Quarq CinQo Power Meter
Seems they're here to stay now the big guns are getting
involved. They're no longer the product of niche companies
working on the fringes of the sport. When the big boys
arrive, volumes go up and prices come down. Is it not time to
get on the bus...?
Obviously, if you've been here before
you're aware of my affinity for power meters and the significant changes
they can make to your training, development and performance. I've
been an SRM user since 2004 and have seen nothing since to change my
opinion of power meters or my allegiance to our German friends.
That is, until now.
lot has changed in the past seven years. Wireless has arrived and
a few companies have come and gone while others have remained at the
forefront. I've covered power meter use in
other areas of the site, so
here I'm just going to concentrate on one make and one model. The
There are a few places on the bike you can measure power;
in the wheel, PowerTap
in the pedal, Garmin MetriGear ~ in
off the chain, Polar
at the crank. SRM and Quarq
for a while there was the bottom bracket
Ergomo but I believe they're in some sort of "transition" phase.
SRM have, in my opinion, been the gold
standard against which all others are measured. I try to keep an
open mind but it's a bit like comparing Campag and Shimano. Having
said that, last year I followed the Vapours and turned Japanese; an old
All power measuring devices use an
age-old technology, colloquially known as a strain gauge. When
connected as an electronic Wheatstone Bridge (I know what one of
those is you know!) and you throw a small voltage through one side of
it, you get a small reading out of the other.
By strategically placing the strain
measuring gauges in the right place and connecting them up to the right
electronics these "strains" which mean nothing to us, can be converted
to watts which most definitely do.
Here's one of the eight gauges located
inside an SRM crank. They really are tiny and super sensitive.
With no force applied to the gauge the
reading can be sent to a computer and it can be told to read zero.
If you apply pressure to the pedals, by standing on them, the metal to
which the gauge is firmly attached stretches. This stretching
changes the resistance of the unit and that gives you a computed torque
reading. But you still don't have power measurement.
Only when the pedal turns and completes a
full revolution can you measure cadence. As I've explained
elsewhere on the website, cadence x torque = power. Power is only
power when the pedals are turning and the crank is being "twisted".
So as well as a strain gauge you need to
have something that can count pedal revs, which is done with a tiny reed
switch. It's this switch (inside the crank) that tells the unit to
wake up when you pedal. If it's not activated for ten minutes or
so, when you hang your bike up for the day, the electronics take this a
a signal to go to sleep and save battery power.
So if you place the bike in a repair
stand and spin the pedals you still can't measure power. You may
have cadence, but there's no torque because there's no road grip to
provide resistance against the forward motion of the wheel, so the
cranks can't twist.
The electronics take care of calculating
all this clever stuff and display all the info you need to impress your
friends on your handlebars.
The Quarq has 20 strain grids placed on
10 strain gauges using their propriety arrangement nicknamed the "Ring
of Saturn". Like the SRM the Quarq uses "event-based" measuring;
in effect it averages data over complete revolutions of the crank then
transmits the message to the head unit at the end of each revolution.
The PowerTap is "time-based" which means
around every second or so, it transmits what it has to the head unit.
This is a "dirtier" method of transmission because you could be
freewheeling or doing a 140 rpm sprint. The machine doesn't know
or care what it has, it just sends it every second. Information is
therefore non-linear and prone to more discrepancies and variations.
Another positive for the Quarq is the
fact that it's ANT+ compatible, which means it's wireless and can be
picked up by your compatible head unit of choice. You aren't
necessarily tied in to a proprietary, or wired, head unit. In our
case the head unit of choice was the Garmin 800, because we already had
The CinQo differs from the crank measuring SRM in the fact
that it is a retro-fit to a production crank spider, not a replacement
self-contained module. You therefore won't find a Campag or
Shimano version, which is just as well as SRAM have now bought them.
The Quarq is powered by a bog-standard,
CR2450 battery that you'll find in any bike computer, heart monitor or
cadence sensor. Each battery lasts around 400 hours and can be
changed in around 30 seconds with no tools needed. It sits under
the big letter Q in the photo above.
This is where it scores against the SRM,
which has to be sent away to have it's battery replaced and to be
factory recalibrated. Although I am lucky enough to be able to do
my own, I haven't forgotten everything from my apprenticeship days.
The units are currently available as a
standard 53x39 and a compact 50x34 or 50x36. Track and mountain
bike products are sure to follow now there's big production, big
marketing and big research budgets to be thrown at them.
Fitting & Setup
Okay, here's the breakdown of events. Tony Moffa at Big
Maggys says to me Friday lunchtime, "Why don't you have a road
test of my Quarq power meter?" Why not, I think to myself and take
him up on his offer. Then throwing him a curve ball, I tell him
I'll be back later. I'm an SRM man but it's got to be worth a
Even though it was still on his bike at
lunchtime, I pick it up late afternoon and it's given to me in an as new
condition, cleaned to within an inch of it's life. I didn't think
you got service like that any more. Seems that you do in some
Okay, it's 5:30 pm, I'm sitting at home
with a Quarq crank, a GPX bottom bracket and a funny ring with a magnet.
I put the kettle on, thinking I'll better get a cup of tea going, it's
going to be a long evening. I head to the workshop to try and find
a manual to download off t'interweb.
I'm in the Flamme Rouge Service Corse
with the necessary bits and a couple of tools. No, not Steve
Whiteside and Mick Heald, I mean the mechanical kind. I've decided
to "Man Up", so in the short trip from the kettle to the workshop I've
concluded I don't need a manual.
So, here we go, lets fit the bottom
bracket. But before we do, we need to fit the special rare earth
magnet. This is the bit that trips the reed switch to wake the
electronics up and activate the pedal rev counter. It ain't going
to work without it on and attached in exactly the right place. A
normal magnet will do, but these magnets are very strong for their tiny
ingenious mounting collar slips behind the bottom bracket and perfectly
places the magnet in the exact position to activate the internal
electronics on pedalling the crank.
On SRMs, this can take a bit of tweaking,
a lot of time and much frustration. Quark 1 ~ SRM 0. I hand
tighten the cups, line everything up then nip them up to torque tight
with the aforementioned tools.
Four minutes in and we've got 50% of the
job done. I hear the kettle click, and run back to the kitchen to
throw some water on a tea bag. As you all know; I am the most
impatient person I know, not a trait I'm proud of, just a sad fact.
So while the tea brews, I run back to whence I came to fit the crank.
apply a sliver of copper-ease grease and slide the
drive side crank in to the frame and check the magnet is lined up.
How can it not be? I place the left hand crank arm on to the drive
splines, tighten up the bolt, give it a proper torque up and spin the
66% of the job done, lets get the tea bag
out of the cup.
Tea bag out, milk in, two chocolate hob
nobs (pre-ride carb load) and grab Dianne's Garmin 800 on the way back
to the workshop. So far so good but I really do think I now need a
manual. Never used a Garmin before so I dive off to the manual
library (yep, I do have one) and grab the book of words.
I spin the CinQo to "wake it up" and I
switch on the Garmin. It immediately starts looking for
satellites, won't find any in here so I press "Menu".
picture of a spanner, no it's not Mick or Steve (enough now), I press it
and instinctively choose "Bike Settings".
Again, there's a few options to choose
but "Bike Profiles" seems the obvious choice. "ANT+ Power" suggest
to me that it would be a good option and hey presto it asks if I have a
A quick "Yes" and a scan for devices and we're up and
running. The Garmin displays the CinQo unique ID number and that's
it, we're locked on.
The manual is returned to the library
I pressed a few more options and pulled
up a wattage field on the screen and obviously gave it pole position.
It's ten-to-six, one biscuit down, two slurps of tea, and a fully
installed up and running power meter in less than 20 minutes.
looking at me waiting for her after-work-walk but sorry puppy, I've a
power meter to test. I pull the Garmin mounting bracket from
Dianne's bike and attach it to mine. Two O rings, thirty seconds,
nearly a PB.
I share the second biscuit with Meg and
ask, "Where's me shoes?" Unfortunately for the puppy I meant
cycling not walking, She goes off to her mat for a sulk.
Like a true professional I tuck my
sports-casual trackie bottoms in to my sock (all I need now is a paper
round bag). I ride to the end of the drive, the Gamin picks up the
satellites and recognises the bike is moving.
I have power, I have cadence, I have
speed from the satellites (there is a wheel mounted option for greater
accuracy) and should I get lost, I have direction and maps. All
All carbed up, I decide to ride the hill
outside our house and I've got elevation as well and big(ish), at one
point I saw a three, power numbers. Five minutes. Done and
dusted, back home, park the bike ready for the morning ride and try to
win back affection by giving Meg my cold cup of tea. It's just
6:00 pm. Walkies.
We're ten minutes in to the walk before I
realise my trousers are still tucked in my socks. Arse!
Saturday morning 8:00 am I'm out the door to meet up with the
flamme rougers and to impress
them with my new toy.
You pedal, it records. You go home,
you download, you analyse. It really is that easy.
SRM provide a fantastic, if fantastically
expensive data recording unit, Quarq don't.
For Quarq any ANT+ unit will do.
You can even choose the SRM PC 7, if you want to impress, as initial
compatibility issues have now been resolved. SRM's aren't ANT+
The Saris Joule (PowerTap), has the
advantage of showing ride average TSS but to be honest it's not a
feature I've looked out for as a show stopper, The Joule has had
mixed reviews but for a release 1, it's okay. Version 2 will be
much better. Remember SRM are on Version 7!.
There's also the Garmin Edge 500 or the
very user friendly, mapping capability, Edge 800. You won't be
short of choices and options.
SRM provide analysis software with their
units, as do PowerTap, Quarq don't. To be honest, SRM's is not the
most user friendly or intuitive piece of software you'll ever use.
It's a science based product, written for sciencey people by sciency
people. Brilliant, I would imagine, but mind-bogglingly confusing.
Here's an analysis screen...
Quarq don't provide software. Which
is where Cycling Peaks WKO+ comes in. Why try to write something
yourself, when there's a de facto standard already leading the market.
Here's one of their, fully customisable analysis screens from a one-off
And if you don't want to purchase WKO+,
then you can always use Garmin's own GarminConnect that comes free with
your purchase and is uploaded to the Garmin site. Here's how to
squeeze a 60k
recovery ride in to an island 9 miles by 5, and a sample power file..
There's also Golden Cheetah, a freeware
version of power software and the Saris Power Agent software. So
all in all you've got as many software options as you have hardware
I've remained with my wired SRM technology right up until
today because it's perfect, it's ultra reliable and I have wired
harnesses on all six of my Colnago's, with two cranks, standard and
compact to choose from as and when needed.
When Big Maggys delivered my seventh, a Colnago Di2 C59, I had nowhere
to put the wires or mount the magnet! Now I needed to consider my
options as £3,200 for a Dura Ace SRM is only the start when you end up
with one bike out of sync with six others.
First off, the Quarq doesn't come with
all the bells and whistles of the PowerTap and the SRM. It doesn't
have to, Quarq's mission is to sell power meters that are a fit and
forget item. All their R&D is aimed at giving you the best value
power meter and customer service. Let other best of breed products
supply your head unit and software. You get to design your own
system, dependent on your needs, not those of a marketing department.
So, the Quarq measures power at the
crank, which the PowerTap doesn't; it's event-based, which the SRM is;
and it's about the price of a PowerTap which is around a grand less than
just the SRM crank unit! It also means you can use whatever
wheels, pedals and peripherals you want, when you want.
But you do need a head unit and possibly,
depending on your choice, software.
The Garmin 800 comes in around £300 and
WKO+ is around £80. Which now makes the £1300 purchase price of
the Quarq from Big Maggys an absolute bargain. Total solution,
£1680 as compared to £3200 for an SRM. Let me think...
If you already have a compatible Garmin
then the decision's almost made for you.
This really is a fit and forget item..
Out of the box, on to the bike, on the road and dodging cars within 30
minutes. Every 400 (riding) hours you swap a £2 battery. If
you're of the nervous type, keep one in your saddlebag.
As you start each ride, you pedal
backwards for four revolutions to calibrate it. This makes the
strain gauges reset to the ambient temperature and increases accuracy.
Standard practice for SRM owners. It's the only thing you have to
You can't check the zero-offset just yet.
Unless you are already familiar with power meters this bit means
nothing! It's an important but infrequent task. I check my
SRM's every six months and they never move. It's only a necessary
task when you've swapped chain rings. When the option shortly
arrives you can only do it with a 3G iphone or an itouch and a dongle.
This is where the SRM scores highly as it
can be calibrated and checked very easily with it's head unit. Not
a show stopper, but as yet you can't change the chain rings of the unit
without sending it back to the dealer for calibration.
I'm sure SRAM will soon ensure that this
particular hurdle is removed. Possibly with the ramping up of the
Quarq Qranium head unit that was put on hold once "purchase talks"
began. The Qalvin software and dongle mentioned above are now
flooding in to the shops and iApps stores as we speak.
The fact that I rode with it for a month
and never once gave it a second thought speaks volumes of its
reliability, compatibility and plain all round fit-for-purpose.
Not much more to say really!
If you want/need more information contact
email@example.com, tell him I
sent you and he'll give you a free cup of Magnus Maximus coffee while he
talks you through the options. And if you pop in on a good day,
Magnus might even be there himself to give you a pro's insight.
Until then, here's a photo to compare the two side by side.
Having carefully considered my options, I
don't think I'll be upgrading to a wireless SRM. But a wireless
Quarq could be a whole different ball game. It's a serious bit of
kit that will help make you a fitter, faster, stronger rider. And
isn't that what we're all after?
I've yet to see anyone say they were
disappointed with their power meter. It's almost impossible to
find second hand ones and the wired SRM's that are available are going
up in price as the wireless units move the benchmark price point ever
upwards. If you're in the market for a wireless power meter, a Quarq seems
it should be at the top of a very short list.
Pre-order at Big Maggys for an end of
July delivery date. Once they hit the open market you could be
waiting in the post-production catch-up queue. Click the link in
the left column, get in touch with Ian or Tony on 01534 729 900, or fire
me an email if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer
See you on the road, be careful out
there, and may the "Watts be With You".
And to finish the piece off, here's my two bessie mates Steve
(with Susan, who'll always be my favourite) and Mick (in the
cap) who both, through no fault of their own, have been recently taken
out in races and ended up in hospital.
See they're just normal blokes like you
Get well soon boys...
The story goes that Jim Meyer (a full-time triathlete)
realised in early 2006 that he needed a power meter to better train for
the bike discipline of his chosen (three) sports. His wife Mieke,
studying full-time for an MBA, and being practical, said we can't afford
one. Jim sulks and decides if he can't buy one, he'll make one.
Mid 2006, Jim builds his first prototype,
tweaks it for the rest of the year and in early 2007 starts to think of
launching a product. Come September 2007 and a toe-tester is shown
at Interbike. June 2008 and generation one units start to trickle
out the door. Jim and Mieke have themselves a business.
Generation two units follow in 2009, and
come May 2011 SRAM, spotting the potential of the device, the people
and the business opportunities, acquire Quarq. The first, but they
wont be the last, of the group set manufacturers to move power meters in
to the mainstream market. So they're here to stay.
Designing a power meter is easy.
I've done it myself. It's the building of one in to a bicycle
product, making it accurate, reliable and able to endure the ravages of
the cycling elements, wind, rain, heat, cold, and cobbles that are the
truly hard bit. Mr Meyer and his team seem to have it cracked.
Many have tried and most have fallen by
the wayside. Up until now the only safe bet was Power Tap and SRM.
Now there is a third major player, there may yet be a fourth. It's
not always about the hardware either; product support and customer
service are key to success. History is littered with the failures
of the best product. Remember Betamax anyone?
What makes me think I'm qualified to write articles and critique
bikes? Click here and I'll try to explain.