again. Eventually, four months after it stopped working (Sep 15) I’ve finally got it back in working condition yesterday (Jan 15). It would have been interesting, if not useful being able to use for the hill climb season. It was a lot of toing and froing between the bikeshop. Though in retrospective, I was glad I bought it from Beeline, as they were very helpful in dealing with the Quark distributor.
Whilst the Quark was in the workshop, getting returned , I came to hear about a new power meter called Stages which you just fit to a crank arm. I soon started to regret buying Quark and thought if I’d waited I could have saved £800 and the pain of my Quark not working. Stages seemed to give everything I want from a power meter.
Advantages of Stages
- Very light 20 grams! (important for hill climbers)
- Easy to put on – Even easier than Quark. Even I a self-confessed non bike mechanic could move Stages around without even having to drive bike to bikeshop (something I dislike having to do)
- Much cheaper than other power meters.
- You don’t have to worry about changing wheels / changing bikes. As long as you have same crank arm (which I do) it is quite easy to take off and put on another crank arm. This is a big bonus for me, because I have so many different bikes and wheels.
- Reviews suggest consistent power meter readings.
Too good to be true?
I’ve already splashed out £1,400 on a Quark, but I plan to leave this on my time trial bike. Once you get used to riding power, you want to see what you do on your other bikes. Even though I only used it for four weeks, I would like to have power meter on road bike to measure hill climb interval efforts. The problem is that I often change from road bike to TT bike almost every day. If I was a pure time triallist one pm may be enough. But, I’m not. Stages seems the obvious choice for a second power meter. Only £700 or £800 so it’s pretty enticing because it doesn’t blow the budget completely.
I’ve been looking around and asking people who have already bought Stages power meters to see if there are any drawbacks. Fortunately, there has been a big surge in interest since Team Sky announced they would be using Stages power meters as their exclusive power meter (This was quite an interesting development because Team Sky seemed to be welded to their old SRMS and the power meter files.)
Unfortunately, there does seem to be a significant downside. Apparantely, quite a few users have reported the battery unit is flimsy and has a habit of letting in water. Quite a few users have already reported that their power meter stopped working – often after a heavy downpour. Well, there’s no escaping water when cycling in England. This is a bit frustrating to hear because it seems a fixable problem and just a teething problem of the first year’s model. Surely they must be able to fix this in the next upgrade. If you can develop a power meter, you would have thought you could make a waterproof battery case.
They say there is a good principle to stick to when buying new technology – never buy the first product on the market. Always wait for the teething problems to be fixed and buy it in the second year. You may get a lower price, but you get the product without the bugs.
Measures left leg power only. – Measuring both legs can be useful for detecting imbalances in leg strength. Something my Quark does (at least when I buy a new Garmin to be able to display l/r leg strength.
To buy or wait?
From what I can gather, this gives a difficult dilemma. I will be impatient to get a power meter when I start riding my road bike. But, it makes sense to wait and hope any teething problems are fixed. Perhaps if I wait, I will get a better idea of there reliability.
There is always a limitation in reviewing products from just one or two persons experience. By and large I haven’t heard of other people having problems with Quark like I have had. I may have just been unlucky. Beeline say they have sold many Quark and they haven’t had any returned. But, when you make several trips to bike shop and wait four months for replacement it does colour your experience. Stages is also difficult to come to a conclusion. Reading online reviews is always fraught with difficulties. But, it can give you a better idea than not reading any reviews. The fact that Team Sky are using Stages power meters is actually a selling point. I don’t usually buy the ‘if it’s good enough for Team Sky, it’s good enough for me‘ But, I don’t think they would take on a power meter if it wasn’t going to do the job for them. They have too much invested in the use of power meters. I guess with Team Sky they don’t have to worry about the odd power meter going wonky because of rain. They can easily just get a replacement. For the average cyclist though, it can entail a long frustrating wait when your power meter breaks.
Tim Kerrison, Team Sky’s Head of Performance Support, said of Stages
“As a team, we see the power meter as a very useful tool. The results that we get, both from training and racing, help us to quantify how our riders left legs are performing, which then allows us to make informed coaching decisions. Stages have worked hard to develop a high quality product that is extremely lightweight, reliable and simple to use whilst retaining the precision and accuracy that we require at Team Sky.”
Pretty smart marketing move by Stages, if nothing else. Also, in the long term, it could mean cheaper power meters. It’s going to be hard for SRM to justify selling power meters for £2,500 when there are alternatives for £700.
If anyone has good or bad experiences with Stages power meters do let me know.