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MinnMan 08-11-10 12:29 PM

Standing while climbing requires technique and training too...
Generally speaking, I seem to sit through most of my climbs. When others on a ride are standing, I remain seated either throughout the climb or for a longer time before I stand. Once I stand, I have a fair amount of stamina to keep churning, but I don't feel that I have much acceleration or excess strength. For example, compared to this guy with whom I ride pretty frequently, I'm a better climber, but it's because I'm stronger while sitting. If we're both standing, he powers past me.

For a while I thought this was about learning to get the gearing right while standing, and that's definitely part of it. But recently I've concluded that it's partly because I simply don't feel that strong while standing. Standing calls on different muscle groups, with less emphasis on the quads and more emphasis on, well on what? the calves? the glutes? What else?

Anyway, I've realized that I need to force myself to stand more on climbs so that I can get better at it, and that I need to spend some training time specifically doing standing hill climbs.

Have you folks got any tips or wisdom about the art of climbing whilst standing? How about foot position? Do you try to keep your feet horizontal? I find I have a tendency to point my toes down while standing, and I'm pretty sure that that's wrong and makes it harder to pedal circles.

stapfam 08-11-10 12:46 PM

No tips of wisdom except practice. I have found that I only need to stand when the Hill gets tough and no gears left. If I still have gears left then I change up a couple of gears just as I stand- Other wise I am spinning out.

I have a couple of mates that turn the final bits of hills into a race. There we are riding 3 abreast and one will go. That is the sign for all of us to stand and go but I am prepared already by being in that higher gear. Not often I am beaten- but that is only for short distances.

But overral climbing strength come from you. Practice again.

Allegheny Jet 08-11-10 01:15 PM

I think of OTS as being three distinct pedal skills. You will need to practice all in order to become more efficient at pedaling while OTS. Remember that each skill needs to be completed in the most efficient and relaxed manner possible in order to not impact your riding once back in the saddle. Try to envision yourself running but attached to the bike. If you were running a 5K race and started up an incline it would not be prudent to sprint up the hill due to the resulting hurt put into your body, instead you might run up the hill with a controlled pace with the intention of running over the top then down the backside with a little recovery. In that same race you may see another runner up ahead and with 200 meters to go and you just let it all out and go for the win. And lastly, in another race you wasted your race by going out with the studs the first 1.5 miles and are completely blown up and are only running to complete the race because there is nothing in the tank except "survival jogging" and the cute red heads are beginning to pass you.

To be efficient OTS is to conserve your seated muscles and not stress the system for when you are back in the saddle. Lightly grab the hoods with two fingers wrapped under the levers. Try to stay upright without leaning on the bars or leaning back so far that your arms are straight. Your core muscles and upper body muscles will need to be your friend so be relaxed in order to not waste energy using muscles not needed to propel the bike. You should be on top the gear you are riding and feel that you can go faster if needed by pushing and pulling on the pedals. At this point you are running on the pedals and not fighting them for more speed or intensity. Just keep thinking "smooth, strong, control". Remember that your core is your friend. The bike should sway a little from side to side while you work the pedals with your feet level at 3:00-9:00 but on the balls when at the bottom of the stroke and the ankle loaded at the top. With practice you should be able to ride like this for 3+ minutes with the heart rate staying in check. At first your gauds will burn in an area right above the knees but with some training those muscles will get stronger and not complain.

To sprint OTS you need to be secure in your position and attachment to the bike. I grab the bar in the drops, drop a couple gears, go OTS, lean over the front bar and think "fast, fast, fast". As soon as the cadence gets over 110 I drop another gear and work on getting the cadence back up. You can't pass someone by riding harder, you pass by riding faster and to do that is to be efficient and fast. Just like in running the guy who wins the 100 meters isn't the one who ran the "hardest" itís the guy who ran the fastest, concentrated, and made adjustments during the race.

The third OTS method is survival. When going up a really long hill that has tapped you out and the seated riding is very labored, then "walking on the pedals" is one way to keep going and also let you recover the seated muscles some. You are now in a protective mode and stand on the pedals at a low cadence and just creep up the hill in a controlled manner and do everything possible to save effort while continue to move. As you get some recovery you may be able to pull up on the pedals some. When that happens it is time to get back to seated riding using the more efficient round stroke to complete the climb.

I can't say I'm a climbing expert by this works for me in our area where the hills have less than 700' of elevation gain.

CraigB 08-11-10 01:20 PM

I don't think much about my foot position when standing. I couldn't tell you whether they're flat or pointed down (or even pointed up). I do know that pulling up with your trailing foot is a part of the equation that seldom gets mentioned. Even with a conscious effort to pull up with that foot, though, I've never seen anyone pedal anything close to circles while standing, whether they believe they are or not. Standing is all about application of power, down and up, in my experience. Smooth circular pedaling requires something besides your feet to support the majority of your body weight, like your hinder planted on a saddle.

One other thing to keep in mind - when the going gets really tough, or you want to actually accelerate while standing and climbing, you'll find yourself pulling up on the handlebars, too. It helps force your downward moving foot to power through its stroke.

rumrunn6 08-11-10 02:16 PM

practice. on my last ride when climbing out of the saddle I thought about my foot position and made a conscious effort not to point my feet as mush. personally I have a challenge to pedal symmetrically rather than kinds sideways and cock-eyed ... hahaha one tip someone shared with me was to upshift 2 gears before getting out of the saddle and that's been useful to try most of the time.

lhbernhardt 08-11-10 02:22 PM

I ride a fixie (44x16 in summer) most of the time, so I do quite a bit of OTS climbing, as riding too big a gear under power while seated gives me lower back pain once off the bike. Here are some rules of thumb I have learned in my nearly-40-year cycling career, with attributions:

First, famous cycling coach Mike Walden says not to rock the bike. The bike stays vertical as much as possible. The side-to-side rocking merely scrubs the tires, slowing you down. Keeping the tires vertical is the most efficient. In order to not rock the bike, you must use your arms to pull. More on this later.

I read in one of Chris Carmichael's notes that you should straighten you forward leg by the time your foot reaches 2 o'clock. This I find has been the most help to me. If you've ever done any cross-country skiing, in classic technique, you're taught to glide in a "high" position. "High" means your lead leg is straightened. What happens here is that you are resting your body weight on your skeletal structure. If your leg is bent, you are resting your body weight on muscular structure, which will tire it out very quickly! Same with OTS climbing. The sooner you straighten that leg, the longer your are resting on the bones instead of supporting your weight with leg muscles. In fact, if you go up a moderate hill slowly OTS, you can do it effortlessly just using your body weight (and some pulling with the arms to keep the bike vertical) to drive the pedals. In fact, if I'm carrying a laptop computer in my backpack, it's actually easier to ride up hills OTS, since the computer's added weight helps drive the pedal!

Keep the arms at a right angle, or close to a right angle. Again, this is from cross-country skiing. The strongest position for your arms (when double-poling) is with the arms bent at 90-degrees. This also moves your body forward on the bike. Make sure your hands are on the brake hoods, NOT in the drops! This helps with the technique, and it makes it much easier to breathe. And it helps if your brake levers are mounted kind of high, as this keeps the wrist straight (another strong position).

If you want to go faster, pull up with the back foot and pull harder on the bars to keep the bike from rocking. Yes, there will be some rocking, you can't help it. But try to minimize it. Yes, the pros rock their bikes, but they are way stronger than you or I. And the strongest athletes usually don't make the best coaches, because they've seldom had to struggle.

Let me know if this helps. I think that not enough attention is paid to the TECHNIQUE involved in cycling. Sometimes, when you're really bagged, you have to go back to technique to finish the ride. Good technique increases efficiency (which can also lead to speed improvements).


rumrunn6 08-11-10 02:25 PM

I read that you should rock the bike so that your body and feet remain steady and vertical and that's what I've been doing most of the time.

Mr. Beanz 08-11-10 02:27 PM


Originally Posted by MinnMan (Post 11272353)
For example, compared to this guy with whom I ride pretty frequently, I'm a better climber, but it's because I'm stronger while sitting. If we're both standing, he powers past me..

I'm not sure why it matters unless you are racing but many riders only stand to stretch or realx muscles. I also rarely stand but if I'm in friendly competion with a buddy, I'll let him stand and pull aways all he wants if I'm a stronger seated climber. Eventually I'll pass him again and they never get far before blowing up.

If I were racing and needed to sprint for the win on a hill top finish, then I'd worry about my out of the saddle uphill sprint.:D

rumrunn6 08-11-10 02:31 PM

yeah, I really only stand for fun and to work my glutes more. it's kinda fun to have another position to switch into from time to time. if you watched the tour you would have seen riders doing a mix of standing and sitting then standing then sitting on climbs. there's no right or wrong really - whatever works for you. getting out of the saddle on flats can be fun too but tricky. I've taken to going long distances out of the saddle - like a mile - that was challenging

lhbernhardt 08-11-10 02:41 PM


Originally Posted by rumrunn6 (Post 11273063)
I read that you should rock the bike so that your body and feet remain steady and vertical and that's what I've been doing most of the time.

Yes, that's true. Again, from xc-skiing, you need a full side-to-side body shift to get maximum glide. In cycling, you need the same weight (center of mass) shift to drive the pedals. In keeping the bike upright, Walden had us keep our head over the bike. The hips move side-to-side to drive the pedals. If rocking the bike, the body (center of mass) stays in one plane, but the bike moves to put the pedals underneath the center of mass. This is fine, except for the tire scrub that ensues. I've tried it both ways, and keeping the bike upright works better, in my opinion. But if you're used to the other way, and it's more comfortable, you'll probably climb better that way.


stapfam 08-11-10 03:14 PM


Originally Posted by rumrunn6 (Post 11273063)
I read that you should rock the bike so that your body and feet remain steady and vertical and that's what I've been doing most of the time.

Two thoughts on this. "Honking" as we call it over here- looks spectacular and if you put a lot of energy into the riding- the bike will move greatly from side to side. But a lot of energy is lost on tyre scrub and movement of the bike across the road. It does work though.

But Try a spinning class- Unless you are heavy- A spinning bike will not sway very much when out of the saddle. If it does you could be in trouble. If you are just climbing a hill and run out of gears- or just want to get out of the saddle for a rest. Then this "Straight " line form of riding out of the saddle is efficient. Less power loss through the bike and not as tiring.It does not feel natural and you have to practice it. But if you need speed- then honking is the only way.

AzTallRider 08-11-10 03:29 PM


Originally Posted by stapfam (Post 11273362)
Two thoughts on this. "Honking" as we call it over here- looks spectacular and if you put a lot of energy into the riding- the bike will move greatly from side to side. But a lot of energy is lost on tyre scrub and movement of the bike across the road. It does work though.

Watching this last TDF, I was amazed at the amount of "scrubbing" going on, especially on the sprints to the finish line - even on the time trials. On the slower climbs, that extra resistance isn't as big a factor and I can understand it. You are putting your body weight down, and need to get the bike out of the way of that. But you watch the OTS final sprints, and the bike is wagging back and forth, and the tires are going all over the place. Sure -looks- slow, but obviously isn't.

lhbernhardt 08-11-10 03:52 PM

One thing I forgot to add is that I think rocking the bike is hard on equipment. Back in the mid-70's, I used a fixed gear bike during the winter. The daily ride involved a 3-mile climb of a 1200' hill to get to Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain (British Columbia). The only time I had equipment problems was when I used Phil Wood hubs and bottom bracket. I completely destroyed the bearings after one month of such riding, but at the time I rocked the bike a lot on the climb. I think this was because the sealed radial cartridge bearings in the PW hubs and bb were designed for straight radial loads, perpendicular to the axles, just as if they were mounted in a crankshaft or such. However, when rocking the bike, you're imposing thrust loads, which are better accommodated by thrust bearings, aka the oldl-fashioned cup-and-cone bearings bikes used to come with. Indeed, Shimano still uses this older technology in their hubs, and I think it's one of the few areas where Shimano surpasses Campagnolo. Anyway, this is also why I refuse to use Phil Wood stuff, it's just so highly overrated.
Also, I think rocking the bike causes wheels to go out of true quicker. That, or my wheel-building skills have improved considerably since I started not rocking the bike (and I'm riding with 28-spoke front, 32-spoke rear I build myself).


Dan Burkhart 08-11-10 04:16 PM

I usually stay seated through the performance, as I don't worry about getting up the hill first, I just concentrate on getting up the hill. One thing I have found useful though when I do get out of the saddle is to immediately upshift. As counter intuitive as that might seem, if you think about it it makes sense. Standing will put lots more torque to the pedals, which means you will easily handle the higher gear. Also, the slower cadence makes for an easier transition from seated to standing position, for me at least.

MinnMan 08-11-10 04:54 PM


Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz (Post 11273076)
I'm not sure why it matters unless you are racing :D

I'm not interested in racing, but I'm motivated to improve my ability. YMMV.

MinnMan 08-11-10 04:57 PM

Allegheny Jet: Thanks, as always for the great lesson. Just one question, what do you mean when you write "the ankle loaded at the top"? Do you mean that the toes are pointed slightly up as you come across the top?

cyclinfool 08-11-10 05:07 PM

Hermes posted a video a while back on climb technique, in that the pro said to let the bike swing a little under you. I have tried it both ways, keeping the bike steady and letting it swing. Here is what works for me, swinging the bike is better in all cases except for one - and that is when I am winding up high cadence while OTS - then it is better to steady the bike out. In a normal OTS climb some swing actually is more relaxed for me but when the bike spins up it effects stability.

AJ had a lot of good advice in his post - read it carefully. Also - Stapfam and Bean had some sage advice, if you are a stronger seated climber you will kill them on the hills.

I use the OTS position for these few things,
1) Charging a short hill - you know where the top is and you just want to stay on top of your gear and keep you momentum up and you would need too much spin to do it seated.
2) Getting back on top of your desired gear after you have begun to lug.
3) I need to use different muscles and or stretch.
4) On training rides where I will go up a hill in a big gear intentionally - kind of like one legged leg extensions on a weight machine.

My biggest problem with OTS while sprinting a hill is keeping the bike on the ground, this involves balancing the up stroke and the down stroke of the two feet, sometimes I will start to bunny hop the bike up the hill and that is just not efficient - it usually means I am putting too much up stroke and too much pull on the bars.

tsl 08-11-10 06:06 PM

Earlier this year I decided to really learn how to climb standing.

Over the winter I'd seen a YouTube video of one of the pros giving an interview--yes, an interview--while climbing out of the saddle. He just seemed to lope along easily. The darned interview lasted nearly five minutes and at the end, he loped off up the mountain. I turned off the sound and just watched that clip over and over again.

I committed that to memory and come spring, tried to reproduce it. I found that my problem was that sometimes I'd been trying to spin while standing, and other times I'd been trying to sprint out of the saddle up the hill. As soon as I upshifted a couple of gears, I found that "lope along easily" pace and it really has worked well for me.

The cadence seems to be right around 60 rpm, BTW--maybe even less. All I seem to be doing is shifting my weight from one pedal to the other and letting gravity do most of the work. I've learned how to climb really steep grades like this (14-15%), and at anything over about 5%, I'm not only faster climbing this way, but it seems easier. There aren't many really long grades where I live, but every one falls to the easy lope method. Who knew?

I wish I'd kept the link to that video…

cyclinfool 08-11-10 07:00 PM


Originally Posted by tsl (Post 11274203)
I wish I'd kept the link to that video…

Was this the video?

Hermes posted it last year and again a few weeks back when we had our last "climbing tips & tricks" thread.

Watch how the bike sways a little bit under him, watch how he uses different positions for different situations.
I watched this a lot last summer when it was posted, it was before last years Ididaride. I used the seated position outstretched with body low and hands on the hoods for the last climb up river hill out of Indian Lake - even though it was the end of a long 75 mile ride with lots of long climbs, I was using my hips and low back in that position and just motored up it past a line of struggling riders.

Note that he is not always straight up when OTS, sometimes he is a little over the bars. Likewise when seated, sometimes he is low and powering, sometimes a little higher and more relaxed. When seated he is sometimes pumping the bike for more power. He always has his hands on the hoods (which I find I rarely do) and he is never way back in the saddle - a position I find myself in when I am really fighting the hill. There is a lot in this video that is not described in words. I have watched it a lot over the last year as well. I find myself using a lot of these techniques plus a few more which I am sure are less effective.

tsl 08-11-10 07:42 PM


Originally Posted by cyclinfool (Post 11274463)

Nope. It was an interview, not a tutorial. The interview had nothing whatsoever to do with climbing. The guy just happened to be climbing along as they interviewed him. It was a "We caught up with so-and-so today and asked him about this-and-such." He's climbing, the news guy is asking him questions and he's answering them. Very relaxed, never breathing heavy, never struggling--but of course, I'd expect that from a Pro Tour rider.

MinnMan 08-11-10 07:54 PM


Originally Posted by cyclinfool (Post 11274463)

Fascinating. I saw this when it was posted last year, but I didn't know enough to really appreciate it. One thing I notice is that OTS, his toes ARE pointed down for much of the stroke, though they are nearly flat as he goes around the bottom. He gets much more action from flexing his ankle than I do, though - both OTS and when he's sitting. I also notice how far forward his knees are when he's at the top of the stroke.

Allegheny Jet 08-11-10 08:27 PM


Originally Posted by MinnMan (Post 11273858)
Allegheny Jet: Thanks, as always for the great lesson. Just one question, what do you mean when you write "the ankle loaded at the top"? Do you mean that the toes are pointed slightly up as you come across the top?

Exactly, that way you can "push over the top", then weight the foot, and then extend the foot with the calf at the bottom setting up the next pedal stroke. If the rider doesn't extend the ankle at the bottom and load at the top the rider will bob up and down wasting energy which needs to be transferred to the cranks.

gear 08-12-10 07:42 AM

I start by attacking a hill with all the momentum and gears I can muster. I work my way down through the gears while seated. If theres still more hill and my momentum (and gears) run out, I do the following:

Originally Posted by tsl (Post 11274203)
All I seem to be doing is shifting my weight from one pedal to the other and letting gravity do most of the work.

I've done this for up to twenty minutes without a problem. Your not going to get to the top in a hurry but it doesn't seem very hard. I call it "walking the hill".

mkane77g 08-12-10 08:21 AM

That's how we do it on the tandem. Use speed, attack, we shift while standing, keeping the cadence high. Or, we stand to rest if we have been grinding away for miles and miles on steep hills. Speed determines how much the bike rocks.

Allegheny Jet 08-12-10 08:20 PM

After my training ride consisting of a 1.5 hr interval riding on our Graveyard Crit Course I took an easy ride over the 7 miles back home. The road home consisted of a bunch of rollers and I rode up and over most of them OTS (off the saddle) with my hands on the hoods with 2 fingers wrapped under. A couple observations I made regarding swinging the bike a little vs keeping the bike straight while watching my shadow and keying in on my body. Keep in mind that these are my observations and not something that I think everyone should do.

#1 Not allowing the bike to swing forced me to ride with my knees bowed out to keep from bobbing up and down. I believe this could be harmful over a period of time.
#2 Not allowing the bike to swing and keeping my knees straight forced me to bob up and down or if I forced myself to stay level, have a "dead spot" at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
#3 Not allowing the bike to swing does not place the hip over the pedal.
#4 Allowing the bike to swing a little allowed me to keep level and straight with no bobbing of the body.
#5 Allowing the bike to swing allowed for the pedal stroke to be able to push over the top, push down and pull up, all in a continuous motion. Pushing over the top kept the stroke fluid in lieu of "pulling across the bottom".

Just my observations and your results may vary.

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