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Riding out of the saddle difficulty

Old 09-26-23, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by obrentharris
I've learned something new today. Having grown up in an area with plenty of hills and in an era when 42/24 was the low gear, I had no choice but to climb steeper pitches out of the saddle. Before reading this thread I didn't know that it was difficult for anyone. Now, with lower gearing, I still ride small rollers and maybe the last 50 yards of a longer climb out of the saddle to give my butt a rest. On my fixed gear I ride pretty much all the hills out of the saddle.

Another height/weight data point: I'm 6'1" and my weight fluctuates between 155# and 165#.

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Strap on a backpack with 40 lbs of cat litter and give it a try!
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Old 09-26-23, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Um... But that defeats the point of getting out of the saddle.

In the saddle the force you can apply to the pedals is limited by your body weight. Beginner cyclists might find it difficult to apply full body weight to the pedal (i.e. make their butt to lift off the saddle) whilst riding in-the-saddle, but with training it soon becomes possible. At which point the body weight becomes the limiting factor.

The whole purpose of out-of-the-saddle position is to overcome that limit: to use your hands to pull against the handlebars and thus apply greater than your body weight force to the pedals. The whole purpose is to push much harder.
What if the purpose is sometimes to get your ass off the saddle for a bit and work different muscles for a bit?

Also, yes, often the goal IS to push much harder. The thing is, though, you don't want to push so hard that you can't sit back down and keep climbing afterwards.
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Old 09-26-23, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Um... But that defeats the point of getting out of the saddle.

In the saddle the force you can apply to the pedals is limited by your body weight. Beginner cyclists might find it difficult to apply full body weight to the pedal (i.e. make their butt to lift off the saddle) whilst riding in-the-saddle, but with training it soon becomes possible. At which point the body weight becomes the limiting factor.

The whole purpose of out-of-the-saddle position is to overcome that limit: to use your hands to pull against the handlebars and thus apply greater than your body weight force to the pedals. The whole purpose is to push much harder.
Higher pedal force but usually at a lower cadence, so power output is not necessarily higher when climbing out of the saddle. But it often is for the first few pedal strokes if you mash the pedals hard and then there is a risk of blowing up on a long climb.

I often ride at the same power both in and out of the saddle. But cadence is generally lower when standing. Most people stand on steeper gradients when their cadence drops too low to stay seated.
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Old 09-26-23, 02:17 PM
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The peloton, spinning up a climb like a Peloton class, is a relatively recent phenomenon.
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Old 09-26-23, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
What if the purpose is sometimes to get your ass off the saddle for a bit and work different muscles for a bit?
Perhaps. But this sounds more like an excuse. Most of the time it is just a way to pedal out of a shifting mistake. Also, in 9 cases out of 10 some poseur-ish cyclists opt for the out-of-the-saddle position just because they believe they look more epic that way. I see them all the time starting from traffic lights doing the full "slow mobius" routine in an unjustifiably high gear. With an unmistakable grimace of feigned herculean effort mixed with genuine self-admiration on their faces.

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Old 09-26-23, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Perhaps. But this sounds more like an excuse. Most of the time it is just a way to pedal out of a shifting mistake. Also, in 9 cases out of 10 some poseur-ish cyclists opt for the out-of-the-saddle position just because they believe they look more epic that way. I see them all the time starting from traffic lights doing the full "slow mobius" routine in an unjustifiably high gear. With an unmistakable grimace of feigned herculean effort mixed with genuine self-admiration on their faces.
Excuse me? Look, chum, it's one thing to tell us all why YOU get out of the saddle. It's quite another for you to tell us all why WE get out of the saddle.
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Old 09-26-23, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
In 9 cases out of 10 some poseur-ish cyclists opt for the out-of-the-saddle position just because they believe they look more epic that way. I see them all the time starting from traffic lights doing the full "slow mobius" routine in an unjustifiably high gear.
Maybe this is different with fully modern shifting systems, but my 20 year old 105 you can definitely accelerate more quickly in "too high" a gear than making several shifts to get up to speed.
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Old 09-26-23, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
Excuse me? Look, chum, it's one thing to tell us all why YOU get out of the saddle. It's quite another for you to tell us all why WE get out of the saddle.
Please, please, please tell me which one ticked you off! The "pedal out of shifting mistake"? Or the "slow mobius" one?
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Old 09-26-23, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Please, please, please tell me which one ticked you off! The "pedal out of shifting mistake"? Or the "slow mobius" one?
Did you not see the highlighting? You know, where you questioned the validity of what I'd said?
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Old 09-26-23, 04:21 PM
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But, you know, AFAICT, most people start up from stops out of the saddle. Personally, as I stop I shift into a gear that I expect to be in on the other side of the intersection and usually to 5-10 pedal strokes out of the saddle before sitting down because the cadence has crossed the standing/sitting threshold, which is about 60-70 rpm for me. And, as I said, on long climbs I'll get out of the saddle when my ass feels like it's been IN the saddle long enough, or, of course, to clear a steep pitch. For the former, I try to keep the power close to what I was doing seated. For the latter, it's whatever I need to make it up that pitch.
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Old 09-26-23, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
The whole purpose of out-of-the-saddle position is to overcome that limit: to use your hands to pull against the handlebars and thus apply greater than your body weight force to the pedals. The whole purpose is to push much harder.
Depends. If you've ever raced, you know that the most mass-start events require metering your efforts strategically. "Push much harder" equals "burning matches," as racers say.

Do it when it makes strategic sense, and for only as long as necessary.

The rest of the time, you should be riding smart, not hard.

By all means, push your hardest out of the saddle: in training, for planned intervals, during the 20% of your training time devoted to hard efforts.

For the 80% of your training devoted to aerobic efforts, if you have to get out of the saddle, be careful to limit the increase to around the 10% or 15% increase in effort I mentioned earlier.

Of course, if you're just riding for fun, ride any way you like. Jump out of the saddle with a 50% effort increase? If it's fun, sure---why not?
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Old 09-26-23, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Um... But that defeats the point of getting out of the saddle.

In the saddle the force you can apply to the pedals is limited by your body weight. Beginner cyclists might find it difficult to apply full body weight to the pedal (i.e. make their butt to lift off the saddle) whilst riding in-the-saddle, but with training it soon becomes possible. At which point the body weight becomes the limiting factor.

The whole purpose of out-of-the-saddle position is to overcome that limit: to use your hands to pull against the handlebars and thus apply greater than your body weight force to the pedals. The whole purpose is to push much harder.
None of this is true.

Especially the part about pulling on the bars increasing the pedal force.
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Old 09-26-23, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Perhaps. But this sounds more like an excuse. Most of the time it is just a way to pedal out of a shifting mistake. Also, in 9 cases out of 10 some poseur-ish cyclists opt for the out-of-the-saddle position just because they believe they look more epic that way. I see them all the time starting from traffic lights doing the full "slow mobius" routine in an unjustifiably high gear. With an unmistakable grimace of feigned herculean effort mixed with genuine self-admiration on their faces.
You are full of more stuffing than a Thanksgiving turkey!
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Old 09-26-23, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Fredo76
You are full of more stuffing than a Thanksgiving turkey!
"Clydesdale" is the word you were apparently looking for, if you are into that whole brevity thing...
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Old 09-26-23, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
None of this is true.
Especially the part about pulling on the bars increasing the pedal force.
Oh, I see. Mea culpa. I forgot to add that I'm talking specifically about riding techniques employed in high-performance road cycling world. It constantly keeps slipping my mind that this is "General Discussion" forum, frequented by people riding mountain bikes, recumbents, tricycles, beach cruisers and many other kinds of human-powered vehicles, for whom the technique in question makes no sense whatsoever. So, to correct/prevent the possible misunderstanding (better late than never): what I described above is something we do road cycling specifically. I understand that not everyone here is familiar with serious road cycling.

In fact, as many road cyclists know, there are actually two techniques of hand-assisted pedal force delivery: the well-known classic "standing" position and the "behind-the-saddle" position (sort of like what we train to use in emergency braking situations) with hands on tops. In both cases we use our hands to overcome the "body weight" limitation with regard to the pedal force. The classic "standing" position is more ergonomic and efficient in that regard, which is why it is preferred by the cyclists. But just for the fun of it one can sometimes try the second one. It looks kinda funny (as opposed to "epic"), but it does allow one to deliver greater force to the pedals as well.

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Old 09-26-23, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
None of this is true.

Especially the part about pulling on the bars increasing the pedal force.
Pulling on the bars doesn’t affect the pedal force, but it becomes necessary if the pedal reaction force up or back exceeds the opposing component of our weight, lest we fly off the bike.

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Old 09-26-23, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
The whole purpose of out-of-the-saddle position is to overcome that limit: to use your hands to pull against the handlebars and thus apply greater than your body weight force to the pedals. The whole purpose is to push much harder.
This is the purpose when sprinting when pedal forces are large (greater than body weight) and we have to come out of the saddle and straighten the load path for the upper torso and arms to resist the pedal force.

The second (now less fashionable) purpose is for climbing, when pedal forces are much less and we seek a different standing position to balance the COG over the 8 to 10 o’clock angles of peak pedal force and use body weight to assist. This will vary somewhat depending on the steepness of the climb.

And both these positions can also be used for therapeutic purposes to have time out of the saddle.

Otto

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Old 09-26-23, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by ofajen
Pulling on the bars doesn’t affect the pedal force, but it becomes necessary if the pedal reaction force up or back exceeds the opposing component of our weight, lest we fly off the bike.

Otto
Has everybody forgotten about pulling up on the pedals? It keeps you on your seat quite well! Making your force proportional to quad strength + hamstring strength (in layman's terms ), and has little to do with body weight, which only enters the equation when off the saddle. When standing, hamstring strength is greatly increased, which is one reason why racers often stand when attacking.

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Old 09-26-23, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
But, you know, AFAICT, most people start up from stops out of the saddle. Personally, as I stop I shift into a gear that I expect to be in on the other side of the intersection and usually to 5-10 pedal strokes out of the saddle before sitting down because the cadence has crossed the standing/sitting threshold, which is about 60-70 rpm for me. And, as I said, on long climbs I'll get out of the saddle when my ass feels like it's been IN the saddle long enough, or, of course, to clear a steep pitch. For the former, I try to keep the power close to what I was doing seated. For the latter, it's whatever I need to make it up that pitch.
+1 And a biggish gear means the pedal turns slow enough that a first try pedal pickup or clip in is far more likely and I can now pull for real on it next pedal stroke. Sometimes T have traffic behind me that I am slowing some so I pedal harder, even grimace, to be polite and a good citizen. Just learned that makes me a poseur. And I've been posing now for about 50 years.
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Old 09-26-23, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Fredo76
Has everybody forgotten about pulling up on the pedals? It keeps you on your seat quite well! Making your force proportional to quad strength + hamstring strength (in layman's terms ), and has little to do with body weight, which only enters the equation when off the saddle. When standing, hamstring strength is greatly increased, which is one reason why racers often stand when attacking.
I pull up seated quite often (though I come here and find that is all in my head and that my cleats don't actually pull off the pedals if I forget to tighten the toestraps) and sometimes hard! out of the saddle. (I've bruised/injured the bone of my foot top on my shoe straps riding the fix gear. Once rode up a moderate, maybe 200' climb on a 42-12 that was fun for the downhills on both sides doing a massive push-pull like an extended weight room set. (By that time, I'd replaced the straps with laces. Would have sent me to the doctor before. Now it was just good fun.)
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Old 09-26-23, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Um... But that defeats the point of getting out of the saddle.

In the saddle the force you can apply to the pedals is limited by your body weight. Beginner cyclists might find it difficult to apply full body weight to the pedal (i.e. make their butt to lift off the saddle) whilst riding in-the-saddle, but with training it soon becomes possible. At which point the body weight becomes the limiting factor.

The whole purpose of out-of-the-saddle position is to overcome that limit: to use your hands to pull against the handlebars and thus apply greater than your body weight force to the pedals. The whole purpose is to push much harder.
Not always. I have knee issues. (What was once called chondromalcia patellae.) Basically grinding while pushing down and bending my knees. I can get 100% relief by coming out of the saddle, pulling forward and pedal deleting the downstroke.
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Old 09-26-23, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Tomm Willians
Want to ask about this technique as I’m finding it surprisingly exhausting and incapable of doing it for very long at all. I consider myself at least a moderately conditioned cyclist doing centuries a few times a year and around 200,000’ annual climbing numbers. At times that I try riding out of the saddle, it’s not long at all before I sit back down. I have specific points along a favorite route where I intentionally work on it but I’ll be damned if I can see any improvement.
Back to the original question:
For me, I now tend to stay seated on grades up to about 12%. I have low enough gearing to keep the cadence reasonably high.

On much steeper grades, I have to stand, and then I'm just trying to keep the wheels turning. I do try to keep the bike's speed from increasing over my seated mph if possible, so I don't burn out too soon.

On longer moderate climbs ( perhaps 7% to 11%), standing is a good relief from the seated efforts. I have two methods here:
(On these hills, as I stand, I usually shift the cassette two gears harder, and see how that feels. I might go up or down from there.)

1. I'll do two to six or so pedal strokes, then coast very briefly. It might be just a one or two second coast. The idea is to keep my ,mph speed in check, and my watts more reasonable. This doesn't work that great in a group with riders right behind me, though. I'll only do it if there's a couple of bike lengths of space behind me, or I stay toward the rear of the group.
2. I got inspired by a couple of riders I know that just look effortless while standing. It's their pedal stroke, I think. Just extremely fluid so that it appears effortless. I work on this when I can. I need the correct gearing and also the correct cadence for that gear -- which also ties into mph speed vs grade. Sometimes I achieve that very smooth, efficient pedal stroke. I think I'm slightly pulling up on the upstroke, or at least unweighting the pedal. I feel that I can maintain this smooth pedaling way longer than the usual standing interval.

I also noticed this on a short gopro video clip I shot last year. Two strong riders in front of me on a very short hill, both standing. (I was going all-out to try to stay with them, workable since the climb was 10 or 15 seconds long). One was smooth and effective. The other had much more sudden body and bike movements. Very interesting.

Zwift pedal stroke efficiency
Some comments mentioned standing on Zwift. I rarely do that, I'm mostly seating when riding Zwift. But the Wahoo Kickr trainer's resistance is quite a bit different than riding outside. Outdoors, I think there can be a "micro coasting" within a pedal stroke: if I let off the power, it's strictly coasting. On the trainer, there's always resistance around the whole pedal stroke. It doesn't react to less pedal pressure that fast. I found I was putting out much less watts on the trainer compared to outdoors -- measured on the same bike, same Stages power meter. After a while, it got easier on Zwift -- I adapted. I think the better pedal stroke translates to outdoor riding -- I feel I have more power when seated at normal spinning cadences. This has to help with standing too, I think.

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Old 09-26-23, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Fredo76
Has everybody forgotten about pulling up on the pedals? It keeps you on your seat quite well! Making your force proportional to quad strength + hamstring strength (in layman's terms ), and has little to do with body weight, which only enters the equation when off the saddle. When standing, hamstring strength is greatly increased, which is one reason why racers often stand when attacking.
You might appreciate this discussion on cycling positions and forces. It’s an excerpt from Keith Bontrager’s article debunking KOPS and explaining his considerations in frame design and particularly the tight constraints on seat tube angle that allow a road rider to use the seated and both standing positions effectively.

“The CG of a seated rider in a fairly aerodynamic position will often be about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3 cm) in front of the bottom bracket. I have determined this in two ways: by direct measurement of the rider's anatomy (measuring this balance point), and by weight distribution calculations (weighing the axles). Of the two, the latter is the more accurate. The result is generally consistent with a 45%/55% fore-and-aft weight distribution that many classic cycling texts regard as optimal.
The peak pedaling force applied by the seated rider produces an upward and slightly rearward force at the saddle (Figure 3). If pedaling forces are small, the cyclist is able to remain seated because the upward component of force is smaller than the rider's weight on the saddle, and the rearward force is smaller than the static friction between the rider and the saddle. During the angular phase of the pedal cycle when the pedaling force is small, the rider tends to fall forward due to the moment between his CG and the saddle, and this must be resisted with upper body and torso effort.

As peak pedaling forces increase, the gravitational constraining forces on the rider at the saddle are no longer sufficient and larger arm and torso efforts are required to maintain a seated position. At extremely high pedaling forces, the rider comes out of the saddle to straighten the load path for his arms which allows them to effectively resist the loads created by the much stronger leg muscles. The diagram of the lever system in Figure 1 is no longer accurate at this point; the rest of the rider becomes a complicated system of levers as well.

The two basic out-of-the-saddle riding positions are useful in many circumstances. The one mentioned above is used to accelerate as rapidly as possible during a start, jump, or sprint. A slightly different position is used to climb hills. These two circumstances are worth considering in more detail in order to understand how the horizontal saddle position determines the rider's overall position on the bicycle.
The sprinting position is the simpler of the two. The rider is making such large pedaling forces that his torso and upper body can do little more than resist the peak forces of the power stroke. The arm effects between the peaks keep the bicycle leaning in the direction that puts the pedal being pushed under the rider, as well as locating the rider and contributing a small amount to the pedal forces. Peak pedaling forces are large compared to gravitational forces, and the rider's position adjusts accordingly, shifting his upper body forward to achieve the best load path for the arms (Figure 4). The rider's CG is typically forward of the pedal at this point. During the phases of the pedal cycle when pedaling forces diminish (around the six and twelve o'clock positions), there is a small torque on the rider about the pedal. As before, this will tend to cause the rider to fall forward and will need to be resisted with upper body and torso effort.

The pedaling forces are smaller when climbing. When a rider gets out of the saddle to climb (Figure 5), his CG moves over the region directly above the range of pedal positions where the pedaling forces are high (from eight to ten o'clock). This allows the rider to "balance" on the pedals when the forces are high, minimizing the arm effort required and lets the full weight of the rider contribute to pedaling forces. The torque on the rider is still there when the pedal forces decrease and must be resisted, but it is smaller because the rider's CG is closer to the bottom bracket spindle. The geometry of the link between the torso and bars made by the rider's arms when climbing out of the saddle is something I pay particular attention to when I fit a rider, but is somewhat flexible due to the larger number of bones and muscles that make it up.

With this insight into pedal forces and weight distribution for both in- and out-of-the-saddle riding, we can look at what happens to rider position as the seat angle is varied, and how these variations affect performance. We can start with something in the middle of the range of seat tube angles and see what changes occur to the rider's position as this angle is varied.


The full article is here, this excerpt starts about 60% of the way down. There is a lot of discussion before that that may be interesting but isn’t that relevant to this topic.

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/kops.html

Otto
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Old 09-26-23, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ofajen
You might appreciate this discussion on cycling positions and forces. It’s an excerpt from Keith Bontrager’s article debunking KOPS and explaining his considerations in frame design and particularly the tight constraints on seat tube angle that allow a road rider to use the seated and both standing positions effectively.

“The CG of a seated rider in a fairly aerodynamic position will often be about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3 cm) in front of the bottom bracket. I have determined this in two ways: by direct measurement of the rider's anatomy (measuring this balance point), and by weight distribution calculations (weighing the axles). Of the two, the latter is the more accurate. The result is generally consistent with a 45%/55% fore-and-aft weight distribution that many classic cycling texts regard as optimal.
The peak pedaling force applied by the seated rider produces an upward and slightly rearward force at the saddle (Figure 3). If pedaling forces are small, the cyclist is able to remain seated because the upward component of force is smaller than the rider's weight on the saddle, and the rearward force is smaller than the static friction between the rider and the saddle. During the angular phase of the pedal cycle when the pedaling force is small, the rider tends to fall forward due to the moment between his CG and the saddle, and this must be resisted with upper body and torso effort.

As peak pedaling forces increase, the gravitational constraining forces on the rider at the saddle are no longer sufficient and larger arm and torso efforts are required to maintain a seated position. At extremely high pedaling forces, the rider comes out of the saddle to straighten the load path for his arms which allows them to effectively resist the loads created by the much stronger leg muscles. The diagram of the lever system in Figure 1 is no longer accurate at this point; the rest of the rider becomes a complicated system of levers as well.

The two basic out-of-the-saddle riding positions are useful in many circumstances. The one mentioned above is used to accelerate as rapidly as possible during a start, jump, or sprint. A slightly different position is used to climb hills. These two circumstances are worth considering in more detail in order to understand how the horizontal saddle position determines the rider's overall position on the bicycle.
The sprinting position is the simpler of the two. The rider is making such large pedaling forces that his torso and upper body can do little more than resist the peak forces of the power stroke. The arm effects between the peaks keep the bicycle leaning in the direction that puts the pedal being pushed under the rider, as well as locating the rider and contributing a small amount to the pedal forces. Peak pedaling forces are large compared to gravitational forces, and the rider's position adjusts accordingly, shifting his upper body forward to achieve the best load path for the arms (Figure 4). The rider's CG is typically forward of the pedal at this point. During the phases of the pedal cycle when pedaling forces diminish (around the six and twelve o'clock positions), there is a small torque on the rider about the pedal. As before, this will tend to cause the rider to fall forward and will need to be resisted with upper body and torso effort.

The pedaling forces are smaller when climbing. When a rider gets out of the saddle to climb (Figure 5), his CG moves over the region directly above the range of pedal positions where the pedaling forces are high (from eight to ten o'clock). This allows the rider to "balance" on the pedals when the forces are high, minimizing the arm effort required and lets the full weight of the rider contribute to pedaling forces. The torque on the rider is still there when the pedal forces decrease and must be resisted, but it is smaller because the rider's CG is closer to the bottom bracket spindle. The geometry of the link between the torso and bars made by the rider's arms when climbing out of the saddle is something I pay particular attention to when I fit a rider, but is somewhat flexible due to the larger number of bones and muscles that make it up.

With this insight into pedal forces and weight distribution for both in- and out-of-the-saddle riding, we can look at what happens to rider position as the seat angle is varied, and how these variations affect performance. We can start with something in the middle of the range of seat tube angles and see what changes occur to the rider's position as this angle is varied.


The full article is here, this excerpt starts about 60% of the way down. There is a lot of discussion before that that may be interesting but isn’t that relevant to this topic.

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/kops.html

Otto
So, 'lest we fly off the bike' was just kidding, then. Thanks for the article. The two positions outlined above seem similar to the difference between 'jamming' and 'dancing' that I described here.
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Old 09-27-23, 04:07 PM
  #75  
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Originally Posted by AndreyT
Oh, I see. Mea culpa. I forgot to add that I'm talking specifically about riding techniques employed in high-performance road cycling world. It constantly keeps slipping my mind that this is "General Discussion" forum, frequented by people riding mountain bikes, recumbents, tricycles, beach cruisers and many other kinds of human-powered vehicles, for whom the technique in question makes no sense whatsoever. So, to correct/prevent the possible misunderstanding (better late than never): what I described above is something we do road cycling specifically. I understand that not everyone here is familiar with serious road cycling.
I don't know who these "we" people are, but they are not experienced, competitive (serious?) road cyclists. A cyclist yanking on the bars to try to increase pedal force is wasting their effort, and not succeeding.

A caveat: There is one situation in which pulling up on the bars has a useful purpose: when a track sprinter is starting from a standing stop, as they are starting in a rather large gear. After two pedal strokes or so, that pulling up on the bars is no longer useful.
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