QUARQ DZERO AND WATTEAM POWERBEAT REVIEWS
After riding the new Quarq DZero and second generation Watteam PowerBeat, I’ve now updated my Best Power Meters for Road Cycling Enthusiasts review to include my evaluation of these two. In that review, I compare over 40 power meters, tell you which are proven and not, and which I recommend to my fellow road cycling enthusiasts based on their price and their performance against four essential requirements.
It’s a long review and bound to get longer as I update it with all the new power meters that have been announced in the last couple years and are coming onto the market and available for fellow enthusiasts like me to test out. But, new power meters are about the last thing you want to be the first on your block to get. Many of the most successful ones have taken years and several generations to work out all the bugs. Many more don’t get a year or two beyond announcement before they crash and burn on the pile of unfulfilled power meter dreams.
The latest Quarq DZero and second generation Watteam Powerbeat I’ve just finished testing are examples of that struggle. Quarq has been around for 15 or so years, worked through its teething pains early on, and has introduced several lines of new products and product improvements over the years that have worked well and been free of issues.
Watteam began producing its first-ever PowerBeat in 2016, recalled it and stopped selling or making more due to identified accuracy issues. They claimed to have worked through those issues and began producing and selling its second generation units in early 2017.
I’ve ridden both the Quarq DZero and Watteam Powerbeat power meters about 750 miles on different bikes, indoors and out, in cool weather and hot, on long rides and short, doing intervals and hill repeats, on good pavement and dirt, etc. Not long enough for a “long-term review” but long enough to determine whether you should buy them.
I’ve compared them both to my benchmark PowerTap G3 hub power meter. In the case of the PowerBeat, I was also able to compare it to my Stages power meter, on which I mounted one side of the PowerBeat, in addition to the G3. I’ve been riding the G3 and Stages for several years, know where they come out in terms of accuracy and consistency and have used them as a reference for other power meters I’ve tested in addition to the two I’m writing about here.
ON MY SOAPBOX
To reiterate, I write for serious roadies but not elite amateurs or pros or those who aspire to be and hire coaches to pore over their data. It’s not that serious roadies or “road cycling enthusiasts” shouldn’t have gear as good as anyone else including the top riders in the world. (We should have better gear, and do in some cases – road disc bikes for example – but that’s a topic for another post.)
When it comes to power meters, there’s a lot of capability and features baked into these high tech toys that enthusiasts just don’t need (to pay extra for) for the level of training and type of riding we are doing. For some riders, that extra data can divert their training attention from what matters most.
For example, I’m a 3 watt/kg kind of rider with a 5% L/R imbalance after breaking my leg and damaging some muscles a few years ago. I have goals, or more like dreams, like getting to 3.5 watt/kg, doing a half-dozen challenging centuries each spring/summer, being able to keep up with the A-group on Saturday rides, etc.
I’m pretty disciplined about my training, get incrementally better each year and through the season but I’m never going to win any races. I’ve raced in other sports but when it comes to road cycling, I much prefer a great group ride with friends or challenging myself in an early morning workouts or taking a solo ride to clear my head rather than racing shoulder to shoulder with other riders doing crits. I’m “self-coached” (i.e., use Training Peaks and Sufferfest training programs), would do more lifting to even out my imbalance if I had/made the time, and am happy with the consistency and transferability of the Stages power meter I use and the information it gives me for my cycling training and performance both during and after rides.
That said, I know some of you readers are faster, more ambitious, better looking and do race along with doing your club and solo riding. Some of you also likely train more effectively than me, can’t get enough data and are motivated to train and ride better by the whole interaction with your power meters and the data they generate.
Some of the newer power meters, like the PowerBeat for example, have left/right leg independent power measurement capability and all the metrics you can run and analysis you can do with that capability. The PowerBeat is especially attractive as it gives you all of this for no more than the cost of a single-sided power meter like a Stages or 4iiii. So, why not go for it if you want the best data you can get, whether you need it or not? I get it.
OK. Enough. Off my soapbox and back onto terra firma for the results. Should you buy a Quarq DZero, DFour or Watteam PowerBeat? Here are my answers to that question.
QUARQ DZERO – IT JUST WORKS CONSISTENTLY
Quarq introduced the Quarq DZero and DFour (for Shimano chainsets) at the 2016 end-of-summer trade shows and began making them available in the fall and through the winter. Quarq is no longer making its established and proven Elsa and Riken power meters though they are still available from dealer stock and I have continued to recommend them as my Best Performer power meters while testing out the DZero.
The Quarq power meters measure your total power rather than one side or each side as with the pedal and crank based power meters. Instead, Quarq uses an algorithm to estimate your left and right leg power, with some reviewers saying they mirror true independent leg measuring power meters in side by side tests while others say they don’t.
Spider power meters like the DZero and DFour bolt in next to your crankset rings. They are more time consuming to install than the single sided crank arm power meters but transfer between bikes the same way as a dual-sided crank one does.
If you want to use different size rings on the crankset for a specific event where a different ratio would be better suited, you can certainly do that much the same way you would normally change rings. If you move the entire crankset with the power meter already installed to another bike, you’ll need to have the same model bottom bracket installed on any bike where you want to use that crankset. All of this may drive some of you to your bike shop with your bike(s) for some help in getting everything set up.
The outgoing Quarq Riken and Elsa models have different numbers of bolt holes, bolt circle diameters (to more easily accommodate compact cranksets) and bottom bracket compatibility. Most come with arms (either alloy or carbon) and some are available with just the spider itself. It was Quarq’s attempt to provide a wide range of compatibility options in the muddle of today’s cranksets, bottom brackets, and competitive offerings.
The new Quarq DZero and DFour power meters simplify this somewhat, add a few improved capabilities (geek-out level stuff), a wider range of compatibility and priced the same as the outgoing Quarq Riken and Elsa (though the those are discounted now).
The DZero spider alone sells for a list price USD$679/£583/€689. A set with alloy arms will run USD$779/£693/€818 and with carbon arms USD$1079/£858/€1013 (no rings on either). The DFour versions of these are priced about 100 more for each model at each currency.
In my experience, the new Quarq “just works” consistently and in all situations. It’s easy to zero offset initially or along the way (just rotate the cranks 5 or 6 circles counterclockwise) or you can use your head unit to do so. They automatically compensate for temperature changes though, as with any power meter, you want to run your first zero offset after they have been at the temperature you are going to begin riding at for 5-10 minutes.
My NP (normalized power) readings for the overall ride and for the longer time intervals (5 mins and up) were consistently about 3-5% above that of my PowerTap hub, something I’d expect based on the Quarq being closer to the my power source and not affected by any drivetrain losses.
I do look at Ray Maker’s charts for shorter intervals and find the discussion about spikes and dropouts interesting but irrelevant for the kind of riding I and most enthusiasts, and probably a lot of enthusiasts that are racing, are doing. I’m looking to see how my overall and interval performance is trending over time, how I’m faring on the 5th hill repeat vs. the 2nd one or the 6th flat speed interval vs. the 4th one, that I’m not going too hard on the first 20 miles of a 100 mile ride or in the power red early on going up a known 7 mile, 5% average grade climb.
I’ve seen good results with Quarq. I’ve also seen that the computed L/R balance is right on or within a percent or two of what I’ve seen on independent L/R power meters (and that I can’t do a thing about my imbalance unless or until I start my off-season weight training).
Bottom line, the DZero is consistent, easy to zero offset and accurate compared to my benchmark power meters and others I’ve ridden. If I were to buy the spider version of the Quarq DZero or DFour, it’s a few hundred more $, £, € than the Stages or 4iiii but a lot less than SRM, P2M, Verve and other spider-based power meters. The Quarq spiders are priced about the same or less than the pedal power meters, all of which add a lot more weight and all but the PowerTap P1 don’t yet have a great track record for consistency across the range of situations you might use it in.
The Quarqs are not as quick to install or transfer as a pedal or crank arm power meter and I found the Qalvin app Bluetooth connection slow to establish. I wouldn’t recommend using the Bluetooth connection that Quarq added to these new power meters as the way to communicate to your headset; I wouldn’t recommend that for any power meter. They are just too flukey for my tastes.
Compared to the other established and proven spider based power meters – the SRM and P2M, the Quarq is less expensive and gives you all the consistency, accuracy and data an enthusiast could want. It meets my four essential requirements around consistency, easy to access and use data, transferability and post-transfer consistency and accuracy.
For cost and compatibility reasons, seeing little difference in performance and their ability to meet the four essential requirements, I’m recommending the Quarq DZero and DFour as the best choice among the spider power meter category and the Best Performer power meter overall.
For an explanation of why I picked it the Best Performer when compared to power meters placed in other locations beyond the spider, you’ll have to read my comparison of all power meters or the summary recommendations that you can find here.
You can find the Quarq DZero at stores with some of the best customer satisfaction ratings and lowest prices for this power meter by clicking on these links to Competitive Cyclist (spider), Competitive Cyclist (crankset), UK/EU Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Merlin, Tredz 10% off w/code ITKTDZ10. The same goes for the DFour by clicking on these links to Competitive Cyclist UK/EU Wiggle, Merlin, Tredz 10% off w/code ITKTDZ10.
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WATTEAM POWERBEAT 2ND GENERATION – IT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
The Watteam PowerBeat sells for $319/€319 for a pair and $207/€207 for a single unit. It’s available, as are most other power meters, at a 10% discount exclusively for In The Know Cycling readers when you go to them through this Power Meter City link and enter code ITK10 at checkout.
You glue the PowerBeat to your cranks and do the calibration yourself instead of having it done at the factory. These units also attach to the most popular cranksets including the last and current series Dura Ace and Ultegra ones, the current series Shimano 105, new Campagnolo Potenza and three Cannondale Hollowgram cranksets. The full list is under the Tech tab at this link.
My experience installing the Watteam was quite straightforward. You need to be disciplined, take your time and follow the instructions clearly laid out in the smartphone app and videos for each of the major steps of gluing, installing and calibrating. You can see them here to get an idea of whether or not you’d be up for doing it. IMHO, it’s way easier and quicker than assembling IKEA furniture.
For my installation, I took a couple hours on each of two days with a day in between. I set up everything, watched the videos a couple times and then glued the sensors on the first day. I gave the sensors a couple days to dry and then came back and installed the comp/comm units, calibrated them, paired them to my head unit, tested everything out on my trainer and then was done. You can shorten the elapsed time and get back on your bike in a day if you glue and let it dry in a room above 77F/25C. I did it in the winter and don’t heat the house anywhere near that warm.
I purposely didn’t obsess about lining up everything exactly right and following all the instructions to a T, assuming that the average consumer won’t either. With the wires running from the sensor to the comp/comm, it doesn’t look very clean but I seldom look down at my cranks or stare at others’ during a ride. The connector plugs seat firmly and the components seem pretty rugged.
The PowerBeat installation seemed fine and the in-ride power numbers and post-ride metrics were essentially the same for training purposes as the Stages crank arm and PowerTap hub I used simultaneously for my first set of rides indoors on my trainer. They picked up my L/R imbalance, consistent with the percentages I had seen from other power meters, and reported higher overall power than the Stages which was doubling my weaker left leg.
But after a while, the numbers from the PowerBeat started to look off. The delta between the PowerBeat and Stages started to shrink while the L/R numbers didn’t change. Then the PowerBeat started reporting lower than the Stages, then much lower, then the same. The balance numbers were varying.
I experienced this during that time of spring when the weather fluctuates a great deal and you are trying to keep your training going and get more and more outdoor rides, get more distance, do more variety, etc., but still have do a fair amount of indoor riding because the weather, light, and other family and work things and life, in general, is affected by the change in seasons. I was doing indoor and outdoor training rides, moving the crankset between a couple bikes, doing hills, intervals, and recovery rides, and riding in warmer and cooler temps.
While my reference Stages and PowerTap G3 hub were reporting consistently and with good alignment, the PowerBeat was all over the map. “Consistently inconsistent” was the way I summarized it. Time to call in Watteam customer service.
Customer service was very responsive and helpful. I shared my experience, comparative data and a few files. They concluded the problem must be with the sensor installation. It happens, I concluded, and I’m just the unlucky one it happened to this time. At least I could report back to you the experience with customer service once the product issues were resolved.
Watteam sent me a new PowerBeat sensor kit and in a video Skype session with them, I installed the new sensors, walking through the process step by step with and getting their ok that I was doing it right. After letting the glue dry 3 days indoors while riding one of my other bikes, I took photos of the new sensors on my Ultegra cranks, sent them to Watteam, put the comp units and pedals back on the bike and calibrated. Took me a couple times before the calibration would take so I did another Skype session with Watteam to make sure I was doing it right (I was) and to get their take.
From the calibration results, even though app said that it had passed, Watteam said the PowerBeat numbers weren’t going to be good. I rode the bike and they weren’t. We talked through everything that might be causing the issue but they concluded they couldn’t determine what was going on or suggest a solution. They offered to send me a crankset with the sensors pre-glued and known to work for my testing purposes but I declined, explaining that I wanted to have the same experience my fellow road cycling enthusiasts would have and not a different one available only to those who review cycling gear.
I was disappointed, to say the least. I was certainly hoping that a sub $500 solution that provided all the data anyone could ever want was now a proven option but I couldn’t make it work even with the help of Watteam. I had read the results of DC Rainmaker who had also installed sensors by himself, albeit in the physical rather than Skype presence of Watteam representatives. Those detailed PowerBeat’s comparable accuracy and consistency against a couple of other power meters and in a range of conditions. I was confident it would work for me too.
Watteam told me other customers have had installation issues but wouldn’t quantify it for me. Commenters to DC Rainmaker’s review have included customers who were having trouble and those who are happy.
There are a couple of things I didn’t like about the PowerBeat, even when I thought they were initially working.
Moving my pedals from one bike to another left the comp units dangling by the wire from the sensor and easy to get caught and sheared in the rings. I actually did this to the drive side sensor wire by mistake. Luckily, it happened the day after Watteam said they were going to send me a new set.
Since most people with multiple bikes are going to want to move their power meter between bikes, this won’t be an issue. You transfer the entire crankset between bikes, removing only the left crank arm and leaving the pedals in place.
In my case I could have also disconnected and secured the comp units once I removed the pedals but that would have been more work on my lazy ass part. Each time I removed the pedals, I was already keeping track of the extra washers that would come free that needed to be put between the comp unit and crank arm to get the desired flush fit between the two.
I also wasn’t thrilled to have to line up the comp units reasonably parallel with the crank arm each time I reinstalled the pedals and then pedal the bike a bit for the pedals to tighten and the comp units to settle in.
It didn’t bother me, but for all the concerns about the damage I read from cyclists when Garmin first introduced their Vectors with the piece that hangs down below the pedal spindle, I’d expect there are or will be some people who are concerned about the PowerBeat sensor wires getting caught by something while out riding. Watteam does offer a cover of sorts they suggest mountain bikers use and that roadies certainly could if you have this concern.
As for the electronics, aside from whatever fatal issue my PowerBeats had, I found the Bluetooth signal weak both in communicating with the app even to get recognized and then, once connected, to maintain the connection to read the power output signal. When I started riding off the trainer, I resorted to ANT+ for communication to either my Garmin or Wahoo head units, which I alternately used for reading my power output.
For the time I put into installing, testing and fixing the PowerBeat and especially for the promise of what it offers and at its price, I wanted the evaluation to succeed and to be able to recommend it to you. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me and I can’t recommend you buy one.
It’s a shame but not unusual for newer model power meters.