Effect of pedaling technique on mechanical effectiveness and efficiency in cyclists

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Jun;39(6):991-5. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e318043a235.


Purpose: To optimize endurance cycling performance, it is important to maximize efficiency. Power-measuring cranks and force-sensing pedals can be used to determine the mechanical effectiveness of cycling. From both a coaching and basic science perspective, it is of interest if a mechanically effective pedaling technique leads to greater efficiency. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine the effect of different pedaling techniques on mechanical effectiveness and gross efficiency during steady-state cycling.

Methods: Eight male cyclists exercised on a cycle ergometer at 90 rpm and 200 W using four different pedaling techniques: preferred pedaling; pedaling in circles; emphasizing the pull during the upstroke; and emphasizing the push during the downstroke. Each exercise bout lasted 6 min and was interspersed with 6 min of passive rest. We obtained mechanical effectiveness and gross efficiency using pedal-reaction forces and respiratory measures, respectively.

Results: When the participants were instructed to pull on the pedal during the upstroke, mechanical effectiveness was greater (index of force effectiveness=62.4+/-9.8%) and gross efficiency was lower (gross efficiency=19.0+/-0.7%) compared with the other pedaling conditions (index of force effectiveness=48.2+/-5.1% and gross efficiency=20.2+/-0.6%; means and standard deviations collapsed across preferred, circling, and pushing conditions). Mechanical effectiveness and gross efficiency during the circling and pushing conditions did not differ significantly from the preferred pedaling condition.

Conclusions: Mechanical effectiveness is not indicative of gross efficiency across pedaling techniques. These results thereby provide coaches and athletes with useful information for interpreting measures of mechanical effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Ergonomics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • United States