Stages Cycling led the democratization of power with its simple and comparatively inexpensive left side only power meters. The Boulder, Colorado brand launched the power measurement explosion, but was constantly under siege by some power purists that said left side only power – a meter that measures just the left leg and doubles that number for total power output – was not sufficient for high level riders. Stages blew that challenge out of the water by sponsoring Team SKY. It proved that an accurate and consistent left side meter could help riders win the biggest races in the world. Much of the industry responded with, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and single side meters flooded the market. Well, Stages Cycling is now reversing that trend. It just launched the Stages Power LR, dual sided meter.
What? Dual sided power from the single sided evangelists? Stages Cycling still believes a single sided meter is more than sufficient, but Team SKY asked for a dual leg meter. The team didn’t have any specific reason for wanting to see dual sided numbers, but they were concerned that perhaps they were missing some ‘marginal gains’.
“We wanted to make sure we weren’t missing anything.” – Tim Kerrison Team SKY’s Head of Performance.
Stages Cycling looked at its initial mandate to make a meter for everyone, and said, “Why not?” With a dual leg solution it would even have a meter for the single sided haters.
Stages delivered five dual sided prototype meters to Team SKY in 2015. The dual sided meter testing at Team SKY was spearheaded by Ian Stannard, who has some imbalance issues, and Sergio Henao as he came back from a shattered knee cap. The grand tour champ, Chris Froome, stayed on left side only, winning the 2015 Tour that way. By 2016 the entire team was on dual sided meters and the US Women’s Team Pursuit squad also used the dual sided meters at the Rio Olympics.
These dual sided meters were just cranks with a left side assembly also fixed to the drive side crank. Although there was plenty of behind the scenes firmware work to make the system function, from a production standpoint it was incredibly efficient. Unfortunately, on the drive side the chainrings needed to be removed with some cranks to replace the battery.
That’s fine for Team SKY mechanics, but Stages Cycling wanted to make it easier for riders that work on their own bikes. This meant it had to redesign the strain gauge for the drive side, which puts the guts of the drive side meter in a similar position to Pioneer, 4iiii’s and Shimano’s new meter. The new layout also ensures compatibility with more frames.
Team SKY has been racing with the dual meters since 2016 and those marginal gains? They didn’t find any. According to Stages Cycling, surprisingly none of Team SKY’s coaching has changed since getting access to the new data. They discovered chasing perfect 50/50 balance is unnecessary. In fact, some riders that may have been 48/52 could actually lose overall power if they worked towards achieving 50/50 balance.
Where it has helped is with riders recovering from injury as a historical record of what their normal balance should be. In fact, that is the primary reason Team SKY rides dual sides, simply to keep a historical record of what their rider’s balance is in case they get a future injury. Of course, a few team riders with much stronger right legs enjoyed the fact that their overall power numbers went up.
The Stages Power LR retains the same accuracy – +/- 2% and consistency as the left side meter, and also uses both Bluetooth and ANT+ communication. Thanks to the dual sides more pedaling dynamics are measured, obviously Power Balance – but also Torque Effectiveness and Pedaling Smoothness, but those require ANT+ communication. To look at Power Balance plots in Stages Link training portal you’ll need to be a premium Link subscriber.
The Stages LR also provides redundancy. The right side meter sends its data to the left side meter which sends it to the head unit, but if either meter goes down, the remaining meter will take over and send its data alone to the head unit where it will be doubled. Battery life is slightly reduced to 175 hours vs 200hours for the left side only.
The new Stages Power LR will be available late Fall 2017 with Dura-Ace 9100 shipping first in November and Ultegra R8000 shortly after. Dura-Ace will be $1300 and Ultegra $1000 and the meter adds just 35grams to the cranks. Only these two cranks will be available initially, but Stages is looking at adding others in the future. That may likely depend on how well the LR meter sells. Stages has predictions in place, but was not willing to comment on how many LR meters it predicts selling compared to its left side meter.
In some ways, Stages Cycling is in an odd position, it has just launched a product it believes 95% of riders don’t really need. Stages feels it has value as an injury recovery tool, it creates a historical record of power balance incase you get injured in the future, and some riders may get a psychological boost from seeing a higher number. But with hundreds of meters currently in the filed, Stages believe 95% of riders won’t make any change to their training with this extra data. Of course, we imagine Stages Cycling is planning on more than five percent of its business being the new Stages Power LR.