The relationship between balance and downhill mountain bike performance
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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To achieve optimal performance a cyclist must maintain appropriate posture on the bike by adapting their body position in relation to the position of the bike. Cyclists, of all disciplines, are beginning to use balance training to improve posture, with the hope of enhancing performance and preventing injury. However to date, research has not determined this relationship between balance and off-road cycling performance. Due to the significant environmental differences, conclusions from laboratory-based studies investigating balance cannot be extrapolated to competitive downhill mountain bike racing, performed in the field. A rationale for the inclusion of balance training in to a conditioning programme could be supported if balance ability is shown to have a positive influence on athletic performance. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between balance ability and downhill mountain bike performance. Ten national and university level, male downhill mountain bike riders (age 21.8 ± 3.3 yr, height 176.9 ± 6.3 cm, mass 73.1 ± 5.3 kg) volunteered to take part in the present study. Each subject completed a timed attempt on a downhill mountain bike course, in South Wales, and three balance tests: Y-Balance Test, Lateral Tilt Balance Test and Front-Back Tilt Balance Test. All descriptive statistics were assessed for normality and a Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient was used to establish relationships between the variables in question. Results showed no significant correlation between the overall times to complete the downhill mountain bike course (p > .05). However, the time to complete the sector with the slowest speed and more technically challenging obstacles produced a significant negative correlation with the Lateral Tilt test (r = -.95, p < .001) and overall Y-Balance composite scores (r = -.77, p < .01), suggesting that performance at slower speeds might benefit from enhanced balance ability. Further research is required to investigate the relationship in question, and the relationships between performance and other performance indicators, before it is possible to validate the use of balance training for improving performance.
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