BACKGROUND The effect of exercise-induced lactate production on red blood cell deformability and other blood rheological changes is controversial, given heavy-exercise induces biochemical processes (e.g., oxidative stress) known to perturb haemorheology. The aim of the present study was to examine the haemorheological response to a short-duration cycling protocol designed to increase blood lactate concentration, but of duration insufficient to induce significant oxidative stress. METHODS Male cyclists and triathletes (n = 6; 27±7 yr; body mass index: 23.7±3.0 kg/m²; peak oxygen uptake 4.02±0.51 L/min) performed unloaded (0 W), moderate-intensity, and heavy-intensity cycling. Blood was sampled at rest and during the final minute of each cycling bout. Blood chemistry, blood viscosity, red blood cell aggregation and red blood cell deformability were measured. RESULTS Blood lactate concentration increased significantly during heavy-intensity cycling, when compared with all other conditions. Methaemoglobin fraction did not change during any exercise bout when compared with rest. Blood viscosity at native haematocrit increased during heavy-intensity cycling at higher-shear rates when compared with rest, unloaded and moderate-intensity cycling. Heavy-intensity exercise increased the amplitude of red blood cell aggregation in native haematocrit samples when compared with all other conditions. Red blood cell deformability was not changed by exercise. CONCLUSION Acute exercise perturbs haemorheology in an intensity dose-response fashion; however, many of the haemorheological effects appear to be secondary to haemoconcentration, rather than increased lactate concentration.