Previous research has shown that cycling in a standing position reduces cycling economy compared with seated cycling. It is unknown whether the cycling intensity moderates the reduction in cycling economy while standing.
The aim was to determine whether the negative effect of standing on cycling economy would be decreased at a higher intensity.
Ten cyclists cycled in 8 different conditions. Each condition was either at an intensity of 50% or 70% of maximal aerobic power at a gradient of 4% or 8% and in the seated or standing cycling position. Cycling economy and muscle activation level of 8 leg muscles were recorded.
There was an interaction between cycling intensity and position for cycling economy (P = .03), the overall activation of the leg muscles (P = .02), and the activation of the lower leg muscles (P = .05). The interaction showed decreased cycling economy when standing compared with seated cycling, but the difference was reduced at higher intensity. The overall activation of the leg muscles and the lower leg muscles, respectively, increased and decreased, but the differences between standing and seated cycling were reduced at higher intensity.
Cycling economy was lower during standing cycling than seated cycling, but the difference in economy diminishes when cycling intensity increases. Activation of the lower leg muscles did not explain the lower cycling economy while standing. The increased overall activation, therefore, suggests that increased activation of the upper leg muscles explains part of the lower cycling economy while standing.