Over the last few years Power Meters have become a common accessory for competitive cyclists trying to get the most out of their training. The two big players in the field are PowerTap and SRM. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about which power meter is more accurate, but the truth is that accuracy doesn’t matter that much in the big picture. Consistency of the readings between workouts is all you need to extract the most from your training, and both products will do the trick.
The first thing that will hit you with the SRM Pro Dura Ace power meter is its price. The difference between the top of the line PowerTap with a Zipp wheel is around $1,500, enough beer money to keep a fit cyclist lit up for the next several years. That said, having an SRM comes with a distinct advantage that took my experience of owning a PowerTap Pro to truly appreciate – the system is wheel independent, so you you’re not married to a hub. I knew that from the start and thought - who cares, right? The price difference was enough to heavily influence my decision to initially go with a PowerTap. As time went by I realized that I do still want to ride that pimp wheelset sitting in the basement and still get my power readings.
When the SRM arrived and I took it out of the box the way they retrofitted it to a Dura Ace crank put up some mental red flags. It didn’t appear to be as solid as the crank arm on my bike. Knowing the Germans don’t mess around when it comes to engineering things, I decided to keep that thought in the back of my head. The biggest problem I ran into with the installation was that the crank sensor wouldn’t attach to my Orbea Orca frame because of the tube shape. After ruling out duct tape, I went with good old Krazy glue. The sensor placement can be sensitive, but I was lucky and hit the right spot on the first try with help from Al and Pepper at the Bicycle Place.
It didn’t take long to realize that the retrofitting stood up to true German standards and were every bit as stiff as the original set of DA cranks my bike came with. The Powercontrol V unit was similar to any other bike computer you might have, and the SRM interface for changing the time, date, and calibration of the unit were easy to grasp. The key to consistency for your workouts is to make sure you calibrate the Powercontrol unit on each ride since the strain gauge strips used to measure power can change readings along with the weather conditions. One thing I noticed straight away was that my power readings were a considerable amount lower than with my PowerTap unit. After receiving a spreadsheet and instructions from SRM, it turned out the slope setting was incorrect on my head unit causing the discrepancy. It was about a 15 minute process to get my setup on point, you will just need an accurate scale.
Aside from the installation issue and hefty price tag, I would say the SRM power meter is the best unit available on the market. While it might not be the best choice for the first power meter you buy, I suspect it may be the eventual path for any serious cyclist that can afford one.