'I wasn't really going for it': Hill climber's huge power completely destroys crankset

His peak power is more than 2,000 watts, and he's only been cycling for a year

Calum Brown and his broken hill climb bike
(Image credit: Ben Yeates/Calum Brown)

If there was ever a case of a rider having too much power, then it's surely hill climber Calum Brown, who managed to destroy a crankset with his starting effort at a race on Sunday.

Brown, a former athlete who only took up cycling this time last year, was competing in the Bank Road Hill Climb organised by Matlock CC when the incident occurred.

>>> 10 ways to improve your climbing

"I was one of the the earlier riders to go, got the countdown from the starter, and on '3-2-1 go' my very first pedal stroke snapped all of the spider arms off my cranks," Brown said.

"I did actually move a centimetre forward, I didn't even cross the start line."

Brown had modified his SRAM Red cranks with chainrings the manufacturer would not recommend using on his customised hill climb ride.

Formerly one of Scotland's top decathletes before retiring due to injuries a few years, ago, Brown only took up cycling because he girlfriend had started doing it and entering his first hill climbs in 2016.

Winning his second ever hill climb last year, Brown did a bit of power testing, hitting an astonishing 2,109 watts on a Wattbike, a huge figure even before you factor in that he weighs 75kg.

However Brown says that he wasn't putting in this sort of maximum effort when destroyed his crankset as he tried to accelerate away from the start line at the bottom of Bank Road.

Watch: Is this the ultimate hill climb bike?

"I was just trying to get up to speed without inducing any fatigue," Brown continued. "I was trying to go out fairly hard, but I wasn’t really going for it.

"I though it was a snapped chain, then looked down and saw what had happened, and that put a bit of a smile on my face. If that’s how you’re going to break something, then it’s a pretty good way of breaking something."

>>> Riders' heart rate and power data from the Monsal HC show how deep you have to go in a hill climb

Having acquired a borrowed bike, the organisers then allowed Brown to set off at the end of the field (although his time wouldn't appear on the official results), setting a mark of 1-42 that would have been good enough to win the event.

Brown's next event will be the National Championships in Northumberland next Sunday, but insists that he'll only be going there to help his team B38/Underpin Racing to a good collective result with the long climb at Hedley-on-the-Hill in Northumberland not suited to Brown's speciality of short, sharp efforts.

In response to this story, SRAM, which manufactures the cranks used, said this:

"2000+ watts is an incredibly impressive amount of power to generate and we applaud Calum’s strength.

"With that said, SRAM cranksets and chainrings are subjected to testing beyond the capabilities of human performance to assure robustness for their intended use. However, Callum’s 1x configuration is outside of the Red crankset’s intended use.

"The reason for this is because a single chainring does not provide the same structure as a double chainring configuration, and at the very least requires the use of double chainring length chainring bolts with appropriate washer spacers such as those supplied with our alloy spidered SRAM Force 1 cranksets to spread the load across the chainring tabs.

"Additionally, it is possible that damage might occur during the assembly process of an unintended configuration like this that makes use of a different chainring, fasteners, and fastener torque values than the parts the crankset was engineered for.

"This type of failure highlights the danger and costs of not following a manufacturer’s installation guidelines. Riders who do not follow these guidelines put themselves at risk of serious bodily injury or death while also voiding the product warranty.

"SRAM has a database available to the public to find product installation information on our service page. Customers are also encouraged to consult with their local dealer to get questions answered that may fall outside of the information covered in our service documents."

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Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.