Garmin Vector arriving in March

Garmin announced today the fruition of a project ardently anticipated by Slowtwitchers. The culmination of Garmin's acquisition, a year ago, of MetriGear has born fruit in the form of a pedal-based power meter called Garmin Vector.

The Vector was MetriGear's product prior to its sale to Garmin. Clark Foy, MetiGear's CEO, stayed with the project and has been its husbander since his company's acquisition by Garmin. (Pics and videos of the Vector are available on the Garmin blog.)

The Vector is a pedal-based power measuring system, similar in concept to the Keo Power Pedal joint project between Look Cycle and Polar Electro.

There are sensors inside the Garmin Vector pedal that measure power transferred to the pedal axle. The left pedal sends a signal to the right, which transmits all data to the head unit. Any Ant+ head unit, including Garmin's Edge 500 and 800, will pick up the signal and display power.

The system will sell for $1500, on par with Quarq's power measuring system. The Quarq company, and its crank-based power measuring system, was acquired by SRAM in May, 2011.

The Garmin Vector announcement—timed to coincide with the upcoming trade shows in Europe and Las Vegas—does not mean the product is ready to ship. Garmin's target date for in-store availability is March, 2012.

This creates a sprint to market for both Garmin and Polar. Each has a pedal-based power measuring system, both have been announced, but neither has shipped.

While Garmin has been stellar in its brand performance, the Vector is afield of its traditional niche. The Vector is less GPS, less microelectronic, and more bike component, than anything Garmin has yet made (though there certainly are electronics in the pedal).

Further, while you get an actual Look Keo pedal with Polar's system, you get a Keo-compatible pedal with the Vector. Garmin chose Exustar as its pedal vendor for this project and, while the Taiwanese cycling shoe and pedal maker has no marks against it, 68 percent of Slowtwitchers prefer either a Look or a Speedplay pedal on their bikes. Another 22 percent choose Shimano. Time Iclic rates 5 percent and all the others—Exustar included—total 6 percent.

Accordingly, Garmin has two sales to make: that of its power meter, and of its carbon fiber, Keo-compatible, Exustar-made pedal.

We have yet more questions. Does the term "factory calibrated" mean that no other calibration is necessary or available? And, what about the placement of one or two 1mm spacers to achieve a wider Q (for those who desire it)? Will this impact the accuracy of the unit? (Our technical gurus say no, that the strain elements—piezo devices—are calibrated against the deflection of the pedal spindle from the spindle flange out.)

For all that, a power meter system that is easily moved from bike to bike is of great interest to triathletes. Further, and speaking of polls, Garmin is by an obscene margin the leading GPS brand among Slowtwitchers, who not only overwhelmingly have a GPS on their bike, 7 out of 10 are sufficiently GPS-enamored to wear a GPS during their runs as well.