PEZ Tech Editor Charles Manantan first reviewed the PowerCranks in 2002 – and we regret to report that four years later – after some nice design upgrades – they’re as tough on legs as ever. Of course that’s also the good news, because if you’re tough enough to master these things – PowerCranks guarantees you’ll be faster. And with more pros using ‘em each year- you know they gotta be good.
[Ed Note: – The tech part of this story first ran in 2002 – and is still relevant today. The second part (below) contains our latest impressions of using PowerCranks from this summer.]
Today we have before us the Definition of Ego Killer and possibly the most effective training tool around.
PowerCranks 2006 – a nice new finish – but the same old independently rotating arms.
I have for the last couple of years listened to the praises of others about having a wonderful spin. My ego hath runneth waaayyy over! Heck even Frank, the guy from Power Cranks / Cycling Innovations wrote; “I remember you at interbike well, as I had never seen a non-PC (Power Crank) person as good as you before… I expect your adaptation will be much easier than even the average pro.” And this after handing them out to the likes of Johan Museeuw (who also had some ordered for his training partners), Paolo Bettini, Stefano Garzelli, Steve Larson, Mario Aerts, David Clinger, Daniele Nardello, and Axel Merckx .
Well if, after using these things for an hour the first time, the average pro wakes up the next day feeling like a herd of 500 wild Zebra found the only escape path from an attacking Lion to be over their thighs, then I am truly better than the average pro! I say this because I only felt like maybe 150 domesticated Zebra had casually galloped across my legs… And I loved it!
The lines are cleaner, and a few grams have been shaved off the latest versions.
How They Work
With everything from Biopace chain rings to the latest cranks from Rotor trying to make cycling easier (which basically lets your legs get even weaker where they are already too weak). Power Cranks simply aims to train away the weak spots in your pedal stroke and make you a better cyclist. The idea is that these cranks operate independent of one another, which means that your upstroke leg doesn’t get a boost and get carried over the top from your down stroke leg. Sounds simple right? Try it!
I would venture that any past review of these cranks that says they don’t do anything, came from reviewers who didn’t use the things long enough to make a difference or got discouraged and didn’t use them at all. They are not so difficult to use to prohibit anyone from trying them, but they do need a little time. I would highly recommend the first few tries be done with a trainer rather than with traffic!
We’re not saying you’re a lousy wrench – but with a training tool this good – we suggest you let a pro do the install.
The cranks themselves are extremely simple to install and can be done in about 15 minutes (given the fact that you have an extra 12 pack of imported Bee, er um, Soda pop to bribe an over worked but good mechanic at your local shop (Thanks Brady at Bicycle Showcase!) My point being, unless you are a good mechanic, just let a pro do it… The guys will be all smiles as they stare at the cranks once installed properly, and see both pedals hanging down side by side below the bottom bracket! They can engage from any angle, meaning each leg is basically doing all it’s own work, but when not in use they hang slack.
Power Cranks are of high quality and solid construction (so solid that they should be able to shave a few grams and still have the most solid piece of equipment in the history of cycling). The bearings, finish and packaging are all top of the heap. These come in a few sizes and also come in a super length adjustable size that will allow you, with the help of a CompuTrainer or other power measuring devise, to not guess at but actually see where the most efficient crank length is.
I have seen a ton of useless training aids in the last few years, and have listened to people preach a ton of different work outs and “scientific” methods for getting a more powerful and complete pedal stroke. This simply performs, and does so ruthlessly.
Training All Bases
I don’t care what you do, but doing it while riding these cranks makes any work out better. Whether it be high cadence, low cadence-high resistance or single leg work (or a power crank special, out of the saddle single leg work!) all allow for loads of cheating on the upstroke with anything but these cranks. Not only will you be generating power where you had none in the past (across the bottom and over the top), you will also be removing a lot of resistance now placed against your down stroke leg because you will no longer have the upstroke leg applying pressure (and the amount of dead weight the upstroke leg actually is will probably surprise the hell out of you!). The folks at PowerCranks speak of some fairly large power increases and I would imagine that putting a large group of under utilized muscles to work would do just that. I have always put far more emphasis on pulling under, up and over than I have on pushing pedals, and these let me know just how poor a job I have been doing!
If the effects of day one are any indicator, I am going to love the results come late spring! I can’t remember the last time I got this much out of a simple single hour on the bike. Honestly, I didn’t get that much out of the ride before last, and that was three and a half hours of alternating high cadence and low spin resistance work while maintaining base training heart rate. I can’t wait to see what my spin scan on the CompuTrainer looks like after a few weeks on these things!!!!!!
Learn more about Power Cranks at their website:
RIDING POWERCRANKS: Get Ready To Be Humbled
- By Jered Gruber –
Proof that even non-pros can master PowerCranks – and do it out of the saddle.
I started working with the PowerCranks towards the end of the winter, after an already hard, hard series of weeks. I figured I was getting pretty strong.
I had a very typical first-time experience, though I tried to tell myself that I could master these things with ease. Just like everyone else before me, I figured, hey, I ride my bike a lot, I’m kinda fast sometimes, so I should be able to deal with these things, no problemo.
With both cranks rotating independently, expect a ‘learning curve’ when teaching your legs to pedal ‘independently’.
Everything you’ve ever heard or read about em is true. The first time I got on the bike, I was pretty much ready to throw it within the first ten minutes – Bjarne Riis style.
The First Ride
The best I could manage was a double-down crank-arm position. That was easy and nice. Not to whine or anything, but it was just so damn hard. It was hard mentally and physically. Mentally of course because I couldn’t pedal for the life of me, and physically because my muscles were having to work very very hard to attempt to keep the pedals in a correct position. It was insanely hard.
20 minutes for the first ride was way, way more than enough for me. My legs were exhausted, my mouth dry from cursing, and all in all I’d call it successful, because anything that miserably hard, has to be good.
Thankfully, I’m very competitive, and these things had just whooped my ass, so I got back on the next day, and the next day, and the next day. I was sorer than I think I’ve ever been, but by the day it got better. Slowly I rode out of my neighborhood, onto little loops, then on to bigger loops. The longest ride I did on the PC’s was three hours, but honestly, that was more than enough for me.
”Okay- I’ve got the ‘legs in sync’ thing down…”.
A Second Bike Is Nice
I was fortunate to be able to put the PC’s on a bike completely for training (you can see in the pics that the bike is definitely too small for me, but I did my best) – thus I was able to switch off and on between the two, and could experiment throughout my training and see if there was ongoing improvement. Almost from the start I could see drastic improvement. Even when I wasn’t on the PC’s, I had the feeling like I was pedalling like I was still on them. I got stronger quickly. My pedal stroke improved hugely. I can’t quantify it exactly, as I was training hard at the time, but my threshold creeped up a solid 10% to the highest it has ever been. At lower levels of intensity, I pedalled with ridiculous ease – what had once been hard, became easier and easier.
When I wasn’t on the PowerCranks, I could finish a ride and come back fresh, lively, and I had ridden harder than before. I still came back wrecked every time off of the PowerCranks, but there was considerable improvement there as well.
The Big Picture
The key, as with all things worth doing, is to keep tap, tap, tapping away. I had the time and patience to work through the growing pains of the cranks and now can enjoy the benefits.
It has been hard to keep up with the PowerCranks during the season, as I race constantly – so I’ve fallen into a sort of race and rest routine. The season is winding down though, and the time for winter prep is coming quickly. I plan on spending even more time on the PC’s this winter, and hopefully more gains are to be had.
I think the biggest appeal of the PowerCranks is quality time on the bike. Not everyone has unlimited time to ride their bikes (as I do), so the time you spend on the bike should hopefully be high-quality. You can get no higher quality for the time on your bike than with a PowerCrank. If you pair a PowerCrank with a PowerTap rear wheel to get some power on the bike – you’ve got a mobile-get-really-fast-really-quickly unit.
I have had my best season yet. I’ve raced mainly at the NRC level throughout the year, so I haven’t had the chance to win too many bike races over the season, but I did manage to win my first ever race in June…though it wasn’t NRC. I don’t expect that to happen for a long while. I feel very confident that continued use of the PowerCranks could yield the necessary improvement for the future.
I’m Not The Only One
The list of bike riders on PowerCranks is a very, very lengthy one. How about these guys: Levi Leipheimer, Carlos Sastre, Cadel Evans, Magnus Backstedt…on and on and on. The PowerCranks guys just reported that “we just had a pro triathlete racing on PC’s after 10 months of training on them. He had the fastest bike split at Ironman Canada and the 3rd fastest run of the day!” Yeah, not bad.
There’s magic in em, but it’s not easy to come by. The company motto of: Speed, Coordination, Power, Endurance, and NO CHEATING is the gospel.
Learn more about Power Cranks at their website:
If you’re thinking about buying, PowerCranks might have just the thing to get you to act: if you buy before Friday, September 15th, just input code pez06 in the checkout page of the shopping cart for a 10% discount! On the closeout Model 4, which sells for $699, that would be a nice 70 dollar discount.