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Climbing, out of the saddle vs sitting and gear ratio

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Climbing, out of the saddle vs sitting and gear ratio

Old 09-08-17, 10:00 AM
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LainfordExpress
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Climbing, out of the saddle vs sitting and gear ratio

So, I'm relatively new to real road cycling, and as a tubby engine I find climbing a little tough. I generally do all my climbing from the saddle, but everything I read suggests standing up to use different muscles, etc. However, whenever I stand, I find that using the same ratio is way way too easy.

Do you guys just shift under load right before standing? Or does this mean I should be standing earlier (while still in a higher ratio)?

So maybe this progression:

Flat -> Downshift just as the grade increases -> Out of the saddle when it feels tough -> Sit back down and downshift -> Out of the saddle when it feels tough -> Sit back down and downshift -> (Repeat until having fun again).
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Old 09-08-17, 10:04 AM
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shift 2-3 times to a harder gear to stand. If you're heavier then it is more efficient to climb seated so use standing sparingly
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Old 09-08-17, 10:26 AM
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You have to experiment with your body and bike relative to which hill you are climbing. I have a Cat 4 climb towards the end of my work commute. My fastest time up that was 97% in the saddle and I'm 240lbs. When I was in Tucson last March I road up Mt. Lemmon and I had to do both, but spent most of the time in the saddle and on steeper parts had to get out of the saddle. I was 220lbs at that time.


You'll get into a rythym but for the most part you want to spend most of the time in the saddle, maybe shift up and stand up as you crest over the top so you can finish strong. It takes a long time to figure out how to not blow yourself up on hills, I'm still working on it.


One thing I can say as a fellow fat guy, is to not be afraid of the hills when you're riding. Anyone can book on the flats (and most are way faster than me) but the true heart of a cyclist comes out when the road pitches up.


Embrace the challenge. Good luck.
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Old 09-08-17, 10:45 AM
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I usually shift up 2 or 3 gears up before standing for 10-30s for a little kick of pace.

Then I'll sit down when pace drops to original pace, and immediately kick gear down to original cadence...or I'll have progressively downshifted during the slowdown (just lighten the pedal pressure).

Some people can stand for minutes tho. Not i
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Old 09-08-17, 11:17 AM
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I think the general rule of thumb is your body mass determines in or out of saddle. There is lots of info out there on it. Divide your weight(lbs) by your height(inches) to get that number. Now do some reading. I fall into the "only stand if you have to" category. So, I will stand 30 seconds to 1 minute every 10 minutes climbing to stave off the cramps. As others have said, shift up 2-3 gears harder before you stand.
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Old 09-08-17, 11:27 AM
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I stand all the time on climbs. It's fun! How many gears you shift up to make your lower cadence and increased leverage work will depend on your cassette. Usually a two-tooth difference for me, which works out to one shift on my antiquated 7-speed stuff, and two shifts on newer road cassettes with one-tooth jumps.

If you intend to do this in groups, make sure you practice your transitions so that you can do it smoothly and not cause the person behind to crash into you.
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Old 09-08-17, 11:51 AM
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Another lover of standing here. Now, I often climb both sitting and standing without shifting, just doing one or the other based on grade changes. Now that is in part because all my bikes are either DT (downtube) shifting bikes or fix gears.

Good practice shifting is to back off momentarily as you shift so the chain isn't under load for that second. Yes, modern chains and cogs can handle it. But if you back off, bad things don't happen. And for many of us, the big hills are not within convenient walks, public transportation or acceptable by the SO distances from home. Bad things can include rear derailleurs going into the spokes, usually destroying themselves and often bending or breaking the derailleur hanger, cassette teeth breaking, chains wedging between the chainrings, sometimes bending chain links and other events challenging to jury rig. I say this because it sounds like you are both heavier (and very likely stronger) than I am and probably a little more "clumsy" on the bike, not having my years of experience. Breakdowns aren't my idea of fun. (Yes, sometimes good challenges for us engineers, but ...)

There is some very famous footage of a rider coming out of the saddle and shifting while going hard that turned out to be a multiple $1000 mistake, Andy Schleck in the Tour de France. (20012? I forget but that footage should be very easy to find.) That incident cost him the overall win. You don't want that. I promise.

I love climbing. I hope some of my love rubs off on you.

Ben
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Old 09-08-17, 01:18 PM
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Like many things in cycling, I say get experience & feel comfortable doing both.


Then if you determine you still prefer sitting due to your size, only stand on the steeper bits to rest the lungs and heart a bit
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Old 09-08-17, 01:24 PM
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I like to stand at regular intervals, usually on the bends in the hairpins, those are often the steepest bits anyway.
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Old 09-08-17, 05:50 PM
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My road bike has downtube shifters and after only three months back on a road bike (last time I had one was 30+ years ago) I'm not quite comfortable shifting to a harder gear on climbs. Too much jolt. Probably easier with brifters and more sophisticated systems.

So I usually start a climb standing in a harder gear, then sit and downshift when the legs start to burn. Rarely the other way 'round unless it's a 2% or lesser grade.

We have very few long continuous climbs so I'll wait until a level spot to upshift again to stand and stretch the legs, hips and back a bit. But I'm still not fit enough to stand more than 30 seconds at a time, usually closer to only 10-15 seconds.

And I wouldn't do that in a group ride until I'm fitter. I'm wobbling less while shifting compared with three months ago, but checking my ride videos I can see I'm just a wee bit twitchy shifting up and down on climbs. Folks I ride with in casual groups, not closely packed, say I'm pretty steady but I don't *feel* steady so I wouldn't risk up/down shifting to stand/sit in a tight group on climbs. Just need more time, practice and conditioning.

Watching videos of guys like Greg LeMond on climbs, he was so smooth you'd have to watch closely to even see him using the downtube shifters. And he seemed to shift less and simply alternate between standing and sitting to mash in the same gear.
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Old 09-08-17, 06:26 PM
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There has to be other folks out there who spend more than 10-15 seconds standing. Depending on the mood, I will spend the entirety of shorter climbs out of the saddle, that is, 3-5 minutes. I did at least half a dozen standing stints this morning of at least a minute each. I can't imagine getting up for just 10-15 crank revolutions and then sitting back down again.
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Old 09-08-17, 06:51 PM
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You don't often see the bigger guys standing much on climbs. Your body will tell you what it prefers. But yes you have the right idea as far as changing gears.
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Old 09-08-17, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
There has to be other folks out there who spend more than 10-15 seconds standing. Depending on the mood, I will spend the entirety of shorter climbs out of the saddle, that is, 3-5 minutes. I did at least half a dozen standing stints this morning of at least a minute each. I can't imagine getting up for just 10-15 crank revolutions and then sitting back down again.
I stand a lot to climb, sometimes to climb easier and slower, and other times to climb faster sometimes for multiple minutes. I'll also stand up for short periods to get through a steep section, to (re)build momentum, or just to change things up. I don't really think much about it now that I try to remember what I do and when. I just do what feels right at the time. I'm also decently below clydesdale weight at 157 lbs. currently and have reasonable upper body strength (though much less than I had in my twenties).
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Old 09-08-17, 07:08 PM
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Lol wish we had some longer climbs around here! I find I'm faster sitting and spinning the grade. Most times if I stand it's because I'm doing a short climb. I'm not really in the saddle though even when I'm spinning the grade, but I'm not standing upright on the pedals. I sort of pull my body into the pedals with my core muscles (abs) and gripping the handle bars tight. Lol when I really get into it I'll start flexing the bars.

When I do stand I'll approach the climb and instead of downshifting I'll hold my cadence up the hill by standing. The point where I stand is when my cadence starts to drop by maybe 15%, usually when I feel I should downshift. I can shift fine up or down when standing, but its due to practice and supporting my body weight on the handle bars for the moment.

Tldr; don't sweat it! Sit and spin that grade, that's good form.
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Old 09-08-17, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
There has to be other folks out there who spend more than 10-15 seconds standing. Depending on the mood, I will spend the entirety of shorter climbs out of the saddle, that is, 3-5 minutes. I did at least half a dozen standing stints this morning of at least a minute each. I can't imagine getting up for just 10-15 crank revolutions and then sitting back down again.
Let's swap legs and lungs for a few rides.

Seriously, I'd like to know how it feels to be a stronger climber. Even when I was in my 20s I was never a strong climber. Decent on flat terrain, love bombing downhills fast. I've passed some tri-folk on downhills where they seem to coast or even ride the brakes, which seems to take all the fun out of a good downhill. But climbs? Big nope.

At 59, it ain't getting any easier. Over the summer I've gotten within 66%-75% the speed of the fastest local guys my age on most flats and downhills. Even a little faster on some carefully selected segments that I know well -- being familiar with a segment makes it easier to calibrate effort. But I always fall apart on hills. I'm lucky to finish any hill segment at half their speed.

Working on it, though. Added more squats to my workout. Thighs are still aching today. We'll see how it goes this fall.
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Old 09-08-17, 11:02 PM
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Definitely shift 2-3 before getting out of the saddle.

About the type of rider who should… just experiment. I am technically supposed to stay seated but once you get the technique, climbing out of the saddle can be incredibly efficient. Learn to use your weight. Don’t just grunt around out there. Find your flow, pace, rhythm… and the only way to do that is ride.



Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
There has to be other folks out there who spend more than 10-15 seconds standing. Depending on the mood, I will spend the entirety of shorter climbs out of the saddle, that is, 3-5 minutes. I did at least half a dozen standing stints this morning of at least a minute each. I can't imagine getting up for just 10-15 crank revolutions and then sitting back down again.
I’ve done 15-20 minute climbs standing. Once you find the rhythm and technique Alberto Contador them B***Hes
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Old 09-09-17, 01:31 AM
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There are many variations in the pedal stroke as well. There is hovering your weight over the down stroke, driving each pedal down with bent knees. There is the straight leg approach, taking a boost from the rear pedal to hop up and ride the next stroke down peg leg style, which is like a series of little moments of rest. The full sprint, pulling and pushing any and all directions all the way around.

A heavy rider can ride out of the saddle effectively, but it takes more power to do so. The pedal really drops under your weight. As you get stronger and lighter, the pressure on the pedals standing is not so different than when sitting, so it gets easier. I reserve it mainly for sustaining or rebuilding momentum, rather than powering along.
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Old 09-09-17, 04:32 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
There has to be other folks out there who spend more than 10-15 seconds standing. Depending on the mood, I will spend the entirety of shorter climbs out of the saddle, that is, 3-5 minutes. I did at least half a dozen standing stints this morning of at least a minute each. I can't imagine getting up for just 10-15 crank revolutions and then sitting back down again.
Can't imagine being untrained or out of shape, eh?
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Old 09-09-17, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by redfooj View Post
I usually shift up 2 or 3 gears up before standing for 10-30s for a little kick of pace.

Then I'll sit down when pace drops to original pace, and immediately kick gear down to original cadence...or I'll have progressively downshifted during the slowdown (just lighten the pedal pressure).

Some people can stand for minutes tho. Not i
Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
There has to be other folks out there who spend more than 10-15 seconds standing. Depending on the mood, I will spend the entirety of shorter climbs out of the saddle, that is, 3-5 minutes. I did at least half a dozen standing stints this morning of at least a minute each. I can't imagine getting up for just 10-15 crank revolutions and then sitting back down again.
The tendency for many riders is to increase power when standing. If you're already climbing close to your limit increasing power isn't going to be sustainable. It takes a little practice to control your power while standing to maintain a manageable power output.

And some riders just want an occasional break and use some different muscles. There's no one 'right' formula. Whatever gets you up the hill...
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Old 09-09-17, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
The tendency for many riders is to increase power when standing. If you're already climbing close to your limit increasing power isn't going to be sustainable. It takes a little practice to control your power while standing to maintain a manageable power output.

And some riders just want an occasional break and use some different muscles. There's no one 'right' formula. Whatever gets you up the hill...
This is true.

Sometimes I'll stand without upshifting, not allowing my body to bob up and down, but instead lean on my hands for support while continuing to spin the pedals to meter the power.
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Old 09-09-17, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by LainfordExpress View Post
Do you guys just shift under load right before standing? Or does this mean I should be standing earlier (while still in a higher ratio)?


I wouldn't necessarily call it shifting under load. If you push a little harder at a higher cadence for about 2 seconds, you can let up a little before you shift for a nice, smooth shift. Once the shift is made, you can get straight out of the saddle in a smooth motion.


You can do the same thing standing, if you want. If you stand up without shifting, things will feel easier, which gives you a good opportunity to let up a little bit as you shift.


I usually shift before standing. Not sure why. I guess if the shift somehow goes horribly wrong and the chain breaks or something, you and your nuts are better off being seated than standing. That would be a very rare thing to happen, though. With modern equipment you can make a pretty clunky shift and still get away with it.
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Old 09-10-17, 02:49 PM
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I compared sitting/standing while climbing this week with my road and hybrid bikes on a hilly loop that usually thwarts my go-fast intentions.

The road bike has Suntour indexed downtube shifters. The hybrid has indexed thumbies. The road bike bar is 2"-3" below saddle height; hybrid flat bar is right at saddle height. Similar frames -- horizontal top tube, very slightly slacker fork and seat tube on the hybrid. Road bike weighs about 24 lbs; hybrid about 30. I tried to ignore the gearing differences and just concentrated on felt effort. (FWIW, the road bike is 42/52 front, 13-24 rear -- not great for some of our short steep climbs; hybrid is 30/40/50 triple, 13-28 rear.)

Short version, the hybrid was much easier for transitioning between sitting to spin and standing to mash. Main difference is the indexed thumb shifters made it easier -- no change in balance or loss of momentum. I could shift up and down as needed. Secondarily, the flat bar at saddle height seemed more efficient for keeping weight over the pedals. And while I still struggle to stand and pedal longer than 30 seconds, recovery between standing/sitting/standing again was shorter so I could alternate fairly easily.

With the lower road bike bar too much weight and potential power is lost to keeping my torso upright. It's definitely faster on climbs -- lighter weight, etc. -- but the felt effort is greater, I'm wasting energy with the awkward shifting, and need longer recovery periods between standing/sitting/standing again.

I'm betting brifters would make a huge difference on the road bike, possibly as much as re-gearing (I'm considering trying to squeeze in a 28T maximum cog freewheel and 39T chain ring). Less wasted energy and lost momentum compared with downtube shifters.

I might raise the bar a bit and reevaluate how it feels on climbs, standing while on the hoods. This older road bike has relatively deep drops anyway so I can still get low enough when necessary.
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Old 09-10-17, 05:28 PM
  #23  
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I'm with most of the others. As I've gotten fatter I tend to sit more and more. Of course I'm also a better spinner now and carry a higher cadence on the flats too. Today I did one of the local climbs using a bike with a 42T small chain ring and only a 26T large cog on the cassette. As I go over the climb today I'd say I stood maybe 6 times for probably no more than 3 or 4 minutes. I didn't have a cadence sensor on this bike or I could look at my log and say for certain. As with the others on this 8-speed setup I'll drop two gears before standing and then once I sit back down I just quickly and smoothly shift back to where I was.

It tires me quickly to stand for long and the HR will shoot up. So mainly it's to stretch, give the butt a break, or to clear a really steep section. I've got a HC climb that hits over 20% for awhile. There's a lot of standing for that one, no way around it for me.

Another thing I normally do is try to never use the largest cog on my cassette. I leave that as a bailout in case I screw up and blow up on the ride.

Today was the exception to that norm, I mean jeeze it was a 42T chain ring and I normally take up one of my compact doubles.

Watch your HR, keep your breathing smooth and even and don't tense up. Trying sliding forward or backwards on the saddle too. You may be more efficient sitting more forward than normal or farther back...

Today's climb. At it's worse it's only a Cat 2.

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