Non-propulsive work demand has been linked to reduced energetic economy of cross-country mountain biking. The purpose of this study was to determine mechanical, physiological and performance differences and observe economy while riding a downhill section of a cross-country course prior to and following the metabolic "load" of a climb at race pace under two conditions (hardtail and full suspension) expected to alter vibration damping mechanics. Participants completed 1 lap of the track incorporating the same downhill section twice, under two conditions (hardtail and full suspension). Performance was determined by time to complete overall lap and specific terrain sections. Power, cadence, heart rate and oxygen consumption were sampled and logged every second while triaxial accelerometers recorded accelerations (128 Hz) to quantify vibration. No differences between performance times (P = 0.65) or power outputs (P = 0.61) were observed while physiological demand of loaded downhill riding was significantly greater (P < 0.0001) than unloaded. Full suspension decreased total vibrations experienced (P < 0.01) but had no effect on performance (P = 0.97) or physiological (P > 0.05) measures. This study showed minimal advantage of a full suspension bike in our trial, with further investigations over a full race distance warranted.
Keywords: Mountain biking; field testing; performance; recovery; suspension.