Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

An Investigation of Natural Cadence between Cyclists and Noncyclists

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

An Investigation of Natural Cadence between Cyclists and Noncyclists

Article excerpt

Key words: rhythm, pace

In activities requiring repetitive motions such as cycling, an individual gravitates to a natural cadence (NC). NC is seen as a "naturally occurring" phenomenon, a pace to which an individual reverts, as opposed to a consciously mediated pace, which is a learned ability. For example, an experienced middle distance athlete will be able to accurately run laps at 63 s (although distance and type of training may also influence this). This is different to NC, which would be the pace to which the athlete would naturally gravitate if left to his or her own devices.

Our aim was to investigate this phenomenon by examining cyclists' NC (see Marais & Pelayo, 2001), in this sense, an internally set, unconsciously achieved rhythm to which the system would naturally gravitate (for a detailed discussion of how motor programs are stored and accessed, see Rosenbaum & Dawson, 2004; Mechsner, 2004).

Two major questions were addressed. First, we examined the evidence for and, if it was detected, strength of NC. Embedded within this issue was the contribution of experience (i.e., whether differences would exist between cyclists and noncyclists). Second, we looked at the physiological response postperturbation from fixed cadence to establish whether participants would revert to similar values, comparable with NC. Further, by considering physiological differences associated with different imposed and freely chosen rhythms, we attempted to uncover the mechanisms through which observed effects were generated. Again, we considered this with respect to both cyclists and noncyclists. Individualized measures were used as the basis for all variables, and the purpose of the present study was concealed from the participants, with NC, the fixed cadences, and work rate (WR) disclosed only once the testing was complete. In summary, this experiment is novel in that it examines the effects of perturbing preferred movement patterns while differentiating between groups.



Sixteen male participants were sampled to provide two groups: cyclists and noncyclists (see Table 1). All were unaware of the study purpose, except that it would involve an initial maximal incremental test and two subsequent submaximal sessions cycling at a fixed work rate but with differing cadences. Following ethical clearance, each participant provided written informed consent and completed a medical checklist. All were instructed to (a) refrain from prolonged physical activity, (b) consume no alcohol for at least 24-hr prior to each visit, and (c) ingest no caffeine for up to 3 hr prior to each session.


All testing was done on an electromagnetically braked, computer-controlled cycle ergometer (Excalibur Sport, Lode, Groningen, The Netherlands), which provided WR control independent of pedaling cadence. A metabolic cart (Metalyzer 3B; Cortex Biophysik, Leipzig, Germany) was used to calculate breath-by-breath pulmonary oxygen uptake ([VO.sub.2]). Participants wore a mask attached to a bidirectional turbine volume transducer and gas sample line. The metabolic cart was calibrated prior to each test using precision-analyzed gas mixtures and a high-precision 3-1 syringe. Heart rate was measured using a telemetric heart rate monitor (Polar Sports Tester, Kempele, Finland). A battery-powered metronome (Quartz Metro, SQ44; Seiko Corporation of America, Mahwah, NJ) guided cycling rate and, thus, produced a desired cadence.


The sample profile demonstrates the marked contrast between the two groups. The cyclists had been cycling competitively in a range of events for 11.4 years on average. The noncyclists were all active but did not cycle competitively. These differences were manifested in their cycling fitness, as shown in Table 1.

Each participant completed three testing sessions. All completed a maximal incremental (20 W x [min. …

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