Cyclists seek to maximize performance during competition, and gross efficiency is an important factor affecting performance. Gross efficiency is itself affected by pedal rate. Thus, it is important to understand factors that affect freely chosen pedal rate. Crank inertial load varies greatly during road cycling based on the selected gear ratio. Nevertheless, the possible influence of crank inertial load on freely chosen pedal rate and gross efficiency has never been investigated. This study tested the hypotheses that during cycling with sub-maximal work rates, a considerable increase in crank inertial load would cause (1) freely chosen pedal rate to increase, and as a consequence, (2) gross efficiency to decrease. Furthermore, that it would cause (3) peak crank torque to increase if a constant pedal rate was maintained. Subjects cycled on a treadmill at 150 and 250 W, with low and high crank inertial load, and with preset and freely chosen pedal rate. Freely chosen pedal rate was higher at high compared with low crank inertial load. Notably, the change in crank inertial load affected the freely chosen pedal rate as much as did the 100 W increase in work rate. Along with freely chosen pedal rate being higher, gross efficiency at 250 W was lower during cycling with high compared with low crank inertial load. Peak crank torque was higher during cycling at 90 rpm with high compared with low crank inertial load. Possibly, the subjects increased the pedal rate to compensate for the higher peak crank torque accompanying cycling with high compared with low crank inertial load.