I’m a mess. A head-to-toe X-ray of my beat-down, middle-aged body would reveal enough metal inside it to look more Wolverine than healthy human, yet I don’t have any special powers that accompany the hardware - unless simply not having to walk with a cane counts. The latest injury, an essential shattering of my left femur thanks to sucking at snowboarding, has been the worst of a half-dozen surgery-worthy injuries, and the closest I’ve come to having to permanently walk with said cane.
It was four months before I was cleared to walk without any type of crutch, and in that time frame, my muscles had atrophied so badly that the plan of throwing the crutches at my doctor’s desk and flipping him off over my shoulder as I skipped out of his office door was forced into plan B, which was to hang on to a cane for a few extra weeks due to the inability to propel forward without low-speed wobbling.
Rotor 2INpower MTB Crankset
• Material: 7055 aluminum alloy
• Weight 695 grams
• Lengths available 165, 170, 175(tested)
• 30mm spindle only
• Compatible with BSA, BB30, BB30a, BB89, BB92, and PF30 bottom brackets
• Price: $1300 (without ring)
Up until this point, things like power meters and heart rate monitors were things I equated to triathletes and the like. Sure, the big names in mountain biking use those gizmos, and more power to them, but I gave up a long time ago at improving my mountain bike mediocrity. That is, until it really sank in just how long of a road to recovery it’d be to get to some level of personal norm on the bike after this injury.
So, while some may look at my lack of true interest in all things electronic bike to review something like Rotor’s 2INpower cranks as a disservice, we viewed it as a perfect opportunity to highlight the opposite end of the performance-enhancement spectrum. Sure, it’s pushing outlier status, but what better way to test a product intended to be a tool for balanced power output than to throw the most lopsided dude in the proverbial office on it.
Rotor’s 2INpower MTB cranks were the first dual-sided mountain bike power meter to hit the market. Ask any coach or Lycra-clad athlete about training and expect to hear all about how power meters are the best way to gauge fitness and use as a more accurate training baseline than heart rate monitors. The 2INpower cranks meter and display that power in the form of watts, and do so in a split format to show just how evenly - or unevenly - each leg is contributing to wattage. More often than not, riders have some level of discrepancy between the power produced in each leg. This doodad is a perfect way to discover and document such variants in simple percentage numbers, and lends itself to help remedy discrepancies, too.
On the elite end of the spectrum, it can be an integral tool at fine-tuning that last little bit of fitness. And, down at the shallow end of the pool where I was crashing Silver Sneaker aquatic yoga classes, knowing just how offset my watts were on each leg helped me form a better game plan with physical therapy, and quite possibly kept such lopsidedness from spreading into other parts of my body. If you’re lucky enough to have never had an issue with, say, your lower back seizing up due to a bad ankle, chances are someone you ride with could blab on and on about it. There will always be exceptions to just about anything I state, but in general, a balanced body is a happy body.
When the 2INpower cranks showed up, I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. For starters, I didn't own any type of head unit personally, and basically assumed that there'd be a phone app to use, or maybe Rotor would send a head unit with the cranks.
To clarify, Rotor does have an app, and it's mentioned in the owner's manual that's usually sent with 2INpower cranks, but my demo cranks showed up without standard retail packaging or an owner's manual. When inquiring about what the best option would be to unlock the data from the cranks, Rotor's app wasn't initially mentioned, either. What was conveyed was that there's essentially minimal communication between companies who make power meters and companies who make compatible head units.
As an admittedly clueless person to this kind of tech, it felt like I'd been sent a desktop computer sans keyboard, and without a recommendation of what brand keyboard to use. Rotor simply states the 2INpower cranks need a device that is ANT+ or Bluetooth capable, but beyond that, there is no brand partnership or list of recommended head units.
Because power is measured for each leg, it's easy to spot strength differences.
The first 3rd party head unit acquired was rather buggy with Rotor's product. Rotor pointed to the general disconnect between brands, and stated that the bugs were most likely due to the head unit not reading data transmitted from the 2INpower correctly. The head unit company agreed, and basically said to “Wait a couple of weeks for our next firmware update,” which went on for about 6-weeks, and still didn’t fix the bugs.
Several weeks into the process of trying to sort out the first head unit, Rotor finally mentioned their app, which they said wasn't the most accurate way to access power meter info. It worked better than the first head unit, and really didn't seem to be as bad as Rotor portrayed it to be, though it was still finicky. Ultimately, I ended up borrowing a head unit from one of Rotor's tech guys, that provided noticeably more consistent data, and finally seemed to provide the info I'd hoped for from the beginning - overall average balance output from each ride. Performance
Out of the box, 2INpower cranks are calibrated from the factory. although according to Rotor they need to be re-calibrated after installation since the torque applied to bolts during installation impacts the zero-offset. Rotor also recommends recalibrating any time pedals are swapped out due to the torque involved in doing so, and any time the cranks themselves are switched over to a different bike. I recalibrated them once through the Rotor app, or at least I think I did, but I also swapped the cranks through 3 different review bikes, and at least as many pedals. The result? Maybe my exact watts weren’t captured all that accurately. In my case, watts may as well have been nanonewtonkelvins, as I couldn’t really have cared less at the embarrassingly low numbers I was producing - all I wanted to see was how close or far away I was to leg equilibrium. Still, for best results it's important to make sure the cranks have been calibrated properly.
After a few months of intermittent use (I would’ve ridden them exclusively if it weren’t for review-related bike swaps and such), Rotor’s 2INpower cranks definitely helped balance my legs out, but in more of a stern “go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done” kind of way than actually directly improving my rather extreme lopsidedness. The biggest lesson came after I’d finished a brutal couple of months in rehab with Blood Flow Restriction therapy that helped get my legs to the exact same circumference in several spots. In my mind, equal sized guns meant equal sized bullets, but alas, the little computer display said otherwise. To add to the learning curve, it was amazing to feel just how big of an effort was involved in equalizing a 10% discrepancy while pedaling. It was almost an anaerobic endeavor to get close to 50/50 some days, and if I weren’t looking at the screen, I would’ve bet all the titanium in my leg that about a quarter of the effort above what was otherwise a 45/55 split would’ve been overcompensating. Generally, it seemed like gym work and physical therapy worked best at actually correcting such large discrepancies in power balance, but once I got close the 2INpower was key in staying on track and/or fine tuning smaller wattage variations.
Over the 6+ months I had the 2INpower cranks, I only charged them at the very end, and that was just to see how it worked. So while the charging cord with proprietary magnetic port is ridiculously short(4ft), the good news is you won’t have to lean your bike up at an awkward angle to get to that outlet more than once or twice a year.
As for durability, these cranks were put on a Trek Slash, a Rocky Mountain Altitude, and a titanium hardtail prototype. They took more than a few direct hits to rocks and roots, spent a solid few rides in rainy, slushy Colorado winter conditions, and never hinted any kind of issue from anything I threw at them. The cranks themselves are stiff enough for my 200lbs of torque to not notice any flex, too, though it’s obvious that I’m not producing the usual power someone my size would these days.
Excellent tool for injury recovery+
Long battery life+
Durable enough for trail riding
Not the most intuitive technology-
Not the lightest option