Just for the roadies?

As Stages announce more power meter models for Shimano XT and XTR cranks, we return to the question: are they worth using on mountain bikes?

>>> How to harness the power of gadgets to turbo boost your performance on the trails

Power meter manufacturer Stages has recently revealed Shimano XT and XTR models. Available in single-sided or dual-sided versions the price ranges from £349 up to £1,099.

Stages: “These new models maintain our focus on innovation, accuracy, and reliability, drawing on our years of experience providing power to top MTB and adventure riders like 2020 Olympic hopeful Erin Huck the legendary Geoff Kabush. And with our Factory Install Programme in the US, riders can also choose to send their own XT, XTR, and GRX cranks in to add power to their rides right now.”

Which brings us back to a letter we received a couple of years ago…

Dear Auntie mbr,

I’ve been getting along fine for years with my sweet little heart rate monitor and bike computer, but now I’m having my doubts. I’ve heard whispers that I’m not being told everything I should know about my, erm, performance.

What’s more, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better — I’m not improving and, to be honest, I’m not getting any younger. My gadgets and I have had some lovely times together, but I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something that could be more fulfilling?

Yours anxiously, Wayne

Dear Wayne,

You are not alone. I’ve heard from many readers who are looking for a little bit extra from their relationship with their bike at this time of year and I tell them to look to their idols — Jared Graves, Danny Hart and Jerome Clementz, to name but three.

They’ve been geeking up their rides with some gadgetry you may have seen on road bikes — namely power meters.

Jerome Clementz shares his special stage tips

Jerome Clementz is a power meter convert (Wragg)

They do exactly what the name suggests; recording the power you put through your transmission system, to help you train. They can fit seamlessly into many places — the soles of your shoes, cleats, pedals, cranks, chainrings, chain, rear derailleur or rear hub. But the big question has always been — are they worth it off-road? Can they deal with a bit of rough and still be accurate?

Well, Wayne, four scientists from the University of Central Lancashire, who understand exactly your kind of dilemma, have done some research that shows they can’t be trusted: power meters tend to be less than impressed with your average output, telling you it was eight per cent lower than it really was when off-road. It then rubs salt in the wound by underestimating your peak power by six per cent.

In the real world, EWS rider Jared Graves has an explanation for this: rough trails wear you out and demand lots of work, but not necessarily from your legs.

This makes it seem like you’re just dawdling even when you’re blowing through your ears. And on race day, fatigue and altitude can make the readings even less useful.

So is there a future in the relationship between rider and power meter? Wayne, we reckon it can provide an extra frisson to enhance your pleasure and promote lasting happiness — if you choose wisely where to use it: training rides, smooth climbs and roadie sections.

Yours sincerely, Auntie mbr

*Agreement Between the Stages Cycling and SRM Powermeter Systems during Field-Based Off-Road Climbing by Howard T Hurst, Stephen Atkins, Jonathan Sinclair and John Metcalfe