Home > bicycling, Fit Kit > Power on the cheap–Cycleops PowerCal HR Monitor

Power on the cheap–Cycleops PowerCal HR Monitor

IMG_0398[1]So if you follow my blog you will know that I am a bit of cheap skate, or at least I won’t pay for something just because it’s more expensive but doesn’t seem to actually provide much more. In those cases I will bypass it.  I like to reach what I call maximum low cost performance. At a certain point the extra $$ doesn’t really provide much.

This is sometimes hard to determine but often there is enough known about certain options that upgrading is seen basically as a case of since I can afford it versus I need to afford it to be successful.

So 105 is fine by me, aluminum wheels from China..check.   Cervelo P2…yep.

I applied the same rule to approaching the new world of Power training.

Power is something that didn’t exist back in the day. You had your average speed at best and if you won. Now you can train very much against yourself and track info to minute details. Power is part of that equation.

Traditional methods to track power all had downsides to me. Mostly they were too expensive. Secondly they were very much tied to your bike, or at best to a wheel. You had crank based and hub based systems and soon pedals (so you just have to change your pedals, who doesn’t want to do that?)

I have 4 bikes that I use on a regular basis during my training. So how do I move a $1500 pedal or $2500 wheel or crank from one bike to another. That would frustrate me. What if I just bought something for $99 that gives me power and I can use on any bike, any time.

Enter the CycleOps Powercal HR band. For $99 you get HR and Power.

Certainly as I mentioned this to a number of the guys on my weekly group ride (most of whom had power meters somewhere on their bike) there was BIG skepticism, almost like cold fusion and exciting cricket. Everyone’s BS meter was spiked to high. But for $99 why not try it out?

And it works, at least for me it will provide the valuable power info that I can use to determine if I am pushing hard and if I am improving.

Don’t believe me? A number of people put it up against their more expensive meters. The bottom two links here take you to a lot of stats. Simply put it works…

DCRainmaker “in my testing, I found it surprisingly accurate in average, less so in instant peak/maxes on sprints.  But overall, pretty darn close.”

Team R “These numbers are incredibly close considering the cost difference between PowerCal ($99)and PowerTap G3 ($1300).”

BikeHabit “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. That’s not too bad is it?

Initial Use

edge500antpowerCould not be easier. If you know how to use an HR strap you know how to use this. The only weird bit is that the two “electrodes” on either side of the central unit have to be a bit wet before you start. I found that if you didn’t do this it tended not to work?

Once on your bike you need to pair it with your ANT+ device. I use an Edge 500 so it was a simple case of going into Settings, then Bike Settings, select your profile then Ant + Power. Then enable. You don’t need to calibrate and I haven’t so just ride!!

Once you are on the bike you need to have a power specific view. On the edge 500 you can have 5 pages so I created one just for the power settings.

I did not use instant power and the PowerCal seems better for averages and that worked out for me. It was interesting to see the 30s average go up and down with my efforts.

Crappy shot I know but this is how it works on the bike. Depends what metrics you put up but I had 30s average, max power and average power up.



Here are my first runs with it. I knew how I felt on each of these so that gave me a sense of if it was actually reflecting that.

Medium Lunch Ride. Have an hour and tend to push hard but not severe.


TSS (Training  Stress Score) is an interesting value that I have never seen before but it tends to indicate how hard your training session went. Get lots more detail here (YAWN…) if you want a deep dive but it seems to roll up to the following (some charts are a bit different but not by much)

Up to 150 is a low intensity training session, 150-300 is medium, 300-450 is high and over 450 is gut busting.

It takes a day to recover from low, 1-2 days from medium, 2-3 days from high and who knows when you will recover from 450+!

Tougher Morning Ride, around the same difference. Pushed myself a bit more. And saw a higher TSS.


Mountain Bike ride (how easy is it to change your power meter to your MTB?)


You get the idea.

I would ignore max power, I do get a sense that it spikes, but averages seem to be bang on.

I would give it a try before I buy anything else if you are looking at adding power. At worst you pay for an overpriced HR band, at best you save $1000 or more on a device that would give you the same data more or less and is less adaptable.

What did I do with the extra money I saved? I bought a Diamondback Podium road bike for winter training. I’ll take that!

Categories: bicycling, Fit Kit

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