Easy to transfer between bikes
Endless battery problems
Price as reviewed:
Review last updated: May 1, 2020
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The original Cycling Weekly review was published in January, 2018 – and the pedals received an excellent 10/10 for offering accurate power readings and also a host of other useful metrics in a package that designed for easy swapping between bikes.
However, around per month after publishing the shining report, the pedals started out to demonstrate problems: power spikes, battery draining and ‘right sensor missing messages’. A straightforward Google search revealed multiple forum threads with customers having identical problems – and, if it’s not really a dirty word, anecdotally a higher percentage of our cycling peers who had invested were exceptional same issues.
After changing the batteries many times, Garmin sent another couple of pedals to try. Issues persisted with both pairs. Then in June 2018, Garmin admitted that it had a problem with water damage and mold due to an insufficient battery cover design. All customers were treated to a fresh group of revised covers, and new pairs come fitted with the updated cover as standard.
The first replacement cover pinged off after being clipped in a crit race – however the second replacement group of covers hasn’t yielded incredible results, either. It appears performance could be boosted by using a clever hack involving a bit of cardboard which closes the gap between contact and battery – but this might void your warrantee and isn’t advised by Garmin.
In March 2020, Garmin released another new cover, once more to address problems with the look. We’ve not had the opportunity to get our practical a couple of these covers – we want to, and really should we succeed we’ll update this review if we find the update increases performance.
All of this is a shame, for the reason that Vector 3’s will be the most beautiful power meter solution on the globe. If they’d only work consistently.
Garmin Vector 3: the construction
When power meter pedals arrived they seemed like the best solution.
The professionals: easily transferrable between bikes, unlike cranks; well suited for all rides, events and all weathers, unlike wheels. For a rider like myself who would like to train with power on the highway, track and with time trials, they’d be ideal. However, the positioning makes them fragile and vunerable to damage.
How exactly to train with a power meter
The Vector 3’s looked to fix the cons. Unlike the outgoing Vector 2, the energy meter is housed inside pedal – eliminating the thought of having a pricey strain gauge dangling around unprotected and with the necessity to set them up with an ideal level of torque.
A pair weighs 324g (claimed weight is 316g). The pedals themselves, in the beginning created by external brand Exustar, have grown to be an in-house project, made by Garmin. They use needle bearings rather than bronze and will support a rider weight up to 105kg.
They’re both Ant+ and Bluetooth compatible, making them friendly to more software options without the application of a dongle. The pedals can be bought as a pair – ‘Garmin Vector 3’ – or as an individual pedal in ‘Garmin Vector 3S’ form. The latter measures power from the left pedal and uses an algorithm to determine output.
Garmin Vector 3 Setup
Sometimes learning a power meter, cycling computer or other particularly software heavy item has a side order of hassle and dressing of irritation.
That wasn’t the case at all with the Vectors. The pedals were simple to fit, simple to hook up and calibrate.
The pedals are Look style, and the box includes a pair of cleats.
There’s no special trick to fitting the pedals: remove your old ones, apply just a little grease, put in a supplied spacer if there’s threat of rubbing (in my own case there is not) and they’re fitted. The battery indicator is in the area where you may use an Allen key to tighten the pedals, nevertheless, you may use a pedal wrench.
To hook up to a GPS computer – I was by using a Garmin Edge 1030 – you just get into your settings > sensors, and seek out sensors. The energy meter should appear – it did so for me personally in less than one minute. Afterward you set crank length and calibrate.
Calibration has to be performed before every ride. Thankfully, it had been very easy: I simply had to choose the sensor, hit ‘calibrate’, unclip from the pedals and wait a couple of seconds.
Updates could be administered via your Garmin Edge unit, and you could also adapt settings using the Garmin Connect mobile iphone app – including scaling if you’re using the Garmin 3S (single pedal) version and know you have a power discrepancy between left and right leg.
The pedals themselves
The pedal itself is light enough that I’d do not have any concern over performance. They can be found in at 324g a pair, as a comparison Shimano Ultegra Carbon R8000 pedals have a claimed weight of 248g.
Stack height is low at 11.5mm and there’s 13.7″ of clearance. I’ve clipped them at crit races twice – in both cases I’m confident in calling the fault my very own, though regrettably the most common result is that the cover comes off, this means a replacement is necessary, these cost £30 each.
The bond between cleat and pedal felt solid and reliable.
The explained accuracy is +/- 1.0%. When the pedals were working smoothly, I came across them pretty i’m all over this.
In most cases, power meters that measure from the pedal instead of the hub give slightly higher readings just because a few watts are lost in transmission.
I came across the Garmin Vector pedals read somewhat lower during short bursts in comparison with my Powertap hub, but somewhat greater than the Wahoo Kickr. Over longer durations, the numbers were generally very slightly greater than the Powertap and less than the Wahoo – that was rather generous.
Below are numbers for two durations. All of the figures result from rides of 90 minutes, completing the same intervals with heartrate within 5 BPM.
All power meters show some discrepancy between your numbers. However, for some riders, just what a power meter must do is maintain consistency with itself.
The Garmin Vector pedals accomplish that, the majority of enough time.
However, within their lifetime with me I’ve had multiple experience of ‘right sensor missing’, leading to rides where my average power will be 80 watts (rather than 160) – thus messing with Training Stress Score and other metrics.
When riding in the wet, they’d often fail through the ride, or on another outing. I’ve also experienced multiple incidents of power spikes (37,000 watts as a max power), and general drop outs.
Interestingly, when riding with club mates also using Vector 3 pedals, we’ve experienced drop outs simultaneously, as if there were some kind of black spot in the lanes of Kent.
Bizarrely I found that whenever riding on the volcanic island of Gran Canaria the readings would skip wildly between 50 watts and 30,000 watts, rendering them utterly useless during the period of weekly long riding holiday. The batteries ran out three days after arriving home (fourteen days since their last change). Yet on the similarly volcanic island of Tenerife these were as effective as gold.
With software updates (we’re now on version 3.5), the brand new covers and the cardboard fix mentioned previously (which might void your warranty) the issues above have decreased in frequency. However, they’ve not ceased completely. Around 80 % of that time period, these pedals work fine – but that remaining 20 % is annoying.
The energy spikes, drop outs and ‘right sensor missing’ messages are connected with water damage and mold and battery draining.
The LR44 batteries are designed to last 120 hours, but I’ve had them last from two months to a week or two. My latest battery chance was after having used the brand new cover, and came after significantly less than 20 hours of riding.
Usually, on replacing the batteries, I’ll find black smudges on the top – which can be an indication of water damage and mold. So in a nutshell: not great.
The metal cover screws right into a plastic base, and several changes signifies that there’s some proof threading in my own set. It’s possible that riders by using a completely new set, installed with the brand new covers, could escape most of these problems.
The Garmin Vector 3’s offer ‘Cycling Dynamics’ data, which isn’t available with the Vector 3S (single pedal).
Cycling Dynamics is Garmin’s own system for measuring pedal stroke – it really is displayed on a Garmin unit, in Garmin Connect or on compatible software like TrainerRoad.
The ‘dynamics’ include left/right pedal stroke, time spent seated vs standing, Power Phase (at what point through the pedal stroke power has been produced) and Platform Centre Offset (where on the pedal axle power has been produced).
Left right intrigued me because I’ve found when riding hard for long durations, for instance during time trials, my right leg always feels fatigue a lot more strongly than my left, and I’ve had some injury issues on the left side.
It’s never been clear which side is in fact weaker, however the pedals could actually confirm there’s not really a huge discrepancy, around two % sometimes, though this became higher under fatigue and during sprints. The dominant leg varied according to whether sprints were seated or standing, that was really interesting. Knowing this may be very useful within the next couple of weeks of training.
As possible plainly see in the ‘L/R’ balance chart below, the perfect will be that the pink line sits accurately on 50/50, with the casual anomaly which you’d be prepared to occur every once in awhile.
Garmin Connect Cycling Dynamics – left/right balance
Power Phase was also really interesting to explore. A circle-shaped diagram shows where power has been produced. I came across mine was showing the most power at the front end of the stroke and incredibly little through the pull phase – actually I could only get yourself a back to where it started when completing minute long single legged drills.
Garmin Cycling Dynamics screen
Though interesting to check out on screen, this is of ‘perfect pedal stroke’ depends after who you ask. Therefore, I was never totally certain what I was actually targeting. It could possibly be interesting to track changes as time passes easily were to up the amount of drills I performed.
Garmin Cycling Dynamics, power phase
Platform Centre Offset, like Power Phase, really should be found in conjunction with professional advice. A poor value indicates that force has been produced toward the exterior of the pedal, and a positive means it’s toward the within of the pedal. Joe Bloggs could determine a massive discrepancy between your two, or a higher number in any event, probably means a cleat adjustment is to be able – but fine tuning appears such as a job for a bike fitter.