GARMIN RALLY CLIPS INTO SHIMANO PEDALS
The Garmin Rally XC200 and Rally RS200 are the first reliable and available power meters to use Shimano SPD-SL road and SPD off-road pedal body designs. If you prefer Shimano pedals and want the installation convenience and universal compatibility of having a power meter in your pedals, the Garmin Rally power meters are the only way to go.
Garmin also makes the Rally RK200, a rebranded version of Garmin’s Vector 3. It uses the Look KEO pedal body design, previously the only pedal body option for power meters from Garmin and others.
Indeed, all the Garmin Rally power meters rely on a slightly tweaked version of the pedal spindle used in Garmin’s Vector 3 to house the electronics for both the Look and two Shimano pedal body options. You can get each of them as a dual-sided (XC200, RS200, RK200) or single-sided (XC100, RS100, RK100) power meter.
Beyond being the first out with Shimano-style road pedals, Garmin also uniquely gives you the option to buy extra pedal bodies to use on your pair of spindles. So if you have a Vector 3 now, you can also make it into an off-road power meter by picking up the Rally XC pedal bodies. Likewise, if you buy a new Rally XC power meter you can convert it into a road power meter with a set of Rally RS or RK pedal bodies.
While I’ve previously reviewed the Garmin Vector 3 pedals as part of my post The Best Power Meter for You, my goal was to get beyond the initial product announcement hype, treat these pedals the way a normal roadie or gravel roadie would (meaning with too little respect), judge how well they performed, and see if there is a case for you and me to buy them.
So here’s my fellow enthusiast’s take on all of that.
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WHO THE GARMIN RALLY ARE FOR
Before diving into how they perform, let me tell you upfront who I think the new Garmin Rally pedals are best suited for.
- Roadies who have a strong preference for Shimano SPD-SL pedals yet aren’t too bothered by the extra weight (50g per pedal and cleat more than Dura-Ace PD R9100, 40g more than Ultegra PD-R8000) and stack height (3mm more than DA, 2mm more than Ultegra) or one available spindle length (53mm).
- Gravel, cyclocross, or XC style off-road riders (but not super aggressive trail or downhill riders, i.e., those regularly smacking their pedals against rocks) who have a strong preference for Shimano SPD pedals yet aren’t too bothered by the extra height of the pedals (8mm more than XT Trail PD-M8020 and XT PD-M8100, 2.5mm taller than the PD-M505), or one available spindle length (53mm).
- Cyclists who have multiple road bikes (e.g. aero, racing) or off-road ones (e.g. gravel, cross, MTB) and a strong preference for a pedal-based power meter because it is the easiest and fastest power meter to move between road or off-road bikes.
- Cyclists who are looking for one power meter that you can occasionally switch between a road and off-road bike, assuming you prefer to use different pedal types for those bikes now. (It will take you 20-30 minutes, a handful of tools, and a bit of concentration to switch between the Garmin RS or RK and XC pedal bodies. It’s something you might want to do a few times a year rather than every month or week.)
- Cyclists who are locked into and loving the Garmin ecosystem.
- Cyclists who are willing and able to spend more money on a power meter that gives them almost everything they want rather than only what they truly need. (As the saying goes, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. Ok, if you really want to know, it’s hundreds more. Almost a grand in the worst case. Details further below.)
If some combination of these characteristics describes you, the Garmin Rally power meters are for you. I’ll tell you how the one I tested performed in the next section.
Even if you fit this profile and especially if you don’t, I go into more detail on your options in the section after that.
HOW WELL DO THEY WORK
I rode the Garmin Rally XC200 for two months on a range of different rides and in different conditions. I tested them on the trainer, on the road, and on gravel rides both short and long, recovery and full-on hard. They went over and through high water, trail-wide puddles, mud, dirt, dust, grass, gravel, rocks, and rock gardens. I rode them in 40F raw cold weather to 90F hot and humid temps and thankfully, a lot in between.
Because the battery doors and the batteries themselves had created issues in earlier Garmin Vectors, I frequently removed the doors and switched the batteries between units. I didn’t wash the bike as often as I should (who does?), but when I did, I blasted the pedals with water.
Basically, I did everything I could think of that might happen to them in use or maintenance short of enduro or downhill riding or whaling on them with a hammer (same thing, right?)
Functionally, the Rally XC200 act every bit as good as a Shimano MTB pedal. They clip in and release like a Shimano SPD pedal and I can adjust the tension the same way and with the same result. Once I’m clipped in, the interface between my cleats (the same cleats as I use with my Shimano PD-M505 pedals) is stable and quiet.
I can’t speak to their durability beyond my test period. Time and more riding will tell and I will update this review if things change. But the SPD pedal design has shown remarkable durability over the years and the Rally XC200 seems fully compatible with the Shimano design.
It may help that the Shimano SPD and SPD-SL patents have expired. It’s likely that Garmin copied the design because it works, there was limited engineering required, and they now could.
Electronically, I’ve found the Garmin Rally XC200’s power meter accuracy and consistency and the data I’ve seen from other independent testers like Des and Ray is fine for the kind of in-ride power target guidance and post-ride performance analysis I want to see as a cycling enthusiast that focuses on a half dozen road or gravel events a year.
We all bring different experiences. Des is a mountain biker, Ray is a triathlete, I’m a roadie and gravel cycling enthusiast. You can see what they found doing the kind of riding and testing they do. What follows is what I found from my rides.
NERD ALERT – The paragraph I’ve highlighted just above is the key conclusion. You may find what comes next to be interesting but a bit deep in the weeds and only gives you the details that allowed me to reach the conclusion I wrote above.
To test out the Garmin Rally XC200, I compared it to a Wahoo Kickr smart trainer, a 4iiii Precision Shimano 105 R7000 single-sided crank arm power meter on my gravel bike, and a Stages Shimano Ultegra R8000 dual-sided crankarm power meter on my road bike. (While I wouldn’t normally ride off-road aka MTB pedals and shoes on my road bike, I did for the XC200 comparison testing.)
Somewhat remarkably, mostly because I don’t expect this level of coincidence across power meters, the Garmin Rally XC200 came within 1%-4% of the Kickr on complete trainer rides and ride segments. They tracked the ups and downs of changes in power and cadence after both small changes in power from one zone to the next or with multi-zone changes like sprints.
That’s about 2-8 watts at power zones 2 (recovery), 3 (tempo), sweet spot (84-97% of FTP), 4 (threshold), and 5 (VO2 max) where I train. Those absolute differences don’t affect my training or post-training analysis (e.g. TSS) in any prescriptive way, as in, I change how I train because of the differences in power readings between the Kickr and Rally.
Interestingly, the single-sided 4iiii crank power meter also tracked my Kickr very closely and within the same range of difference as the Garmin Rally XC200. Since a single-sided crank doubles what it measures from the left side crank arm to generate the total power number, this relatively good alignment of the Kickr, 4iiii, and XC200 power numbers would suggest I have little to no imbalance while riding my bike indoors.
The Stages dual-sided crankset power meter was consistently lower than the other three and was clearly outside the mainstream. I replaced both sensors during the period that I was testing the XC200 yet it remained on the outs. That’s a story for another day but there is some value in the comparisons of the Stages cranks and Garmin Rally pedals which I’ll get into in a minute.
The biggest variances I saw in the Garmin Rally XC200 testing on the trainer, road, and gravel were in left-right pedal balance numbers, both between the XC200 pedals themselves from ride to ride and between the XC200 pedals and the single-sided 4iiii crank or Stages dual-sided cranks.
From the testing I’ve done with other power meters in recent years – both independent and single-sided cranks and road pedals, and spiders that calculate LR balance numbers using an algorithm – my imbalance typically runs between 49%-51% and 51%-49%. In other words, it’s insignificant for the riding I do (and I would suggest most enthusiasts do), probably within the margin of measurement error or variation in my leg fatigue, and only leads to distraction.
With the XC200 pedals, my LR balance variance ranges from 48%-52% to 45%-55%. While the total number is still what it is, and tracked well to the Kickr, that amount is significant and had me more than distracted.
So I wondered, are off-road pedals more sensitive than cranks? Do I lead with and favor my right leg on gravel and trails more so than on paved roads because of the relative unevenness of the surface, greater variability in grade, or because I push off with my right after stopping? Is it the 10mm shorter Q-factor of the Garmin pedals (a standard 53mm +2mm with the included washer) compared to what I ride on my long-spindle Speedplays? Is it something to do with the pedals themselves? Or am I just a variable power mess?
On gravel rides where I used the XC200 pedals and the single-sided, left-only 4iiii crank arm power meter, the left pedal power reading would sometimes be more, sometimes less, and sometimes virtually the same as the left crank arm 4iiii power meter value depending on the amount of power I was putting out or length of the segment I was measuring. If the left pedal was less than the crank arm, that would explain why the XC200 and 4iiii would track so close to each other and the Kickr.
But since my imbalance always favored my right side, my power numbers – NP, TSS, IF, etc – would always be
better, sorry, bigger with the XC200 than the 4iiii.
In reality, the surface and grades of the dirt and gravel roads and trails I ride are so variable that I can’t train to power zones or intervals very well on them. I’ve got to keep my eyes on the road, trails, rocks, potholes, etc. 98% of the time, or else I might miss something that would make for a bad day.
And because of the uneven surface and variable terrain off-road, power meters generally have a harder time processing the power spikes that come with riding unpaved surfaces. Some smooth the power readings more than others. Net-net, off-road power meter accuracy isn’t as good or as useful as it is when riding smooth roads.
I can and do glance at my power from time to time to make sure it corresponds with the amount of effort I think I’m putting out. But, the biggest benefit I find in using a power meter on gravel rides is in the post-ride analysis.
So if I think or know that I’ve got a big imbalance, then I’m robbing myself of TSS or beating myself up for not training hard enough after I look at the post-ride results and shouldn’t depend on a single-sided power meter for off-road riding.
But the differences aren’t that big for me as a road and gravel enthusiast to lose a whole lot of sleep, especially when I’m riding off-road where I’m supposed to be and actually enjoy being more chill. And the data from Des and Ray show the Garmin Rally XC200 tracks well to other power meters they tested off-road.
For what it’s worth, the longest gravel ride I did with showed 4.0% more normalized power for the XC200 than the 4iiii after 5 hours of grinding. While the reported 47%-53% leg imbalance would have suggested a 6% higher power number for the XC200, it was offset by the way the pedals auto-paused my head unit more often and for longer than the 4iiii in slower sections.
As firmware updates are today’s answer to all technical anomalies, and perhaps life’s big questions too, I expect the LR balance and auto pausing idiosyncracies that I described (and that a couple of other reviewers also noted) will get sorted out in time. The good news is that pedal hardware, electronic guts, and batteries, and battery doors seem to be solid.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS
If you want an off-road power meter pedal for gravel, cyclocross, or mountain bike riding, the Garmin Rally XC200 (dual-sided) and XC100 (single-sided) are currently your only viable choices. Yes, SRM does sell a MTB power meter pedal but they are having a heck of a time getting them to dealers and the batteries appear to run out almost as fast as you ride them.
At US$1,200/£1,060/€1,200 for the XC200, US$700/£620/€700 for the XC100, and US$250/£220/€250 for the pedal body conversion kit, the Rally XCs aren’t cheap. I warned you about this upfront but you can now see what they offer the committed Shimano road or off-road pedal user.
As an option, you can get a single-sided crank arm for as little US$300/£299/€342 as I did. You can also buy dual-sided crank arms or a spider power meter in a range of models to fit your crankset and tastes. Most will cost you well under a grand. None, however, will offer the Shimano SPD pedal platform and the range of other characteristics I listed in the Who Are They For section earlier.
Garmin was also the first company to make a Shimano SPD SL power meter pedal. Favero makes spindles that you fit into your Shimano SPD SL pedals. They sell for a bit less than the XC series, going for US$1,100/£970/€1,100 for the RS200 and US$650/£580/€650 for the RS100, and US$200/£180/€200 for the pedal body conversion kit.
But again, if you want a Shimano MTB and gravel pedal solution and all the other things I listed above, the Rally is your only choice.
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First published on June 13, 2021. Date of the most recent major update shown at the top of the post.