PowerCranks are miserable but worth the pain.


It’s simply necessary. Honest.

This whole rehabilitation process is often demoralizing but at least I’m used to pushing myself hard in the physical activity department. I just need some extra motivation. Well that and making believe I’m still 17 is also necessary some days.

A while back when I was working in a bike shop I bought a pair of PowerCranks that a customer had ordered but gave up on. I got a very good deal and I used them to help me get over a stress fracture in my left foot. I kept using them periodically because they helped even out my pedaling strength. I used to be really dominant with my right leg but once I began using them my power output got very close to a 50%-50% balance side to side. This is a pic of them on the bike I use in my ‘pain cave’, down in the basement where my wife won’t see or hear me um, expressing my opinion at any given time.


What’s wrong with this picture?


I used to think this was some big tragedy…

Well let me tell ya, these things can drive you crazy if you’re not used to them. Those crank arms move independently of each other. And they’re heavvv-vy, at least this older model is. I’ve been trying to get my left side rewired so to speak and since the legs cannot help each other these have been perfect. Not just the cycling motion but also for running and balance and just plain stability doing anything at all that involves my legs. I am determined to make 2015 the year I come back to at least competitive running. My first real race will be the Hangover 5K Run in Westfield on New Year’s Day. It actually was a blast last year.

This guy in the red jacket and funny hat wouldn't stop trying to make me stop crying.

This guy in the red jacket and funny hat just wouldn’t leave me alone. So what if we had the same kind of hat? I just can’t go out in public anymore without my entourage to keep the paparazzi away.

My expectations are a lot lower now but I’m still going to try to break 23. Just don’t tell anyone.

::WARNING:: Really gratuitous technogeekiness ahead. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT attempt to read this while eating. There is considerable risk of getting some of that Bolognese sauce on your favorite shirt when you fall asleep onto your plate. That stuff just doesn’t come out unless you address it right away. But of course, you’re sleeping.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.28.45 PM

That is a pic of the workout I did this morning. It’s a screenshot taken from my laptop which runs the TrainerRoad app. It hooks into the data being sent out on the ANT+ Sport protocol from my heart rate monitor, PowerTap wheel and the speed/cadence sensor. The blue blocks on the graph indicate the target wattage I’m supposed to try to hit at various times. The bolder white line at about 214 watts is my functional threshold power based on a test I did a couple of weeks ago with the PowerCranks. Notice I could hit the power targets but couldn’t even come close to meeting the time goals.

Along the X-axis is time and the Y-axis shows the values of all the parameters being monitored at anytime during the workout. The white trace tracks my cadence (rpm), the yellow trace indicates my power output (watts) and the red trace shows how much I’m complaining, uh, I mean my heart rate (bpm). This kind of app helped keep me from daydreaming when I was really training hard for triathlons. I still need it to keep focused but now it’s like I’m competing against last week’s version of myself. For fun. Uh huh…

I can hold the higher wattage if I push a harder gear at a low cadence (50-70 rpm). That kind of effort lasts until my HR gets high and I just give out. Or the song ends or something. However, when I try to spin my legs faster (above 90 rpm) keeping my pedaling motion smooth is damn near impossible. My legs tire out very quickly and I’m only at a much lower HR and at a lower wattage when my legs just quit. I will continue to work on both pedaling speeds, one for muscle power and the other for speed and consistency. A somewhat funny thing happens when the left leg gets too tired to keep up with the right one. Pretty soon I’m pedaling as if I’m galloping.

Okay, I had to come back and edit this post, mainly to remind myself what I used to be able to do. This image shows what a properly executed FTP workout looked like for me last spring, albeit with regular cranks on the tri-bike. Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 1.30.34 PM

I was also some 20 pounds lighter so my FTP of 280 was a great place for me to be in terms of Watts/Kilogram. Those first 2 big blocks were 20 minutes long. Those were the days, eh? I gotta tell ya, this Ironman2Couch program I started last May has really worked wonders. I don’t even remember signing up for it but the membership fees have been something like $8-9K per month. I won’t show ya the before and after pics of me though, just the power data. 😉

About peterwick

I was a long-time jack of all trades. Until suddenly I was different.
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3 Responses to PowerCranks are miserable but worth the pain.

  1. Al Truscott says:

    Still awake … Maybe you should go with intervals of the length you can accomplish, and work on making them longer week by week. EG, 8 x 3 minutes, work up to 3 x 8 minutes, then worry about the next step up. And DONT worry about whatever you FTP is – that;s not what you;re working on now, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • peterwick says:

      Hey, who asked you to be going all grown up and reasonable on me here?


    • peterwick says:

      I was thinking that I should do different intervals such as VO2max and threshold and see if I can extend them, just like you said. I should also do straight out spinning intervals to see if I can build tolerance to 90+ rpm at whatever resistance. It’s hard to bring the foot up from 6 to 12 but it’s also weird to feel the foot fall from 12 to 6 really fast. With regular cranks there’s resistance by the rising crank arm.


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