Comparison of Physiological Responses and Performance Between Mountain Bicycles With Differing Suspension Systems

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

This study compared the metabolic and performance effects of riding front-only suspension (FS) and front-and-rear suspension (FRS) mountain bicycles on an off-road course that simulated competitive cross-country race conditions (>105 min in duration, with ∼70% of time spent riding uphill).

Methods:

Seven competitive mountain bikers (73.8 ± 7.6 kg; 61.0 ± 4.3 mL·kg–1·min–1) completed two randomized FS and FRS trials. Bikes were similar, excluding rear wheel suspension on the FRS, which increased bike weight by ∼2 kg. Each trial consisted of four laps of rugged 8 km trail with 154 m of elevation gain per lap. The first three laps were performed at ∼70% of VO2max; VO2, HR, and RPE were collected during the first and third laps. The final lap was performed as a maximal time-trial effort.

Results:

During the first and third laps, VO2, HR, and RPE were similar between FS and FRS. However, FS was significantly faster than FRS during the ascending segment of the course (17.6 ± 2.9 vs 18.9 ± 3.4 min, P = .035), despite similar VO2 (P = .651). Although not statistically significant, FRS tended to be faster than FS during the descending portion of the course (8.1 ± 2.0 vs 9.1 ± 2.1, P = .067) at similar VO2. Performance during the final time-trial lap was significantly faster for FS than FRS (24.9 ± 3.9 min, 27.5 ± 4.9 min, P = .008).

Conclusion:

FS was faster than FRS over a course that simulated competitive cross-country race conditions. The faster times were likely the result of improved cycling economy during ascending, which were at least partially influenced by the lighter weight of the FS.

Jeffrey E. Herrick is with the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL. Judith A. Flohr, Davis L. Wenos, and Michael J. Saunders are with the Department of Kinesiology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.