Big news has been coming out of Quarq fast and furious these days. Since their 2006 invention in Jim Meyers apartment in Australia, they found their way to market in 2008, into the ProTour with Cervelo in 2009 and were acquired by SRAM in 2011. Now they have created the first power meter specifically designed with a home in a top level group set, new SRAM Red.
The meter is not simply a re-badged Qinco, the unit used in SRAM’s other Quarq metered cranks, the S975 road cranks or S2275 MTB cranks.This is next generation stuff and was aimed squarely at targets Quarq established after years of seeing their meters function in the real world.
• The CR2450 coin battery is powerful and long lived, but a bit large and can interfere with TT chain rings.
• If the power numbers stop, there is no way to tell if the problem is the head unit, the battery or the transmission of data.
• Changing chain rings affects the units accuracy requiring recalibration.
• BB clearance is tight on many of today’s new carbon frame.
• The less integrated a power system is, the more opportunity for things to go wrong, from production to installation, from regular use to an accident.
When Quarq began building the SRAM Red power meter, they wanted to address each and everyone of these concerns. With the accuracy and reliability Quarq is already know for, the resulting meter would be a sight to behold, and it is.
They went to a smaller battery, the CR2032, which is the same battery in your heart rate monitor and speed sensor. Much smaller, it no longer impinges on the space of the chainring, allowing any TT ring to be run. The smaller, lighter battery has much less capacity. To get 300 hours of life, more than 6 months of riding for heavy mileage, Quarq had to rewrite every line of code to gain the efficiency required to get this life-span out of such a small battery. It is still user replaceable in about 60 seconds.
The new meter can now tell you it is functioning properly with the addition of a simple LED. Wake the sensor up by rotating the crank and a fittingly red light will blink letting you know the meter has booted up and is transmitting. They also put the ANT+ ID right on the outside of the crank allowing you to easily pair to your chosen ANT+ head unit.
OmniCal, that’s what Quarq calls the technology that allows you to change chain rings with out having to recalibrate the meter. Instead of a difference of 7-10 percent in power readings, they have dropped that to 1 percent.
BB clearance has been improved drastically, opening up compatibility with the maximum number of frames and making placing the magnet on the frame easier and ensuring a dropped chain will cause no damage. Of course with the new RED chain catcher this shouldn’t be an issue. The electronics of the system have also been totally integrated, existing deep inthe spider, hidden under dual aluminum plates, giving it weather and crash reliability.
As impressive as these new features are, perhaps most interesting is the new power balance feature. With pedal based power systems hitting the market measuring each leg individually, we all have a new number to obsess over, power balance. Quarq found a way to do it using only drive-side based, crank power metering. By splitting the drive side power in two, down the middle of the pedal stroke, they have achieved individual pedal stroke measurement. Noon to six is attributed to the right leg, and the 6 to noon is given to the left leg. Under typical training it gives you accurate right/leftpower balance. If you pedal with one leg exclusively, it will still give you 50% power balance, but barring this specific type of training, they achieve the same result as pedal based systems.
Measuring pedal balance is available in the Garmin 800 and should be updated on the 500 in the coming weeks. The Quarq Red power meter will be available in April in both standard and compact diameters and a unit will cost $1995. If you plan to ride new RED and want to take advantage of the new YAW technology at the front derailleur the only power meter that will let you do that is the new Quarq RED.