I guess what Quarq said is, heck, if we’re going to completely reimagine the road crank, and the chain rings, if we’re moving to a direct mount motif, let’s take a free shot at an entire redesign of the power meter.
The new Quarq power meter is in the chain ring. Whoa! Didn’t PowerTap try that? We don’t remember that going so well! Also, chain rings are consumables. You’re putting a power meter in a consumable? Fair points all.
I spoke to Jim Meyer of Quarq and if I understood him right – mind, this is a little like translating Einstein – what really made this desirable was moving to a direct mount system. The 8-bolt crank-to-spider attachment system is purpose-designed for power meters. SRAM removed the 5 chainrings bolts on RED eTap AXS.
This new system is more solid, makes the chain rings again the place for the PM, and especially helps to reduce the variance when zeroing the PM. It’s also lighter.
The new RED crank has the power meter built into chain rings (though there is a PM-less RED crank available). But what about the fact that this is a consumable? Not so much anymore, says Quarq. “Years and years of high usage,” they say. As in, unlikely I’ll ever need to replace them, based on my own riding and bike owning habits (I usually move to a new bike every 5 to 7 years). The chain rings are made of Buckypaper. (Not really, but Google it anyway.)
[Read about the AXS ecosystem of components, and the AXS app]
These new Quarq PMs come in standard road rings as well as solid rings for the hyper-aero-minded among you. Mind, these PMs are part of the AXS family, so, they’re specifically for 12-speed bikes, and they come in the 3 available chain ring pairings (50/37; 48/35; 46/33), they’re to be used with the new 12-speed Flat Top chain; and the new 10t 1st position 12sp cassettes.
And the price went down: $800 for a brand new power meter, or $400 for a replacement if you send in your old one (which you probably won’t, because you won’t wear the ring out). But, look – and I’m portending again – I think this might be a clue to where SRAM is going, and maybe Shimano too. Elsewhere I mention that SRAM’s new RED RD has oversized, ceramic bearings. Not a lot of room there for Ceramic Speed to sell you something. I think component companies are going to try to ace out the aftermarket sellers by offering a value proposition that includes the aftermarket purchases you don’t have to make.
What I’m saying is, there are two luxuries that only rare money could buy that, in the near future, will be within reach of the mid-priced bike buyer without that buyer resorting to the aftermarket: electronic shifting; and power meters. They’ll be original equipment or, in a shift in buying habits I also predict – they’ll be irresistible OE options on an online configurator that allows you to determine the bike you want, such bike assembled on the continent on which you live. It would not surprise me if a $3,500 road bike has both these features standard within 6 or 7 years. You might complain that $3,500 is still a lot of money and, yes, it is. But, what would that bike cost you now, with a top-caliber power meter and electronic shifting?
I’m just guessing, but I think a part of SRAM’s calculus with this new PM is to make it – eventually – hard for anyone to say no to a Quarq PM on a bike sold new. That’s the case today, right now, for SRAM RED. And tomorrow, maybe Force, and from there we’ll see.