Power Meter Vs Cadence Sensor [ Which Is More Accurate? ] (2022)

When it comes to indoor cycling, there are two kinds of riders. You have the people who are in it strictly for pleasure and enjoy a good challenge once in a while, and then you have the die-hards who knoweverytrick in the book on how to optimize their times spent pedaling. 

If you’re wondering if there is a place in between the two, there is, and it’s usually the person who is transitioning from cycling as a hobby to cycling as a sport for building strength and endurance. 

When you get to the point where you’re looking at different gear to upgrade your experience and give you insights into your performance, then you’ll want to start looking at power meters and cadence sensors. 

The key differences between a power meter and a cadence sensor are solely based on the power meter measuring your body’s power outlet, and the cadence sensor is used for optimizing your gear and improving your technique.

Keep reading to find out which one is best for biking enthusiasts! 

What Is A Power Meter?

Power Meter Vs Cadence Sensor [ Which Is More Accurate? ] (1)

Power Meter Vs Cadence Sensor [ Which Is More Accurate? ] (2)

Simply put, a power meter is used to measure youractual powerby utilizing strain gauges for all the data and then converting that data into measurable, readable numbers. This is what power meters are primarily measuring:

  • Time
  • Distance
  • Torque

When you can acquire these details from a power meter, you can customize your training to work on areas that need improvement, and you’ll also be able to enhance your strengths based on all the reported data. It takes the guesswork out of how you are performingandgives you real numbers to work with. 

What Is A Cadence Sensor?

(Video) WHAT IS THE BETTER OPTION? POWER METER CRANK OR POWER METER PEDALS?! (PRICE, EFFICENTCY, LONGEVITY)

Power Meter Vs Cadence Sensor [ Which Is More Accurate? ] (3)

Power Meter Vs Cadence Sensor [ Which Is More Accurate? ] (4)

A cadence sensor basically does exactly what it says; itmeasures your pedal cadence.This is typically achieved using an electronic pod and then placing two magnets on either side of it. This device will be able to register your rotation based on the magnets making contact with the electronic pod while you are pedaling.

If you have RPM goals, then this is one way to make sure you are meeting them. Most cyclists rely on cadence sensors when biking under certain conditions, such as uphill or biking against a strong wind. The main goal is to try and maintain a comfortable cadence zone during various conditions. 

Note:You’ll be able to improve your performancewithoutsacrificing any of your pace.  

Differences Between Speed and Cadence Sensors

Speed and cadence sensors offer valuable information when it comes to tracking your performance while cycling. However, they both have unique qualities and should be decided upon based on your personal goals. 

Here are the differences between speed and cadence sensors:

  • Speed Sensor– The speed sensor will use your bike’s wheel circumference to determine the speeds and distance traveled on each biking trip.  
  • Cadence Sensor-  Thecadence sensor will use the crank arm to gather the data from your rotations per minute (RPM). 

In fact, both of these sensors use different types of profiles (ANT+) to determine which sensor is being used. You must have an ANT+ supported profile in order to use a cadence sensor that can display all of your numbers.  

What is a Speed Cadence Combo? 

(Video) Are Power Meters Useful For Mountain Biking?

Many individuals opt for the speed cadence combo because it will give you all the details from both aspects. However, neither of these will be able to provide you with the in-depth details that a power meter can provide. 

If you’re a beginner cyclist or somebody who is just making the switch from it being a hobby to making it a true form of fitness, then you might want to start with either the combooryou could even get away with just using a cadence sensor until you are familiar with your pedal cadence. 

How Do They Fit On Your Indoor Bike?

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Installing either a speed meter or cadence sensor on your indoor bike is quite easy. However, there is a proper way for doing this, and when not installing them correctly, you could end up damaging your equipment, or your sensors might give you inaccurate readings.

Here is how to install your speed or cadence sensor on your indoor bike:

  • Speed Sensor – This should be installed on your rear wheel hub or on the flywheel in front, and once in place, you should spin your wheel to make sure the sensor has the proper clearance. Some speed sensors will come with an LED light that will flash to tell you it is working correctly. Then pair it with your cycling computer or the device being used to register your data.
  • Cadence SensorThe cadence sensor can easily be installed on theinside of your bike’s crank arm(non-drive side), and then you should spin your crank around to make sure your chain is not being affected by the sensor. Don’t try to install the cadence sensor on the outside of your crank, or you will have issues with your shoes hitting it during each rotation of the pedals. 

Tip:Make sure that your speed or cadence sensor has a working battery before installing it on your indoor bike. 

Which Is Best For Accurate Cycling Results?

When comparing a power meter to a cadence sensor, it likes comparing a Ferrari to a Volkswagen. Sure, theVolkswagonwill get you from point A to point B, but it might not give you all the performance or the details you desire about your trip.

Cadence sensors are great for people who are only interested in how fast their legs are actually spinning, whereas the power meter is for the hard-core cyclist who wants themost accurate detailsabout everything they are doing.

You see a power meter measures your watts whereas a cadence sensor only measures your RPM.

When you’re just learning to use cycling as a means for building endurance and upgrading your fitness level, you might not benefit as much from a power meter as you would when you understand your efficiency and know what your performance stats are versus your goals. 

Many folks make the mistake of going all in and spending some serious cash on an expensive power meter only to find out that none of the information provided makes sense to them. This is the difference between biking for a hobby or dedicating your body to all the wonderful benefits the world of cycling has to offer.

We’re not saying that you can’t benefit immensely from the data that a power meter offers; we’re simply saying that when the time comes for upgrading your equipment,you’ll know it.   

I, myself wanted to get the most out of my cycling performance and see my results as accurately as I could. You see I love training through Zwift and wanted to see my real effort being represented on-screen in real time. For me, it had to be the power meter I was going to use.

There are a few different forms power meters can come in but the one that suited me best was the power meter pedals, in this case, the Favero Assioma power meter pedals.

(Video) Is Your Powermeter Accurate? How To Calculate Power Without A Powermeter

Power Meter Vs Cadence Sensor [ Which Is More Accurate? ] (6)

You can check out my full review of them here.

What is the Price Difference Between a Power Meter and Cadence Sensor? 

We won’t lie; there is a significant price difference between purchasing a power meter and a cadence sensor for your indoor bike. Remember the comparison used above, the Ferrari compared to the Volkswagen? Okay, it might not be that extreme, but it is pretty substantial.

We want to emphasize that anybody who is cycling as a hobby or just making the transition to the ‘die-hard’ biking side doesn’t necessarily need to consider buying a power meter until the right moment. It’s more important to work on your consistency and build your strength before investing in that kind of equipment. 

Here is an idea of how much money you will spend on either a cadence sensor or a power meter: 

(Video) A short-term review of the 4iiii Precision 3 Power Meter 🛑

Cadence Sensor Cost

Cadence sensors generally cost anywhere from $25 to $100 for a decent piece of equipment. However, you can easily get the cost up into the thousand range when choosing to pair it with other Garmin equipment, such as their smartwatch. 

Power Meter Cost 

A good power meter for your indoor bike could run you anywhere between $500 and $1000. If you want to go top of the line, then you should be prepared to fork out a couple of grand. Again, this is where our comparison comes in about the two different car models. 

Regardless of which option you choose to buy, make certain you learn all the aspects of using your new equipment. There is zero advantage to having some of the best tools available in the cycling industry if you have no idea how to use the data to improve your biking sessions.  

We recommend starting with a cadence sensor and working your way up to the power meter if you don’t consider yourself an advanced cyclist. You will gain more confidence and boost your overall morale by working in sync with a cadence sensor. 

Conclusion

Now that you know the difference between using a power meter or relying on a cadence sensor, you’ll be able to pick the best device that works for you. Keep in mind that you can always upgrade to a power meter once your performance is consistently improving while using a cadence sensor.

There is a pretty big price difference when looking at both devices comparatively, so if you’re new to the cycling world, you might want to start on the low end and work your way up to the king of measuring your cycling performance.  

FAQs

Do you need a cadence sensor with a power meter? ›

It's purpose is to measure your cadence and your power meter sends this data, along with your power, to your bike comptuer. Therefore, there is no need to have a separate cadence sensor on your bike. Your power meter will take care of power and cadence.

Are power meters accurate? ›

Power meter accuracy and how we tested it

Most manufacturers will claim their power meters are accurate to within +/- 1 to 2 per cent.

Which is more important speed or cadence sensor? ›

The speed-only sensor determines the speed and distance of a trip based on the wheel circumference of a bike. The cadence-only sensor only senses rotations per minute of the crank arm. The speed/cadence combo is the most popular, providing both types of data to cyclists through a combination of sensors.

Is cadence and power the same? ›

Most notably, your effort, or power, on the bike is determined by the force you put on the pedals and how quickly you turn over those pedals. The latter is known as cycling cadence, measured in revolutions per minute (RPM).

Is 200 watts good cycling? ›

Is 200 watts good for cycling? As a maximum, all out effort the answer is no. 200 watts as sustained effort over 2, 3 or more hours, that is pretty good. It is not elite or pro level good, but an average person who cycles semi-regularly, should be able to hold 200 watts for 30 to 60 minutes.

How many watts should you cycle at? ›

Wattage goals will vary from person to person. No exact watt number is appropriate for all riders. Generally speaking, a beginner cyclist may average around 75–100 watts in a 1-hour workout. A fit participant will average more than 100 watts, and pro cyclists can reach 400 watts per hour.

Can a power meter be wrong? ›

While electric meters can last for decades, especially the mechanical ones, old meters can become inaccurate over time.

Why do I need a power meter on my bike? ›

Power meters allow you to see and record exactly how much power you expend on the bike – and power is simply fundamental to cycling performance. The ability to see and record your power allows for unprecedented insight into your fitness.

How long do power meters last? ›

On average, an electric meter can operate effectively for 25 years. Certified to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) criteria, these meters can have life spans far longer than consumer products. The same goes for gas and water meters (average life spans, 25 and 15 years respectively).

Which is better torque or cadence sensor? ›

Ebike Torque Sensors:

In other words, the more effort and/or force exerted while pedaling, the more power and assistance will be applied. From a technological perspective, torque sensors are more advanced than cadence sensors, so they tend to be more expensive.

What is the most efficient cadence for cycling? ›

Generally, a good cadence in cycling is between 80-100 rpm. Beginner cyclists often pedal rather slowly, around 60-85 rpm. Racers and more experienced hobbyists usually average between 75-95 rpm, and pros can sustain over 100 rpm during attacks or more than 110 rpm during sprints.

Where should I place my cadence sensor? ›

The RPM Cadence Sensor is designed to mount on the inside of the non-drive side crank arm. Placing it on the outside of your crank arm can cause interference by scraping against your shoe. Likewise, installing the RPM on your drive side crank arm may rub and cause interference with your drivetrain.

Is cadence more important than watts? ›

With respect to cadence and watts, both are essential when engaging in indoor cycling. Counting watts may be more crucial for indoor cyclists looking to boost endurance and strength; and improving your cadence will help improve your speed and acceleration on your indoor bike.

Can you measure power with cadence? ›

Power = Torque x Cadence

In this equation, torque characterizes the amount of force or effort a rider generates on the pedals, while cadence is measured in crank revolution per minute.

Does higher cadence mean higher power? ›

'To ride at any given power, a higher cadence requires less muscular force per revolution, therefore your pedalling is relying more on your muscular endurance and less on your strength,' says coach Paul Butler. 'This should make it easier to sustain that given power for long periods.

How many watts do Tour de France riders? ›

POWER OUTPUT: 300 WATTS

During a normal stage of the Tour de France, pro riders can pump out around 230-250 watts on average, which equates to burning about 900 calories per hour. But on some of the harder stages they can average over 300 watts, or 1,100 calories per hour.

What power is good for cycling? ›

The article claims that a typical fit cyclist might be able to crank out 250 to 300 watts as an average for a 20 minute FTP (functional threshold point) test, while the pros usually average 400 watts.

What is the 75 rule in cycling? ›

In order to increase your cycling wattage, it's best to follow the 75 percent rule. This training principle states that throughout the week, 75 percent of your cycle training should be done below 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

How fast is 400 watts cycling? ›

'On this road's gradient – but lengthened beyond its 350m distance – assuming calm conditions and a power output of 400 watts, a rider in the road position could reach 89.48mph [144kmh],' says Jungnickel.

How fast is 200 watts on a bike? ›

Wind tunnel testing has shown that a 70kg cyclist putting out 200 watts of power would be traveling at 32.4kph if riding upright on the brake hoods. However, if the same cyclist were to go down onto his drops his speed would increase to 34.4kph.

Can you measure power with cadence? ›

Power = Torque x Cadence

In this equation, torque characterizes the amount of force or effort a rider generates on the pedals, while cadence is measured in crank revolution per minute.

Does Garmin cadence measure power? ›

No. It needs a power meter to do that.

How many watts is 25 mph? ›

Cycling Power
Speed - kmh (mph)Power (watts)Increase in power needed to increase speed by 2.5kmh
20 (12.5)75
22.5 (14)9520
25 (15.6)12025
27.5 (17.2)14828
5 more rows

Do I need speed sensor? ›

For most people, it is not essential to have a speed sensor with your Garmin Edge. The speed given by the GPS signal is more than sufficient. But if you are a pro, or plan to train seriously, a speed sensor is something you may need. GPS tends to smoothen speed values.

How do you calculate the power output of a cadence? ›

  1. POWER MEASUREMENT IN CADENCE SPECTRE.
  2. P(t) = Power supply voltage (vdd) * current drawn from power supply at time (t)
  3. Average Power Consumption.
  4. Average Power = Integration( Instantaneous Power ) / Time Period.
  5. o The time period of integration is 5n for this experiment.

How do you calculate power from cadence and speed? ›

In its simplest form, the equation for cycling power is: Power = Torque x Cadence.
  1. Power. Power is a measurement of the work you do on the bike. ...
  2. Torque. Torque refers to how much force the rider is generating. ...
  3. Cadence. ...
  4. So How Do I Produce More Power?
20 Feb 2016

How can I measure my bike without a power meter? ›

For cyclists without an indoor trainer or without a TrainerRoad account, the two most common alternatives to power are Heart Rate and RPE (rate of perceived exertion). Heart Rate-based training requires a heart rate monitor, and some sort of head unit or device to record and display data.

Is Garmin cadence accurate? ›

Your stride frequency, or cadence, is easily and reliably measured with a foot pod or waist clip like the Lumo Run or the Garmin Run Dynamics Pod, but for most runners, a GPS watch can accurately estimate cadence just from your arm swing.

Which is better torque or cadence sensor? ›

Ebike Torque Sensors:

In other words, the more effort and/or force exerted while pedaling, the more power and assistance will be applied. From a technological perspective, torque sensors are more advanced than cadence sensors, so they tend to be more expensive.

How long does a Garmin cadence sensor last? ›

Speed Sensor and Cadence Sensor Specifications
Battery typeUser-replaceable CR2032, 3 V
Battery lifeApproximately 12 months (1 hour per day)
Operating temperature rangeFrom -20º to 60ºC (from -4º to 140ºF)
Wireless frequency/protocol2.4 GHz ANT‍+® wireless communications protocol
Water rating1 ATM1

How fast is 400 watts on a bike? ›

'On this road's gradient – but lengthened beyond its 350m distance – assuming calm conditions and a power output of 400 watts, a rider in the road position could reach 89.48mph [144kmh],' says Jungnickel.

How fast is 200 watts on a bike? ›

Wind tunnel testing has shown that a 70kg cyclist putting out 200 watts of power would be traveling at 32.4kph if riding upright on the brake hoods. However, if the same cyclist were to go down onto his drops his speed would increase to 34.4kph.

How many watts do Tour de France riders? ›

POWER OUTPUT: 300 WATTS

During a normal stage of the Tour de France, pro riders can pump out around 230-250 watts on average, which equates to burning about 900 calories per hour. But on some of the harder stages they can average over 300 watts, or 1,100 calories per hour.

Is a speed sensor more accurate? ›

A speed sensor will get you better resolution if you're trying to measure top speed, but it won't matter over any sort of distance if you're trying to measure average speed.

Is speed sensor more accurate than GPS? ›

A speedometer is prone to mechanical errors, whereas GPS works by calculating the time it would take to travel from point A to B, making them the more accurate option.

Can GPS speed be wrong? ›

How accurate is GPS for speed measurement? As with positioning, the speed accuracy of GPS depends on many factors. The government provides the GPS signal in space with a global average user range rate error (URRE) of ≤0.006 m/sec over any 3-second interval, with 95% probability.

Videos

1. Cycling Cadence Explained
(leonardmlee)
2. SMARTPHONE APP VS POWER METER: Could This Be The Future?
(Cycling Pulse)
3. How Accurate Is STRAVA Power? (Calculated Power VS ACTUAL Power Comparison)
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4. The Ultimate Guide To Power Meters | Which Is Best For You?
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5. 4iiii PRECISION 3 Power Meter: Details // Data // Review 🚲⚡️📈
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6. GPLama How To: Comparing Power Meters // Power Accuracy Testing // DCR Analyzer Tool
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