Optic flow on the retina creates a perception of a person’s movement relative to their surroundings. This study investigated the effect of optic flow on perceived exertion during cycling. Fifteen participants completed a 20-km reference cycling time trail in the fastest possible time followed by three randomly counterbalanced 20-km cycling trials. Optic flow, via projected video footage of a cycling course, either represented actual speed (TTNORM) or was varied by −15% (TTSLOW) and +15% (TTFAST). During TTSLOW, power output and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), measured every 4 km, were lower during TTSLOW compared with TTNORM and TTFAST. There were no differences in heart rate or cadence. This study is the first to show that different rates of optic flow influence perceived exertion during cycling, with slower optic flow being associated with lower RPE and higher power output.
David Parry, Camilla Chinnasamy, and Dominic Micklewright are with the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK.