Well this is very interesting. Apparently there is no different between average recreational cyclists and elite ones in terms of efficiency.
Today I want to share with you a study that completely blew my mind. We all know how critical efficiency is when swimming, and also your form when running has a significant effect on your efficiency, but what about cycling? The University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom did a study in 2004, where they took cyclists and divided them into 3 groups based on their V02 max. Some of you may not know what VO2 max means, but V02 is a measurement of how much oxygen, or fuel you can burn. The higher the number, the more in shape you are likely to be. The three groups were then divided into elite, well-trained, and recreational. The study was also done at a cycling cadence between 80 and 90, which is right on for triathletes. These tests were also done on a stationary bike to factor out things like wind resistance and weight of the athlete. Energy expenditure was estimated from measures of oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production, In short they estimated how much energy the cyclists were expending. The results were linear, meaning, producing 150 watts from all 3 groups resulted in the same energy expenditure from all 3 groups, and producing 250 watts all the groups used the same proportional amount of energy. It’s not saying that it took the same amount of energy to produce 150 or 250 watts of power, but that regardless of the power the cyclists were generating, all 3 groups used the same amount of energy. Based on this data, the researchers concluded that there are no differences in efficiency and economy between elite cyclists and recreational level cyclists. This doesn’t mean don’t train for cycling! Of course, the difference is that in the elite athletes, they can maintain that 250 watts longer than the recreational cyclist, but that study shows that the energy used to do so is the same as an average cyclist.