Stages Power Meters, we’ve all heard of them by now. What is it for those you don’t know. It’s a left hand crank arm that has power meter stuck to it, basically a plastic box that houses strain gauges and cool electronics to tell you how weak you are.
So, it’s been on my bike now for for 2 years roughly. I have not given this poor unit much quarter, it’s seen me ride through 3 days of mud and rivers down at the Dr. Evil Classic, it’s done hot dusty Epic Training Camps and it’s done duty on my indoor training bike. The reliability of the unit has been good. I have had “stage doors” replaced under warranty (the battery cover door) due to sealing issues and it allowing moisture in. I’ve also had a whole complete unit replaced under warranty for miraculous power readings, due to stuck strain gauge. The warranty process was dealt with very efficiently and with no nonsense.
The software is update for the unit is done using the nifty Stages Power App, and works brilliantly. you can also calibrate your power meter from the app. This is handy as some computer head units don’t have this function. It’s important for any power meter to be calibrated, this allows for accurate readings, this will give you consistent, day to day – week to week data.
The Unit itself. The price is reasonable, meaning that all power meters are expensive and the weekend warrior isn’t going to buy one. The costs are lower than other power meters available. Don’t let it’s comparably low price tag fool you, it’s a high quality unit that is accurate to with in 2%. I like the crank based option for power, as this allows me to run either racing or training wheel set without losing my training/racing data because of certain wheel based power options. The backup in South Africa is handled by Omnico, they are a big no nonsense company, that handle warranties well. They are a pleasure to work with in this regard. Just keep your Original Proof of Purchase as this is needed for all warranties. The unit installs onto your bike just like the same crank arm it replaces. Any good bike mechanic can install it. Special attention needs to be paid when installing it on certain full suspension frames that have wide chainstays. Certain crank models and frame models are very close to each other. The unit runs on a 2032 watch battery and is user replaceable. This is a handy feature, I’ve had to replace my battery during a 24Hour race it was a doddle to replace. The unit syncs with Bluetooth or Ant+. This is a great feature as most head units that are older still only run Ant+, and most current cellphones have Bluetooth for use with the App. I used my Garmin Edge 520. This unit was a pleasure to use and synced easily with the Stages Crank. My head unit can do a crank calibration and zero offset. The crank has an ambient temperature sensor built in, so calibrations are based on those, and get corrected for fluctuations in temperature. This is one of the nifty ways Stages has ensured accuracy and consistency in readings. The unit comes in all the major crank manufactures cranks styles, like Shimano and Sram. Each crank arm is calibrated to it’s individual power pod. So for example, the XTR 9800 Crank arms(which are stiffer than XT) aren’t matched to an XT pod. The same is said for the much awaited Carbon BB30 version they have just launched.
My Stages has helped me track my training progress, and has given me real figures of how much an effort takes out of me, and how much fitness and strength I lose due to time off the bike. It’s a wonderful training tool, but you do need software to analyze this data, currently Stages does not have their own software (it’s in a Beta version currently but not available) so I used WKO4 which is a powerful bit of software. A power meter without this bit of software is like a car without fuel. Even you don’t have the software, if your coach has it, they can see trends in performance and then create training plans based on this information. It’s the smartest way to train. Couple power data with Heart Rate data, and well, lets just say there are no more excuses.
Stages offers a great, reliable product at a more reasonable price than competitors. It’s easy to live with and the distributor is good. You’re only as good as your backup.