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    Tips on standing to pedal

    Today in a 22km road race up a local mountain (averaging 7.5% gradient, winning time 1:06:15 by a national champion), I was surprised to discover how much better standing to pedal is in terms of energy efficiency (endurance), and speed. You use your body weight to push the pedals down instead of leg muscle power. But I also noticed it's a relief to cease standing, and flop back onto the saddle when the slope allows. Or am I doing it wrong?

    What is the best stance for standing?

    My guess would be to try to get your back as vertical as possible, and CofG over the crank. (More weight used to pedal, less weight your arms have to carry.)

    What determines when you stand, and on what gradients; do you use your legs until they flag and then stand, or get up before they tire?

    Do you select a higher gear for standing?

    Basic questions from a novice at this racing lark... so let's have your tips.

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    umd
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    You can generate more power when standing but it takes more energy and is more tiring. It is the balance between these two considerations that determines when you might stand, as well as for attacks, and steep grades if you do not have a low enough gear to keep a high cadence. There are a lot of threads about standing and climbing...

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    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    Standing endurance can (and should) be trained. Dig up old LA videos on youtube of Alpe d'Huez and note how long he continuously stands.

    Position / posture varies with the conditions and effort you're applying. Experiment and learn. A good time to do this is while you are... wait for it... training your standing endurance.
    "have fun and be kind"
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    A few basic tips:
    1. One gear higher when you stand for the same speed. So if you need to shift down, stand instead. Or if you're sitting but simply want to stretch your legs, shift up one gear as you stand.

    2. When you stand, be careful not to let the bike shoot backwards. You naturally move forward on the bike, but since the bike weighs 1/10 as much as you do, when you move your cg forward 1 inch, the bike goes backwards 10 inches. So you move slower, consciously pulling the bike forward as you stand. Requires more energy but certain beats trying to defend yourself after the race from the guy you took out on the climb (and the guys behind him).

    3. Rock the bike and use your upper body to help your legs. You're not really using your body weight, you still have to flex your leg to prevent it from collapsing, but the perception of effort is different since your leg is not moving very much (compared to sitting and spinning).

    4. In pre-EPO days, riders generally did 1/3 - 2/3. Either you were a sitter and stood for 1/3 of the climb, or you were a stander and you sat 1/3 of the time. Either way you alternated so you'd recruit different muscle groups. This allowed the rider to stress both the muscular systems as well as the aerobic ones.

    5. When standing, your torso/head should go in a straight line. Your bike may not, probably should not. My bike doesn't go in a straight line, and I can tell when I see tire tracks on the shoulder if someone is standing or not (or just plain squirrelly).

    Having said all that, I can't stand and spin. Totally counter-intuitive for me, my HR just races and I explode. I either sit and spin or stand and push. I have a non-existent aerobic system so that explains part of it.

    cdr

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    Rice Baker ted ward's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post

    Having said all that, I can't stand and spin. Totally counter-intuitive for me, my HR just races and I explode. I either sit and spin or stand and push. I have a non-existent aerobic system so that explains part of it.

    cdr
    I think that talent is reserved for the pros who can apply high pedal force at high cadence since their power is so good. I find it hard to pedal more softly out of the saddle at low power output since a lot of energy is used just to support the body and consequently resist pedal motion by weighting the rear pedal. Standing power output for me is controlled by the gear selection, not the pedal force.
    Cat Pro-o-meter: who?

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    CDR, that doesn't make sense to me. I can't imagine how you could be more efficient on the bike than going in a straight line...

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    gmt Grumpy McTrumpy's Avatar
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    Or just never stand. Have a look at Devolder on the cobbled climbs at Ronde van Vlaanderen. Or Merckx in just about any uphill race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davids0507 View Post
    CDR, that doesn't make sense to me. I can't imagine how you could be more efficient on the bike than going in a straight line...
    I suppose technically, if you're looking at only the bike, you'd say, "Okay, if the bike veers from an ideal path, it's covering more ground" or something to that effect.

    However, since the rider (I'll say "you", although I mean it generically), since you weigh much more than the bike, it's more efficient to keep you in a straight path, rather than the bike. As a whole, it pays to focus on keeping the rider smooth and letting the bike do its thing.

    For example, to initiate a turn, at some level you need to countersteer, i.e. initiate a lean. You do this by steering in the opposite direction minutely. Although technically the bike covers a touch more road, your body follows a more efficient line, therefore, as an overall unit, you're more efficient.

    Another example is riding over bumps. I initially pictured mountain bikers over 1 foot tall bumps, but the analogy works for roadies on smaller ones. It's more efficient to raise yourself off the saddle and let the bike bounce around. Your body takes a lot more energy to change direction, and by elevating yourself off the saddle, you take your body out of the "hitting a bump energy" equation. The bumps can slow you down with only the energy the bike will absorb. If you sat square in the saddle while your bike pounded into big bumps, you'd slow down very quickly. This is because your body is absorbing the bump forces and allowing them to slow you down (instead of allowing the bike to bounce around on its own under your body).

    With climbing, the focus is on optimizing your power output by utilizing different muscles, your upper body at some level, and using a locked (or sort of locked) leg to help power the downstroke. If I stand, and I try not to let the bike move (as if it were on a trainer), I'd need to move my body side to side. That isn't efficient, nor is it natural.

    In fact I get this on the trainer, where the whole bike rocks gently side to side when I pedal fast. I first noticed this when riding no handed - I wasn't absorbing my legs' inertia with my upper body (which I did subconsciously) so suddenly my bike had to do that. On rollers my body is more still because the bike and my torso moves a touch side to side.

    So, if you're standing on the bike, you'll naturally rock the bike back and forth as you use your body weight and a relatively locked leg to power the downstroke. You'll also be able to pull up on the opposite pedal if you have a decent pedal stroke.

    If you do this, you'll find that it's much smoother to keep your torso steady (look at your shadow on the road) and let the bike move back and forth. Btw, when I say back and forth regarding the bike, I'm talking 3-4 inches for a smooth rider - you may be able to ride on the white line on the shoulder while doing this. Your body, instead of moving side to side, is using its inertia (and your coordination) to move the bike instead.

    You can try the opposite technique. Move your body side to side and keep the bike really steady.

    Although Eddy B wasn't the most scientific coach (he'd log things like body density, which really has nothing to do with cycling other than if you're really dense or not), he or one of his disciples (I think it was Greg Lemond or his then-director Cyrille Guimard) once calculated how much time avoiding the shoulder in a TT would cost the racer. They did this because there were two schools of thought with cutting corners, especially in long bends in TTs: 1 - if you cut the corner, you go faster because you follow a shorter line. 2 - if you cut the corner, you may run over glass/debris and puncture. Therefore it's not worth the risk.

    Which theory is correct? Well, for a long-ish TT (I want to say 40k but I don't think it was that long) on a particular road, ends up the calculation was about 20 more seconds of riding if you rode from one side of the road to the other, veering across the road every 100 meters or something. Again, not scientific, but look at the big picture for you and me - over about an hour, what's 20 (or even 30 or 60) seconds? Not a lot. I know when I get shelled on a climb I'm thankful if the gap is under a couple minutes.

    Keep in mind that you always ride a little side to side, it's how bikes stay balanced. You fall left, you veer left to catch yourself. Ditto the right. Repeat ad nauseum. Reduce force absorbed by falling left or right, you reduce the veering necessary. But you'll always veer, at least a normal rider will. You can try a simple experiment - lock your bars in place with a bungee cord or something. Wear lots and lots of safety gear. And go for a ride. I figure it'll take 10-20 feet to put a foot down unless you're a good trials rider.

    hope this helps,
    cdr

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    Excellent, I'll digest your replies and come back later.

    I asked a local Asian roadie today, and his tip was to train your standing endurance by first standing for 10 revs, then sit for 10 revs, later reduce the sitting to 5 revs. Sounds a good methodical approach.

    He said he only stands when his legs are too tired to pedal.

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    Randomhead
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    This seems to be as good a place to post this as any, the other day I was feeling a little sore so when I was standing on a hill I intentionally moved my body back more than usual to stretch out. It seemed like I got a lot more power. Of course, that comes at a price.

    I've also heard that pros stand when they are afraid they are going to be attacked. That has never really been of much consequence to me, if I'm attacked on a climb I always just watched them go.

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    starting pistol means war YMCA's Avatar
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    Use whatever works at that moment. Simple.

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    Standing can be good sometimes

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    Senior Member Bullseye's Avatar
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    Interesting replies, cdr. good considerations.

    -bullseye

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    Blast from the Past Voodoo76's Avatar
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    I was always coached close to the 1/3 rule cdr mentioned. And that heavier riders (me) were better off sitting more, while lighter riders were better off standing. Not sure if that really washes or if it's just some old school voodoo.

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    Legs of Steel chrisvu05's Avatar
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    I usually end up standing out of necessity. I stood the whole 40+ minutes up the backside of Lookout mountain two years ago at the 3 state 3 mountain century. I was still only going about 2.5 mph and out of gearing.

    I find I can get a better rhythm with standing and usually alternate with 40 pedal strokes per leg standing and then sit until I'm ready to stand again if the hill requires so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
    Standing endurance can (and should) be trained. Dig up old LA videos on youtube of Alpe d'Huez and note how long he continuously stands.
    Thank you, I found this one of Mr. Armstrong's attack on Snr. Pantani at the summit of Mont Ventoux in 2000:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXPXHK7I1iQ

    Here he stands to attack, and still keeps a very flat back.
    However, the gradient at this point looks a lot less than the 9%-10% I had in mind when starting this thread. Novices like me don't attack, I'm just thinking of survival and getting to the top.

    I'd be interested in seeing the stance of the pros standing to scale 15-20% sections, that'd be more in line with what I'm after.

    Aside:
    I also watched for the first time the 2003 TdF Beloki lockup, and LA's astonishing arable expedition.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtZhG2kWVLY

    Credit to the race committee for making the right decision, I can't imagine they'd be so impartial if it happens in '09.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy McTrumpy View Post
    Or just never stand. Have a look at Devolder on the cobbled climbs at Ronde van Vlaanderen. Or Merckx in just about any uphill race.
    Good point! And I read that Snr. Pantani rarely stood in the climbs, a trait copied by the recently disgraced Snr. Ricco.

    This begs the question; what were the reasons they preferred sitting whilst others stood.

    Cobbles; could simply be the better stability and control when sitting, but the Maestro?

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    3 seconds ColorChange's Avatar
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    As a general rule, I alternate standing and sitting during climbs depending upon how I feel and am riding.

    If my legs are tired and I have some HR left, I'll stand. The quads get a much needed rest but your cardio system pays the price. When my HR gets real high, I sit again. Now the rested quads do the work while I recover slightly.

    IMO it's a cardio/quad - standing/sitting (respectively) tradeoff. Generally heavier guys with more power sit more, light guys stand a little more.

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    gmt Grumpy McTrumpy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CmJc View Post
    Good point! And I read that Snr. Pantani rarely stood in the climbs, a trait copied by the recently disgraced Snr. Ricco.

    This begs the question; what were the reasons they preferred sitting whilst others stood.

    Cobbles; could simply be the better stability and control when sitting, but the Maestro?
    re: Pantani

    joking? Pantani stood more than anyone I have ever seen. I guess it worked for him.

    re: Merckx

    I think it is well established that seated climbing is more efficient in terms of energy usage. Therefore if you are already faster than everyone else, why waste energy? Merckx was able to beat guys like Fuente, so I'm sure he just went with what worked. Ullrich also comes to mind.

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    gmt Grumpy McTrumpy's Avatar
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    here's a vid of some old school climbing at very steep gradients.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8p-wDm5Wbc

    back then, riders didn't stand as much.
    Last edited by Grumpy McTrumpy; 06-16-09 at 05:35 AM.

  21. #21
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoo76 View Post
    And that heavier riders (me) were better off sitting more, while lighter riders were better off standing. Not sure if that really washes or if it's just some old school voodoo.
    I think the rationale behind that is that the heavier riders generate more power, so they don't have to stand to produce power, and sitting is more efficient.

    However, in my experience, I find that I often need to stand to produce enough power to avoid geting dropped by lighter riders. Particularly on short climbs I can generate enough power out of the saddle to hang with lighter riders.

    Longer climbs I'm getting dropped whether I'm sitting or standing.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  22. #22
    Senior Member hocker's Avatar
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    Another to watch is Contador. He stands a lot and moves dramatically from side to side. I am not sure his is the best form, but you can't argue with the results.

    I am a lighter rider (150) and I find that I can generate more power (perceived) by sitting. When I stand it is usually when a slight gap forms in front of me, I want to create gap, or everybody else is standing. I found that I need to shift down one to two gears depending on grade and speed. This is tricky because its tough to maintain speed when standing and shifting at or near the same time. Also, the act of standing takes energy and I feel like when I stand, after a few minutes my legs gets used to it and I feel alright. But the constant going back and forth wears me out.
    Last edited by hocker; 06-16-09 at 03:36 PM.

  23. #23
    It's ALL base... DScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy McTrumpy View Post
    here's a vid of some old school climbing at very steep gradients.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8p-wDm5Wbc

    back then, riders didn't stand as much.
    I'm struck by the fact that they also had downtube shifters. The advent of combined brake/shift levers made standing a more feasible proposition. I wonder how this development changed riding styles over the years...

  24. #24
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DScott View Post
    I'm struck by the fact that they also had downtube shifters. The advent of combined brake/shift levers made standing a more feasible proposition. I wonder how this development changed riding styles over the years...
    It doesn't take any significant effort to shift up a gear or two as you stand with DT shifters. You can even do it with your knee on the shifter as you stand.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  25. #25
    gmt Grumpy McTrumpy's Avatar
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    Fuente used bar-end shifters.

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