Biomechanical Analysis of Cycling in Elite Cyclists

Author: Tim Prins

Prins, Tim, 2017 Biomechanical Analysis of Cycling in Elite Cyclists, Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

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Winning a track sprint cycling race can often come down to a fraction of a second. In 2016 at the Rio Olympic Games, the Australian men’s sprint team lost to Great Britain by 0.102 seconds. Therefore, it is essential that cycling conditions have been optimised to enable the cyclist to output maximum pedal force. The position of the cyclist on the bicycle has proven to have the most significant effect on pedal force production.

Several studies have shown that handlebar type, seat height and power can improve output among road cyclists and triathletes. However, each cycling discipline has a specific focus, training goals and thus, specificity between cycling athletes. Consequently, the results from these studies will not necessarily crossover to track sprint cyclists. Further research is required to identify trends in cyclist position on influencing the biomechanics of pedalling, specific to track sprint cyclists.

The primary objective of this study was to determine if changes in joint kinematics and muscle activations could be detected as a result of adjustments to cyclist seat height and handlebar type at both submaximal and maximal power levels. Eight elite track sprint cyclists from Cycling Australia’s High Performance Unit were involved in this study. The kinematic and muscle activation patterns were recorded and analysed during sprints for each subject using 3D motion analysis and electromyography (EMG) electrodes.

The kinematic results confirmed that power level had a significant effect on the joint ranges of motion, while there were no significant differences between handlebar type or between seat heights. On the other hand, the EMG data collected was relatively unreliable due to poor skin-electrode contact. Finally, this project has contributed towards developing a 3D motion analysis protocol for assessing kinematics of track sprint cyclists.

Keywords: Cycling, Biomechanics, 3D Motion Capture, EMG

Subject: Engineering thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: Mark Taylor