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Stages Cycling: incredible product support

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I purchased my Stages Cycling power meter two years ago (March 2014), and it’s proven to be extremely reliable and very consistent. Up until last month, about the only problems I’ve had with my Stages power meter were a couple of issues with the battery cover, which Stages quickly resolved.

Various Stages Cycling power meters

Various Stages Cycling power meters

In my February 2016 Cycling Month in Review report, I made mention that I’d set no new power output personal records in February. I didn’t want to further elaborate until I had more data, but at the time I had some suspicions that something was wrong with my power meter. Specifically, the power meter seemed to be measuring consistently low.

The first indication that something was wrong was at a time trial I did in February, during which my wattage output was unusually low for my average speed and average heart rate (more on that below). After that race I continued to gather data until I was 100% convinced something was wrong with the power meter.

Rather than re-type everything, I’ll just post the contents of the ticket I opened up with my support rep at Stages last week:

The issue I’m having is that my meter seems to be reading consistently low. I first noticed this issue at a time trial race I did last month, but I waited to gather more data before contacting you. Here are some details, and some of the data I’ve collected.

On February 15th I did a 40k (25 mile) TT. This was the second TT in the race series, and was done on the same course as the first one, which I rode approximately 1 month prior. Same bike and gear, right down to the shoe covers. The wind conditions were nearly identical at both races, a steady 10-12 MPH headwind/tailwind on the out-and-back course. Also, I need to point out that I always zero reset my power meter after the warm-up, and just before the actual race starts. I did so in both of these races.

At the first race I averaged 301 watts, 175 BPM average heart rate and my time was 59:14 (25.3 MPH average speed).

At the second race I couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble holding 300 watts. I finished that race with an average wattage of 272 watts, 182 BPM average heart rate and my time was 58:43 (25.5 MPH average speed).

Considering the similarities of the conditions, I was obviously quite surprised to see that I managed a faster time in the second race, but with 29 less watts (according to the Stages). I know what 300 watts feels like, and there was no question in my mind that the 272 watts was not correct. The higher average heart rate and faster speed supports that data.

I decided to gather some more data. The next morning I replaced the battery and zero reset. I did a short (20.6 mile ride) on a route I’ve done more than a hundred times. My average speed was 22.8 MPH, and my average watts were 210. Generally a 23 MPH average on that route requires about 30-40 more watts.

Over the next few weeks I continued to ride as normal, and my Power:HR number is way down during this period. I have years of historical data, and something is definitely amiss.

This morning I did that same 20.6 mile route mentioned above. My average speed was 24.5 MPH, but my average wattage was just 243. I did that same route last month with the exact same same average speed (24.5 MPH), but my average watts were 264.

Something definitely seems off here. I was hoping to get your thoughts. Is it possible that the Stages is measuring low? I’ve zero reset many times, replaced the battery a few times and I’m running the latest firmware.


I followed up with some screenshots of a few rides done under similar conditions. Examples 1 & 2 were from a ride I did on the morning I opened the support ticket, and I compared those efforts to a couple of previous efforts under similar wind conditions. In every case my more recent times are faster, my heart rate is higher and yet my wattage output is markedly lower. Example 3 compares the two time trials that I mentioned when I opened the support ticket.

Click any image to enlarge:

Example 1

Example 1

Example 2

Example 2

Example 3 (the time trial)

Example 3 (the time trial)


These are just a few examples, I have many more.

After providing my Stages support rep with some additional information, he agreed that something was not right and decided to send me a new power meter.

There are several remarkable things about what Stages did for me:

  • First and foremost, my power meter’s one year warranty expired a full year ago. Stages was under no obligation to do anything to help me, so sending me a new power meter is beyond amazing.
  • Stages could have made me send the bad unit back for repair (and, again, they were under no obligation to even perform a warranty repair in the first place), and that would have left me with no power meter for several weeks. Instead, I was simply sent a new power meter.
  • My original Stages came on a 175mm crank arm, but my Plasma has 172.5mm cranks. Yeah, I’ve been running mismatched 172.5/175 this whole time. 😮 When I was told I was being sent a new unit, I asked (somewhat sheepishly, considering all that they were already doing for me) if the new unit could be built up on a 172.5mm crank arm. The answer? “Sure thing, no problem at all!”

This kind of after-the-sale service and support clearly goes far beyond anything that a customer could reasonably expect.

My story is not unique, either. A couple friends of mine have reported the same sort of outstanding support from Stages. It’s just how they choose to do things.

In an age of disposable products and often terrible post-sale customer service, Stages deserves all the credit in the world for not only standing behind their products, but also for setting the service & support bar about as high as it can go.

John Stone Fitness Comments

12 Responses to “Stages Cycling: incredible product support”
  1. Wow, that is impressive. Curious if you notice any difference now that your crank lengths are matched. Curious if your power levels now seem back to a normal level. And curious if Stages design is fundementally flawed and the devices fatigue over time and begin to read low… would be metal fatigue in the crank itself such it zeros correctly but the deflection per force unit degrades.

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    • The new unit is still en route, but I’ll definitely be running some tests once I get it. I’ve not seen anything that would suggest that the design of Stages is fundamentally flawed, have you?

      Something I didn’t note in this morning’s blog is that I noticed my power numbers seemed closer to normal whenever it was cold outside. I wonder if something to do with Stages automatic temperature compensation broke in my meter? That’s just speculation, of course.

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  2. John I found this on the Stages website. I had two non-recommended settings: Smart Recording and Ant/Spd/Cadence enabled (I lost that unit a year ago.) Hopefully that fixes my problem

    Data collection setting recommendation:

    Once-per-second recording. The Garmin Edge 500 head unit has two data recording options. The function ‘smart recording’ purposefully drops data packets when the information looks the same in order to save memory space. This is a hold over from when Garmin was building units in a time when on-board memory was much more expensive. The Edge 500 has a 55mb of on board data storage. This is enough to store 1 month to 6 months of ride data, depending on ride frequency and duration, when using the once-per-second recording option. We absolutely recommend recording at once-per-second and downloading more frequently. This will ensure you capture the most accurate and robust power data set.

    To set once-per-second recording, follow this key path:

    Press and hold ‘Enter’ button, to get to the main menu and then follow this key path: Settings > Bike Settings > Data Rec > Data Recording > Every Second

    While you’re in this screen of ‘Data Rec’ you may also be interested to consider Zero or Non-Zero Avg for your Cadence and Power averages; this is a personal preference and one you may run by your coach. Non-Zero averaging doesn’t count the 0s produced by not pedaling, where as Zero averaging counts those Zeros in the overall average as presented by your head unit.

    ANT+ Speed and Cadence Sensor conflicts, when sensor is not present:

    As per Garmin’s connectivity requirements, the Edge 500 will not pair reliably to a power meter when it is also paired to an ANT+ Speed and Cadence sensor, but if the sensor IS NOT present.

    Our recommendation is to turn off ANT+ Speed and Cadence function within the head unit if the additional ANT+ Speed and Cadence sensor IS NOT present. If your Speed and Cadence sensor is built into your bike’s chain stay (Giant, Trek) we recommend making sure that the sensor is paired or if you don’t care to use it, you may also remove the battery from the sensor.

    Turn off Speed and Cadence using this key path:

    Press and hold ‘Enter’ button, to get to the main menu and then follow this key path: Settings > Bike Settings > Bike 1(or whatever bike you’re working on) > ANT+ Speed/Cad > No

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