The effect of body position on the energy cost of cycling

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991 Aug;23(8):949-53.


Energy expenditure during bicycling on flat terrain depends predominantly on air resistance, which is a function of total frontal area (bicycle and rider), coefficient of drag, and air speed. Body position on the bicycle may affect energy expenditure by altering either frontal area or coefficient of drag. In this study, oxygen uptake (VO2) was measured for each of four body positions in 10 cyclists (8 males, 2 females, 24 +/- 2 yr, 67.7 +/- 3.3 kg, VO2max = 65.8 +/- 1.5 while each bicycled up a 4% incline on a motor-driven treadmill (19.3 km.h-1), thereby eliminating air resistance. Positions studied included: 1) seated, hands on brake hoods, cadence 80 rev.min-1; 2) seated, hands on dropped bar (drops), 80 rev.min-1; 3) standing, hands on brake hoods, 60 rev.min-1; and 4) seated, hands on brake hoods, 60 rev.min-1. Subjects rode their own bicycles, which were equipped with a common set of racing wheels. Energy expenditure, expressed as VO2 per unit combined weight, was not significantly different between drops and hoods positioning (30.2 +/- 0.6 vs 29.9 +/- 0.9 but was significantly greater for standing compared with seated cycling (31.7 +/- 0.4 vs 28.3 +/- 0.7, P less than 0.01). These results indicate that body posture can affect energy expenditure during uphill bicycling through factors unrelated to air resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adult
  • Bicycling*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Posture / physiology*