Does It Work
The short answer is, yes, it certainly appears to. During our time with Stages, they showed off all manner of charts and graphs illustrating that their simplified system, measuring just one leg, then extrapolating that data to account for total rider output was just as accurate as the popular hub and spider-based models.
We also ventured out on several test rides, including an all-out effort up Boulder’s iconic Flagstaff climb. The goal here was to obtain a max 20-minute average, which could then be used to set up training zones with our new TrainingPeaks or Strava accounts. Based on personal prior experience (I’ve ridden the climb dozens of times) and current fitness level, my 279-watt average seemed about right.
But obviously that is by no means a true scientific test. Stages acknowledged this and encouraged all the media in attendance to do their own side-by-side testing.
Stages also claimed that they have done extensive in-house comparison analysis, with several staffers spending more than a year with three separate power meters running on their bike at the same time. When all three devices were calibrated properly (something many users forget to do), they claimed the variance was well within an acceptable range. But things like drastic temperature change and not doing a zero reset before rides delivered greater discrepancies.
“Side by side testing is not as easy as it might sound,” said Warner, noting that even using one power meter with two Garmin head units can deliver varied information. “It can be a very frustrating process.”
Who Is Stages
The company is new, but the people behind it are primarily industry veterans, with the core group having worked together for nearly 20 years, dating back to their time with Schwinn in the mid-1990s. “We are leveraging what we’ve learned along the way,” explained VP Doug Crawford. “This not our first product, nor our first leap into product development.”
“Within this group, we have 225 patents,” added Warner, who was one of the riders who used the triple-power meter set-up during the company’s testing and development phase.
For whatever it’s worth, they all ride a ton, too. Company staffers’ list of bike racing achievements include Ironman Kona finishes, Colorado state road and cyclocross championship wins, and national track racing titles. The daily group rides were spirited to say the least.
Why Would You Want One
Seven hundred dollars is no small drop in the bucket, but for anyone who’s lusted after a power meter, but been chased away by the price, this might change the equation. Beyond that, the benefits of training with power are well documented. Unlike heart rate, which can be effected by everything from how hot it is, to how many beers you had the night before, power is quantifiable raw data that shows the rate at which you can do work.
Remember the famous watts/kg conversations that surrounded Lance Armstrong and what it took to win the Tour de France. Well, this is how you figure that out. I cranked out a whopping 3.5 w/kg during my aforementioned Flagstaff time trial effort. Rory Sutherland, who won the Flagstaff stage at last summer’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge, knocked the 2.8-mile climb off by pumping out 6.8 w/kg.
There’s also talk at Stages that this power meter could open the door to interesting applications in the mountain biking world. The company has signed sponsorship agreements with the SCOTT-3Rox and Yeti mountain bike teams, and Yeti’s top brass, Chris Conroy, has expressed interest in how the device might be used to “test the effectiveness of new suspension designs and set-ups.”
One final note. I’ve done my best to address as many potential questions as possible with this new product summation. But if you have any further questions, post them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to get you an answer. And of course, in the coming months we’ll do further testing on our Stages Cycling power meter and let you know how it goes.