Thursday, August 6, 2015

Product Review: Powertap P1 Pedals

The Powertap P1 Pedals on my Tri bike.

First off, before I get into this review, I'll say up front that this isn't going to be a review that details the ins and outs of everything this power meter can and can't do.  If you're looking for a review like that - head over to DC Rainmaker's Review - where he goes into mind numbing detail (in a wonderful way!) on these pedals (and pretty much anything else that is electronic and endurance related).
My review will be much more simple - basically just touching on my thoughts on the pedals, how I feel they work, and what I like and don't like about them.

So with that said - here's a bit of background that eventually led up to the purchase of these pedals for me.

I've used a variety of powermeters since I've started competing and training for triathlons.  Very early on in my triathlon life - I saw the value of being able to calculate the amount of effort I was putting in on the bike and using that data from everything to training, to pacing myself, to testing equipment, etc.  Not only did it allow me to quantify any gains I was making, but it also allowed me to have a bit more fun with my training because it allowed my inner nerd to have a good time playing with numbers.

Anyway, my first power meter was a Quarq Cinco - which worked fine but had a few issues.  The biggest of those issues is that it was married to my tri bike (I'm not a very skilled bike mechanic and I don't have the real estate in my garage to have anything resembling a work space for bikes - so swapping a crankset from one bike to the next is something that wasn't realistic for me).  Eventually, the lack of ability to transfer from one bike to the next (and some other issues with data recording) led me to sell that and get a Powertap wheel.
The Powertap Wheel was a great powermeter that I never had any real issues with other than having to change the battery (which was kind of a pain - even with the included tool).  Not a deal breaker, and not a huge deal.  The biggest problem I had with it was that I was stuck using that wheel if I wanted to record my power.  That meant using a disc cover if I wanted to race with it, or switching tires on the wheel if I wanted to record power on my trainer.  Eventually, that become cumbersome and I, yet again, jumped ship to another powermeter.
This time I purchased a Stages powermeter and, without getting into the details, was not happy at all.  At first I loved it, but the data it provided did not work for my needs and being married to a particular crank length didn't work for me.  I ride different lengths of crank from my road and tri bike, so my attempt to change the length on one bike to get the Stages to work ended in failure.
This lead to me going back to the Powertap G3 wheel - which had the same issues as my original Powertap wheel (except the battery was a bit easier to change out).
I played around with the idea of the Garmin Pedals when they were first released, but was turned off from a friend who had a ton of issues getting the correct data from them and seeing him struggle with that (and the day to day installation), turned me off.

That's not to say that any of the above powermeters wouldn't be a great choice for somebody - they just weren't a great choice for me.  I needed something that provided accurate data that allowed me to work and train the way I needed and use the numbers in the way I wanted to use them.  I needed something I could swap from bike to bike without having to have any real bike mechanic skills.  I needed something that I could put on the bike and just ride with.

Enter the Powertap P1 Pedals.

When I first got wind of these pedals, I was immediately impressed and wanting a pair.  They seemed to fit everything I wanted in a powermeter.  While I've ridden Speedplay type pedals for pretty much the entire time I've been competing - it would be a small sacrifice to make in order to get power on my bike without any of the issues I had with previous devices.  I was really excited, and managed to maintain that excitement through the various delays that happened.
The one thing about the guys over at Powertap was that when something was delayed - they would explain it.  "It's not quite where we want it to be accuracy wise" - there was always an explanation (and usually a video on their social media channels to accompany it).  It made the wait a bit easier to handle because there was a face explaining things to you (not to mention Powertap's sterling reputation in the powermeter and cycling world).  There were other powermeters I considered - but most of those seemed to go "dead air" and ended up being vaporware.

Once the P1 Pedals were made available for pre-order - I immediately reserved my pair (I actually did it in the first seconds of the pre-order going live on the site - as I was afraid that they would quickly backorder).  They shipped, I received them, and - to make a long story short - I couldn't be happier with the pedals.

The Powertap P1.

Top of the pedal where you put the cleats in.

Bottom of the pedal where the battery port is.

Engaging mechanism on the rear of the pedal.

Front of the pedal.


First and foremost - the best thing about this pedal is the ability for it to be swapped from bike to bike with absolute ease.  As I touched on earlier, I'm no skilled bike mechanic.  In fact, I think it would be a stretch to call me an "unskilled bike mechanic" - I'm not even that.  Beyond changing a flat tire - I'm pretty much useless for all things bike repair.
Which is why I love these pedals.  The installation (and uninstallation) process on them is literally the easiest thing I've ever done.
All you need is an 8mm hex wrench, the pedals, a crank without pedals on them, and - oh - about 20 seconds of your time.  I'm serious.

The only tool you'll need is a 8mm hex wrench.  You don't even need a fancy one - the one on my multitool works just fine.  No torque wrenches, nothing to calibrate, nada.

Simply put the pedal into the crank arm, then put the wrench into the socket and turn.  Voila!  That's it.  You turn the wrench,, it tightens, and you're done.  To remove, simply turn the other way.
Once you have it off of your bike - you can now put it on any other bike.  In this example - we're tossing it on my road bike.
Same process - put it into the crank arm - turn, and you're done.  Now - just a note - for carbon cranks you're supposed to use a spacer.  I'm too lazy to get the spacer out each time and these cranks aren't really carbon (they're aluminum with a carbon coating or something like that) - so I don't bother with it.

Repeat the process for the other side and you're ready to roll!
It's an incredibly simple process that bike mechanic simpletons like myself can really appreciate.  

Another thing I like about the pedals is that the communicate in both bluetooth and ANT+.  This is great for me (well, kinda) because my multisport watch is a bluetooth watch (the Polar V800) and my bike computer is a Powertap Joule GPS.  While I can't see myself using anything but the Joule GPS when riding my bike (it - like just about any other dedicated bike computer - just has more data fields, functionality, and ease of viewing than my watch does) - having the option is still pretty nice.  Except, I don't really have that option.  Not yet anyway.  The V800 will recognize the P1 pedals (with a bit of effort), but it won't record any data off of them.  Apparently this is a Polar issue (as, from my understanding, they're using a bluetooth protocol that is somewhat dated and doesn't exist in the mainstream "cycling data marketplace").  However, indications from Polar is that they're coming around on this and will make it so the V800 supports third party powermeters (specifically with the P1).  While I'm not holding my breath on that - the potential option is a nice thing to have.

The battery life from these are outstanding.  Powertap quotes the battery life at about 60 hours - and I got just a hair over there until it went completely dead (~64 or so) - so that's pretty accurate.  In addition to having great battery life - having a AAA battery as the battery is a great idea.  I'm a father of a 2 year old who has more crappy electronic toys around the house than I can shake a stick at - so I have a whole army of these batteries around the house.  It really works well for me rather than making a trip to Radio Shack every time my bike computer says the battery is getting low.  On top of that, swapping out the batteries (which I've only had to do once), is as easy as can be.  No complicated tools (just a hex) and the battery goes in without an issue.  It's literally one step above changing out batteries in a remote control - it's that easy.

I also like having access to my right/left power data - even though I'm still playing around with this and getting it to work the way it should.

The best thing about this is that you simply plug the pedals in and play.  Easy as that.  There's no complicated "zero-ing out process" or weird calibrations that need to be done before you ride or anything that needs to be changed from ride to ride due to the powermeter.  You simply turn on your head unit, hit the zero offset button (which takes 5 seconds on both the Joule GPS and Garmin 500 units - I'd assume it's similar across the board for most head units), and ride.  Easy as that.


While it wasn't a deal breaker, and while it isn't the end of the world, I'd be hesitant to say that I'm kind of bummed this wasn't compatible with a Speedplay style cleat.  I've gotten so used to just clipping in wherever my pedal was (i.e. not trying to find the "top" of the pedal to click in).  It's a very small, very minor annoyance - and it's something I knew 100% going in - but it's still something.

Another very small annoyance is that the cleats for the pedals are proprietary - which means that in order to use the P1 Pedals - you HAVE to use the P1 cleats from Powertap.  That's not a huge deal - but it does eliminate the possibility of buying multiple "cheap Look style" cleats for my various cycling shoes to fit in the pedals.  As of now - I only have one set of cleats - so I'm using my tri shoes for all of my riding (regardless what bike I'm on).  I intend to get some more cleats - but it was a slight bummer that I couldn't just stock up on the $5 clearance cleats at my local bike shop.

On that note, however - I felt I would do a bit of testing and compare and contrast the P1 cleats to a "Look style" cleat (I have no idea what brand the other cleats are).  I did this with my shoes and my wife's triathlon shoes (she has a generic "Look style" cleat on her shoes).

At first glance - it looks like there is no difference between the P1 cleat and a standard Look-style cleat.

Side view of the P1 (yes - those are Crocs with Socks - keep hatin')

Side by Side view with a standard cleat reveals some slight differences.

Again, from a different angle - you can see some slight differences in the cleats.
For what it's worth - I snapped my wife's shoes into the P1 Pedals and they clicked right in.  While I didn't pedal with them outside of moving them with my hands - they seemed to work just fine.  With that said, I've read reviews that claimed that some Look style cleats would work, but as the cleat started to wear down, it would slip out of the pedals.  

Another complaint/concern I've read about is whether the pedal (with its increase in "pedal height" for lack of a better term) would cause cornering issues.  I can attest that, for me, it hasn't - and I've done plenty of tight cornering on it with my road bike.  I ride 172.5 cranks on my road bike and haven't had a single issue - so no complaints there.  I think that it isn't a problem at all, and think that people may have "eyeballed" the potential problem and just assumed.

All in all - this is the best powermeter I've ever owned and I couldn't be happier with it.  The negatives on it are very minor things that aren't a big deal and it checks all the boxes when it comes to what you would want in a powermeter.  I couldn't be more pleased with the P1 pedals.

Having the ability to race with power the use the equipment I want is great.  Loving the way they work on my bikes!

Another shoe of the P1 Pedal.


  1. Thanks for that, great review!

  2. did you have any power spikes in your data or during rides? how about data drift or offsetting? thanks!

    1. Architect, there were a few spikes (mainly when the pedals were first going after a "rest" period of non pedaling - but nothing significant otherwise). I didn't notice any significant drift in my data or offsetting when comparing it to the data files from the G3 wheel.

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  3. I can see from the pictures that you tested the P1 with Look's "Delta" cleat. That is the old-style Look cleat from the 1980's and 1990's. Some of those pedals are still going strong, so the cleats are still around. Have you tested the P1 with Look's Keo cleats?
    The Keo is what should be used with all look Keo pedals which have been the only pedals produced by look for about the past 14 years. Also, if your wife is using those delta style cleats with Keo pedals, switching her to Keo cleats will definitely improve her user experience.