An evaluation of bicycle-specific agility and reaction times in mountain bikers and road cyclists

K Buchholtz & T L Burgess

Background: Cycling is a popular recreational and competitive sport with many health benefits but also significant risks, with 85% of recreational cyclists reporting an injury each season. The most common mechanism of injury is through a loss of control of the bicycle, and collisions with other objects. Reaction time and agility in cyclists may contribute to the ability to control a bicycle.

Objectives: To evaluate bicycle-specific agility and reaction time in cyclists.

Methods: The study was a cross-sectional observational study. Thirty-five cyclists (27 males, eight females) participated in this study. Participants attended a single testing session where they completed a bicycle-specific agility test, and online simple and choice reaction time testing while cycling at three different exercise intensities.

Results: There was a significant difference in agility between males and females (p=0.01). There was also a significant difference in choice reaction time between cycling at ‘light’ and ‘very hard’ intensities (p=0.004), and a significant positive relationship between agility and simple reaction time at a ‘hard’ intensity.

Discussion: Choice reaction time improved at ‘very hard’ cycling intensity, supporting the theory that increased exercise intensity improves cognitive arousal. This reaction time may be essential as a means to avoid collisions and falls from bicycles. Bicycle-specific agility appears to be related to simple reaction time, but there are no existing validated bicycle-specific agility tests available. The value of the tests undertaken by the authors needs to be assessed further.

Conclusion: Choice reaction time was significantly decreased in high intensity cycling compared to cycling at low intensities. Further prospective studies are needed to establish links between reaction times and bicycle-specific agility.