(The Gear Loop) - Power pedals and power meters have been doing the rounds (excuse the pun) in cycling circles for some time now and anyone flirting with the idea of professional riding will have been subjected to power output tests at some point.
The fact of the matter is, a rider’s FTP (functional threshold power) is a calculation of his or her power output over a typical 20-minute test period. The resulting average number is then used as a benchmark to improve upon with a bespoke training plan.
Sound complex? Well, it is, and most casual riders won’t have to every worry about it. But those looking to compete, or simply wanting to become a better, faster, stonger cyclist will require an FTP figure to work with. FYI, Bradley Wiggins reportedly managed an average of 440 watts in 2015, which is just insane.
A power meter is essential in obtaining said figure, but Garmin’s clever pedals offer even more data to pore over, including a look at a cyclist’s power phase, left/right leg balance and platform centre offset. All of these things, when tweaked, can result in massive improvements when competing… or when trying to keep up with the pack.
Up until this point, gravel riders or those who prefer to venture off the beaten path, have been underserved when it comes to power pedal options. Not anymore…
There isn’t much competition out there when it comes to power pedals for off-road use, with only SRM's X-Power units really offering something similar to what Garmin does here.
With that in mind, it’s a fantastic piece of kit but also one that’s fantastically expensive. Opt for the dual-sided XC200s (as tested here) and you’re looking at shelling out over a grand, which is eye-watering for any rider.
It is possible to buy single-sided versions, where power is only read on one side, but the breadth of data on offer isn’t as impressive nor as detailed and accurate.
That said, it’s a beautifully made product and one that’s super easy to set up, incredibly reliable and versatile considering the spindles can be removed and inserted into a number of different pedal types. It negates the need to stick with just one cleat type.
With that in mind, these pedals adopt a fairly special position as market leaders and if you’re in that market for insane amounts of off-road riding data, they’re great.
Garmin Rally XC200 Power Pedals
- Long battery life
- Easy to install
- Phenomenal amount of data collected
- Very expensive
- Relatively heavy
- Not suitable for extreme riding
In the Loop
Garmin Rally XC200 Power Pedals in a nutshell:
- Robust design for off-road riding
- Up to 120 hour battery life
- Transferable spindle for various pedal bodies
- Easy to install
- Compatible with most Garmin devices and more
- Massive amount of data delivered
- Garmin’s Connect app makes it easy to digest stats
Attaching these things to a bike couldn’t really be simpler, as it’s just a case of getting the correct spanner (or wrench, for our American readers) and tightening them like any other pedal.
Unfortunately, there’s no option to approach with an Allen Key or hex key from the other side, as this area is capped off to house the batteries.
Once installed, it’s a case of firing up a bike computer or the Garmin Connect app on a smartphone and pairing the power pedals. They feature both ANT+ and Bluetooth technology, so they’re easily found by a number of cycling devices after a quick spin.
These pedals are dual-sided, so it’s possible to clip in easily wherever the pedal might be orientated, but this does mean that the release tension has to be adjusted on both sides. We found that they are tricky to clip in and out of straight out of the box, but the release tension naturally eases off after a few riding sessions.
One tough cookie
Weighing 444g, the Garmin Rally XC200 aren’t exactly lightweight but this is reassuring in terms of the robust build quality and ability to use them in most environments.
Garmin states that they are for light gravel and trail riding, but we subjected them to muddy dunkings, small drop-offs and the occasional accidental bounce off a rock or two and they are still relatively unscathed.
As previously mentioned, the off-road riding community has been underserved in terms of dual-sided power meters, but Garmin remedies that here. Although you will have to fork out the big bucks to get both cranks firing.
Granted, they have limitations when it comes to really extreme riding, but they can certainly take more punishment than Garmin lets on.
A deluge of data
Pair a few sensors to a Garmin bike computer (heart rate monitor etc) and the amount of data delivered is borderline overwhelming. Almost unending reams of colourful graphs, blobs and numbers determine everything from average heart rate to pulse ox data, max cadence and so much more.
The Rally XC200 pedals only add to this platter of information with a bucketload of fresh data concerning things like cadence, power, left/right balance and even seated vs standing analysis.
Why go into such depth? We initially thought the same, but after a few rides with the pedals in place, we quickly realised our left/right leg power balance was out by a couple of per cent and power wasn’t being precisely applied to the left cleat.
Shock! Horror! It’s not the end of the world, but slight improvements to these over future rides can mean faster lap times and more efficient riding without the risk of repetitive motion injuries. Oh, and before you message us about our poor power output, these screen grabs were taken after riding an eBike. That's our excuse anyway.
However, the most common data that cyclists want on their bike computer is that coveted FTP number, as it allows more experienced riders to pace themselves properly during competition, avoid "blowing up" on final climbs and generally informing racing tactics.
And for the rest of us, it’s nice to post that 800W maximum output figure on the Strava profile, isn’t it?
Garmin’s new Rally series covers off all of the most popular cleat types, with Shimano’s road-biased SPD-L, Look’s Keo and Shimano’s off-road SPD all available to purchase. But cleverly, Garmin allows buyers to transfer the main spindle to other pedal types, making that initial outlay slightly easier to swallow. The power, cadence and other pedal information provided is undoubtedly impressive, they’re easy to live with and perform well, but we feel only very serious cyclists will get the most from them.