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Product Review: Upgrading the Garmin Vector 3S to a Dual-Sided Vector 3

It wasn’t without bumps, but it wasn’t hard either. Overall, upgrading the single-sided Garmin Vector 3S to the dual-sided Vector 3 was totally worth it. So much data, it’s almost too much to handle.

Summary

I had two little bumps in the road when trying to upgrade my pedal-based power meter from the single-sided Garmin Vector 3S system to a dual-sided Vector 3 pair: software (on my Android) and the batteries (a common talking point in the online forums). Still, these were relatively easily overcome, and the upgrade was definitely worth it. With the dual-sided system, I got more data than I could possibly need in a single ride. It also brought my pedal-based power to consistently within 1-3 watts (that’s right, watts – not percentage) of the power reading from my Saris H3 direct-drive smart trainer.

Pros

  • Dual-sided power means more data. A lot more data. With the 3S, all you get is power. Single-sided power. Some examples (more pictures down below, as well)
    • L/R Balance: For me, since I slightly favor my right leg but the pedal was on the left, that meant the power reading slipped slightly lower whenever my right leg pushed/pulled harder than my left. With dual-sided power, I was able to tell that my right leg was doing more, and get a more accurate reading throughout the right.
    • L/R Pedal Offset: This let me see that there was a difference in where I was putting power through the pedal. For me, my right pedal power was being pushed through significantly to the left of the center of the pedal. After looking at my cleats, I realized I had set my right cleat out slightly farther to the right.
    • Sit/Stand Time and Power: This was an interesting metric. Not so much the time – I was mostly able to see that with the major drop in cadence in my power graphs from before. But the power really helped me understand how efficient I am in the saddle vs. out of the saddle.
    • Power Phase and Balance: This is what a lot of people come for, and one of the biggest advantages of the Garmin Vector 3 pedals over some of its competitors. How much of the pedal stroke are you effectively using? What is your peak power phase? Behold the data:
    • Torque Effectiveness: How much of the power you’re putting into the pedals is effectively moving the bike? This was really interesting. I noticed, for example, that I’m significantly more efficient at a higher cadence and higher power than during my recovery/endurance intervals (not shocking to many).
  • Easy installation.
    • Just like other pedal-based systems, a big draw of these is that their installation is as straightforward as installing any other pedal. One catch – you need a 15mm wrench to install these – there’s no Allen key slot on the back-end to tighten through.

Cons

  • Software/Upgrade Issues.
    • In order to upgrade from a single-sided Vector 3S system to a dual-sided setup, you need either a compatible Garmin Edge device or a mobile device that run the Garmin Connect Mobile app. I don’t have an Edge computer, so I was hoping I could use my phone. Nottttttttt so easy. I have a Samsung Galaxy S9 running on the latest version of Android with the latest version of Garmin Connect. I couldn’t (and still can’t) connect my Vector pedals directly to my phone. Every time I tried, I got a weird message about a virtual activity and the app would freeze and timeout. Fortunately, my wife has an iPhone so I was able to use that with no problem.
    • Plus side – with my wife’s iPhone, the upgrade was quick and painless. Super quick and painless. I just connected the Vector 3S, navigated to its settings, and put the serial number of the upgrade pedal into the app. It was that easy. That’s all I had to do and I was rockin’ with dual-sided power.
  • Battery power over re-chargeable power.
    • People complain about this more than I do. My biggest issue with this was not preparing for it in advance. When I bought the Vector 3S, it came with a nice new battery already installed with baby oil already on it (I’ll link to Garmin’s recommended battery replacement instructions later). It worked great. When the upgrade pedal came in, the batteries were dead. I couldn’t find new batteries in store, so I ordered them on Amazon. They took two days to get here. I needed baby oil and a toothpick – not hard to find, but something else to buy (like $5 total, don’t get me wrong).
    • An advantage to battery power over rechargeable power? Imagine this: you’re about to go out for a big ride and you realized you forgot to charge your power pedals. Oh well. You won’t have them charged in time. UNLESS they’re battery powered! You have a couple of extra batteries with you. You change them out in 30 seconds and you’re good to go! Bang!
    • Here’s the other thing: The battery replacement isn’t hard. Yes, they recommend baby oil or mineral oil to prevent corrosion and increase connection, but that’s cheap and easy. The batteries are $5 or less a piece (cheaper the more you buy). They’ve got new battery covers that I’ve had no issue with. Overall, I don’t think that the pedals being battery powered is that big an issue.
  • Price.
    • They’re more expensive than the Favero Assioma Duos, but they give you more data, too. If you think the battery power is a pro (like me), then that’s worth it, too. They also seem to be more available (at least to me right now, during the coronavirus bike boom). Also, thanks to a bunch of discounts right now, I was able to get them for a comparable price (a little under $900 for a single-sided then the upgrade pedal. I’ve seen the Vector 3 dual-sided system for as low as $825).

Categories: Product Reviews

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Matthew

I am, in order of priority: a husband, a dog dad, a software engineer, and a weekend warrior triathlete. A while back, I had started a blog about training, fundraising, and product reviews. It fell off the table, but we've picked it back up and are giving it another go! All feedback is welcome feedback. Please feel free to leave a comment on any post!

Thank you for visiting!

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