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The physiological effects of cycling on tandem and single bicycles


Objective: The purpose of this field study was to compare the physiological responses from cycling on a tandem road bicycle to those from cycling on a single road bicycle.

Methods: Nine pairs of experienced, recreational tandem cyclists rode a tandem or their single bicycle for 5 min at each velocity of 19.3, 22.5, 25.8, and 29.0 kph on a flat, paved surface. Heart rate (HR), rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and lactic acid (LA) data were collected after each interval.

Results: Riding a tandem resulted in lower HR, RPE, and LA mean values across the four velocities compared to the single bicycle. Mean (SD) HR, RPE, and LA for tandem and single bicycles were 126 (20.7) v 142 (20.1) bpm, 10.1 (1.7) v 11.3 (2.6), and 1.46 (1.0) mM/L v 2.36 (1.7) mM/L, respectively. No position differences were observed between the captain and stoker (front and rear positions) when both were on the tandem. Stokers had significantly lower HR, LA, and RPE values when they rode a tandem compared to a single bicycle. No statistical differences were observed between bicycles for the captains. When on the single bicycle, captains exhibited significantly lower HR, RPE, and LA values than stokers.

Conclusion: Cycling on a tandem resulted in lower physiological stress than when cycling at the same velocity on a single bicycle. Cyclists were able to ride from 4.8–8.0 kph faster on a tandem than on a single bicycle at similar physiological stress. Apparently, stokers can add to power output on a tandem without adding significantly to wind resistance.

  • energy expenditure
  • bicycling

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