Strong competition will often times have an immediate impact on an industry. So when Stages announced it was going to offer a power meter for just $699 consumers immediately started wondering how the industry would react. In August PowerTap responded by dropping their G3 power meter hub from $1,299 to $789 (a roughly 40% decrease). At the time we were just starting to test the Reynolds Aero 72/90 and had recently completed a review of the WheelBuilder AeroJacket, so this became the perfect opportunity to try out the new Reynolds AERO PowerTap packages that WheelBuilder had recently introduced.
We decided to go with an Aero 72 build to match the front Aero 72 we already had from Reynolds. WheelBuilder had us our wheel just over a week after we approached them for the review, a turnaround time that many an athlete can appreciate. When we opened the box we were blown away by the build quality. This did not seem like a wheel just thrown together in a hurry. The spokes were tight and the wheel was true. It felt like a wheel that had been built at the factory, but with just a bit more TLC.
Our wheel came built with a PowerTap G3 hub and bladed spokes. Final weight came to 1086g, which seemed high considering the quoted weight for a standard 72 Aero rear is 600g and a PowerTap G3 typically weighs in at only 325g. However, considering the additional weight is at the hub and not the rim the increase does not have as substantial an affect.
We had another surprise waiting for us when we opened the box—a lack of skewers or brake pads. While we recognize that WheelBuilder does warn you about this on their page (and offers these items as optional add-ons), we really would have liked to see the stock equipment included—especially considering how the high-quality skewers that typically come with the Reynolds AERO wheels, as well as the proprietary cryo-blue pads.
The PowerTap G3
As mentioned above, the wheel was built around a PowerTap G3 hub. The G3 is a wireless hub based power meter with a claimed accuracy of +/- 1.5%. It is ANT+ compatible (though a Bluetooth Smart Cap is coming) so it has no issues communicating with a Garmin. The hub was ready to go from the minute we pulled it out of the box. Once we had it mounted to the test bike, we just needed to get it spinning and our Edge 500 immediately picked it up and started reporting.
You can find pros and cons with Hub-based power meters. Because the power meter is located in the wheel it can be easily swapped between bikes. If you like to use the same wheels on your road bike and tri bike, a hub-based meter can be a huge benefit. The downside is if you use different wheels for training and racing (and want power data in both instances). In that case, you would be forced to have power meters in both sets of wheels (or go with a crank- or pedal-based power meter).
MSRP for our built wheel comes to $1,815, though with no options the cost can be as low as $1,760. Comparatively, a G3 on its own costs $789, and the MSRP for a complete set of Aero 72s goes for $2,875. Overall, we think there’s a good amount of value here. To clarify, remember that the front wheel is usually cheaper than the rear and the price for the wheel and hub separately is far more than the MSRP for the complete WheelBuilder package.
The package also prices well compared to either a crank- or pedal-based power meter. Both the Garmin Vector and Quarq Elsa\Riken have prices near the total price of the WheelBuilder package. However, you do gain additional features including left\right power measurements (for both the Vector and Elsa) that the PowerTap does not support.
One other thing to consider is that since this wheel is coming from WheelBuilder, you can easily have them build a custom AeroJacket for the package. For less than $100 extra you can have a race wheel and a disc, both with the PowerTap built in.
We have already put quite a few miles on the wheel since it first arrived and have been impressed. Because the additional weight of the hub is located away from the outer rim, you really do not feel the weight as you accelerate. And since these wheels are based on the already stellar Reynolds Aero line, they are strong cruisers and do extremely well in cross winds. So far the G3 appears to give consistent power results throughout the ride and between rides. We have used the wheel on a number of interval workouts and see similar data between both the in-ride sets and the different workouts themselves.
Moving forward we are going to be testing both the wheel and the PowerTap. We know many of our readers may not yet be using power as a part of their training techniques, so we are looking forward to sharing how power can be used in conjunction with other metrics such as heart rate and cadence. Make sure to let us know if you have any questions or test suggestions you would like to see between now and our final thoughts article in another month.