Responses of Elite Road Motorcyclists to Racing in Tropical Conditions: A Case Study

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Introduction:

Anecdotal reports suggest that elite road motorcyclists suffer from high core body temperatures and physiological and perceptual strain when competing in hot conditions.

Methods:

Four male non-heat-acclimatized elite motorcyclists (3 Superbike, 1 Supersport) had their gastrointestinal temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate measured and recorded throughout practice, qualifying, and race sessions of an Australian Superbike and Supersport Championship round contested in tropical conditions. Physiological strain was calculated during the sessions, and fluid-balance measures were taken during practice and qualifying. Rider thermal sensation was assessed immediately postsession.

Results:

Mean ambient temperature and relative humidity were 29.5–30.2°C and 64.5–68.7%, respectively, across the sessions. Gastrointestinal temperature rose from 37.6°C to 37.7°C presession at a median rate of 0.035°C, 0.037°C ,and 0.067°C/min during practice, qualifying, and race sessions to reach medians of 38.9°C, 38.8°C, and 39.1°C postsession, respectively. The peak postsession gastrointestinal temperature was 39.8°C. Median heart rates were ~164, 160, and 177 beats/min during the respective practice, qualifying, and race sessions, contributing to median physiological strain of 5.5, 5.6, and 6.2 across the sessions. Sweat rates were 1.01 and 0.90 L/h during practice and qualifying sessions, while rider thermal sensation was very hot after each session.

Conclusions:

This investigation confirms that elite road motorcyclists endure moderate to high physiological strain during practice, qualifying, and race sessions, exhibiting more-rapid rates of body-heat storage, higher core body temperatures, and higher physiological and perceptual strain than their stock-car-racing counterparts when competing in tropical conditions.

Brearley and Norton are with the Natl Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, Darwin, Australia. Kingsbury is with Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, Australia. Maas is with Suzuki Racesafe, Melbourne, Australia. Address author correspondence to Matt Brearley at matt.brearley@nt.gov.au.