Aside from tactics, road cycling performance is dependent upon three major variables.
1. proper training for power and endurance.
2. improving technique for better power and endurance.
3. aerodynamics (for time-trial and bridging/breakaway efforts).
Regardless of how and how much you train PowerCranks can help you to get more out of that time spent training by training more muscles and training better technique automatically while you are doing your normal training. And, the ability to easily experiment with crank length that PowerCranks now offers allows one to easily optimize the aerodynamic/power equation.
Road racing requires a lot of different skills from intermittent quick high powered, high cadence accelerations or sprints in criteriums and road races to sustained, lower cadence, power (in a cramped aerodynamic position) for long periods in time trials. PowerCranks can help the user develop all of these skills. Used by some of the best Road racers in the world including Olympic Road Race Champions Paolo Bettini and Samuel Sanchez and many National Champions.
Needless to say, most road races are won in the last 10-20% of the race, pulling away during a climb or during a sprint finish. Three studies highlight how training with PowerCranks can really help during here. The first by Hug shows the importance of the backstroke, relative to the downstroke, when trying to maximize sprinting power. And, the studies by Dorel and Sanderson show how the backstroke muscles are the ones that fatigue first when approaching exhaustion. If one wants to maximize performance for sprinting and at the very end of the race one needs to ensure that the backstroke muscles are trained equivalently to the pushing muscles. Stopping the relative failure of the recovery muscles at the end of the race will let more of the work done by the pushing muscles go towards making the bicycle go forward. This is exactly what training with PowerCranks does for the cyclist. It is not possible to train this kind of endurance doing 5 minutes of 1 legged drills.Here are some of the suggestions we offer to Road racers to help them adapt "easily" and to achieve early success.
1. Ride in a more open position in the beginning
Except for time-trialing, good aerodynamics is a small part of road racing so many riders tend to ride more "open" but if you are having trouble adapting you may benefit from opening the hip angle even more. The problem, at first, is most users will find it very difficult to consistently raise the legs over top dead center of the pedaling arc, especially while in an agressive position. This is made easier by opening the hip angle and lowering the cadence. Another way of opening the hip angle is to shorten the crank length (most models of PowerCranks make this easy). While everyone is different, most will need to start out riding with a much more open hip angle (i.e., to be in an almost upright , "touring", position). Don't worry, after a few days you will be ready to try to assume a more aggressive, race oriented position, and after several weeks or months you should be able to return close to your present position and begin to develop a more agressive, aerodynamic, time-trial position, if you so choose. You may find it useful to raise your handlebars and slowly lower them as you adapt. An aggressive position will not increase your speed if it robs you of power you could be receiving from increased pedaling efficiency. Your best position will probably change as you develop your ability more fully.
2. Work on Endurance First
Road racing requires a combination of aerobic endurance and short periods of anaerobic acceleration and peak power. New PowerCrankers must first work on their aerobic endurance and learning a new movement pattern before worrying about acceleration. Therefore, the more time you spend riding with your PowerCranks the faster you will improve. This means, to see maximum benefits, one should do all bicycle riding on PowerCranks™ until 2 or 3 days before big races. This is psychologically very difficult for the serious cyclist because he/she will take a big hit in weekly mileage for awhile and they will be afraid of losing ground. However, this period of reduced mileage will not last very long and the very serious cyclist should be able to ride 50 - 100 miles after only a couple of weeks of dedicated use (although they wont be pedaling the entire time and their speed may be reduced but they will be able to walk after the ride). The key to increasing distance is to pedal at low cadences rather than high cadences (shorter cranks help here also). This is because you have not developed the hip flexor endurance to perform the increased number of repetitions necessary for any given distance AND maintain the increased necessary acceleration of the pedals up the backstroke at higher cadences. This means you must ride in higher gears than you are used to until your muscles fully adapt because big gears keep the cadence down. For those who are afraid of what this might mean to their fitness, we make cranks that will lock-up to regular cranks when your muscles fail, although we do not recommend them for optimal benefit. We, rather, recommend, biting the bullet and getting through this transition period as fast as possible.
Most new users report the cranks no longer feel strange to them in only about 2 to 3 weeks. However, do not expect any substantial overall power improvement for about 6 weeks. This has to do with the time it takes to see training effect in the new muscles you will be using. While some efficiency improvements will be seen at lower power outputs on short rides very early, the user must expect this process to take some time. Of course, improvement will continue to occur for many years. (How long have you been working on your quads?)
3. Push Big Gears
While it goes against the current common wisdom, you will find your distance and speed improving much faster if you concentrate on pushing bigger gears (to keep the cadence down within those new muscle limits) while you develop the power and endurance to maintain increased cadences. As your power and endurance improves you will find your ability to accelerate will remain constant even though you are pushing somewhat bigger gears. This new ability will be especially useful in your time-trialing. With time you will develop the ability to ride long distances at increased cadences which will increase your speed even more as you will be in bigger gears.
4. Worry about cadence next
Once you have developed the ability to ride long distances easily in big gears, then you can start working on increasing efficiency at higher cadences for the periods of time when acceleration becomes an important part of the race. Soon you will be riding with the pack, using less energy than usual, being ready to use increased power reserves to match any acceleration efforts by others. Some users have concentrated on bringing their cadence up first. This is a viable approach as long as you accept it may take you longer to get your mileage up. Do what works best for you.
5. Work on aerodynamics
Another thing that will come slowly is being able to ride for long periods in the time-trial position. If time-trials are important for you you can move this up in the order you want to attack this. If you are having a lot of trouble you should consider shortening your cranks. Shorter cranks allow the rider to achieve much more aggressive aerodynamic positions with little or no loss in power. How short will be optimum for you will depend upon your height and flexibility. You will not go faster if your position robs you of too much power. Optimum time trialing is a tradeoff between maximum power, aerodynamics and comfort. You should ride the longest cranks you can that allow you to be in a great aero position, comfortable, and with no loss of power. In our experience a crank length between 130-150mm is probably optimum for time trialing for many. One can only know what is best for you by experimenting.