An Inspiring One-Legged Pedaling Performance

By Marilyn Trout | 09/21/11
An Inspiring One-Legged Pedaling Performance

Thomas Leuthard, “Walking down the street...” June 7, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mountainpedalscoaching80903 Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at http://www.voler.com. To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at Marilyn@MountainPedals.net, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following tip is a reprint of a July 2009 question submitted by Voler E-Mail List member Jeffrey Starr – still an inspiring subject at any time.

An Inspiring One-Legged Pedaling Performance

Hi Marilyn,

I don't know if this is a question that you can answer. Well, at least without actual testing. Some brief background, I am 54 yrs old, I am an avid road bike cyclist, riding over 14,000 miles in the last 7 years. I have completed two metric centuries, one made possible by a good friend who let me hang on his rear wheel for about 10 miles of strong head winds.

I only have one leg; my right leg is a stump above the knee. My handicap is due to birth defects and the stump is only between 3-4 inches in diameter. Strong head winds and hills slow me down, more than the average rider. Otherwise I can maintain a speed of 15-18 mph.

I do ride with my prosthetic and I can exert some downward pressure with it, but I can only do it for short amounts of time. For example, today I used it to get over the top of a hill. I couldn't imagine riding without my leg, as the balance would be so off. I do know that some do it. I've been riding bicycles since I was about 5-6 years old. I got my first artificial leg when I was 8. When I was a kid, I didn't use any clips, or clipless, so the leg would fly off the pedal sometimes when hitting bumps. Now I ride using clipless pedals SPD-SLs. It really improved my riding.

What I have always wanted to know is what percentage of performance am I putting out compared to if I was a two legged rider? I sometimes have thought that it would be about 55-60%, other times with any serious climbing, maybe only 40%. I want to know this, for my own benefit. It would be nice to think that with two legs my performance would have been ???? For instance: if I have a strong ride with average of 14mph, could it have possibly been 20mph with two legs? Or that riding 25 miles would be equivalent to 40 miles?

Any information will be appreciated.

Thank you,
Jeff

Kyle,

I have seen, ridden and raced with the world’s best cyclists and have also worked with physically challenged cyclists for over 25 years. As far as I’m concerned, the physically challenged are the greatest cyclists on earth! One of my athletes, Dean Dwyer, gold medalist in the 1988 Paralympic Road Race in Seoul, South Korea, remains one of the most tenacious and toughest riders I know. Throughout my racing career, he was an inspiration to persevere and “hang tough” during many potentially “cracking points”.

Unfortunately, there’s very little documentation and research available regarding performance relationships between amputee and able-bodied athletes whether in cycling or in other sports.  I've made some inquiries and did get a response from Craig Griffin, US Paralympic Associate Director of Cycling High Performance:

“This is hard to answer as its unsure how much leverage he gets with his prosthetic leg. I doubt if he's losing 50% but I would guess from power data from the above the knee amputees I have worked with, it would be about a 40% loss in power compared with someone with two legs, but not in speed, since we know that relationship between power and speed is not linear.”

If I come across any helpful information in the future, I’ll pass it along.

You’re on my “Hall of Fame.”

Keep on enjoying the miles!

Marilyn

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