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We investigated how varying seat tube angle (STA) and hand position affect muscle kinematics and activation patterns during cycling in order to better understand how triathlon-specific bike geometries might mitigate the biomechanical challenges associated with the bike-to-run transition. Whole body motion and lower extremity muscle activities were recorded from 14 triathletes during a series of cycling and treadmill running trials. A total of nine cycling trials were conducted in three hand positions (aero, drops, hoods) and at three STAs (73°, 76°, 79°). Participants also ran on a treadmill at 80, 90, and 100% of their 10-km triathlon race pace. Compared with cycling, running necessitated significantly longer peak musculotendon lengths from the uniarticular hip flexors, knee extensors, ankle plantar flexors and the biarticular hamstrings, rectus femoris, and gastrocnemius muscles. Running also involved significantly longer periods of active muscle lengthening from the quadriceps and ankle plantar flexors. During cycling, increasing the STA alone had no affect on muscle kinematics but did induce significantly greater rectus femoris activity during the upstroke of the crank cycle. Increasing hip extension by varying the hand position induced an increase in hamstring muscle activity, and moved the operating lengths of the uniarticular hip flexor and extensor muscles slightly closer to those seen during running. These combined changes in muscle kinematics and coordination could potentially contribute to the improved running performances that have been previously observed immediately after cycling on a triathlon-specific bicycle.
Amy Silder is with the Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI. Kyle Gleason is with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI. Darryl G. Thelen (Corresponding Author) is with the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI.