Noncircular Chainrings Do Not Influence Physiological Responses During Submaximal Cycling

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology


Pedal speed and mechanical power output account for 99% of metabolic cost during submaximal cycling. Noncircular chainrings can alter instantaneous crank angular velocity and thereby pedal speed. Reducing pedal speed during the portion of the cycle in which most power is produced could reduce metabolic cost and increase metabolic efficiency. Purpose: To determine the separate contributions of pedal speed and chainring shape/eccentricity to the metabolic cost of producing power and evaluate joint-specific kinematics and kinetics during submaximal cycling across 3 chainring eccentricities (CON = 1.0; LOW = 1.13; HIGH = 1.24). Methods: Eight cyclists performed submaximal cycling at power outputs eliciting 30%, 60%, and 90% of their individual lactate threshold at pedaling rates of 80 rpm under each chainring condition (CON80rpm;LOW80rpm; HIGH80rpm) and at pedaling rates for the CON chainring chosen to match pedal speeds of the noncircular chainrings (CON78rpm to LOW80rpm; CON75rpm to HIGH80rpm). Physiological measures, metabolic cost, and gross efficiency were determined by indirect calorimetry. Pedal and joint-specific powers were determined using pedal forces and limb kinematics. Results: Physiological and metabolic measures were not influenced by eccentricity and pedal speed (all Ps > .05). Angular velocities produced during knee and hip extension were lower with the HIGH80rpm condition compared with the CON80rpm condition (all Ps < .05), while angular velocity produced during ankle plantar flexion remained unchanged. Conclusions: Despite the noncircular chainrings imposing their eccentricity on joint angular kinematics, they did not reduce metabolic cost or increase gross efficiency. Our results suggest that noncircular chainrings neither improve nor compromise submaximal cycling performance in trained cyclists.

Publication Title

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance