European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 7, pp 1331–1338 | Cite as

Comparison of running and cycling economy in runners, cyclists, and triathletes

  • Wannes Swinnen
  • Shalaya Kipp
  • Rodger Kram
Original Article



Exercise economy is one of the main physiological factors determining performance in endurance sports. Running economy (RE) can be improved with running-specific training, while the improvement of cycling economy (CE) with cycling-specific training is controversial. We investigated whether exercise economy reflects sport-specific skills/adaptations or is determined by overall physiological factors.


We compared RE and CE in 10 runners, 9 cyclists and 9 triathletes for running at 12 km/h and cycling at 200 W. Gross rates of oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production were collected and used to calculate gross metabolic rate in watts for both running and cycling.


Runners had better RE than cyclists (917 ± 107 W vs. 1111 ± 159 W) (p < 0.01). Triathletes had intermediate RE values (1004 ± 98 W) not different from runners or cyclists. CE was not different (p = 0.20) between the three groups (runners: 945 ± 60 W; cyclists: 982 ± 44 W; triathletes: 979 ± 54 W).


RE can be enhanced with running-specific training, but CE is independent of cycling-specific training.


Bicycling Efficiency Exercise Training transfer Triathlon 



Analysis of variance


Cycling economy


Running economy


Respiratory exchange ratio


Revolutions per minute



We thank Asher Straw for his help setting up the bicycle ergometer and the power-measuring pedals.

Author contributions

WS and RK conceived and designed the experiment. WS and SK conducted the experiments. WS processed the data and wrote the manuscript. All authors interpreted and discussed the results. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

421_2018_3865_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 15 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Locomotion Lab, Integrative Physiology DepartmentUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Biomechanics and OrthopaedicsGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany

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