The Extended Wahoo POWRLINK Zero Pedal Review
Wahoo (and Speedplay) finally delve into the world of cycling power meters. Here's the in-depth review on why triathletes, specifically, should be excited.
In recent years, cycling power meters have become so ubiquitous that many high-end bikes, like the new Scott Plasma and much of the Canyon Speedmax line, offer power meters as standard off-the-rack equipment. We’ve got power meters on our crank arms that weigh less than 10 grams, we’ve got power meters on our crank spiders, and we’ve got them in our pedals. Why then would we be interested in yet one more option for a power meter when we have so many?
The answer is that up until now, in terms of pedal power meters—which many triathletes agree are the most versatile option for our needs—there has been nothing that works with Speedplay pedals. And while this might seem like not such a big deal, triathletes notoriously love Speedplay pedals because of the amount of float and adjustability that we require for our well-worked knees and joints.
Now, Speedplay-happy triathletes have a pedal power meter option.Section divider
Wahoo POWRLINK Zero Pedal Extended Review: The Basics
Though it’s been a very long time coming, much of what’s inside the guts of the POWRLINK Zero is not particularly groundbreaking, but it certainly meets the status quo. First, it comes in two flavors: single-sided ($650) and dual-sided ($1,000). Single-sided will give you power (and the things that spring forth from power, like normalized power, TSS, etc.) and cadence. Dual-sided will give you all of the above plus left-right balance and real side-specific power—rather than estimated power based on one leg and multiplied by two. Both have +/- 1% accuracy, both require calibration, both have 75 hours of rechargeable battery life (via a clip/USB), and both have Bluetooth and ANT+ for up to three connections (more on this below).
Fit-wise, the setup has 13mm of fore/aft and 6mm of left/right cleat adjustability (using the same cleats that work with regular Speedplay Zeros, by the way). It also has 13mm of stack height and a 55mm Q-Factor, which is not the same as the standard Zeros, but more on that below. Finally these weigh in at a fairly trim 276g for the dual- and 250g for the single-sided options. Of course, this is independent of cleat weight, which can vary, based on use of the cleat cover, etc.Section divider
Wahoo POWRLINK Zero Pedal Extended Review: What’s Notable
Again, it’s worth noting that a pedal-based power meter is nothing new—Garmin has had one for a while, Favero has a very good version at a good price—but having a Speedplay-compatible version is worth talking about, especially for triathletes.
If you’re not familiar with Speedplay, the big hits involve a few things: Weight (though that’s offset by the large cleat, of course), ground-cornering clearance (which isn’t huge for triathletes, unless you’re dragging a knee through corners at your next Ironman), stack height, and float. It’s the float that triathletes probably care most about.
Float is the amount of play that your foot/ankle/knee/etc. has (in degrees) from wherever you center your cleat on the pedal. Shimano SPD-SL has a max of 6 degrees of float in their commonly-used “red” cleat; Look Keo has a max of 9 degrees of float on their “red” cleat. Both of these float numbers are fixed, based on the type of cleat you get and cannot be microadjusted—you either get zero degrees, 4.5 degrees (in the case of gray KEO pedals), 6 degrees (on SPD-SL red), or 9 degrees (KEO red). If you want to change your float—based on biomechanical difficulties or requirements for knee/hip/ankle issues—you change your cleat. Favero and Garmin use Look KEO cleats, and Garmin and Favero have both recently added Shimano SPD-SL. (Garmin also has a Shimano SPD mountain version.)
Speedplay is special because it’s the only popular pedal system that goes to 15 degrees of float and it can be microadjusted easily and independently. This is why triathletes love them and the biggest reason why this is an important release for us multisporters.Section divider
Wahoo POWRLINK Zero Pedal Extended Review: What We Love
First off, it goes without saying that (finally finally) adding Speedplay-compatible pedals to the tri world is a huge boon. Triathletes are probably the number-one users of Speedplay pedals—due to the wide float/adjustability—and similarly they probably benefit the most from a power meter that can easily be swapped from race bike to training bike to indoor bike to gym bike, etc. We do love our multiple bikes. As such, having 15 degrees of adjustable float is a big deal and something we similarly love. Sure, you could use a crank-based power meter, like 4iiii for instance, and a set of “dumb” Speedplays, but things get complicated when it comes time to swap out for different bikes. It also takes most stationary bikes completely off the table for power.
We also loved the fact that they paired up quickly and every single time (without any dropouts that we experienced) with a wide range of devices. The POWRLINKs can pair with up to three devices simultaneously, which isn’t exactly earth-shattering, but it’s very useful for triathletes who might want to pair with a cycling head unit for display, their smartwatch for race-day data collection, and/or a smartphone (for whatever reason). It’s hard to think of a use case when you’d need more than three devices, but it works well with three very different devices—even if none of them are Wahoo-related.
The battery life of 70 hours is fine—20 hours more than the rechargeable Faveros—and significantly less than the non-rechargeable Garmins (at 120-150 hours). Here, the POWRLINKs thread the needle between ease of recharging (replacing batteries on non-rechargeable power meters varies from annoying to not-that-bad) and battery life. Seventy hours is probably about a month or two of triathlete riding, so you’ve got a lot of space to roam.
We also liked the LED status indicators that showed when they were searching, pairing, and low on battery. This was helpful as sometimes battery status doesn’t always accurately show up on all connected devices (not Wahoo’s fault here).
When it comes to calibration (which is still manual, not automatic like some), accuracy, data, temperature ranges, and more of the basics of power-meter measurement, everything for us just worked. We had no issues with connections or calibrations, and we saw no “device favoritism” between a Wahoo head unit and something like a Garmin or a Pioneer. While we don’t have the gear to do an absolute accuracy test (sorry), results were at least consistent across units—which is truly what matters anyway when you’re talking about a power meter that can easily be swapped from bike to bike.Section divider
Wahoo POWRLINK Zero Pedal Extended Review: What Was Just OK
Again, bear in mind the biggest and best thing about this new power meter system is simply the platform it’s on, and as such that platform has a few limitations that balance out things like ground clearance and float. First, the POWRLINK Zeros have a bit more stack height than its competitors like Favero (10.5mm) and Garmin (12.2mm). In fact, the stack height on the POWRLINK (13mm) is higher than even the standard Zeros (11.5mm for three-hole or 8.5mm for four-hole shoe patterns). So here, the Speedplay cornering advantage is slightly nullified with a higher stack height, though the ground clearance benefit remains. In other words, if you came here with a pair of four-bolt shoes looking for an 8.5mm stack height for some reason, you’ll be a little sad.
This leads to a kind of weird point that if you were to buy a pair of the dual-sided POWRLINKs, you wouldn’t be able to split them up with a pair of “dumb” Zeros. Using a smart left with a dumb right and vice versa. Not only because the stack heights don’t match (which you could probably MacGyver around), but the Q-factor (55mm on the POWRLINKs, 53mm, 56mm, or 65mm for the Zeros) doesn’t match either (again, MacGyver could probably figure it out). More importantly the right pedal can’t “report” directly to a head unit according to Wahoo; it can only report to the left pedal, who then reports to the head unit. And you can’t MacGyver that problem away.
Finally, we were a little let down by price points. I was kind of hoping for something to come along and truly challenge Favero’s value proposition as the best intersection of price versus features, but instead Wahoo priced the POWRLINKs pretty squarely the same as Garmin. I’ve always felt the Garmin setup was a little spendy for what you get (given that crank-based power meters are coming down in price), and Favero seemed to have them beat pretty badly on price at $650 for a dual-sided set and $400 for a single-sided one. That’s a big difference that Wahoo had an opportunity to split, but didn’t.
Wahoo POWRLINK Zero Pedal Extended Review: Conclusions for Triathletes
It almost goes without saying that Speedplay devotees are probably incredibly excited to see their favorite pedaling platform (pun intended) finally has a built-in power meter option. No longer are they stuck with crank-arm or crank-spider solutions that cause problems when it’s time to change bikes. Finally those same people can bring their shoes and pedals to the gym, get consistent power numbers, and go home to use the same on their tri bikes.
It’s too bad (and kind of weird) that the stack height got so large on these pedals, but it likely has to do with a larger spindle that works better with the spindle sensor system. A low stack height was always a big draw for Speedplay, and now they’re kind of in with the rest of the herd—though to be fair, finding a four-hole pattern pair of shoes that takes advantage of that ultra-low 8.5mm stack height isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Price would be another thing that felt like a little bit of a letdown—making users simply choose between liking SPD-SL or KEO on the Garmin and the Speedplay system on the POWRLINK rather than swiping some potential Garmin customers feels like a little but of a missed opportunity. It’s likely that Wahoo is counting on Speedplay fans’ loyalty to sell pedals, but it would be great if they were a little more “evangelistic” in attempting to draw people over to the Speedplay side.
That said, Wahoo/Speedplay has put together a very solid pair of pedals with no inherent flaws that we could find. They connect quickly and reliably, the data seemed consistent, and cleat setup was about as easy as any Speedplay setup usually is (I’ll just leave that there…). Finally, if you’re interested in saving your knees with adjustable float, the POWRLINK is a fantastic, solid power-meter solution.