Interbike Review:
Garmin vs Polar\Look                        By Dillon P.

On of the main objectives going into Interbike was to get the inside scoop on the 2 most talked about power measuring systems. Here at H.Q, power meters are a daily part of our riding lifestyles and we know plenty of you out there in the interwebs are looking for an alternative to PowerTap, SRM and the like.

Or course we are talking about the Garmin Vector and the other is the Polar\Look Keo Power Pedals. After seeing and touching these 2 systems up close, it is remarkable how similar they are. However, a closer look and a talk with representatives from both development teams led to a clear picture who has the lead before anyone has even purchased one at retail. 

>Both pedal systems can claim to display left and right leg power as combined balance of total power. Pretty neat if you happen to worry about such a thing.
>Both have externally mounted sending units that will NOT hit the ground before the pedal will. Trust on this one. Damage is still possible from crashing of course, and both pedals with their sending units seem to be equally vulnerable as compared to a hub based PowerTap ( for example ). No one is going to crash on purpose but if you think you're gonna crash, be prepared to replace these.
The Vector uses an O ring along with a plastic clip for water
protection. We were assured that you could throw water
onto those gold rings and while it may disrupt the signal,
upon drying out, the unit would not be harmed at all.
The Polar | Look pedal's connection is deeper within
the spindle, with two O rings acting as a seal.
>Both use Look Keo style cleats. No surprises there and Look comes out a winner, having backing from the “tech” sector of cycling equipment.
>Both will be rebuildable. So no, you will not have to buy the expensive guts of the pedal system when your pedal wears out.
>Both require an "old school" 9/16th pedal wrench to remove or install them.
>Both are claimed weather proof.

Let's talk differences:

>The Garmin uses ANT+ and can thereby "speak" to almost anything. Including your Iphone.
Whereas the Look\Polar talks to only to Polar cpu's ( which so far, are nearly twice as expensive as entry level ANT+ options ).
>The Garmin Vector measures torsional deflection in the center of the spindle whereas the Polar measures it from the outside. 
>The Look is built into a Keo pedal body
The Garmin is built into an Exustar pedal body that is 100% compatible with Look cleats.
>Polar system is out in October whereas you will have to wait to March for the Garmin.
>Polar will cost $2500 and the Garmin will run about $1500. ( so they say now )

So basically those differences mean that:

>You have to trust Exustar. ( I love them and have never had a problem with them )
>You are locked into a proprietary system with Polar ( I already have a ANT+ receiver that I want to use for power )
>Garmin is reasonably priced, Polar is undeniably a bit expensive.
>As far as which will do a better job measuring power, the Polar may be able to pick up smaller differences in spindle deflection on the outside of it. It should be noted that the Garmin rep would not apologize for the delay. It simply had to be that way to get it right. Garmin, as a company, is much different in scope than Polar. We're talking the Yankees versus the Milwaukee Brewers. Garmin has $10 research money to every $2 that Polar spends. If a big rich company says it needs that much time to make a new technology reliable, I am going to be suspicious of the first product from a smaller company that beats all to the market.

I walked into the Garmin booth and got the lowdown on their system then went to Polar\Look to see their's. Both had rideable bikes with there respective systems hooked up and working flawlessly.

I asked Garmin why not buy a Polar\Look system? "I don't know." The Garmin rep said. "They have it set up over there? I'm gonna go try it out". He basically wasn't going to say anything negative or comment on something he didn't know about. After more prying he just mentioned the different locations of the "brain" and cost difference. It seems to me this was the highroad to take as a salesman.

50 paces to the east and I ask Polar\Look: "Why buy your unit for more money? What does it have that's better?"...... "Ours exists" was the answer I got. It is true that Look is claiming 3 weeks to ship time and Garmin is projecting March 2012. I asked for more convincing: The Look rep said "Their's is in a Exustar pedal! You wanna ride that? A delta cleat?". He was surprised to hear that I do ride em, and he needed to be corrected on the cleat. Its a Keo, not an older Delta. Needless to say, it doesn't seem that they don't hold those in high esteem. "Our pedals win races" he said. "Does there's do left and right balance?" he asked me. I said it did.

That was it. No big game changing feature, no awesome techy reason. Instead it was "Ours exists", when a stones throw away, Garmin's clearly existed just as much. The claim that the Exustar pedal was inferior is Polar's other front. But I ride that pedal. I love that pedal. I have sold 12 pairs in the last month! Zero issues with mine or customers!

Then's there's the cost to consider. Even though the Polar pedal "exists" the staff on hand gave me an array of different prices from $2200-$2500 and they were unsure if the Polar head will be included. The Garmin staff was more concrete with the details: $1499 in march, no Garmin head included.

Looking at the facts, features and the cost I have no choice but to choose the Gamin Vector.
The tension was thick between these two booths and it didn't help that they were 50ft apart in a room the size of 5 Walmarts and I was looking to stoke the fires of high-end accessory competition. Muwhahaha!


mclark2112 said...

So evil....

Anonymous said...

RE: Vector ...... Please tell me it will be coming out before this summer 2012 ......my training will be too far underway by that point. April ? Please? I beg of you .... !!! :-)

siffdaddy206 said...

I can barely afford a tube, let alone power measuring pedals! One day....