Effect on Cycling Performance

Effect on Cycling Performance

The Study

The following trial took place within the Andover Wheelers Cycling Club during July, August

  • 3 Bowen Technique sessions within a 2-4 week period, with no changes to training regimes, equipment, diet etc.
  • Sessions were free of charge, in return for feedback and reassessment data (&
    testimonials if wished)
  • Prime assessment criteria – the last 3 10mile Time Trials of the season, to benchmark against previous times for the same trial.

Andover Wheelers have a current membership of 70 and, following discussion with a
group of them, we decided to aim for 7 cyclists, 10% of the club, covering men and women & with a range of ages. 6 cyclists ended up participating in the trial.

Assessment Criteria

Each cyclist was assessed on the seasonʼs remaining three 10 Mile Time Trials
(hereafter TT) as comparisons to pre-Bowen performance. Each also chose 1-2 other
areas to assess any changes noticed after the Bowen sessions. A consultation form
covering medical and health history was completed prior to the first Bowen sessions.
Each cyclist scored themselves against 12 different aspects before sessions started, then again a few weeks after the start of the trial. An improvement of 2 or more was deemed significant over the 3 sessions which ran over 2 to 2.5 weeks. Physical assessments/tests were performed in each session to assess posture, gait, balance, skeletal alignment and various ranges of movement.

The first session for each cyclist was exactly the same, apart from one who had slightly less done due to their medical history. Thereafter, the work done in subsequent sessions was guided by information provided in the initial consultation, ongoing assessment, feedback of changes from prior sessions and discussion in the current session.

All cyclists received work on their back, neck, hamstrings, knees and adductors.

Other areas addressed included shoulders, jaw, digestion, respiratory, kidneys, ankles.

Carried out by

Fiona Webb, Hampshire
Bowen Therapist

The Results

All 6 participants noted faster times over 3 Time Trials.

5 recorded Personal Bests (PBs) in at least one of these Time Trials.

3 noted the use of bigger gears for longer periods/uphill.

3 noted increased confidence on the bike and a stronger racing attitude.

5 would recommend Bowen to others, highlighting its benefits particularly for those with injuries, ʻolderʼ/veteran (sports)people & those with an open mind. There was also the caveat that not everyone should expect significant results.


The prime measurement of success for this trial, as determined by the cyclists themselves, was faster times on time trials, compared with previous times.

All 6 cyclists recorded faster times after their first Bowen session, 3 of which were PBs; 2 recorded PBs after 2 sessions.

On this criteria it would appear receiving Bowen treatments has a positive effect on times.

It is noted that the most significant improvements were in participants aged 40 upwards, suggesting senior/veteran cyclists may benefit the most.

5 out of 6 cyclists recorded improvements in their second and/or third criteria, whether this was sport related, or health. Amongst the health criteria, significant improvements were seen in flexibility, digestion, stress management, sleep & concentration/mental clarity.

2 felt they had more confidence and a stronger racing attitude.

3 cyclists had more power, holding higher gears for longer than normal and power data from the crank shaft showing a higher threshold maintained for longer.

Specific Trial Results

Male, age 40-49
As well as TT results, wanted improvement in mental attitude to training.
TT results – after 2 sessions, recorded a PB over 10 mile Clanville route, 10 seconds
faster than same route a month earlier. Noted he was holding bigger gears for longer.
Mental attitude – after 2 sessions said he felt more comfortable and confident on the bike.
In the re-assessment of the 12 physical areas covered in the initial consultation
Concentration/Mental Clarity was scored 30% higher.

He also noted, after his first session, that he cleared a cold much faster than normal.

Overall impression of Bowen:
“Very relaxing”

Male, age 50-59

As well as cycling TT results, he also wanted canoeing TT improvement (& admitted after first session this was more important to him). It was very noticeable, and discussed, that his shoulders were significantly pulled forward – “from 40 years of canoeing”; he always had creases in his clothing down the front of his shoulders.

On getting up from the couch after his first treatment he felt “knackered” and very tired across his upper body “… as if Iʼve been canoeing”.

After the second he ached around his ribcage for a couple of hours. After the third he again felt “shattered”.

Cycling TT results – 24th July (pre Bowen) 10 mile tandem TT at Aldermaston was completed in 22.0mins with “very tired legs on warm down”.

First Bowen session 25th July.

31st Aug – repeated 10 mile Aldermaston tandem TT, with the same bike and partner in 21.46mins, 14 seconds faster, with “glowing legs on warm down.”
30th Aug – 20mile Chain Gang ride he noticed he was using bigger gears on hills. Usually caught by the ʻFast Groupʼ which start 5 minutes later, “but not this time.”

After improving his 10 Mile Clanville TT from May to July by 5 seconds, he was 32 seconds faster in August, a PB of 25.39 mins, after having had 2 Bowen sessions.

The 10 mile Ludgershall TT run on 12th & 19th August showed a 19 second improvement on the second run (although not a PB).

Canoeing TT results – “Significant … Spectacular … Phenomenal” are the words used by Cyclist 2 to describe the changes in his canoeing performance after his Bowen sessions.

On 27th July 2 days after his first Bowen treatment he started to feel different – taller, straighter and noticed his shoulders had “gone back” – he no longer had creases in his t-shirt across the front of his shoulders.

Since his first Bowen session not only has he posted significantly faster times/PBs in every TT, his canoeing (single blade) has outperformed his kayaking (double blade), he is often stronger in the return leg, despite water turbulence, he has a stronger racing attitude and recovers much faster after competition.

Overall impression of Bowen:
“From the spectacular (otherwise unexplained) improvements in performance in a short time in the boat, I can only conclude that whatever the Bowen treatment did for me, it was phenomenal. The treatment itself seemed unremarkable, but the results (for me) are spectacular.”

Cyclist 2 has continued with his Bowen sessions since the trial ended, in support of his canoeing endurance events.

Male, age 50-59

As well as TT results, wanted improved range of movement (ROM) in hamstrings.

TT Results – 4 days after first treatment completed 10 mile Clanville TT with a PB of 24.17, 52 secs faster than previous time in May. Felt had lots more energy, although also had interrupted sleep. Rides to a power output, rather than speed; after 2 Bowen sessions he was riding at a higher power threshold than normal (280 instead of 272 watts, and often at 300).

12th Aug 10 mile Ludgershall 26 mins 44 secs – Became quickest B-League rider as a result and beating the times of lower A-League riders.

19th Aug repeat of 10 mile Ludgershall TT achieved PB of 26 mins 42 secs (by 2 secs) after third Bowen session. Considerably quicker in training. Hit 9 section PBs in 42 mile hill training sections.

Able to maintain his target power level for longer. Also has reduced backache after being on bike, compared with pre-Bowen rides.

ROM Hamstrings – initially assessed as 2 or 3/10. Noticeable improvement in ROM after each Bowen session and continued to stretch and improve range since to assess at 7/10 three months after last session.

Overall impression of Bowen:
“I was very impressed and surprised that such a non-invasive technique could bring great results.”

Female, age 30-39

Triathlete, also wanting improved 5k run and 400m swim times.

TT Results – 3 days after first Bowen session improved time for 10 mile Clanville TT by 12 seconds from previous time in May, despite being impeded enroute.

12th Aug 10 mile Ludgershall TT was her first attempt, improved time by 2 seconds a week later after third Bowen treatment. Not significant enough to attribute to either Bowen or training specifically and reported no significant change in her cycling.

Run times – direct comparison of times difficult due to differing terrain and weather.

However running times have improved. In Liverpool Triathlon in mid Aug she felt her running “is the best itʼs been…..I felt better and better, with more strength in my legs despite a hard cycle stage and cobbles.”

Swim times – was unable to do a 400m time trial swim to compare times. Reported no significant change in her swimming.

Overall impression of Bowen:
“I very much enjoyed the sessions, found them very relaxing. Probably due to not having any particular problems or injuries, I didnʼt notice any significant change in performance after the sessions.”

Male, age 30-39

Triathlete, also wanting improved 10k run and 400m swim times. Each of his treatments was the day before each time trial – this is not ideal, as the body has little time to adjust before being asked to perform again, however, it was not possible to schedule bigger gaps.

TT Results – after 1 Bowen session, on the 10m Clanville TT he gained a PB of 24.16 (16 seconds faster). After 3rd Bowen session improved time on the 10m Ludgershall TT from 12th – 19th Aug by 10 seconds for a PB of 24.39. Times also improved in Triathlon events, however, felt it difficult to attribute to Bowen as current fitness levels also improving. (Had improved Clanville time by 20 seconds May to July, for example).

10k Run times post Triathlon – aiming to improve average 40min 30 sec to sub 40mins.

“Unfortunately … I have had issues with my running, both the Olympic distance Triathlons I struggled on the run, my Ironman I had to pull out of the marathon element halfway through and the marathon I ran in October I pulled out halfway through.”

400m Swim times – aiming to beat previous PB of 6min 20 sec. Unable to do a 400m time trial swim to compare times due to health issues.

Overall impression of Bowen:
“I enjoyed the sessions and found them relaxing though I donʼt feel I actually noticed any differences in my own personal self, my TT times have improved though I would put this down to my physical improving state at the time as I was on the upward scale and not specifically down to Bowen.

I think the sessions would have to be over a longer period of time to gain a thorough test and appreciability of the outcome as with only 3 sessions it is difficult to tell if any improvements were directly as a result of Bowen.

Note – Unfortunately since not completing my Ironman I have not been 100% and have suffered in my endurance, I believe I have an underlying health issue which is currently been investigated so my results do not really show the true outcome of Bowen technique.”

Female, age 18-25

Also wanting to fall asleep more quickly, usually takes about an hour.

TT Results – started trial a couple of weeks after the other cyclists and missed the TTs to use as a comparison. Instead we used 8.25 mile timed training sessions. Prior to the trial the most recent time on 1st Aug was 22m 30s.

19th Aug – the day after her first Bowen session the time was 22m 45s. As for Cyclist 5, this may show how asking the body to perform too quickly can impact results – the body can be temporarily weaker while the body integrates any musculo-skeletal realignment it is making. Ideally the body is given at least 5 days to do its work before being asked to perform significantly.

26th Aug – the day before her second Bowen session she posted a PB of 21m 52s = 53 seconds faster.

2nd Sept – 5 days after second session she posted another PB of 19m 34s = 2 mins 18 seconds faster.

9th Sept – posted time of 22m 18 secs, however, felt this was due to tiredness following a hard race a couple of days before.

Overall impression of Bowen:
“I find it difficult to decide whether my improvements in cycling were due to increased fitness throughout the season or if the treatment helped. However, I did feel very achey after the treatments so I believe it did alter my alignment of my body.


The following are health areas one or more cyclists wanted improvement in.

Neck/shoulder pain – after 2 sessions neck & shoulder pain were “not as bad as it had been.”
Digestion – 1st – aiming for a week without problems. The week after the first session there was a slight improvement as issue was less frequent. However, no change noticed subsequent to that.
# 2nd – has only had 1 or 2 episodes since starting Bowen sessions, instead of 1-2/wk, this equates to about 40% improvement.
Sleep – wants to fall asleep more quickly. Did not notice a change in sleep patterns.


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