(Pocket-lint) - Cycling is an easy and rewarding activity to get into. With a little effort and a fairly rudimentary bike it is possible for anyone to get rolling and start clocking up the miles. Most of us learn to ride a bike as a child and carry on cycling, whether it be just to get around, to commute or for leisure.
But for some, the cycling bug bites harder and competitiveness begins to rear its head. If you just want to travel a bit further or faster then there are basic training plans that you can follow to do this without much further outlay. But if you're serious about shaving seconds off of personal bests or improving your race results then you're going to need technology to help you.
There are two main ways to go faster on the bike: reduce wind resistance through aerodynamic bikes, wheels, helmets and clothing, or increase the power that you are pushing through your pedals.
Enter Wahoo with their first foray into the power meter market, the Powrlink Zero. Wahoo bought Speedplay - who design and manufacture a type of clipless pedal - in 2019 and immediately fans of both brands questioned when a power meter would be released. Two and a half years later they've finally come to market. The question is, how do they fair against the competition?
Wahoo's entrance into the pedal-based power meter market with the Powrlink Zero has been long awaited and the result is an excellent product that will delight Speedplay pedal users who want a power version. Its accuracy, reliability and durability are all excellent, and Wahoo's simple presentation of data keeps the focus on your performance.
Users of other pedal types will need to be aware that when they are changing over to Speedplay pedals they may have a few teething problems, and that the Speedplay cleats mean that, just as Wahoo says in its marketing, the Powrlink Zeros really are best kept for road use only.
There is no denying that they are expensive and although they do come in cheaper than Garmin's Rally pedals, they don't offer the flexibility of being able to change between pedal types, or to take them off road.
Wahoo Powrlink Zero
- Accurate to within +/-1%
- Rechargeable battery
- Reliable connectivity
- Simple set up through the Wahoo app
- Easy to swap between bikes
- Only available in the Speedplay design
- Cleat setup can be fiddly
- They're undeniably expensive
What's in the box?
- Weight: 276g (plus 156g for the cleats)
- Cleat type: Speedplay
- Waterproof rating: IPX7
- Adjustable float and release tension
Wahoo's Powrlink Zero pedals come with a pair of Speedplay cleats and a USB to USB-C cable. Let's deal with the easy parts first: the pedals themselves are based on the excellent Speedplay Zeros. They are simple to fit, ideally using a torque meter, but that's not essential.
The USB charging cable (which comes minus a plug) splits into a two-ended USB-C cable. These attach to the clip-on charging cradle, which you snap onto the pedal pod - easy peasy.
Now comes the challenging part for people who aren't used to using Speedplay pedals, which includes us. If you have 4-bolt cycling shoes specifically for using with Speedplay pedals then the task of setting these up will be significantly easier, but if you have the more common 3-bolt shoes then you will need to use the included plastic shims to level the bottom of the shoe, a base plate to convert it to a 4 bolt fitting, the cleat fixing itself, and then a cover so you can walk on the cleat.
Fortunately, Wahoo provides a helpful video to guide you through the process, but it is still a little fiddly to get it all set up correctly. What started as a quick 10-minute installation turned into a 45-minute exercise with the need for a few minor adjustments and tests to get everything going.
It was enough to shift our mood from excited to mildly frustrated, so it's worth setting aside some time to get the set-up right if you're not used to Speedplay pedals and remember you might not be up and riding as quickly as you would be with other pedals.
The Speedplay pedals
While we're not strictly reviewing the Speedplay pedal system itself, we can't really review Wahoo's power meter without at least touching on it. We found that we needed to learn and refine the technique to clip in to them, which involved locating the pedal in the cleat and then pressing down hard with a slight rotation - it becomes second nature once you know it, but can be a little tricky to master at first.
Clipping out, reassuringly, is a far more predictable and easy affair, a simple turn of the foot releases the mechanism. We really liked the Speedplay pedal system once we had got used to it.
The connection between the pedal and cleat felt solid during all-out efforts and we liked that the float (adjustable from 0-15 degrees) allowed a certain amount of natural movement, as Speedplay pedals do not automatically re-centre like most other systems do.
When cornering aggressively there was plenty of clearance and we were never worried about clipping a pedal, which is always a concern with other designs. There is, however, one problem that the Speedplay pedals suffer from: dirt is like kryptonite to them.
Wahoo specifically say that these are for road bike use only, and with good reason. Despite the pedals being very robust on test and us having few doubts that they could stand up to pretty much anything thrown at them, the same can't be said for the cleat system. Put your foot down in the mud, as we did on one occasion, and you'll find yourself cleaning the cleat out at the side of the road before you can clip back in.
- Communication: ANT+ & Bluetooth
- Battery type: Rechargeable
- Battery life: 75 hours
- Accuracy: +/- 1.0%
We tested the Speedplay Powrlink Zero with the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt bike computer, the Rival watch and a Garmin watch. All connected seamlessly and provided clear power readings, allowing us to undertake training sessions riding to power, hold steady power during Time Trials, and measure our efforts in a race.
We also found that they read and broadcast our cadence flawlessly. When we hooked our bike up to Wahoo's Kickr trainer we found that the power measurements tracked each other with remarkable consistency, indicating that their accuracy is as good as their claimed +/-1%.
Post ride, Wahoo's app presents and interprets your power data in a number of helpful ways. For the dual-sided Powrlink pedals, on test here, Wahoo report on the balance of power from each side. If you are perfectly balanced then a 50:50 split is reported; identifying any potential imbalances then allows you to make adjustments that should increase your overall power, or in some circumstances, reduce the risk of injury.
Beyond this, the Wahoo app will calculate the Training Stress Score, Intensity Factor, Normalised Power and Variability Index for your ride, allowing you to better understand the impact of individual and cumulative training sessions on you.
They also provide a power curve, showing the maximum length of time that you spent at a given power output and information on the amount of time you spent in each power zone, based on your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). What you won't find is the detailed power analytics that Garmin produces for its dual-sided Vector 3 and Rally pedals.
There are two schools of thought here: from Garmin's perspective they are able to make this data available to users so that they can use it as they choose, and Wahoo's view, which is that the data holds no meaningful value and so they don't invest in presenting it. Everyone will have their own opinion on this, but when testing the Powrlink Zero we did not feel the need to go searching for more data than Wahoo supplied, or feel that we would miss this going forward.
Wahoo has hit the ground running with its first pedal-based power meter. Setting aside the fact that they are Speedplay pedals, meaning many people will need to change from their current pedal setup to these, the Powrlink Zero is an accomplished performer, providing accurate readings, reliable connectivity and durability.
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