The Garmin Vector 3 pedals have undergone a dramatic change since Vector 2 – the comms pods have gone, and in has come to Bluetooth, making this these pedals the first Bluetooth SENSORS from Garmin. So looks stylish, and good on paper, but should consider them fro Zwift? – Start the Zwift Gear Test!
Garmin Vector 3 Power Meter Pedal Review – Zwift Gear Test
The Garmin Vector line has been a slow evolution. While it is probably a little unfair to describe the first two iterations of Garmin’s power meter pedal system as clunky, the transmission pods hanging off the bottom of both the 1st and 2nd generation units proved weak spots for the pedal line. The presence of the pods also quickly dated the Garmin offerings compared to all in one competitors such as the Favero Assioma and the PowerTap P1’sBut probably the most significant change to the Garmin Vectors is that the whole unit is now made in-house by Garmin, allowing the ditching of the power pods and an entire pedal redesign. Now taking the whole unit in-house you would have thought Garmin would consider selling a Shimano cleat version as well, but they have instead continued to opt for the Look cleats which have been present across the entire Vector range.With the Vector 2, Garmin released a conversion kit to allow you to swap the cartridges of the pedals into Shimano pedals. While something like that is not available as yet for the Garmin Vector 3, I honestly don’t mind using the Look Keo cleats. But I appreciate that some people have very strong views on this, as they understandably prefer to have the same cleat system on all of their bikes.
The other headline-grabbing point about the Garmin Vector 3’s is that this is the first sensor shipped by Garmin which supports broadcast over Bluetooth! SO with that bombshell, let’s get on with the test!
Garmin Vector 3 – Design
From the exterior, the Garmin Vector 3 is a very smooth looking pedal. There is a considerable bulge to the rear of the pedal, where we can see the Bluetooth and ANT+ logos. However the actual design of the Garmin Vector 3 is very clever, due to the lack of angles, it looks a much slicker unit compared to the very industrial appearance of the PowerTap P1 and the slimmer Favero AssiomaOk, so we know there are pedals in the box, but what else lurks inside from Garmin?.
The box is actually quite a disappointment compared to the Vector 2 box, which made it look like you were openly something rarified. Here Garmin has just put the pedals in a box. Which really shouldn’t matter… but it does in some superficial way!In the box, we’ve Look Keo compatible cleats, cleat fittings metalwork, manual, yellow rubber seals for changing the battery, and finally the actually Garmin pedals.
Now the power pods have gone, I really think that the Garmin Vector 3 looks a very sleek pedal and that is reflected in the slight shaving of weight dropping 17grams from the Vector 2 down to 162g per pedalIt’s only a small design tweak, but given the sleek nature of the pedal, Garmin has increased the size of the Garmin logo which points skywards when the bike is at rest, so that people cant miss what you are packing on your steedAs Garmin has removed the pods, it also means that the ends of the pedals are now sealed. Although if you have Vector 3s, single-sided power, one pedal will merely have flat a metal end without a need for a capWith the removal of the pods from the Vector 2, this reduced further potential for water ingressOne thing that the eagle eyes reader might have noticed is that lack of a USB charge cable, or comments of charging point, as the Garmin Vector has LR44 batteries hidden underneath a machined screw capA couple of twists with an allen key and you are able to remove the end with your fingers very easilyEach pedal is powered by two LR44 batteries which are installed into the cap. At the bottom of the cap, you can see the yellow rubber seal, which Garmin includes two spares for.The ability to swap batteries does make things easier for out on the road but is does also mean that you cant “just give things a quick top up” the night before a big ride. The addition of Bluetooth has meant a slight reduction in ride time, with the batteries needing to be replaced at 120hours rather than the 150 we saw in the last generation.
If the status lights on the Favero ASSIOMA being on the inside of the pedal were annoying. Things are just even more annoying on the Garmin Vector 3, with the end cap, actually having the LED status light shine through them. But they are not really in the best angle to be seen!From the Garmin Connect app, you can review at any point what the different lights meanThe Garmin Vector 3 have waterproof seals on the spindle to protect the internals, which are now rated at IPx 7As mentioned the Garmin Vector 3 has now shifted to dual channel comms, which is a huge bonus. Meaning that the power meter can be used with cycling head units such as the Bluetooth only Polar M460But more importantly for Zwifters means that the Garmin Vector 3 can be used right out of the box with Zwift on iPad, iPhone or Apple TV. No more shunning of the Vectors as ANT+ only, or needing to rely on ANT+ bridges such as the 4iiii HRM now
Garmin Vector 3 – Specification
- Battery: LR44 2x ~120 hours
- Total Weight: 169 grammes.
- Communications: ANT+, and Bluetooth Smart
- Minimum – Maximum Power: 0-2000 Watts
- Power Measurement accuracy: 1% – an improvement from the previous Vectors
- Water resistance: IPx7
- Maximum weight of the cyclist: 105kg up from 90Kg
- Warranty: 2 years
- Compatible cleats: Look, Keo
- Data: Power, cadence, L/R Balance, Garmin Cycling Dynamics
Garmin Vector 3 – Manual
OK first things first, the Garmin Vector 3 pedals need to be installed… and frankly that couldn’t be easier. There is no difficulty here compared to installing any other type of regular pedal. Apply pedal wrench, tighten, look smug. DoneI think that this is probably going to be one of the major advantage and attractor for people in the market for a pedal based power meter. A major draw of pedal power meters is the relative ease of swapping the system between bikes, certainly compared to crank mounted systems. Previously the Vector 2 has been a mild irritant, but now all three of the major pedal systems, are as easy as pie to install. In which case people are going to look other aspects of the systems to inform their purchases
Once the pedals are bolted on, you need to install the Garmin Connect app. Now previously I’ve had no major love for the Garmin Connect app (iOS download, Google Play download) – which was a good thing, as previously you could entirely cut Garmin Connect out of the loop, and do the setup and firmware updates from a Garmin Edge
However the latest iteration of Garmin Connect is much slicker – and it is not worthwhile keeping installed to unify your training efforts rather than just to update the firmware. Without a doubt, the new Garmin Connect is much better at actually allowing you to easily view and track your performance over timeWith Garmin Connect installed, you can follow the onscreen process to connect your pedals to your phoneFrom there you are also able to install any firmware updates as may be needed by the Vectors. The Bluetooth sensor broadcast now also means that you can use cycling apps on the phone to record your ride too finally, which is also now getting a wider release from Garmin to other apps
Now whether there is a lot of training benefit to knowing things such as remembering your standing time, and seated time is still debated, I’m pretty sure that the platform off centre remains only of use for bike fitters. Regardless of the fact I only think the power phase has value, you do get richer, if not actually better, data set from Garmin’s cycling dynamics Once everything is updated, you need to set the crank lengths, after that calibrate and you are good to start riding! In Zwift, you see the Garmin Vector 3 broadcasting both the BLE and ANT+ protocol – so it looks like you are ready for a spin. For the first test, given the novelty, I ran Zwift using the Vectors Bluetooth streamI do all of the Zwift Gear Tests using Jon’s Mix, giving me an excellent, stable, repeatable test, which over time has built up a series of graphs that readers can use to compare different power meters and trainersFor an accurate power meter test, you need to be taking the recordings from at least three different units, so here I’m using the Tacx Neo and the PowerTap C1 chainring for comparison. So everything calibrated and off we go!
Garmin Vector 3 Power Graphs
So how did the Garmin Vector 3 fare on Jon’s Mix? Well, the initial ride wasn’t as good as I was expecting. As you can see here the Vectors, 3’s seem to be reading a little high across the ride. Particularly on the steady state sections of the workout.So crank lengths double checked, ensured that everything was properly zeroed and then recalibrated, and run again once more using Bluetooth, now the differences are less, but the Vector 3 is still not aligning perfectly
The Garmin Vector 3 appears to trace fractionally higher, but when you zoom into a 5 min segment of the graph, you can see that everything is bouncing along, but that the Garmin Vectors can be seem to to now loose out fractionally – at the worst up to 23watts down in the end sprint.
Based on this, I swapped channels to ANT+ recording, and had another look at the data. Again, the overview graph is reasonableBut when you zoom in, you can see that the Garmin Vectors have a much closer alignment with the PowerTap C1 – sufficently that for most of the ride, the look like one trace. This makes sense, as the two units are both closer to the riderYes, from a Zwift racing perspective, I’d have no issues turning up on the start line running the Garmin Vector 3 – although I’d still probably opt for running ANT+ broadcast for the most accurate results.
Garmin Vector 3 Review – Conclusion
I was a bit lukewarm on the original Garmin Vector pedals. They were very expensive and had some bad stories about the metal pods. Things improved further with the Vector2. One issue that came about with the original Vectors was water getting inside the units, which is one reason that Favero opted for sealed battery units.
Some people are very fond of the PowerTap P1 pedals and the Garmin Vectors for the ability to swap batteries mid-ride, and I can see that trend continuing with the Vector 3’s. The refinement of the nature of the battery housing seen in this version, along with the sealed Vector 3 internals should reduce any moisture related issues.
That said in the Zwift world, you are dead in the water if your power meter dies! Regrettably battery life is one of the few areas where the new Garmin Vector 3 is worse than the unit being replaced, with two batteries needed for each pedal, and now a reduced 120-hour life, as supposed to the larger 150 from the Vector 2 coin cells. Thankfully,
Choosing a pedal based power meter system can be a significant choice, especially if you are like me, and wedded to a particular type of pedals (you can take my Speedplays from my cold, dead corpse!). However, if you are happy with the Look Keo pedals, then the new Garmin Vector 3 should certainly be a power meter on your consideration list.
The price is at the higher end of the power meter pedal bracket, now that PowerTap has reduced the price of the P1. However, this is reasonably reflected in the power accuracies. Garmin has the advantage with 1% accuracy vs 2% for the Assioma and 1.5% for the PowerTap P1
Ultimately there are four areas which differ between the three rival pedals – Price, accuracy, pedal style and nature of battery. Based on price, accuracy, and ease of install I’m going to award 4/5 TG stars, and a highly recommended too (assuming you are happy with Look pedals) – the question to the consumer is which of those four points is the most important to you. Personally, I’d say that no pedal wins on all four areas. But it has to be said the Garmin Vector 3 is a very solid set of pedalsThis review has been made possible by a loaner device from CyclingPowermeters.com – who have kindly offered TitaniumGeek readers a 10% discount, through the link below – or on the sidebar!
So we’ve done the Assioma Pedals, now the Garmin Vector 3 – next for the roundup has to be the PowerTap P1’s – especially as they have recently undergone a price cut!