Wednesday, December 24, 2008

PowerCranks-First Impressions, First Ride

I don’t feel any faster. Then again, I have only ridden them once. This was the one of my most frustrating experiences on a bicycle. It was like in a dream, where I was trying to do something that should have been simple, but some illogical malfunction was thwarting me.
First off, let me explain how PowerCranks work. They are an incredibly heavy set of cranks where the crank arms each move independent of the other. In order to complete a pedal stroke, the rider is required to pull on the upstroke, since the other crank arm will not assist in raising its mate.

I bought these cranks instead of a power meter. Many of you will chuckle at my folly, but before you do, allow me to explain. While I understand the theory behind power based training and even recognize its benefits, I am more of a qualitative type of person. Numeric data does not excite me. I would like to increase my power output without constantly monitoring it. Moreover, I want to avoid becoming one of those people who posts the power data from every workout on their blog and drones on incessantly about their power output while at social gatherings. We all know that guy. And I don’t plan on being the LCC’s version of him.
The theory behind PowerCranks is quite simple: Since the rider is required to regulate the cadence and pedal stroke independently on each leg, the user will become more efficient while also developing muscle groups that are underutilized in cycling. The development of these muscle groups will lead to adaptation that will be used even when using regular cranks. PowerCranks claim to increase power outputs at every level of exertion (measured by heart rate). More spuriously, they also claim to increase VOMax, asserting that the newly developed and utilized muscle groups consume oxygen. I would put it even more simply: by training with something difficult to pedal, it will seem easy to pedal normal cranks.
Installation is straightforward with a 8mm and a 10mm Allen Wrench. They are only available in Square Taper and Octalink with a 130 BCD.
I popped in a video and gave them an initial spin. I was frustrated immediately. I found that I lacked rhythm; one leg was spinning faster than the other, especially at lower cadences. When I spun up faster, I was able to maintain a steady tempo on either side for up to a minute at a time. But I think that this may be cheating, since when you pedal at high cadence with low resistance, you are able to allow the momentum from the fast downstroke to carry your feet through part of the upstroke.
As I struggled to keep my cadence even on each side, I fought through severe muscle soreness in muscle groups that I had never felt while cycling. In particular, my hamstrings and my inner quadriceps were searing with pain. Also the fronts of my ankles were throbbing with a dull soreness that I normally only feel only in an all out time trial. Please note that I was barely producing any power in this workout.
The goal of my workout today was to become acclimated to the cranks and to ride on them for 20 minutes straight. I was unable to keep them moving for more than 3 minutes at a time. I absolutely understand why many users give up after a few workouts, these things are difficult.
I plan to continue to try to get used to these things over the next week or so. I would like to be up and running on these in a week or two so that I can do part of my base training on these. Since I know that many of my readers have considered or are considering the purchase of these cranks, I will post weekly updates on my experiences with them.


Drew said...

You silly man. Is it training or this?

Gene Nacey said...

Those sound really “crazy” to get used to, but for someone as dedicated as you, I’m sure you will master them sooner or later. I noticed that you use video to train indoors. You might also want to check out a different approach to bike training videos these days. Instead of riding to a movie or watching a bunch of guys in a room on trainers. Try the new virtual cycling dvds from Global Ride. They offer 3 different coaching tracks and a “live track” of riding inside with a group, and tell me if they don't help you feel like you are "riding outside". At least a little :-)

Mark McCormack said...

You are a stud. I have used these for the past 3 years and will assure you that once your legs and brain connect you will be a much better pedaler (sp?). Let me know when you are ready and we can head out for a 3 hour road ride at the blue hills on will be the most painful cycling experience of your life...and you will love it!