Original Article

European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 111, Issue 12, pp 2885-2893

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The relationship between cadence, pedalling technique and gross efficiency in cycling

  • Stig LeirdalAffiliated withDepartment of Human Movement Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Email author 
  • , Gertjan EttemaAffiliated withDepartment of Human Movement Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)


Technique and energy saving are two variables often considered as important for performance in cycling and related to each other. Theoretically, excellent pedalling technique should give high gross efficiency (GE). The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between pedalling technique and GE. 10 well-trained cyclists were measured for GE, force effectiveness (FE) and dead centre size (DC) at a work rate corresponding to ~75% of VO2max during level and inclined cycling, seat adjusted forward and backward, at three different cadences around their own freely chosen cadence (FCC) on an ergometer. Within subjects, FE, DC and GE decreased as cadence increased (p < 0.001). A strong relationship between FE and GE was found, which was to great extent explained by FCC. The relationship between cadence and both FE and GE, within and between subjects, was very similar, irrespective of FCC. There was no difference between level and inclined cycling position. The seat adjustments did not affect FE, DC and GE or the relationship between them. Energy expenditure is strongly coupled to cadence, but force effectiveness, as a measure for pedalling technique, is not likely the cause of this relationship. FE, DC and GE are not affected by body orientation or seat adjustments, indicating that these parameters and the relationship between them are robust to coordinative challenges within a range of cadence, body orientation and seat position that is used in regular cycling.


Cadence Inclined Level Pedalling Technique