Friday, March 13, 2009

Understanding Cycling factors & Physiological factors for efficient cycling

Historically, the bicycle has evolved through the stages of a machine for efficient human transportation, a toy for children, a finely-tuned racing machine, and a tool for physical fitness development, maintenance and testing (2).
The underlying principle of positioning a cyclist on a bicycle is to remember that the bicycle is adjustable, and the cyclist is adaptable (1).

Proper bicycle fit requires (1)
1. Careful review of bicycle selection,
2. Saddle height for proper leg extension,
3. Fore-and-aft positioning of the knee over the pedal,
4. Saddle tilt,
5. Handlebar position, and
6. Positioning of the upper body for optimum comfort and performance.
7. Maintaining an aerodynamic position for extended periods of time (Recently, major strides have been made in the aerodynamic design of the bicycle. These innovations have resulted in new land speed records for human powered machines. N.B. fatigue patterns in lower and upper body musculature play an important role in maintaining aerodynamic position on the cycle).

Performance in cycling is affected by a variety of factors (2)
1. Aerobic and anaerobic capacity,
2. Muscular strength and endurance, and
3. Body composition.

Short and long interval training, blended with long distance tempo cycling, will exploit both the anaerobic and aerobic systems. Strength training, to be effective, must be performed with the specific muscle groups used in cycling, and at specific angles of involvement.

Physiological Testing (2):
Bicycle races range from a 200m sprint to approximately 5000km. This vast range of competitive racing requires special attention to the principle of specificity of training.
The physiological demands of cycling have been examined through the use of (2)
Bicycle ergometers, rollers, cycling trainers, treadmill cycling, high speed photography, computer graphics, strain gauges, electromyography, wind tunnels, muscle biopsy, and body composition analysis.

Nutrition in cycling (2):
Prolonged cycling requires special nutritional considerations. Ingestion of carbohydrates, in solid form and carefully timed, influences performance. Caffeine appears to enhance lipid metabolism.

Few other important factors in leisure time & competitive cycling (2):
1. Injuries, particularly knee problems which are prevalent among cyclists, may be avoided through the use of proper gearing and orthotics.
2. Air pollution has been shown to impair physical performance. When pollution levels are high, training should be altered or curtailed .

1. Burke ER; Clin Sports Med. 1994 Jan;13(1):1-14.
2. Faria IE; Sports Med. 1984 May-Jun;1(3):187-204.

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