What's Cool In Road Cycling

PowerCranks: Into Season Three

Our pioneer PowerCranks guinea pig is now beginning his third year with the PCs on his bike. There has been a lot of progress during that time, and things are continuing to look up. Josh reflects on his first two seasons and previews his plans for the third on the PCs.

In the first season, I struggled through 15 to 30 minute rides, eventually building up to two hours. I could see and feel my legs becoming stronger and more efficient, but at the same time, I was also experiencing severe muscular fatigue, various aches and pains and a general heaviness. I stopped using the cranks shortly into the season because my muscles just weren’t prepared for the added stress of using Power Cranks with the increased training intensity, racing schedule and travel.

In the second season, my muscles had adapted enough so that I could do a good portion of my base mileage on the cranks. This meant I was doing about 20 hours out of a 30 hour week on them. The only drawback to using the cranks was that it left me with so much muscle fatigue that I pretty much phoned in my weight workouts and my on the bike low cadence strength intervals were not as pronounced since ALL my riding was a strength workout with these cranks. Come January I started doing some threshold work to prepare for the So Cal season which starts at the beginning of February. I think it was my second interval day when my body suddenly shouted, “ENOUGH!” I felt like an old wind up watch getting hit with a hammer with all the springs and parts shooting all over the room. My glutes cramped up, my hip flexors froze. It was all I could do to get home.

I figured it was a sign that after thousands and thousands of miles on the cranks, it was time to make the switch. I never rode regularly on them for the rest of the season (off and on, here and there) because the race and travel schedule was so intense, but the hard work paid off. I felt like I had made a bigger jump between seasons than ever before. Suddenly, I was placing regularly in the top 15 and even top 10 in NRC races and taking money in most local races. In addition, although I am not a sprinter, I was able to get to the front in big money crits like McLane Pacific, Fresno and Manhattan Beach to help my teammates.

So what’s next? I’ve taken 3 weeks completely off the bike and have started to train on the cranks again. From my experience so far, I believe strongly that the learning curve on the PowerCranks is not yet complete and that there are still big gains to be made in the 3rd and even the 4th seasons.

My goals this year are as follow.

1) To train 5 to 6 days a week on the cranks rather than 4 to 5 days like last season. I’m hoping that by the time I start in on the big miles the adaptation will be almost complete and I will be able to ride the cranks as if they were my regular cranks.

2) To make it through all the way to January and at least do the first few months of interval work on the cranks. In So Cal, March is absolutely packed with NRC races, so I will probably stop using them sometime before then to let my legs freshen up a bit and get a little spring back in them. I have a feeling that the effect will be similar to the way one feels after stopping their winter weight workouts. Although the strength you gain in the gym pays off down the road, during the actual phases, your performance on the bike sometimes suffers. When you stop, suddenly your legs feel light and fresh and it almost feels like a mini performance peak.

3) Assuming my legs are truly adapted to the weight and the motion of the cranks, I should be able to bring my strength work back to its former level. I’m hoping that I will actually improve my leg press and squat and really crank out the watts on those low cadence drills. I figure if I did as well as I did this past season with almost no specific strength work, doing this will give me an additional edge.

4) Finally, I do a lot of leg speed work all year round which usually consists of 30 minutes to an hour of pedaling at 120 to 140 rpm with very little resistance. As you have probably heard me mention before, getting your cadence up on PowerCranks is one of the biggest challenges because the muscle memory just isn’t there yet. I wasn’t able to do these intervals on the PC bike last year. I’m hoping that if I can make it happen this winter, it will be a sign that not only has the full muscular adaptation occurred, but the neuromuscular adaptation as well.

Well, that’s enough writing. It’s a beautiful day here in Los Angeles and I’m going to get out for a quick ride before I roll out of town to the greedy smoke filled little hillbilly town of Las Vegas for Interbike, where I will most likely not get any sleeping in, let alone riding.

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About Josh:
Josh Horowitz is a USCF Certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. He is also the inventor of The Ultimate Cyclist, a guided meditation and visualization CD for cyclists. For more information about his coaching services check out contact [email protected] or check out his website at

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