The effect of upper body positioning on the aerodynamic-physiological economy of time trial cycling

Faulkner, S.H. ORCID: 0000-0003-4688-7252 and Jobling, P., 2021. The effect of upper body positioning on the aerodynamic-physiological economy of time trial cycling. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 16 (1), pp. 51-58. ISSN 1555-0265

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Purpose: Cycling time trials are characterised by riders adopting aerodynamic positions, to lessen the impact of aerodynamic drag on velocity. The optimal performance requirements for time trials likely exists on a continuum of rider aerodynamics versus physiological optimisation, yet there is little empirical evidence to inform riders and coaches. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between aerodynamic optimisation, energy expenditure, heat production and performance.

Methods: Eleven trained cyclists completed five submaximal exercise tests, followed by a time trial. Trials were completed at hip angles of 12˚ (more horizontal), 16˚, 20˚, 24˚ (more vertical) and their self-selected control position.

Results: The largest decrease in power output at anaerobic threshold compared to control occurred at 12˚ (-16±20W, P=0.026; ES=0.8). There was a linear relationship between upper body position and heat production (R2=0.414, P=0.037) but no change in mean body temperature, suggesting that as upper body position and hip angle increase, convective and evaporative cooling also rise. The highest aerodynamic-physiological economy occurred at 12˚ (384 ± 53 W.CdA.L.min-1, ES = 0.4) and the lowest at 24˚ (338 ± 28 W.CdA.L.min-1, ES = 0.7), versues control (367 ± 41 W.CdA.L.min-1).

Conclusion: These data suggest that the physiological cost of reducing hip angle is outweighed by the aerodynamic benefit. These data suggest that riders should favour aerodynamic optimisation for shorter time trial events. The impact on thermoregulation and performance in the field requires further investigation.

Item Type: Journal article
Alternative Title: Aerodynamic-physiological economy [running head]
Publication Title: International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Creators: Faulkner, S.H. and Jobling, P.
Publisher: Human Kinetics
Date: January 2021
Volume: 16
Number: 1
ISSN: 1555-0265
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 03 Apr 2020 11:32
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2021 07:58

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