April 29, 2015 – The cycling world is full of products claiming to deliver a few percentage points of improvement. While plausible on their surface, these gains in the world of cycling would make an also-ran a champion. Find a product that allows you to climb Alp d’Huez five percent faster and you go from dropped to a yellow jersey. Gain five percent power in the match sprint and instead of failing to podium at nationals you win a medal at the Olympics.

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So what are we to think when Nikola Pedals claims to deliver a mind-boggling seven percent increase in power – magic beans and snake oil? It’s a novel concept, called Zivo motion, that Nikola claims provides these gains. Thanks to a design that creates 25mm of lateral movement in the pedal stroke, Nikola has created a stroke that mimics speed skating or cross-country skiers with an increasing Q-factor, or outward trajectory, during the power phase. Why should this create more power? Nikola claims the motion recruits more of the adductors and gluteus, portions of these muscle not typically engaged during a pedal stroke, therefore delivering more horsepower.

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The logic is sound. One of the reasons cross-country skiers typically have higher VO2 max numbers than cyclists is their use of more muscle groups. If the human body can sustain effort with more muscle groups engaged, why not try to recruit them for your pedal stroke? So are these things magic beans or not?

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Despite the glass knees of this test rider the motion caused no knee discomfort. In fact the motion itself feels very natural, almost unnoticeable, of course this is an intensely individual issue, but other very serious issues exist. This first iteration of Nikola pedals is an absolute non-starter for a criterium rider or climber. They dramatically reduce cornering clearance while pedaling so forget about being first out of the last corner. They are also very heavy, 502grams for a set of stainless spindle pedals. But, these are first generation, and Nikola plans on big improvements in the future.

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Do they deliver seven percent power gains? We won’t pretend our study of one has any relevance on that issue, but any serious time trial, pursuit or kilo rider would be silly not to investigate this technology further. Four percent, three percent, even two percent could be a career changer. Nikola has done an extensive study at Cleveland State University with 50 riders they claim supports these findings. The study is proprietary and has not yet been peer reviewed, so until then we’ll have to say the jury is out. But the logic is sound, the motion comfortable and the execution will certainly improve. Nikola just might be for real.

Price: Stainless Steel – $350 251grams per pedal, Titanium – $550 185grams per pedal. Look KEO compatible.

For more on this concept check out: nikolainnovation.com