# Can single-sided Power meters cause unnatural Bilateral asymmetric pedaling?

In case it is not clear for everyone, let me briefly explain the graph. The pink line represents the Power output along the y axis while the grey dots represent Left/Right balance in Power. The x axis represents time.

I was aiming for 360 watts in the beginning. Assuming I had a single-sided Power Meter (for my right leg) it would have showed smaller numbers where the Power Balance was more towards my left leg.

The direct consequence in holding a specific amount of watts using a single-sided Power Meter would be that as the Power Balance shifts away from the leg with the Power Meter, the total actual Power will go up while the numbers remain the same. As the Power Balance shifts towards the right leg total Power goes down.

The indirect consequence is the mind would subconsciously (or even consciously) learn to use the right leg more than the left leg. Especially in those crucial moments, like the last 15 seconds of an interval.

I'm looking for evidence to backup my claim. And since I am 100% certain that I am correct, why do people use single-sided Power Meters? Why do they exist at all?

• Single-sided power meters exist because they're less complex and therefore cheaper than dual-sided ones.
– Criggie
Oct 31, 2016 at 21:20
• @Criggie that's not exactly the full story: the first power meters measured total combined power because it was easier to measure that way, and even today some power meters that measure total power can be cheaper than some that measure only one side. A better description for why they exist is because of patents: earlier devices locked up measurement at the crank spider, the rear hub, and the chain. That mostly left the BB, the cranks, and the pedals, which are more complex, as you correctly say, so opened a window for measuring only one side. Feb 5, 2017 at 13:05

I am unaware of any controlled study that directly addresses your question.

However, a recently published study by Bini et al. addressed the converse of your question: can the provision of information on bilateral symmetry or asymmetry be used by riders to alter their pedaling dynamics? The Bini et al. study did not address whether riders would benefit from decreased bilateral asymmetry -- it only addressed the limited question of whether it was changeable. The answer appears to be that it can, sometimes. So although your exact question was not addressed, if these results are replicated and verified then a reasonable implication is that if one were to supply the riders with incorrect or misleading information on symmetry the riders might also be able to adjust their pedaling.

• Appreciate the effort, I knew that already Nov 2, 2016 at 17:18

Single-sided power meters have existed since the "year dot" - and opposite leg power is often "extrapolated" from a single strain gauge

And given most power-meters will quote accuracy to be within X% - the use of left and right strain gauges means although accuracy could be within X% of both left and right - it causes problems with precision. So the maximum variation between both strain gauges could be LEFT DRIFT + RIGHT DRIFT.

(But both being within X% of true strain).

So there is an argument which questions whether left and right power meters are in fact more accurate. And it is possibly the magic of the software / firmware further downstream from the strain gauge signal which provides a coherent reading.

From your graph you have posted - you have tight banding of power on the left leg which indicates a smooth pedal stroke on the left-side. Your right side looks choppy like you're stamping on the pedals. This is often described as "pedalling squares".

The important thing with power meters is precision (consistency) of the reading.

In direct answer to your question - why do people use single-sided power meters - it has inherently been the cost of dual-sided power measurement. However, in the last 2 years - cheaper pedal-based systems have appeared from Garmin and more recently Favero.

• I am neither talking about precision nor consistency. Please read the question again Oct 31, 2016 at 12:33
• Read the answer - all of it is relevant to your question Single-sided power meters are used due to economics of producing dual-sided strain gauges. And they offer consistency / precision of reading - which is the one of the most important aspects of the tool (unless you are comparing data from rider to rider). Oct 31, 2016 at 12:39