Power is a metric that is seen almost as a holy grail by many cyclists; it’s a proven training tool that is the gold standard for developing data driven training routines. The FSA PowerBox is a crank based power meter of the well regarded Power2Max lineage. The PowerBox comes in a couple of road versions (and MTB too), one with alloy crank arms and the other with carbon crank arms. Apart from the weight difference they’re ostensibly the same. The same spider and chain rings, and the same BB386EVO compatibility.
The alloy versions carrying a lighter price tag to offset the extra weight. I was blessed with the carbon version to test and it tipped the ‘Bicycling Australia’ kitchen scales at a respectable 751g (for reference the Dura-Ace 9000 crank that came off the bike was 634g), so just under 120g for a power meter! The anodized alloy axle and carbon looked great especially in the sun where the carbon layup was highlighted.
To fit the crank is a fairly simple process, and Dan and Glen at Rainbow Cycles in Coffs Harbour had the job done in a jiffy, thanks fellas! To fit the Felt’s BB30 bottom bracket, FSA supplied a couple of spacers to accommodate the wider BB386EVO set up of the crank. Pairing the power meter was close to instant with my well used Garmin 510, (thank heavens it broadcasts in ANT+!) The PowerBox has a built-in cadence sensor and that too was instantly detected. FSA do all the fiddly stuff for you…there’s no riding and then resetting the unit, or worrying about changes in temperature. It really is a swing the leg over and ride affair.
The numbers start rolling in as you ride and one soon realizes that ‘ordinary’ is a pretty fair description of what is going on with the engine! None the less it’s intriguing to see just how much (or little) power is being laid down as you ride along, and as you develop a feel for what your body can do, that little power number on the screen starts to inform you when your reaching the limit…or when you’re riding within yourself.
Being a crank based system, a true power reading from both legs is measured, the ability to do a firmware upgrade and unlock the mysteries of left/right leg power and other peddling metrics is coming… scheduled for early 2018. I had one or two data drop outs, but nothing I haven’t had with other sensors.
However to eliminate simple problems first, a ‘2450’ battery cost me $4.50 to replace, and resolved the issue. Changing the battery is absurdly easy, the rubber cap pulls off and it’s ‘out with the old and in with the new’ a 30 second job if that! I found the shifting wasn’t quite as good as the original Dura-Ace crank, but this may have been more to do with compatibility of new chainrings and a worn in (but not worn out) chain.
So is power for an ordinary rider? I got used to it very quickly and found that if you are covering reasonable distances it’s a great tool to keep the engine revving at a sustainable rate. If you’re training properly I can see how it would be invaluable. The PowerBox really hits home-runs when it comes to value. Its considerably cheaper than any other crank based system I’ve seen and, in the alloy version comes pretty close to left side only crank systems. So in a way, FSA is bringing power to the ordinary cyclist and the elite rider alike.