Garmin Vector mini review

11 September, 2013 by David Johnstone

The Garmin Vector is finally out, and I have one. I’ve spent about an hour riding with it so far, so I don’t have any large scale data comparisons (you’ll need to wait for DC Rainmaker’s review for that), but I do have a few thoughts.

Installing it wasn’t too complicated, although I did watch a few of the videos, mostly to make sure I didn’t do anything silly, but they did explain what the washers were for (which is to create a gap between the side of the pod and the pedal).

Although my pedals came with the latest firmware, I had to use the updater to tell them that my crank length was 175mm. They default to 172.5mm, which can be changed with Garmin Edge 810 and 510 head units, but I only have a Garmin Edge 500, so I needed to install the program which connects to the Vector using the included ANT+ USB stick.

The main issue I have faced is that my FSA SL-K Light carbon cranks are right at the limit of how wide cranks can be with the pods. Apparently the Vector supports cranks up to 38mm wide and 15mm thick, and my cranks are about that wide.

The gap between the bottom of the pod (or top, as seen in this picture) and the pedal is less than a millimetre, and I needed to install it just right to get even that much gap. The first time I installed the right pedal they were touching slightly, and this significantly affected the power balance (and maybe the power output, but I wasn’t comparing it with another power meter). Here’s a chart that shows the power balance and power output for each second of my first ride, before I reinstalled the right pedal (the y-axis shows the percentage of power produced by the left leg).

According to this chart, I am biased towards my left leg, but what I think was actually happening was that, because the pod was touching the crank, the pedal spindle wasn’t moving as much as the device was expecting, which caused it read read low. I then reinstalled the right pedal, which meant both pods have a small gap between them and the crank, and then my power balance was slightly biased towards my right leg, which is more believable, although I’ll need to do some more testing before I have complete faith in it.

You can see all the data for the two rides I’ve done so far here and here. Conveniently, support for left/right power balance has just been added to this site.

In DC Rainmaker’s First hands-on look & rides with the Garmin Vector power meter, he mentions that the Vector’s have a cadence range of 30–150RPM. In the comments he explained that it’s actually more complicated than that and in some situations they can read higher than 150RPM. I was able to get them up to 172RPM, and I think the limiting factor there was my legs. (I wonder what that car that drove past me thought, as I spun my legs as fast as they could go at 10PM last night on a dark residential street…) At the bottom end, I had them reading below 20RPM.

The other question a lot of people have asked of these pedals is about the pods hitting the road when cornering. The good news is that they’re perfectly safe on anything resembling a normal road. The pods can’t get closer than a few centimetres away from the ground when the road is approximately flat.

I don’t have anything to say regarding the overall accuracy of these once properly installed, as I haven’t compared them with other power meters yet, but I’d be very surprised if they aren’t on par with Quarqs, SRMs, PowerTaps et al.

Regarding the price, they’re a pretty good deal for $1500 in Australia. They’re not revolutionising power meter pricing, but they’re still cheaper than a Quarq or SRM and close to a Power2Max (if you buy it with a crankset, but it depends on the model).

Overall, these get a thumbs up from me. Their most significant downside is related to installation, as their accuracy depends on them being installed correctly on compatible cranks (hopefully more information about which cranks are compatible will come out over time). Assuming there aren’t any major accuracy issues (once properly installed), they’re convenient and portable, and should have a long life ahead of them, as support for pedal smoothness and torque efficiency metrics are a firmware update away, and other communication protocols (i.e., Bluetooth Smart) are conceivably a pod replacement away.

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