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To pump or to grind? That is the question...

Old 08-17-20, 07:08 AM
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benjamin163
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To pump or to grind? That is the question...

Hello,
as I find myself heaving my large frame up some rather steep short climbs on the Pembrokeshire coast, I wonder, is the advice I'm always given to go down a gear or two and pedal faster really correct?
When I go up the hills in a higher gear it somehow feels easier to stand on my pedals and grind it out. It feels like I'm getting further, faster.
When I do it in the lowest gear it feels like I lose all the momentum, continue at snail's pace and just end up grinding away anyway.
Does anyone have any pseudo scientific evidence on the most efficient way to get up these lung busters?
All opinions gratefully received.
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Old 08-17-20, 07:45 AM
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What kind of bike and what kind of ride? (roadie, loaded tour, MTB, casual). How steep and high?
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Old 08-17-20, 07:52 AM
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You use a lot more energy when you stand and grind. If this is okay, it probably is faster. For me, a lot of times I would prefer to save energy and eat less. Most of us are stronger and have higher capacity while standing. But it depends on what muscles get trained. I have seen this in my own riding, I know how to train so that standing while climbing is better for me. I did that one year, and I didn't really like it.

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Old 08-17-20, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by benjamin163 View Post
Hello,
as I find myself heaving my large frame up some rather steep short climbs on the Pembrokeshire coast, I wonder, is the advice I'm always given to go down a gear or two and pedal faster really correct?
The advice is to stay seated and use low enough gears you can maintain your target power output at 50+ RPM for proper biomechanics.

When I go up the hills in a higher gear it somehow feels easier to stand on my pedals and grind it out. It feels like I'm getting further, faster.
It's not because you waste energy lifting your weight.

In https://joefrielsblog.com/hills-sit-or-stand/ noted coach Joel Friel writes

The lower your body mass the more advantageous it is to stand on a climb. The greater your mass the better off you’ll be staying seated. One quick and simple way to come up with your body mass is to divide your weight in pounds (1kg = 2.2lbs) by your height in inches (1cm = 0.4in). So if you weigh 154 pounds (70kg) and you are 72 inches (180cm) tall your “mass” is 2.13 (154 / 72 = 2.13). I’ve found that for males the best climbers are at less than 2.0. These folks should stand a lot (think of Marco Pantani). Men in the range of 2.0 to 2.3 tend to alternate between standing and sitting a lot (for example, Lance Armstrong). Those men at 2.3 to 2.5 are best advised to sit a lot (like Miguel Indurain). Folks over 2.5 usually avoid hills. Women should use a scale which is about 0.2 lbs/in less (for example, under 1.8 are climbers).

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Old 08-17-20, 08:10 AM
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benjamin163
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I'm on the road, doing between 20 and 50 miles depending on the difficulty on a Fairlight Strael (just got it) Which is super comfy. I want to go far but be comfy. Not going to break any speed records but I try not to pootle along!
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Old 08-17-20, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
The advice is to stay seated and use low enough gears you can maintain your target power output at 50+ RPM.



It's not because you waste energy lifting your weight.

In https://joefrielsblog.com/hills-sit-or-stand/ noted coach Joel Friel writes
Well I'm 2.95 according to those calculations so I think the answer is to only ride a bike downhill!!
Fascinating answer and thank you for sharing.
I still can't get it out of my head that it all feels easier standing up. I just feel like I'm getting further quicker.
But it's hard to argue with the science you just shared.
I shall just have to keep testing.
Truth is I'm knackered when I get to the top whether I sit or stand!
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Old 08-17-20, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by benjamin163 View Post
<snip>But it's hard to argue with the science you just shared.
...and thatís when I realized youíre obviously not American. I stand a lot on steep hills, but I also like to climb in bigger gears. I love climbing.
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Old 08-17-20, 08:32 AM
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you shouldn't be standing if;
1. you're not lightweight
2. you're not young

you defiitely should be sitting if:
1. you're on the heavy side
2. you're older in age

If you're older, a bit porky, and you're standing and grinding, you're doing it wrong, but more power to you!
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Old 08-17-20, 08:45 AM
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This is an issue that I wonder about at times too! In my early biking days, the conventional wisdom was to remain seated and maintain a relatively high cadence by shifting to lower gears as needed. For me, steep hills are "fun suckers" and if possible, I tend to avoid them. Sometimes it's just not possible to do so 🙁. Occasionally, in those unavoidable situations, I've stayed in the current gear and went into "standing mode". At first, it DOES seem easier and I'm definitely going faster than if I remained seated and downshifted. I DO tire quickly tho and find myself wishing I'd stayed seated and downshifted. At that point it's usually too late to make the change (without going sideways on the roadway &#128580 so I continue to "honk" the rest of the way up the hill. While I hate to admit it, on rare occasions, I've had to dismount and walk 🙈 🙄.
I did the calculations RE: body mass (not BMI) and found mine to be 2.29 which puts me in the "sit and/or stand" group 👍. I find it a bit humorous that pounds and inches must be used to determine just how to best handle hills (if at all &#128540. BTW, a more precise method of converting centimeters to inches would be to divide centimeters by 2.54!
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Old 08-17-20, 08:59 AM
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My body mass is 2.78 and I average over 100 ft of climb per mile. I hated and avoided hills/mountains when I first started riding in 2015 and now I go out of my way to find hills. I alternate between mostly sitting, and then standing for steeper ramps/switchbacks. I will never be fast but at 57 y/o it does not matter. It is more about the journey and enjoying the different terrains.

To the OP, do what works for you and experiment. Allow sufficient recovery and understand there is no one right answer. A lot of us are outliers because of body morphology.
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Old 08-17-20, 09:08 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by benjamin163 View Post
Well I'm 2.95 according to those calculations so I think the answer is to only ride a bike downhill!!
Fascinating answer and thank you for sharing.
I still can't get it out of my head that it all feels easier standing up. I just feel like I'm getting further quicker.
But it's hard to argue with the science you just shared.
I shall just have to keep testing.
Truth is I'm knackered when I get to the top whether I sit or stand!

I'll argue with it--it's racing advice. It has little or nothing to do with non-competitive riding. I'm definitely, according to the calculations, well within the avoid hills category (2.68), yet I do big climbs a lot, both standing and sitting. For someone my size and age, I think I'm pretty damn good at them. I know I pass a lot of people smaller and younger than me climbing them.

Legs, lungs and hearts are not standard issue, we all vary on a lot of dimensions other than size, so generalizations on size alone is going to provide you with little guidance as to what works best for you as an individual. The best person to determine which strategy works better for you is you. Don't let "science" negate what your experience is teaching you.

BTW, you know what also isn't standard issue? Hills. Which way I approach them depends on a lot of factors, steepness, length, wind direction, where it comes in the course of a long ride, and whether it's a really hot day can affect this.

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Old 08-17-20, 09:10 AM
  #12  
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To pump or to grind? That is the question...

This is one of the few times when I'll ask my wife for her opinion.....
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Old 08-17-20, 09:31 AM
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Using that formula at 6'3" 189 I'm on his borderline avoid hills list. For what purpose? He's a coach, and his books are about being a competitive cyclist. Sure, if I want to be competitive, it makes no sense to race 145 pound riders on courses with significant climbing.
It's been a while since I picked up one of his books, but IIRC he said something along the lines of if you just want to go out and ride your bike, this isn't for you.

Again if competing, the sit stand decision has a lot of considerations. Otherwise, go with what feels best.

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Old 08-17-20, 10:28 AM
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Some of us are born climbers. Some of us stand simply because it is the best/most enjoyable way to go up hills. I have liked standing on climbs since I first got toeclips 55 years ago. That turned to love several year later when I pulled the straps tight. Wow! Raced 40+ years ago for three years. I was a standing climber throughout. No, I did not stand all the time, in fact well under half the time, but if the race had a decisive climb,. I would usually gear my bike to stand a lot or most of it. (I don't recall sitting on VT's Smuggler's Notch.) I wasn't a great racer. But my competitors did not like seeing me show up for hilly races because they knew I was gong to make them hurt. (I knew my only chance was to make them hurt so much they were slower later.)

Standing uses more oxygen. Standing at any given speed also uses the muscles at a lower percentage of max so later, you can draw more from those muscles. So it's a trade-off. Now standing poorly is just wasted energy, But a skilled rider can do "the dance" very efficiently, even rocking the bike a lot (which I did). I trained myself to ride perfectly straight. No front wheel wavering. My eyes went straight up the hill. (My head rocks around an axis so the visual picture rocks a little but the focal point of my vision doesn't move. My entire body is involved but everything is going into propelling the bike uphill.

Watch the pro races and you will see riders who rarely stand and riders who stand a lot. Three who stand a lot, one retired, one passed, on are Mara Abbott (Rio Olympics), Marco Pantani and Sepp Kuss. All three make standing look so natural, so easy. I doubt they are burning much more than sitting (when they dial the standing back enough that they could actually put out that power sitting).

Ben
I'm light. But if I put on 30 pounds, I'd still be a stranding cliinber, just an out of shape, slow one.

Ben
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Old 08-17-20, 10:44 AM
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I’ll sit more, except for short sections.

As for standing and expending energy, it all depends on speed/cadence. I find that stair stepping up a hill is the easiest way, if the goal is to just to reach the top.

It is such a crawl that unless it is absolutely necessary, or I’m riding with someone a lot slower, and I not a great climber, I rarely have the patience. It is basically walking a bike up, but I find it conserves energy; at least for me.

John
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Old 08-17-20, 11:00 AM
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First, ride up more hills. That helps you get better at riding up hills. Sounds like a circular argument, and perhaps it it, but it does work.

After climbing for a few months, try the same hill a couple times, one sitting and spinning, one standing and grinding. Come back a couple days later, do it again, only switch the standing/sitting order. What felt easier/faster/better? Do it that way, unless you want to try the other.

Most of my climbing is spinning, yet when I see a short roller, it's a lot of fun to take a run at it and see if I can summit the climb without getting bogged down. When it works, it's great!
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Old 08-17-20, 11:06 AM
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People try to make a one size fits all solution but one doesn't really exist.

Depends on how you are built, and your aerobic vs. anaerobic capacity. Are you more of a middle linebacker or wide receiver?

When I was younger never went below a 52 inch gear. Would stand and pump up hills, sometimes flaming out, but anything lower than that figured it was better to get off and walk. Maybe mashing won't make me an effective pro but with my build was never going to be one anyway.

Now that I'm older and ride heavier bikes I keep changing to lower gears (and higher stems).
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Old 08-17-20, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by benjamin163 View Post
Well I'm 2.95 according to those calculations so I think the answer is to only ride a bike downhill!!
Fascinating answer and thank you for sharing.
I still can't get it out of my head that it all feels easier standing up. I just feel like I'm getting further quicker.
But it's hard to argue with the science you just shared.
I shall just have to keep testing.
Truth is I'm knackered when I get to the top whether I sit or stand!
How long are the hills you're climbing? And how steep? There's a big difference between powering up a steep pitch that lasts 30 seconds to a minute, and climbing 3 miles with an average gradient of 8%.

I'm close to you in the ratio (slightly higher ratio, actually, around 3 at the moment). I can stand for the steep bits of under 30 seconds, but if I tried to do the 3 mile climb standing I'd explode about a minute in. The 'sit and spin' advice is aimed at long climbs, and I can do that for a long time. Even there, sometimes I'll hit a really steep bit (the inside of a switchback where it's simply impossible to stay seated.
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Old 08-17-20, 11:15 AM
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My two cents (er, pence for our British friends): There's no right way to get up a hill. Sit down, stand up, fight fight fight. I'm 53 and 174 lbs /78.9kg(sorry I have no idea how many stones that is) so I'm neither young nor particularly light, but I will still stand on short, sharp hills like you describe. If it works for you, great.
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Old 08-17-20, 11:29 AM
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Start out seated in that lug gear, shifting to less resistance as you tire out seated, & if it gets more challenging, shift to one or two lugging gears & stand up. If that faults, decrease the gear resistance while standing. Once that is exhausted, you will just have to walk it.
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Old 08-17-20, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
People try to make a one size fits all solution but one doesn't really exist.

Depends on how you are built, and your aerobic vs. anaerobic capacity. Are you more of a middle linebacker or wide receiver?

When I was younger never went below a 52 inch gear. Would stand and pump up hills, sometimes flaming out, but anything lower than that figured it was better to get off and walk. Maybe mashing won't make me an effective pro but with my build was never going to be one anyway.

Now that I'm older and ride heavier bikes I keep changing to lower gears (and higher stems).
Translated into rugby: are you more of a prop or a winger?
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Old 08-17-20, 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by benjamin163 View Post
Hello,
as I find myself heaving my large frame up some rather steep short climbs on the Pembrokeshire coast, I wonder, is the advice I'm always given to go down a gear or two and pedal faster really correct?
When I go up the hills in a higher gear it somehow feels easier to stand on my pedals and grind it out. It feels like I'm getting further, faster.
When I do it in the lowest gear it feels like I lose all the momentum, continue at snail's pace and just end up grinding away anyway.
Does anyone have any pseudo scientific evidence on the most efficient way to get up these lung busters?
All opinions gratefully received.
According to GCN. It's better to stand up at high power on short steep climbs and I agree with them. Note, you can also output high amount of power while sitted on the pedal while on higher gears.

But for long hills over 1 km, you really need to pace yourself.
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Old 08-17-20, 10:42 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
In https://joefrielsblog.com/hills-sit-or-stand/ noted coach Joel Friel writes
I got 1.85 in the formula. I'm same weight as Marco Pantani, only 2 inches higher. I am able to stand uphill for more than 3 minutes at a time. Really love uphills and stand a lot.
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Old 08-18-20, 09:18 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
According to GCN. It's better to stand up at high power on short steep climbs and I agree with them. Note, you can also output high amount of power while sitted on the pedal while on higher gears.

But for long hills over 1 km, you really need to pace yourself.
Good points. Iím back to riding single speed, so for hills that feels like a higher gear.

Iíd agree that seated climbing in a relatively high gear works with a very high power output, up to the point of lifting myself out of the saddle and at that output, Iím climbing faster than I would be if I were standing up.

Standing up, OTOH, helps deal with steeper grades and also allows more flexibility on cadence and can be slower when churning up a grade in a relatively high gear.

It also has the advantage of affording some time out of the saddle which helps with overall ride comfort.

Otto

Last edited by ofajen; 08-18-20 at 10:09 AM.
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Old 08-20-20, 12:53 PM
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What's easier to move across a room , 100 pounds or ten 10 pounds?

Grinding in a high gear might be okay for a short distance but in the log term it's a lot more tiring than spinning a lower gear.

Cheers
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