Quantification and description of braking during mountain biking using a novel brake power meter : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sport & Exercise at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Olympic format cross country mountain biking is both physically and technically demanding. The demands of this cycling genre are in contrast to road cycling because of the demanding off-road terrain. With its many obstacles and different surfaces, riders must make their way up and over steep hills a number of times throughout a lap. It’s very easy to be able to measure the performance of the riders on ascending sections of the track thanks to on-the-bike personal power meter that measure the propulsive work rates in the pedals. However, there is currently no commercially available method to assess the way the rider handles the bike on descending sections. This thesis first highlighted the differences in physiological demand of descending on off-road versus on-road (Chapter 4). An interesting finding in Chapter 4 also showed that riders might be able to save energy by adopting a coasting strategy down hills. This caused the researchers to question the bicycle handling attributes that might allow this, which led to the development and validation of a device designed to measure how the rider uses the brakes while riding/racing (Chapter 5). From there, we completed an investigation akin to the early mountain biking descriptive studies (Chapter 6), but instead of focusing on data related to respiratory and metabolic load, the brake power meter was employed. The finding that braking patterns were related to mountain biking performance was not surprising, but being the first team to quantify this was very exciting. Since most of the braking was occurring on the descents in that study, we examined the differences in braking between training groups on an isolated turn (Chapter 7). The finding that inexperienced riders use their brakes differently—and that this results in reduced performance—left no doubt to the importance of braking. From there, we revisited the method used to calculate rear brake power, since current methods led to inaccurate measurement during skidding (Chapter 8). This thesis culminated with the exploration of an algorithm that could quickly and easily describe mountain bike descending performance with one single metric (Chapter 9); the hope is that the normalized brake work algorithm should increase the utility of the brake power meter for training purposes and post-competition performance analysis. Overall, this thesis highlights the need, importance and utility of a bicycle brake power meter to assess mountain bike performance.
All terrain cycling, Mountain bikes, Equipment and supplies, Brakes, Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Sports