Effect of cycling cadence on subsequent 3 km running
performance in well trained triathletes
T Bernard, F Vercruyssen, F Grego, C Hausswirth, R Lepers, J-M Vallier, J Brisswalter
Br J Sports Med
Objectives: To investigate the effect of three cycling cadences on a subsequent 3000 m track running
performance in well trained triathletes.
Methods: Nine triathletes completed a maximal cycling test, three cycle-run succession sessions (20
minutes of cycling + a 3000 m run) in random order, and one isolated run (3000 m). During the cycling
bout of the cycle-run sessions, subjects had to maintain for 20 minutes one of the three cycling cadences
corresponding to 60, 80, and 100 rpm. The metabolic intensity during these cycling bouts
corresponded approximately to the cycling competition intensity of our subjects during a sprint triath-
lon (> 80% V
Results: A significant effect of the prior cycling exercise was found on middle distance running
performance without any cadence effect (625.7 (40.1), 630.0 (44.8), 637.7 (57.9), and 583.0
(28.3) seconds for the 60 rpm run, 80 rpm run, 100 rpm run, and isolated run respectively). However,
during the first 500 m of the run, stride rate and running velocity were significantly higher after cycling
at 80 or 100 rpm than at 60 rpm (p<0.05). Furthermore, the choice of 60 rpm was associated with a
higher fraction of V
MAX sustained during running compared with the other conditions (p<0.05).
Conclusions: The results confirm the alteration in running performance completed after the cycling
event compared with the isolated run. However, no significant effect of the cadence was observed
within the range usually used by triathletes.
uring the last decade, numerous studies have investi-
gated the effects of the cycle-run transition on
subsequent running adaptation in triathletes.
pared with an isolated run, the ﬁrst few minutes of triathlon
running have been reported to induce an increase in oxygen
) and heart rate (HR),
an alteration in
ventilatory efﬁciency (V~
modiﬁcations—that is, changes in muscle blood ﬂow.
Moreover, changes in running pattern have been observed
after cycling, such as an increase in stride rate
modiﬁcations in trunk gradient, knee angle in the non-
support phase, and knee extension during the stance phase.
These changes are generally related to the appearance of leg
muscle fatigue characterised by perturbation of electromyo-
graphic activity of different muscle groups.
Recently, from a laboratory study, Vercruyssen et al
that it is possible for triathletes to improve the adaptation
from cycling to running at an intensity corresponding to
Olympic distance competition pace (80–85% maximal oxygen
MAX)). They showed a lower metabolic load
during a running session after the adoption of the energeti-
cally optimal cadence (73 rpm) calculated from the V~
compared with the freely chosen cadence
(81 rpm) or the theoretical mechanical optimal cadence (90
Furthermore, Lepers et al
indicated that, after cycling,
neuromuscular factors may be affected by exercise duration or
choice of pedalling cadence. They observed, on the one hand,
the appearance of neuromuscular fatigue after 30 minutes of
cycling at 80% of maximal aerobic power, and, on the other
hand, that the use of a low (69 rpm) or high (103 rpm) cycling
cadence induced a speciﬁc neuromuscular adaptation, as-
sessed by the variation in RMS/M wave ratio interpreted as the
central neural input change.
From a short distance triathlon race perspective character-
ised by high cycling or running intensities, these observations
raise a major question about the effect of neuromuscular
fatigue and/or metabolic load induced by a prior cycling event
on subsequent running performance. To the best of our
knowledge, few studies have examined the effect of cycling
task characteristics on subsequent running performance.
Hausswirth et al
indicated that riding in a continuous
drafting position, compared with the no draft modality,
signiﬁcantly reduced oxygen uptake during cycling and
improved the performance of a 5000 m run in elite triathletes.
In addition, Garside and Doran
showed in recreational
triathletes an effect of cycle frame ergonomics: when the seat-
tube angle was changed from 73° to 81°, the performance of
the subsequent 10 000 m run was improved—that is, there
was a reduction in race time.
Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine in outdoor
conditions the effects of different pedalling cadences (within
the range 60–100 rpm) on the performance of a subsequent
3000 m track run, the latter depending mainly on both meta-
bolic and neuromuscular factors.
Nine well motivated male triathletes currently competing at
the national level participated in the study. They had been
training regularly and competing in triathlons for at least four
years. For all subjects, triathlon was their primary activity;
their mean (SD) times for Olympic distance and sprint
distance triathlons were 120 minutes 37 seconds (3.2) and 59
minutes 52 seconds (3.4) respectively. Mean (SD) training
distances a week were 9.1 (1.9) km for swimming, 220.5
(57.1) km for cycling, and 51.1 (8.9) km for running. The
mean (SD) age of the subjects was 24.9 (4.0) years.Their mean
, oxygen uptake; HR, heart rate; V
MAX, maximal oxygen uptake
See end of article for
Professor Brisswalter, Unité
Ergonomie Sportive et
Performance, Université de
Toulon-Var, BP 132 83957
La Garde, France;
Accepted 13 June 2002
(SD) body weight and height were 70.8 (3.8) kg and 179 (3.9)
cm respectively. The subjects were asked to abstain from
exhaustive training throughout the experiment. Finally, they
were fully informed of the content of the experiment, and
written consent was obtained before all testing, according to
local ethical committee guidelines.
Maximal cycling test
Subjects ﬁrst performed a maximal test to determine V~
and ventilatory threshold. This test was carried out on an
electromagnetically braked ergocycle (SRM; Jülich, Welldorf,
on which the handle bars and racing seat are
fully adjustable both vertically and horizontally to reproduce
the positions of each subject’s bicycle. No incremental running
test was performed in this study, as previous investigations
indicated similar V~
MAX values whatever the locomotion
mode in triathletes who began the triathlon as their ﬁrst
This incremental session began with a warm up of 100 W
for six minutes, after which the power output was increased
by 30 W a minute until volitional exhaustion. During this pro-
,V~E, respiratory exchange ratio, and HR were
continuously recorded every 15 seconds using a telemetric
system collecting gas exchanges (Cosmed K4
, Rome, Italy)
previously validated by Hausswirth et al.
determined according to criteria described by Howley et al
that is, a plateau in V~
despite an increase in power output, a
respiratory exchange ratio value of 1.15, or an HR over 90% of
the predicted maximal HR (table 1). The maximal power out-
put reached during this test was the mean value of the last
minute. Moreover, the ventilatory threshold was calculated
during the cycling test using the criterion of an increase in
with no concomitant increase in V~ E/V~ CO
Cycle-run performance sessions
All experiments took place in April on an outdoor track. Out-
side temperature ranged from 22 to 25°C, and there was no
appreciable wind during the experimental period. Each
athlete completed in random order three cycle-run sessions
(20 minutes of cycling and a 3000 m run) and one isolated run
(3000 m). These tests were separated by a 48 hour rest period.
Before the cycle-run sessions, subjects performed a 10 minute
warm up at 33% of maximal power.
During the cycling bout
of the cycle-run sessions, subjects had to maintain one of
three pedalling cadences corresponding to 60, 80, or 100 rpm.
These cycling cadences were representative of the range of
cadences selected by triathletes in competition.
was recently reported that, on a ﬂat road at 40 km/h, cycling
cadences could range from 67 rpm with a 53:11 gear ratio to
103 rpm with a 53:17 gear ratio.
However, 60 rpm is close to
the range of energetically optimal cadence values,
80 rpm is
near the freely chosen cadence,
and 100 rpm is close to the
cadence used in a drafting situation.
According to previous studies of the effect of a cycling event
on running adaptation,
the cycling bouts were performed at
an intensity above the ventilatory threshold corresponding to
70% of maximal power output (80% V~
MAX) and were
representative of a sprint distance simulation.
The three cycling bouts of the cycle-run sessions were con-
ducted on the SRM system next to the running track. The
SRM system allowed athletes to maintain constant power
output independent of cycling cadence. In addition, feedback
on selected cadence was available to the subjects via a screen
placed directly in front of them.
After cycling, the subjects immediately performed the 3000
m run on a 400 m track. The mean (SD) transition time
between the cycling and running events (40.4 (8.1) seconds)
was the same as that within actual competition.
running bouts, race strategies were free, the only instruction
given to the triathlete being to run as fast as possible over the
whole 3000 m.
Measurement of physiological variables during the
,V~E, and HR were recorded every 15 seconds with a K4
The physiological data were analysed during the cycling bouts
at the following intervals: 5th–7th minute (5–7), 9th–11th
minute (9–11), 13th–15th minute (13–15), 17th–19th minute
(17–19), and every 500 m during the 3000 m run (ﬁg 1).
Measurement of biomechanical variables during the
Power output and pedalling cadence were continuously
recorded during cycling bout. During the run, kinematic data
were analysed every 500 m using a 10 m optojump system
Table 1 Physiological characteristics of the subjects obtained during a maximal
MAX V~EMAX HR
VT (% V~ O
68.1 (6.5) 179.1 (14.7) 185.4 (4.9) 67.0 (3.6) 398.1 (24.5)
Values are expressed as mean (SD).
MAX, maximal oxygen uptake (ml/min/kg); V
EMAX, maximal ventilation (litres/min); HR
, maximal heart
rate (beats/min); VT, ventilatory threshold; MAP, maximal power output (W).
Figure 1 Representation of the three cycle-run sessions. TR, Cycle-run transition; BS, blood samples taken; M
, measurement intervals
during cycling at 5–7, 9–11, 13–15, and 17–19 minutes; M
, measurement intervals during running at 500, 1000, 1500, 2500, and
3000 m; WU, warm up for each condition.
Cycling cadence and running performance 155
(MicroGate, Timing and Sport, Bolzano, Italy). From this sys-
tem, speed, contact, and ﬂy time attained were recorded every
500 m over the whole 3000 m. The stride rate-stride length
combination was calculated directly from these values. Thus
the act of measuring the kinematic variables had no effect on
the subjects’ running patterns within each of the above 10 m
Capillary blood samples were collected from ear lobes. Blood
lactate was analysed using the Lactate Pro system previously
validated by Pyne et al.
Four blood samples were collected:
before the cycle-run sessions (at rest), at 10 and 20 minutes
during the cycling bouts, and at the end of the 3000 m run.
All data are expressed as mean (SD). The stability of the run-
ning pattern was described using the coefﬁcient of variation
((SD/mean) × 100) for each athlete.
A two way analysis of
variance (cadence × period time) for repeated measures was
performed to analyse the effects of time and cycling cadence
,V~E, HR, speed velocity, stride variability, speed vari-
ability, stride length, and stride rate as dependent variables.
For this analysis, the stride and speed variability (in %) were
analysed by an arcsine transformation. A Newmann-Keuls
post hoc test was used to determine differences among all
cycling cadences and periods during exercise. In all statistical
tests, the level of signiﬁcance was set at p<0.05.
3000 m performances
In this study, the performance of the isolated run was signiﬁ-
cantly better than the run performed after cycling (583.0
(28.3) and 631.1 (47.6) seconds for the isolated run and mean
cycle-run sessions respectively). No signiﬁcant effect of
cycling cadence was observed on subsequent 3000 m running
performance. Running times were 625.7 (40.1), 630.0 (44.8),
and 637.7 (57.9) seconds for the 60, 80, and 100 rpm run ses-
sions respectively (table 2). The mean running speed during
the ﬁrst 500 m (ﬁg 2) was signiﬁcantly lower after the 60 rpm
ride than after the 80 and 100 rpm cycling bouts (17.5 (1.1),
18.3 (1.1), and 18.3 (1.2) km/h respectively). In addition, the
speed variability (from 500 to 2500 m) was signiﬁcantly lower
during the 60 rpm run session than for the other cycle-run
conditions (2.18 (1.2)%, 4.12 (2.0)%, and 3.80 (1.8)% for the
60, 80, and 100 rpm run respectively).
Cycling bouts of cycle-run sessions
During the 20 minutes at 60, 80, and 100 rpm cycling bouts,
average cadences were 61.6 (2.6), 82.7 (4.3) and 98.2 (1.7)
rpm respectively. Mean HR and V~
E recorded during the 100
rpm cycling bout were signiﬁcantly higher than in other
cycling conditions. Furthermore, blood lactate concentrations
were signiﬁcantly higher at the end of the 100 rpm bout than
after the 60 and 80 rpm cycling bouts (7.0 (2.0), 4.6 (2.1) and
5.1 (2.1) mmol/l respectively, p<0.05). Conversely, no effect of
either pedalling rate or exercise duration was found on V~
(table 2, p>0.05).
Table 2 Mean values for power output and speed, oxygen uptake, expiratory flow, heart rate, blood lactate, and
running performance obtained during the cycle-run sessions
(60 rpm)_ Run
(80 rpm) Run
(100 rpm) Run
Power output (W)/speed (km/h) 275.4 (19.4) 17.3 (1.1) 277.1 (18.6) 17.2 (1.20 277.2 (17.2) 17.1 (1.5)
Oxygen uptake (ml/min/kg) 55.6 (4.6) 62.8 (7.3)* 55.3 (4.0) 57.9 (4.1) 56.5 (4.3) 59.7 (5.6)
Expiratory flow (litres/min) 94.8 (12.2) 141.9 (15.9) 98.2 (9.2) 140.5 (14.6) 107.2 (13.0)* 140. 5 (21.8)
Heart rate (beats/min) 163.5 (9.5) 184.2 (4.6) 166.1 (10.4) 185.8 (3.1) 170.7 (4.7)* 182. 6 (5.0)
Lactataemia (mmol/l) 4.6 (2.1) 9.0 (1.9) 5.1 (2.1) 9.2 (1.2) 7.0 (2.0)* 9.9 (1.8)
Stride rate (Hz) 1.48 (0.01) 1.49 (0.01) 1.48 (0.02)
Running performance (s) 625.7 (40.1) 630.0 (44.8) 637.6 (57.9)
*Significantly different from the other cycle-run sessions, p<0.05.
Figure 2 Race strategies expressed as the evolution in running
velocity during the run bouts (60, 80, 100 rpm). *Significantly
different from the running velocity during the 60 rpm run session,
Figure 3 Changes in fraction of V
MAX) sustained by
subjects during the running bouts (60, 80, and 100 rpm).
*Significantly different from the initial period, p<0.05; †significantly
different from the other conditions, p<0.05.
156 Bernard, Vercruyssen, Grego, et al
Running bouts of cycle-run sessions
Table 2 gives mean values for V~
,V~E, and HR for the running
bouts. The statistical analysis indicated a signiﬁcant interac-
tion effect (period time + cycling cadence) on V~
sequent running (p<0.05). V~
values recorded during the run
section of the 60 rpm session were signiﬁcantly higher than
during the 80 rpm or the 100 rpm sessions (p<0.05, table 2).
These values represent respectively 92.3 (3.0)% (60 rpm run),
85.1 (0.6)% (80 rpm run), and 87.6 (1.2)% (100 rpm run) of
MAX, indicating a signiﬁcantly higher fraction of
MAX sustained by subjects during the 60 rpm run session
from 1000 to 3000 m than under the other conditions
(p<0.05, ﬁg 3). Changes in stride rate within the ﬁrst 500 m of
the 3000 m run were signiﬁcantly greater during the 80 and
100 rpm run sessions than during the 60 rpm run session
(1.52 (0.05), 1.51 (0.05), and 1.48 (0.03) Hz respectively). No
signiﬁcant effect of cycling cadence was found on either stride
variability during the run or blood lactate concentration at the
end of the cycle-run sessions (table 2).
The main observations of this study conﬁrm the negative
effect of a cycling event on running performance when com-
pared with an isolated run. However, we observed no effect of
the particular choice of cycling cadence on the performance of
a subsequent 3000 m run. However, our results highlight an
effect of the characteristics of the prior cycling event on meta-
bolic responses and running pattern during the subsequent
Cycle-run sessions v isolated run and running
To our knowledge only one study has analysed the effect of
cycling events on subsequent running performance when
compared with an isolated run.
The study showed, during a
sprint distance triathlon (0.75 km swim, 20 km bike ride, 5 km
run), a signiﬁcant difference betweena5kmrunafter cycling
(alone and in a sheltered position) and the run performed
without a prior cycling event (isolated run). The cycling event
caused an increase in mean 5 km race time (1014 seconds)
and a decrease in mean running velocity (17.4 km/h)
compared with the isolated run (980 seconds and 18.2 km/h).
Our results are in agreement, showing an impairment in run-
ning performance after the cycling event whatever the choice
of pedalling cadence. There was an increase in mean running
time (631 seconds) and a decrease in mean running velocity
(17.2 km/h) compared with the performance in the isolated
run (583 seconds and 18.5 km/h). Therefore, one ﬁnding of
our study is that a prior cycling event can affect running per-
formance over the 3 km as well as the 5 km and 10 km
One hypothesis to explain the alteration in running
performance after cycling could be the high metabolic load
sustained by subjects at the end of cycling characterised by an
increase in blood lactate concentration (4–6 mmol/l) associ-
ated with a high V~
MAX (81–83%) and HR
(88–92%). On the
other hand, Lepers et al
have recently shown in well trained
triathletes a reduction in muscular force relating to both cen-
tral and peripheral factors—that is, changes in M wave and
EMG RMS—after 30 minutes of cycling performed at different
pedalling cadences (69–103 rpm). We hypothesise that these
modiﬁcations of neuromuscular factors associated with
increasing metabolic load during cycling could increase the
development of fatigue just before running, whatever the
choice of pedalling cadence.
Cycling cadences and physiological and biomechanical
characteristics of running
Our results show no effect of different cycling cadences
(60–100 rpm) commonly used by triathletes on subsequent
running performance. A classical view is that performance in
triathlon running depends on the characteristics of the
preceding cycling event, such as power output, pedalling
cadence, and metabolic load.
Previous investigations have
shown a systematic improvement in running performance
when the metabolic load of the cycling event was reduced
either by drafting position
or racing on a bicycle with a steep
seat-tube angle (81°).
Unlike a 3000 m run which is charac-
terised by neuromuscular and anaerobic factors,
improvement in running performance in these previous stud-
ies was observed over a variety of long distances (5–10 km)
where the performance depends mainly on the capacity of the
subject to minimise energy expenditure over the whole
Therefore one explanation for our results is that
minimisation of metabolic load through cadence choice
during cycling has a signiﬁcant effect on the running time
mainly during events of long duration. Further research is
needed into the effect of cadence choice on total performance
for running distances close to those of Olympic and Iron man
However, despite the lack of cadence effect on 3000 m race
time, our results indicate an effect of cadence choice (60–100
rpm) on the stride pattern or running technique during a 3000
m run. This difference was mainly related to the higher veloc-
ity preferred by subjects immediately after cycling at 80 and
100 rpm and to the lower velocity from 1500 to 2500 m after
cycling at high cadences. These results may suggest that the
use of a low pedalling cadence (close to 60 rpm) reduces vari-
ability in running velocity—that is, one of the factors of run-
ning technique—during a subsequent run.
For running speeds above 5 m/s (> 18 km/h) and close to
maximum values, the change in stride rate is one of the most
important factors in increasing running velocity.
study, the signiﬁcant increase in running speed observed dur-
ing the ﬁrst 500 m of the 80 and 100 rpm run sessions was
associated with a signiﬁcantly higher stride rate (1.51–1.52
Hz) than in the 60 rpm run session (1.48 Hz). The relation
between stride rate and cycling cadence has been reported by
Hausswirth et al
in elite subjects participating in a sprint dis-
tance triathlon, indicating a signiﬁcantly higher stride rate
after cycling at 102 rpm (1.52 Hz) than after cycling at 85 rpm
(1.42 Hz) for the ﬁrst 500 m of the run.
These observations suggest that immediately after the cycle
stage, triathletes spontaneously choose a race strategy directly
related to the pedalling cadence, but this effect seems to be
transitory, as no signiﬁcant differences between conditions
were reported after the ﬁrst 500 m of running. This is in
agreement with previous studies in which changes in stride
pattern and running velocity were found to occur only during
the ﬁrst few minutes of the subsequent run.
the fact that triathletes prefer to run at a high pace after
cycling at 80 and 100 rpm seems to conﬁrm different anecdo-
tal reports of triathletes. Most triathletes prefer to adopt a
high pedalling cadence during the last few minutes of the
cycle section of actual competition. Three strategies may be
evoked to characterise the choice of cycling cadence: speeding
up in the last part of the cycle stage in order to get out quickly
on the run (when elite triathletes compete in draft legal
; reducing power output and spin to minimise the
effects of the bike-run transition; maintaining power output
while increasing cadence. However, our results show that such
a strategy is associated with higher metabolic cost during the
cycling stage and greater instability in running pattern,
suggesting that it is not physiologically beneﬁcial for the ath-
lete to adopt high pedalling cadences in triathlon competition.
During our study, cycling at 100 rpm was associated with an
increase in metabolic cost as classically observed in previous
studies for a high cadence such as an increase in V~
and blood lactate concentration.
At the end of the 100
rpm cycling task, mean blood lactate concentration was 7.0
(2.0) mmol/l, suggesting a high contribution of anaerobic
Cycling cadence and running performance 157
whereas it was 4.6 (2.1) mmol/l after cycling at
60 rpm. The effect of pedalling rate on physiological
adaptation during prolonged cycling has recently been
Brisswalter et al
indicated that cycling at a
cadence higher than 95 rpm induces a signiﬁcant increase in
,V~E, and lactate concentration after 30 minutes of exercise
Moreover, our results show an effect of cycling cadence on
aerobic contribution during maximal running performance.
The subjects were able to sustain a higher fraction of V~
during the 60 rpm run session—that is, 92%—than during
the 80 and 100 rpm run sessions—84% and 87% of V~
respectively—(ﬁg 3). These results suggest that the contribu-
tion of the anaerobic pathway
is more important after the
higher cycling rates (80 and 100 rpm) than after the 60 rpm
ride and could lead during a prolonged running exercise to
earlier appearance of fatigue caused by metabolic
In conclusion, our results conﬁrm the alteration in running
performance after a cycling event compared with an isolated
run. The principal aim of our investigation was to evaluate the
impact of different pedalling rates on subsequent running
performance. No signiﬁcant effect of cycling cadence was
found on 3000 m running performance, despite some
changes in running strategies, stride rate, and metabolic con-
tributions. We chose a running distance of 3000 m to analyse
the possible effect of neuromuscular fatigue—previously
reported after a 30 minute cycling exercise at the same
—on running performance when neuromuscular
and anaerobic factors make important contributions.
the effect observed was not signiﬁcant, the choice of cadence
within the usual range does not seem to inﬂuence the
performance of a middle distance run. One limiting factor of
this study may be the choice of a short exercise duration
because an effect of metabolic load reduction during the
cycling stage on running performance was previously
observed for a run longer than 5000 m. For multidisciplinary
activities such as triathlon and duathlon, further applied
research on the relation between cycling cadence and
performance of the subsequent run is required to evaluate the
inﬂuence of the practical conditions and constraints of actual
T Bernard, F Vercruyssen, F Grego, J-M Vallier, J Brisswalter,
Ergonomie et performance sportive, UFR STAPS, Université de
C Hausswirth, Laboratoire de physiologie et biomécanique, INSEP,
R Lepers, Groupe analyse du mouvement, UFR STAPS, Université de
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33 Bigland-Ritchie B, Woods JJ. Changes in muscle contractile properties
and neural control during human muscular fatigue.
34 Fitts RH. Cellular mechanisms of muscle fatigue.
Take home message
Compared with an isolated run, completion of a cycling
event impairs the performance of a subsequent run
independently of the pedalling cadence. However,
running strategy, stride rate, and metabolic contribution
seem to be improved by the use of a low pedalling
cadence (60 rpm). The choice of cycling cadence may
have an effect on the running adaptation during a sprint or
short distance triathlon.
158 Bernard, Vercruyssen, Grego, et al
Much research has been conducted on the effects of cycling on
physiological variables measured during subsequent running
in triathletes. Few authors, however, have examined the effect
of variation in cycling task characteristics on either such vari-
ables or overall run performance. This study, examining the
effect of different pedalling cadences during a cycle at about
MAX on performance within a succeeding 3 km run by
well trained male triathletes, adds to the published work in
Chair, Medical and Research Committee of the European
Triathlon Union and Senior Lecturer, School of Chemical and
Life Sciences, University of Greenwich, London, UK
Cycling cadence and running performance 159