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Measuring Cadence, power and VO2 Max

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Measuring Cadence, power and VO2 Max

Pedalling fast in a low gear wastes your energy.  When you cycle at the wrong cadence most of your effort will go into moving your legs up and down, not moving the bike forward.

Regular cyclists tend to save their energy instinctively by choosing the most comfortable gears but some clever experiments have revealed why.

Volunteers were recruited and their oxygen consumption measured while pedalling on an exercise bike to reveal the power they put into the stationary bike.  At the same time a 3D infrared video was taken of the riders, to calculate how much power they were using to move their legs.

At a low exercise intensity of 50W, it was found that pedalling in a small gear at 110 rpm more than 60 per cent of their power was used to move parts of their own body, including thighs, knees and feet while only 40 per cent of actually went into spinning the cranks. It was a massively inefficient way to ride.

These tests have to rely on a limited set of measurements from a rider, they’re put into an equation to estimate their oxygen uptake (VO2) as this is an indication of how well the body is performing.The conventional equation  includes body mass and external work rate, the equation ignores pedalling rate.  The experiments showed that, by adding pedalling rate, the accuracy of the equation at predicting how well a rider performs when they are working just a little below their VO2 Max, is improved

It is another case of science explaining what cyclists have learned from experience.“Cyclists and coaches are well aware of the importance of pedalling rate in cycling.....both riders and coaches spend some time manipulating their cadence in order to maximise their training effects....A significant mystery still remains to be solved by science. Cyclists do not, in practice, choose to pedal at the cadences that scientists find to be the most economical in terms of oxygen cost. Instead they choose to pedal notably faster than this,” says Professor Passfield.

So more studies are needed, as one thing is for sure,  no pro is going to waste any energy by pedalling quickly in a low gear.

If this is of interest and importance read more here

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