On the biomechanics of cycling. A study of joint and muscle load during exercise on the bicycle ergometer

Scand J Rehabil Med Suppl. 1986;16:1-43.


The aim of the study was to quantify the load induced in the lower limb joints and muscles during exercise on a bicycle ergometer and to study how these loads changed with adjustments of the bicycle ergometer or cycling technique. The forces, load moments and muscular power output acting on and about the hip, knee and ankle joints during cycling were determined using cine-film, pedal force measurements and biomechanical calculations based upon static and dynamic mechanics. The muscular activity of eleven lower limb muscles was recorded and quantified using EMG. The load moments acting about the bilateral hip, knee and ankle joint axes were found to be generally lower than those induced during normal level walking. The varus and valgus load moments acting about the antero-posterior knee joint axis were approximately the same as those induced during walking. The tibio-femoral compressive joint force and the anteriorly directed tibio-femoral shear force mainly stressing the anterior cruciate ligament were low. The talocrural joint compressive force and achilles tendon tensile force were low compared to those in level walking. The magnitude of lower limb muscular activity during cycling approximated that obtained during walking, with three major exceptions. M. vastus medialis et lateralis were more activated during cycling than during walking, and tibialis anterior was less activated. The hip extensor muscles produced 27%, hip flexors 4%, knee extensors 39%, knee flexors 10% and ankle plantar flexors 20% of the total positive mechanical work. Of the four parameters studied (workload, pedalling rate, saddle height, pedal foot position) workload was the most important adjustment factor for change of joint load and muscular activity. An increased pedalling rate increased the muscular activity in most of the muscles investigated, generally without changing the joint load. Increased saddle height decreased the maximum flexing knee load moment, but did not significantly change the flexing hip or dorsiflexing ankle load moment. Muscular activity in most of the muscles investigated was not generally changed by different saddle heights. Use of a posterior foot position instead of an anterior decreased the dorsiflexing ankle load moment, increased the gluteus medius and rectus femoris activity, and decreased soleus muscular activity but did not significantly change the hip or knee moments. It is suggested that cycling might be a useful exercise in the rehabilitation of patients with injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament of the knee or achilles tendon.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / physiology*
  • Bicycling*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Test
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Sports*