Bicycle Physiology Articles byJames Martin, PHD

Scientific papers by James Martin, PHD:

Crank Length Doesn't Matter
From Velonews

James Martin, PHD skewers sacred cows about crank length and pedaling technique.

His studies of 16 bike racers of various heights doing maximal sprint power tests of under four seconds duration on cranks of 120, 145, 170, 195, and 220mm showed no statistical difference between crank lengths. Seat height to the pedal was maintained throughout, but fore-aft saddle position and handlebar height were not readjusted with crank length changes, despite variations with crank length of pedal-to-knee relationship and saddle-to-bar drop.

Further Martin tests showed no statistical relationship between metabolic cost and either pedaling rate (RPM) or crank length, using nine trained cyclists riding 145, 170 and 195mm cranks who pedaled at 30-, 60-, and 90 percent of their lactate threshold at 40, 60, 80 and 100 RPM. On the contrary, power output and pedal speed (pedaling rate times crank length), accounted for over 98 percent of the variation in metabolic cost.

In another test, Martin had 10 racers perform a 30-second maximal sprint on 120mm and 220mm cranks at 135RPM for the 120mm and 109RPM for the 220mm. He found that, while the rate of fatigue was less for longer cranks, the fatigue per revolution was identical. This led him to suggest that track sprinters, rather than spinning at high RPM, should select the gear at or just below the one at which they produce maximum power output. The higher gear, as fatigue per revolution would be constant, would get the rider to the finish sooner, as fatigue would take more time to set in.

Martin says that you are then left with two things to go faster, hard training and good nutrition, then hydration and recovery.  Reducing aero drag and reducing braking are some ways you can minimize the power you must produce. Thatís it. Simple.