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Swearing will boost your cycling speed

In an experiment, scientists had people ride an excercise bicycle for 30 seconds. Every three seconds they had to either say a swearword, or say a neutral word. When swearing, participants produced an average power of 429W (peak power 570W), compared to 417W (peak power 545W) for the participants in the control condition.

However, participants in the swearing condition also were more fatigued. It appears that swearing will help you ride a bit faster, but only for a short while.

And 429W, is that a lot? I wouldn’t know, but here are some figures for comparison. According to Cyclist, German sprinter André Greipel can keep up over 1,000W for 30 seconds, while Cyclist’s resident crit racer can do 600W. For what it’s worth; this page has people bragging about producing more than 900W for 30 seconds.

Back to the experiment: with a topic like this, you want to know how the research was done. Especially which swearwords were used, but that’s not reported. Participants were asked for a word they might use when they bang their head accidentally. In the control condition, they were asked for a word they would use to describe a table.

Participants were instructed not to shout, but to use a ‘strong and clear voice’, and to remain seated in the saddle during the entire test. During the test, participants were encouraged by research staff.

You’d expect this to be a fun experiment to take part in, but apparently it wasn’t for everybody. Out of 35 original participants, six dropped out: two were unable to finish the protocol, one was taken ill and three withdrew.

Richard Stephens, David K. Spierer, en Emmanuel Katehis, Effect of swearing on strength and power performance. Psychology of Sport & Exercise 35:111–117. Due for publication March 2018.

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