Mechanical energy management in cycling: source relations and energy expenditure

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Conservation of energy suggests that during cycling the constrained lower extremity is capable of delivering energy to the bicycle without expending energy to move the limbs. The purpose of this study was to characterize the management of mechanical energy during cycling and, specifically, to evaluate the potential for system energetic conservatism. Mechanical energy contributions derived from lower extremity energy sources were computed for 12 experienced male cyclists riding at five combinations of cadence and power output. The knee joint dominated (>50%) in contributing to system energy and a moderate amount of energy was derived from hip joint reaction forces (>6%). Energy generations and dissipations at the sources were sensitive to power output and, within the range of conditions studied, insensitive to cadence. Two energy models estimated mechanical energy expenditure under hypothetical single-joint and multijoint muscle operating conditions. When multi-joint muscles were incorporated into the energy management analysis, a significant reduction in mechanical work relative to the single-joint muscle operation occurred. Energy savings associated with multijoint muscle energy transfers were enhanced at higher bicycle power levels, suggesting that conservation of mechanical energy is plausible given appropriate actions of two-joint muscles.

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