The effect of environmental conditions on performance in timed cycling events

Dan B Dwyer


Air temperature, pressure and humidity are environmental factors that affect air density and therefore the relationship between a cyclist’s power output and their velocity. These environmental factors are changeable and are routinely quite different at elite cycling competitions conducted around the world, which means that they have a variable effect on performance in timed events. The present work describes a method of calculating the effect of these environmental factors on timed cycling events and illustrates the magnitude and significance of these effects in a case study. Formulas are provided to allow the calculation of the effect of environmental conditions on performance in a time trial cycling event. The effect of environmental factors on time trial performance can be in the order of 1.5%, which is significant given that the margins between ranked performances is often less than this. Environmental factors may enhance or hinder performance depending upon the conditions and the comparison conditions. To permit the fair comparison of performances conducted in different environmental conditions, it is recommended that performance times are corrected to the time that would be achieved in standard environmental conditions, such as 20 oC, 760 mmHg (1013.25 hPa) and 50% RH.


power, air density, temperature, barometric pressure, humidity

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