Last year, we reviewed the dual-sided Pioneer power meter equipped Ultegra crankset and found it to be an excellent option for the road. As long as you are willing to commit to their head unit, you can get incredible data to help improve your training and pedal stroke, while also running training programs through Training Assist. You can still use other ANT+ head units, but you won’t get the expanded HDPower Metrics that come through the proprietary signal. Pioneer also gave us the opportunity to try a single-sided power meter added to one of our existing cranksets through their Upgrade Kits. The results are a factory-installed finish of an accurate and dependable power meter. It’s a solid option to get started with power, and if you had a pod added to a Shimano Ultegra or Dura-Ace crank arm, you can eventually upgrade to a dual-sided power meter setup.
Pioneer originally designed their power meters around Shimano 9000/6800/5700 cranksets, but through the Upgrade Kits, are expanding out to other brands like Campagnolo and Cannondale (another brand will be announce soon). Without diving too deep into the details (see the chart below), current and recent Shimano road cranks and Campagnolo Potenza are eligible to have the dual-sided or right side only power meters added. Left side power meters can be added to the crank arms we already listed, along with Shimano MTB cranks and Cannondale SI and SISL2. If you don’t want to send your crank arm in, you can also buy Shimano 9100, 9000, and 6800 crank arms with the power meters already installed.
We were the first installation they did on a Cannondale SI crank arm, which was pretty exciting. To test out the durability, the crank arm would be fitted to our 2015 Cannondale Scalpel 2. We knew the clearance was going to be tight on the chain stay, but after measuring and consulting with Pioneer, we took a chance and moved forward. It was pretty tight, but it fit.
The process is pretty simple. After purchasing your kit online, or through your local dealer, you send your left crank arm to Pioneer with a sheet of data about your crank arm. This data is used to create your power meter’s “birth certificate” for tracking your crank arm through the installation process and for your records afterward. Once it arrives at Pioneer’s facility in Long Beach, California, they will install the module and prepare to ship your new power meter equipped crank arm back to you within 48 hours. The turn around time is usually only about 4 days, which gets you back on your bike quickly.
When we received the power meter equipped crank arm back from Pioneer, the permanently attached module added just 22 grams. Once we added the magnet to the frame, the weight increase was around 25 grams total, a very reasonable increase to add power. Once back on the Scalpel, the clearance was tight, but plenty of room for a little bit of mud. After adding the battery and making the connection to the computer, a short calibration process had the bike ready to ride.
Out on the trails, I found the same accuracy I had grown to love on the road with the dual-sided power meter. As I bombed down rocky and rooted trails here in Pennsylvania, the power meter responded well, and readings were accurate. Since it was paired with Pioneer’s SCX-CA500 computer, I could see the HDPower Metrics and Force Vector information on the screen as I was riding. This was a handy reminder to pull up on the back side of the pedal stroke to keep my pedaling efficiency up. I also swapped out the Pioneer head unit for a Garmin Edge 810 and a Wahoo Elemnt, and both computers worked well with the power meter, just minus the additional detailed information. Mud and water were never an issue, and like all things electronic or bearing related, try not to hit it with the pressure washer. Though I no longer have any other SI crankset equipped bikes in stable, it would be as simple as swapping crank arms from one bike to the next and adding a magnet to the frame to move the power meter across bikes.
The only drawback with any left side power meter is that the power data isn’t quite as accurate as a dual-sided meter. This isn’t necessarily a knock against Pioneer, but all single sided power meters. Inherently, we are all slightly stronger on one side over the other. This means when a single sided meter collects the data and doubles it, that means you could be slightly above or below what you are actually putting out. If you are looking for the absolute, most accurate power meter, I’d recommend a dual-sided unit over a single sided any day. If you are looking for basic power info, or want to get into the power game for cheap and upgrade once you are hooked, the left side is the way to go.
To build off of that last statement, you can start with a left side Pioneer power meter, and later upgrade by adding a right side meter to run a dual sided set up. Just make sure you are starting with one of the crank arms listed in the dual/right-sided column below.
|Dual/Right Sided||Left Side Only|
|Shimano 9100||Shimano 9100|
|Shimano 9000||Shimano 9000|
|Shimano 6800||Shimano 6800|
|Shimano 5700||Shimano 5700|
|Campagnolo Potenza||Shimano XTR M9020|
|Shimano XT M8000|
Adding a Pioneer power meter to your existing crank arm will only set you back $499.99, a savings of $50-120 over buying a new Pioneer equipped Shimano left side crank arm. Adding it to the right side of your existing crank (listed above) will cost $579.99. If you decide to go all in from the beginning, you are looking at $999.99, a $300-500 savings over the new Pioneer equipped Shimano dual-sided cranksets.
While other brands are working to add their version of HDPower Metrics to their cranksets, Pioneer’s still one of my favorite power meters to use. Many coaches are still working on how to incorporate the additional information like Force Vector into training plans, but as we are moving into a more data-driven world, the more data available the better in my opinion. Even on my own, I use the info provided in real-time to focus on my pedal stroke to work on my efficiency and review the data afterward to look for improvements. With some of the additional sensors that Pioneer is experimenting with, there is potential to add more sensors and provide additional data about form or even aerodynamics in the future. I can’t wait to see what they bring out next.