Pedalling rate affects endurance performance during high-intensity cycling

Jens Steen Nielsen, Ernst Albin Hansen, Gisela Sjøgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The purpose of this study into high-intensity cycling was to: (1) test the hypothesis that endurance time is longest at a freely chosen pedalling rate (FCPR), compared to pedalling rates 25% lower (FCPR-25) and higher (FCPR + 25) than FCPR, and (2) investigate how physiological variables, such as muscle fibre type composition and power reserve, relate to endurance time. Twenty males underwent testing to determine their maximal oxygen uptake (̇ VO2max), power output corresponding to 90% of ̇ VO2max at 80 rpm (̇ W90), FCPR at ̇ W90, percentage of slow twitch muscle fibres (% MHC I), maximal leg power, and endurance time at ̇W90 with FCPR-25, FCPR, and FCPR + 25. Power reserve was calculated as the difference between applied power output at a given pedalling rate and peak crank power at this same pedalling rate. ̇ W90 was 325 (47) W. FCPR at ̇W90 was 78 (11) rpm, resulting in FCPR-25 being 59 (8) rpm and FCPR + 25 being 98 (13) rpm. Endurance time at ̇ W90FCPR+25 [441 (188) s] was significantly shorter than at ̇ W90FCPR [589 (232) s] and ̇W90FCPR-25 [547 (170) s]. Metabolic responses such as ̇ VO2 and blood lactate concentration were generally higher at ̇ W90FCPR+25 than at ̇ W90FCPR-25 and ̇ W90FCPR. Endurance time was negatively related to ̇ VO2max, ̇ W90 and % MHC I, while positively related to power reserve. In conclusion, at group level, endurance time was longer at FCPR and at a pedalling rate 25% lower compared to a pedalling rate 25% higher than FCPR. Further, inter-individual physiological variables were of significance for endurance time, % MHC I showing a negative and power reserve a positive relationship.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)114-120
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


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