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If I’d been writing this a week ago, it would have read differently. I’d have laid out the facts–the most important of which could probably fit in a tweet–and that’d be that. But I happen to have just scored a power meter (not the Garmin Rally XC pedals pictured above) and I think it might change the way I ride. If you’re already a believer, I’ll cover the basics in a bit. But since I’ve got more than 280 characters to do it in, I’ll briefly make the case for power meters.
You don’t have to be all that nerdy to understand the basics of what to do with power data, even though you’ll probably get more nerdy the more time you spend with a power meter. After a few rides, you’ll have an idea of exactly how much wattage you can sustain for any ride you’ve set out to do. It takes the guesswork out of going big, as well as taking it easy. And over time, you can’t help but make improvements on your fitness. Still talking to the non-believers here, “fitness” has nothing to do with “racing” or even “training.” It’s a means to an end, and whether that end is going on bigger rides or getting more done on the rides you do, a power meter will help you do it.
So, the facts. Garmin has been making pedal-based power meters for years, but only on the road side, and only in the Look KEO cleat standard. Today, they added Shimano’s road cleat standard, SPD-SL, as well as our favorite, an SPD mountain option. For now, Garmin made it clear that their new Rally XC power meter pedals are just that; XC pedals. Cyclocross and gravel, of course, but all-mountain and enduro? Nope. That’s one disadvantage of pedal-based power meters. The power-gathering component of a crank power meter is not load-bearing, whereas it’s inside the spindle on a pedal power meter, and to maintain strength and accuracy, it just won’t hold up to that many hucks to flat. One other disadvantage, power meter pedals have a higher stack height. In the case of the Garmin Rally XC pedals, that’s a pretty tall 13.5 millimeters from center to cleat surface. Compare that to 8.4 millimeters from a set of XTR 9100s.
But pedal power meters can do things that crank power meters can’t. If you spring for the dual-sided Rally XC 200, they can get you a more immediate and accurate readout of left-to-right power balance, something I’m looking closely at given a chronic knee issue. Also, they can be swapped from bike to bike as easily as any other pedal. And in fact, Garmin spindles, which is where the magic happens, are easily interchangeable between the road and mountain versions. And on that note, pedal bodies can be replaced if damaged without having to replace the more expensive power meter component.
Depending on how you look at it, the Rally XC pedals are either about the same price or almost half the price of some other power solutions. Using the Quarq crank-based option as an example, you’re spending about $680 on the spider and chainring, and about another $370 on a compatible crankset. There are plenty others out there, but Quarq is an equally high-profile, big-brand power meter. Compare that $1050 to the full-tilt, two-sided Garmin Rally XC option for $1,200, and you just have to choose what you’re after. But because you can get a pretty accurate overall power reading with a sensor in just one pedal, Garmin also offers a single-sided option for $700, easily upgradeable to a dual-sided for another $600 if you chose to down the road.
$700 pedals are not for everybody. Especially these, which are meant for relatively moderate abuse. But power data is for everybody, and the Garmin Rally XC pedals just made it a little easier to access.