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Jeffery W. Rankin and Richard R. Neptune

Manipulating seat configuration (i.e., seat tube angle, seat height and pelvic orientation) alters the bicycle-rider geometry, which influences lower extremity muscle kinematics and ultimately muscle force and power generation during pedaling. Previous studies have sought to identify the optimal configuration, but isolating the effects of specific variables on rider performance from the confounding effect of rider adaptation makes such studies challenging. Of particular interest is the influence of seat tube angle on rider performance, as seat tube angle varies across riding disciplines (e.g., road racers vs. triathletes). The goals of the current study were to use muscle-actuated forward dynamics simulations of pedaling to 1) identify the overall optimal seat configuration that produces maximum crank power and 2) systematically vary seat tube angle to assess how it influences maximum crank power. The simulations showed that a seat height of 0.76 m (or 102% greater than trochanter height), seat tube angle of 85.1 deg, and pelvic orientation of 20.5 deg placed the major power-producing muscles on more favorable regions of the intrinsic force-length-velocity relationships to generate a maximum average crank power of 981 W. However, seat tube angle had little influence on crank power, with maximal values varying at most by 1% across a wide range of seat tube angles (65 to 110 deg). The similar power values across the wide range of seat tube angles were the result of nearly identical joint kinematics, which occurred using a similar optimal seat height and pelvic orientation while systematically shifting the pedal angle with increasing seat tube angles.

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Richard R. Neptune and Maury L. Hull

In a previous paper (Neptune & Hull, 1995), a new video-based method (ASIS) for locating the hip joint center (HJC) in seated cycling was shown to be more accurate than tracking a marker placed over the superior aspect of the greater trochanter (TRO). The main goal of the present study was to see if the conclusions presented in Neptune and Hull (1995) may be applied to other cyclists. Lower limb kinematic and pedal force data were collected from 7 cyclists at nine combinations of pedaling rate and work rate. ASIS produced significantly different hip joint movement patterns than TRO, which resulted in significantly different power and work calculations developed by the intersegmental hip joint force, at all combinations except one. A significant quadratic trend was evident as a function of pedaling rate, and a significant linear trend was evident for work rate. At naturally preferred pedaling rates (~90 rpm) and lower work rates (<225 W), the hip joint movement was minimum. Under these conditions, the fixed hip assumption is least prone to error.

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Steven A. Kautz, Richard R. Neptune and Felix E. Zajac

The target article presents a framework for coordination of one- and two-joint muscles in a variety of tasks. Static optimization analyses were performed that minimize muscle fatigue, and it is claimed that the predicted muscle forces account for essential features of EMG activity “qualitatively” well. However, static optimization analyses use the observed joint moments, which implicitly assumes that they minimize the total muscle fatigue of the task. We use a forward dynamics (i.e., relationship between muscle forces and the kinematics and kinetics of task performance) modeling approach to show that this assumption does not appear to be true in cycling (which was used as an example task in the target article). Our results challenge the hypothesized coordination framework and the underlying concept that general coordination principles for dynamic tasks can be elucidated using inverse-dynamics-based analyses.