This study aimed to determine the sensorimotor strategies privileged by mountain bikers (MTB) and road cyclists (RC) for balance control. Twenty-four MTB and 24 RC (off-road Olympics, world, continental and national champions, Tour-de-France participants, on-road world cup race winner) volunteered to answer a questionnaire about the characteristics of cycling practice and perform a sensory organization test, aiming to evaluate balance control in 6 different sensory situations based upon visual and support surface perturbations (C1ESto C6ES). RC balance performances were better than those of MTB both during quiet stance eyes opened (C1ES, p = 0.011) and when only somatosensory information is disrupted (C4ES, p = 0.039), highlighting a higher use of vision to control balance in RC. Moreover, a positive correlation was shown in the whole population (MTB + RC) between the visual ratio (RVIS= C4ES/C1ES) and the proportion of riding distance of on-road cycling (ρ = 0.28, p = 0.054). In MTB, the use of proprioception (somatosensory ratio: RSOM= C2ES(eyes closed)/C1ES) was increased by a higher intensity of off-road cycling (ρ = 0.49, p = 0.018) and that of vision (RVIS) by a higher intensity of on-road cycling (ρ = 0.41, p = 0.048). The difference in sensory organization between MTB and RC could be explained by adaptive processes elaborated from environmental stimulations and technical specificities of these disciplines. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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