Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
from September 2014
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2010) 09, 332 - 337

Research article
Cycling Efficiency in Trained Male and Female Competitive Cyclists
James Hopker1, , Simon Jobson1, Helen Carter2, Louis Passfield1
Author Information
1 Centre for Sports Studies, University of Kent, Chatham Maritime, Chatham, Kent UK
2 Chelsea School, University of Brighton, Brighton, West Sussex, UK

James Hopker
✉ Centre for Sports Studies, University of Kent, Chatham Maritime, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4AG, UK
Publish Date
Received: 03-03-2010
Accepted: 12-04-2010
Published (online): 01-06-2010
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The aim of this study was to examine differences in cycling efficiency between competitive male and female cyclists. Thirteen trained male (mean ± SD: 34 ± 8 yr, 74.1 ± 6.0 kg, Maximum Aerobic Power (MAP) 414 ± 40 W, VO2max 61.3 ± 5.4 ml·kg-1·min-1) and 13 trained female (34 ± 9 yr, 60.1 ± 5.2 kg, MAP 293 ± 22 W, VO2max 48.9 ± 6.1 ml·kg-1·min-1) competitive cyclists completed a cycling test to ascertain their gross efficiency (GE). Leg and lean leg volume of all cyclists was also measured. Calculated GE was significantly higher in female cyclists at 150W (22.5 ± 2.1 vs 19.9 ± 1. 8%; p < 0.01) and 180W (22.3 ± 1.8 vs 20.4 ± 1.5%; p = 0.01). Cadence was not significantly different between the groups (88 ± 6 vs 91 ± 5 rev·min-1). Lean leg volume was significantly lower for female cyclists (4.04 ± 0.5 vs 5.51 ± 0.8 dm3; p < 0.01) and was inversely related to GE in both groups at 150 and 180W (r = -0.59 and -0.58; p < 0.05). Lean leg volume was shown to account for the differences in GE between the males and females. During an “unloaded ”pedalling condition, male cyclists had a significantly higher O2 cost than female cyclists (1.0 ± 0.1 vs 0.7 ± 0.1 L·min-1; p < 0.01), indicative of a greater non-propulsive cost of cycling. These results suggest that differences in efficiency between trained male and female cyclists can be partly accounted for by sex-specific variation in lean leg volume.

Key words: Gross efficiency, endurance performance, sex-related differences, power output, leg volume

           Key Points
  • Differences in GE exist between male and female cyclists.
  • Males have a higher oxygen cost of “unloaded ”cycling, as predicted by the intercept of the O2 cost-power output relationship
  • This suggests that in addition to work rate, leg volume/mass may be an important determinant of observed differences in oxygen cost and therefore GE, between male and female competitive cyclists.
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