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Effect of Gradient on Cycling Gross Efficiency and Technique


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 5 - p 920–926
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827d1bdb
Applied Sciences

Purpose The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of gradient on cycling gross efficiency and pedaling technique.

Methods Eighteen trained cyclists were tested for efficiency, index of pedal force effectiveness (IFE), distribution of power production during the pedal revolution (dead center size [DC]), and timing and level of muscle activity of eight leg muscles. Cycling was performed on a treadmill at gradients of 0% (level), 4%, and 8%, each at three different cadences (60, 75, and 90 rev·min−1).

Results Efficiency was significantly decreased at a gradient of 8% compared with both 0% and 4% (P < 0.05). The relationship between cadence and efficiency was not changed by gradient (P > 0.05). At a gradient of 8%, there was a larger IFE between 45° and 225° and larger DC, compared with 0% and 4% (P < 0.05). The onset of muscle activity for vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, gastrocnemius lateralis, and gastrocnemius medialis occurred earlier with increasing gradient (all P < 0.05), whereas none of the muscles showed a change in offset (P > 0.05). Uphill cycling increased the overall muscle activity level (P < 0.05), mainly induced by increased calf muscle activity.

Conclusions These results suggest that uphill cycling decreases cycling gross efficiency and is associated with changes in pedaling technique.

1School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Kent, Kent, England, UNITED KINGDOM; and 2Department of Sports Studies, University of Winchester, Hampshire, England, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Marco Arkesteijn, MSc, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Kent, Chatham, ME4 4AG, United Kingdom; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2012.

Accepted for publication November 2012.

©2013The American College of Sports Medicine