|A typical crank. |
Image: Hoangquan hientrang via wikimedia
The cranks of a bicycle are what connect the pedals to the front gears. They're lever arms that cyclists exert a force onto the end of, through the pedals, in order to turn the front gears. The front gears pull the chain which then spins the rear wheel, sending the bike speeding along.
|Z-Torque cranks. Image from z-torque.com|
The inventor, Glenn Coment, claims that his zig-zag design gives peddlers more leverage resulting in more power, but keeps the pedals at the same distance away from the center of rotation. However even a basic understanding of how levers work would show that this is impossible.
Glenn's nephew Jason is licensing the design to make them out of carbon fiber. In the fundraising video, he gives a brief physics lesson about how his cranks supposedly work.
“Pedaling your bike is similar to using a wrench to tighten or loosen a bolt. Any mechanic will tell you if you need more torque to loosen a stubborn bolt, just go get a bigger wrench. That’s because by moving your applied force further away from the pivot point, you gain more leverage," Jason Coment said.
So far he's right. Torque is the twisting force a rotating lever or wheel exerts on its axis. Increasing the length of a lever arm, like a wrench, exerts more torque on its bolt. The longer the lever arm, the more torque is produced by the same amount of force pushing on the end of the lever.
|A "second class lever" is the same kind|
of lever as a crank.
"That’s why with the patented Z-Torque bicycle crank we have solved that problem for you," Jason Coment claims. "You see we extended the crank arms past the length of a standard crank, giving you more leverage, but we then brought pedal back towards the axle to keep your rotation at the same diameter.”
He incorrectly claims that a cyclist can get more torque by having a crank arm that's "longer" but bends back towards the center, keeping the pedals the same distance away from the axis as a traditional straight crank. Levers don't work like that. It doesn't matter what shape the lever arm is, it only matters how far away the pedal is from the center of rotation.
“Having a wiggly line between one and the other doesn’t do anything about the torque," said David Gordon Wilson, an emeritus professor of engineering at MIT and author of Bicycling Science. “The tortuous form of the crank is just crazy.”
He said one could imagine welding a piece of aluminum straight between the pedal and the axis of rotation on the angled cranks. The leverage of the cranks would be the same whether the crank arm is straight, angled curved, or any other shape. The only thing that matters for leverage is how far the pedals, the source of the exerted force, is from the axis of rotation.
“This Z-crank has no redeeming features whatsoever,” Wilson said.
Coment's design isn't new, designs for curved or angled cranks have been around since the 1930s. He's had prototypes for his Z-Torque cranks since 1995, a patent on them since 1999, and a website selling aluminum versions since at least 2009. Recently he's been trying to expand and make carbon fiber versions. In September of last year, Coment launched a Kick-starter project to raise $50,000 to buy tools and equipment, but missed his goal by more than $47,000. He's now trying again, on a different crowd-funding website, "Rock the Post" with a more modest $7,500 goal.
The website also claims that the cranks give riders "Less perceived effort to pedal." In the medical world, I think they would call that a "placebo."