A couple weeks ago I ordered an early Christmas present – some PowerCranks. PowerCranks are independent bicycle cranks. This means one leg cannot help the other and in order to pedal the bike you must push all the way through the pedal stroke – no relaxing on the back stroke. You’re forced to raise the pedal using your hip flexor and hamstring muscles, ensuring that your leg muscles will become balanced. Put simply, after using PowerCranks you are supposed to have a more efficient/powerful pedal stroke (since your leg pushing down is no longer fighting the “deadweight” of the opposing leg). You can read some scientific studies of the effect of PowerCranks on training here.
I put the PowerCranks on my cyclocross bike and gave them a whirl on the trainer. The first 10 minutes on the PCs were some of the hardest I have ever spent on the bike. I fought through the pain and finally found a “rhythm” after 15 minutes and managed to ride the PowerCranks for 30 minutes on the initial try. My next four PowerCrank workouts looked like this:
- Workout 2 – 45 minutes
- Workout 3 – 60 minutes
- Workout 4 – 75 minutes
- Workout 5 – 90 minutes
I’ve been very careful to slowly increase my time on the PCs and can’t imagine riding them for more than 2 hours (inside or out) because they are pretty painful on the nether regions. 100% of your weight is on your bottom (instead of your legs supporting some of your weight), so I would recommend slapping on some DZ Nuts or other chamois creme when using the cranks.
So what do PowerCranks feel like? It’s almost like doing one-legged-pedaling drills, but with both legs at the same time. I also like doing the “dolphin pedal” where you pedal with both feet, in unison. This one really works the core and forces a smooth pedal stroke.
I’m about to do a field test on my PowerTap to determine my threshold power before training with PowerCranks, then I’ll do another test each month to monitor the progress. My plan right now is to ride the PCs 3 times per week for 90 minutes per workout. Maybe in a couple weeks I’ll be brave enough to ride them outside.