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does a more upright position give more power?

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does a more upright position give more power?

Old 03-11-17, 12:44 AM
  #1  
TreyWestgate
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does a more upright position give more power?

I'm not sure if this is specific to only some people, but I am tall and I have found that I think I can climb and accelerate better on a comfort upright bike because of how I can utilize my core muscles more.

and it also makes me able to get a fast start with taking off.

Yet I do know that aerodynamics will suffer such as once I am up to speed or going down a hill.

I just wanted to know if you really get climbing power by leaning towards the handlebars and bending over in the common position that a mountain bike will put you in, since people associate a aggressive position with maximum performance.

But I think I get a lot more by being upright and so you would be surprised that I can climb some very steep hills on a comfort cruiser that would actually be harder on a different bike.

you would not believe how a cruiser can be a climbing machine.

but am not sure if this is only an advantage because of my height 6.4
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Old 03-11-17, 01:46 AM
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Probably too many variable to generalize, including in the engine room.

I improved my own efficiency and consistently measurable speed over 10 miles or more by replacing the original riser bars on my comfort hybrid with flat bars from my mountain bike. The original upright bars were only superficially more comfortable, but not for very long or many miles. It wasn't just getting a more aerodynamic position. The slightly lower bars and slight increase in reach got my thighs and hips more involved. Suits the slacker geometry of the heavy comfort hybrid. I'm still cruising only about 12 mph, but can do so for more miles without tiring.

And putting those same riser bars on my rigid mountain bike didn't make it more efficient, just more comfortable -- the original flat bars were a bit too low and the reach a bit too far, causing neck strain (permanently limited mobility due to damaged C2). More comfort means I can ride longer, farther and consistently at a reasonable cruising speed (for me) -- around 14 mph, whether I ride 10 miles or 60 in a day. Maybe that's an improvement in efficiency.

But recently I tried a friend's hybrid after he'd replaced the original flat bars with albatross bars. I could see why I was having trouble keeping up with him now, especially into head winds. The albatross bar grips put my hands closer to my thighs and hips, where isometric tension in my arms balanced out my pedaling. And the swept back bar tucks the arms closer to the torso, which is a little more aerodynamic. With my mountain bike's 24" wide riser bars at saddle height, I'm catching more air -- I can feel it demanding more effort to maintain a 15-16 mph pace.

It's still not going to be anywhere near as efficient as a well fitted bike with drop bars or aero bars. But the albatross or flipped North Roads bars might be a bit more efficient for me than riser or flat bars.
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Old 03-11-17, 04:18 AM
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There's power - as in watts - and there is force - as in how hard you push.
They're not the same.
Your body weight alone will generate the most force when your center of gravity is right above the pedal.
And just like a weight lifter striving to have the bar close to his body, you'll be able to push the hardest when your body is as straight as possible between what you brace against and what you're trying to move.

Power is a different thing, basically composed of how strongly you can make a certain move AND how fast you can repeat it.

With geared bikes, the strongest push isn't always that interesting.
If you can do do the same move at half the strength but at 1/3 the time, that'll make more power than the slow-and-hard.

On a properly sized MTB you bend at the hip/waist, stretch your arms a bit and only lean your upper body forward. This keeps your center of gravity pretty much right above the pedals anyhow.

Leaning your full body forward will unweight the rear wheel and seriously hurt your ability to climb on loose surfaces.

Last edited by dabac; 03-11-17 at 04:29 AM.
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Old 03-11-17, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by TreyWestgate View Post
so you would be surprised that I can climb some very steep hills on a comfort cruiser that would actually be harder on a different bike.
You are correct, we would be surprised!
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Old 03-11-17, 08:05 AM
  #5  
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For reasons discussed in the replies here, I think everyone should try mtb riding. There are a lot of skills learned via mtb riding that would help a roadie, inc how to generate power in an efficient manner. Too much and you spin out and end up walking the bike, too little and you don't make a climb and walk the bike..... while those in your group ride up. Then there is getting over/around obstacles.... and so much more.
For me, power can come from either position but typically while standing on the bike, but that doesn't last for very long and takes a lot out of you.
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Old 03-11-17, 09:05 AM
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A long time ago when I was a kid I stood up on the pedals. I wasn't fast. But if I didn't stand up on the pedals I didn't make it up a steep hill at all.


Then at the top I sat down again.
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Old 03-11-17, 09:07 AM
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Of course that Western flyer weighed as much as me.
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Old 03-11-17, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by jay ray View Post
Of course that Western flyer weighed as much as me.

"Stand up, lean forward, hold the bars lightly, and find the gear you can pedal with almost with your body weight alone." Grant Petersen, Just Ride book, p. 7, "Heavy rider, hard hill" chapter.
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Old 03-11-17, 09:53 AM
  #9  
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I find sitting with north road bars and a high seat night makes for easy climbing because I can pull on the bars as I push on the pedals. I end up using taller gear s with this technique.
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Old 03-11-17, 10:20 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by TreyWestgate View Post
I'm not sure if this is specific to only some people, but I am tall and I have found that I think I can climb and accelerate better on a comfort upright bike because of how I can utilize my core muscles more.

and it also makes me able to get a fast start with taking off.

Yet I do know that aerodynamics will suffer such as once I am up to speed or going down a hill.

I just wanted to know if you really get climbing power by leaning towards the handlebars and bending over in the common position that a mountain bike will put you in, since people associate a aggressive position with maximum performance.

But I think I get a lot more by being upright and so you would be surprised that I can climb some very steep hills on a comfort cruiser that would actually be harder on a different bike.

you would not believe how a cruiser can be a climbing machine.

but am not sure if this is only an advantage because of my height 6.4
I don't think it really matters when climbing. Climbing is about force and leverage while having very little to do with aerodynamics. In fact, being a bit less aerodynamic...i.e. standing up to pedal...has advantages on a climb. Most people I've observed stand at least occasionally on a climb.

I'm wondering, however, if your "advantage" on the cruiser bike has more to do with gearing than with your rider position.
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Old 03-11-17, 10:34 AM
  #11  
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I think what you are alluding to is getting assistance from gravity when you stand in the pedals. Even pro cyclists do this on particularly steep hills.
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Old 03-11-17, 10:35 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
There's power - as in watts - and there is force - as in how hard you push.
They're not the same.
Your body weight alone will generate the most force when your center of gravity is right above the pedal.
And just like a weight lifter striving to have the bar close to his body, you'll be able to push the hardest when your body is as straight as possible between what you brace against and what you're trying to move.

Power is a different thing, basically composed of how strongly you can make a certain move AND how fast you can repeat it.

With geared bikes, the strongest push isn't always that interesting.
If you can do do the same move at half the strength but at 1/3 the time, that'll make more power than the slow-and-hard.

On a properly sized MTB you bend at the hip/waist, stretch your arms a bit and only lean your upper body forward. This keeps your center of gravity pretty much right above the pedals anyhow.

Leaning your full body forward will unweight the rear wheel and seriously hurt your ability to climb on loose surfaces.
While most of what you've said is correct, you've missed a couple of key points.

First, your weight is over the pedal that is providing the most power to the crank. That's why we tend to move forward on the bike when standing to climb. We don't seesaw our body back and forth to keep it constantly over the pedals but we do move our center of gravity forward to be over the pedal during the power stroke of the cycle.

Also, your body weight is all you have to push down on the pedals with. There might be a slight increase in force if you pull with your arms but it's tiny compared to the force your body weight puts on the pedals.

Finally, mountain bike body position is a bit more complicated. There's a balance that needs to be struck. As you said, move too far forward and the rear wheel breaks loose. But, on the other hand, keep too much weight on the rear wheel and the front wheel lifts off the ground. You can't just sit on the saddle or just stand up like you might on a road bike. You have to strike a balance between the two or you won't go very far.

You seldom encounter this kind of problem on pavement. The surface is sticky enough that the rear wheel never breaks loose and the grades are seldom step enough to cause the bike's front wheel to lift off the ground.

Originally Posted by NYMXer View Post
For me, power can come from either position but typically while standing on the bike, but that doesn't last for very long and takes a lot out of you.
I read something once that compares standing to climb vs sitting to climb to climbing stairs. You can run up stairs and get up the quickly but you burn too much energy to sustain the effort for long. If you walk up the stairs, it takes more time but your body's energy needs are impacted quite as much.
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Old 03-11-17, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by TreyWestgate View Post
I'm not sure if this is specific to only some people, but I am tall and I have found that I think I can climb and accelerate better on a comfort upright bike because of how I can utilize my core muscles more.

But I think I get a lot more by being upright and so you would be surprised that I can climb some very steep hills on a comfort cruiser that would actually be harder on a different bike.

you would not believe how a cruiser can be a climbing machine.
Sounds like you're doing a lot of mashing rather than spinning.
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Old 03-11-17, 11:00 AM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
You are correct, we would be surprised!
Or perhaps not,
Being taller and heavier than average like the OP, I find some of the conventional wisdom translates a little differently, and also find a relaxed riding position more efficient.
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Old 03-11-17, 11:07 AM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by RonH View Post
Sounds like you're doing a lot of mashing rather than spinning.
Depending on the engine and grade, mashing and spinning converge. At some point spinning won't provide enough forward momentum to stay upright, and mashing simply exceeds the available power. Personally I spin out before I mash out
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Old 03-11-17, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Also, your body weight is all you have to push down on the pedals with. There might be a slight increase in force if you pull with your arms but it's tiny compared to the force your body weight puts on the pedals.
But if it wasn't for your arms "pulling" (holding you in place) you'd be stepping up, like when stepping up a stair. I'd say the "pulling with your arms" is much more than a tiny force. Especially on a really steep climb.

Assuming the bike could be controlled with no hands, just imagine how much it would limit the amount of power you could apply to the pedals while not being able to pull yourself down with your arms.
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Old 03-11-17, 12:45 PM
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Old 03-11-17, 07:01 PM
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There are a lot of physiological commonalities but we are all different as well. E.G., some people have more fast twitch muscles, some slow twitch. Some have enormous aerobic capacity, others not. Alberto Contador stands and flings his bike all over the place while Vincenzo Nibali stays seated and hunkered over with his hands on the tops or hoods. Jan Ulrich did a slow mash up mountains while Lance did a fast spin. Who knows who is actually better - naturally.

A Sports Physiologist will tell you that you can generate the most power leaning forward on a drop-bar road bike and pulling back on the handlbars (tops, drops, hoods doesn't matter). Interestingly, next most powerful is sitting bolt upright on a city bike with no weight on the handlbars. And third is leaning partially forward with some weight on the flat handlebars.
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Old 03-11-17, 09:45 PM
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Yeah, that's why all the guys in the Tour de France ride upright cruisers!
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Old 03-12-17, 06:53 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I don't think it really matters when climbing. Climbing is about force and leverage while having very little to do with aerodynamics. In fact, being a bit less aerodynamic...i.e. standing up to pedal...has advantages on a climb. Most people I've observed stand at least occasionally on a climb..........
Riding up the SIX GAPS during SIX GAP CENTURY in Georgia I am constantly dropping to my aerobars holding on securely, pulling me down into an aerodynamic position, dropping gear and spinning resulting in an increase in mph compared to standing or sitting and being upright on the bars. Different muscle application AND very efficient.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
.........I read something once that compares standing to climb vs sitting to climb to climbing stairs. You can run up stairs and get up the quickly but you burn too much energy to sustain the effort for long. If you walk up the stairs, it takes more time but your body's energy needs are impacted quite as much.
Here in SW FL a 100 mile ride can have 100' of gain or less. To prepare for riding in hilly areas I stand in the 53/12 and pedal for up to 3 miles into the wind without sitting. Allows for extended climbing while standing without premature tiring. My 165 mile ride yesterday had 174' of climbing according to STRAVA.

Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
There are a lot of physiological commonalities but we are all different as well. E.G., some people have more fast twitch muscles, some slow twitch. Some have enormous aerobic capacity, others not. Alberto Contador stands and flings his bike all over the place while Vincenzo Nibali stays seated and hunkered over with his hands on the tops or hoods. Jan Ulrich did a slow mash up mountains while Lance did a fast spin. Who knows who is actually better - naturally.

A Sports Physiologist will tell you that you can generate the most power leaning forward on a drop-bar road bike and pulling back on the handlbars (tops, drops, hoods doesn't matter). Interestingly, next most powerful is sitting bolt upright on a city bike with no weight on the handlbars. And third is leaning partially forward with some weight on the flat handlebars.
What ever floats one's boat to get the job done and up the hill.
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Old 03-12-17, 08:29 AM
  #21  
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I've found when sitting bolt upright that I get virtually no power at all, especially up hills. Even though my bikes have upright bars, and look like they could be configured in the cruiser geometry, I greatly prefer to be hunched over a little bit when riding. Not a lot. I can't tolerate drops. My preferred setup is to have my hands roughly level with the top of the saddle.

Note: I'm using the term "power" colloquially.
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Old 03-12-17, 12:39 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
I've found when sitting bolt upright that I get virtually no power at all, especially up hills. Even though my bikes have upright bars, and look like they could be configured in the cruiser geometry, I greatly prefer to be hunched over a little bit when riding. Not a lot. I can't tolerate drops. My preferred setup is to have my hands roughly level with the top of the saddle.
On flat you should be able to get a fair amount of power unless you're on a beach cruiser or something where the seat is too far back. A key to Dutch bikes is the geometry that aligns your body properly and places it so that your own weight does much of the work.

Going up hill changes things a bit. Similar to a seat that's too far back, your weight is now back behind the pedals instead of over them. Leaning forward helps to place your weight over the pedals again. Generally though, if you lean too far forward you actually loose a bit of power. However, if you lean extremely far forward (so that your back begins to arch) then you get it back and then some (E.G., you're riding similar to on a drop bar road bike).
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Old 03-12-17, 12:39 PM
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Upright bar, hmmmm....

I can no longer lean on the handlebar at all, due to a destroyed shoulder. I have a 13"-rise stingray bar on my bike, and climbing is a bit more of a chore. Spinning a lower gear is mandatory for me. I discovered, though, on the flats, the added wind resistance was offset by more room for my legs (big thighs and a hypothyroidism-induced "beach ball" below my ribs), so I was fractionally faster, though not enough to really matter.

Everyone's experiences are unique to them, and similarities are generic.
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Old 03-12-17, 06:24 PM
  #24  
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There are many variables involved in body position and the transmission of power.

If you are climbing a steep hill in a low gear, then an upright position is best, because you are putting the weight of your body directly onto the pedals, and, hopefully doing a little pulling on the opposite foot as it comes back up.

For flats or shallow climbs, you will have more power when you are sitting, because if you are pedaling properly, in the seated position you can use all of the muscles in your legs. Aerodynamics play an important part, and have a huge effect, but for maximum efficiency and power, you must have a good pedal stroke, with no dead spots, and be able to pedal in circles.

Minor changes in the location of your cleats, seat post height and saddle tilt can make a surprisingly large difference in efficiency and power transmission, and it can take years of riding before one finally gets everything right. And more than a few people never do get it right, mainly for lack of knowing any better.
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Old 03-13-17, 01:13 AM
  #25  
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I did a hilly 213 km ride last weekend (9 days ago) with my road bicycle in a somewhat more aero position.

I did a not-so-hilly 100 km ride this past weekend with my Bike Friday which is still quite upright despite some early efforts to make it slightly more aero.

Although the longer ride was tougher because of the length and the climbs, that 100 km ride was a surprisingly difficult effort and I'd have to guess it was because of the less aero bicycle I was using. It was not only less comfortable ... it made riding in any sort of wind much more challenging. And it certainly didn't improve the climbing any.
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