Many riders believe that in short spurts, such as when sprinting or tackling a steep climb, it makes sense to stand in order to use more than just your leg muscles. In addition to allowing you to use your body weight, standing engages your arms, chest, back, shoulders, and core. However, other riders believe that riding while seated is much more efficient. The following video documents an experiment from GCN which seems to prove the latter.
Does it make sense? When you’re out on a ride and you see a hill coming up, you tend to stand in your pedals to tackle it, right?. But is that increased oomph a real thing or just a placebo effect?
According to a recent study in the journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, standing in the saddle is more effective than the seated position for generating high pedal forces. Even though standing in the saddle decreases your knee power, your hips and ankles play a larger role in cycling efficiency, which generates more power.
As it turns out, you really can generate extra power with this move. In the standing position, cyclists tend to move their hips higher and further forward in relation to the downstroke pedal. That posture change shifts the activity of the glutes, quads, and calves to later in the downstroke than you would have while seated. Because that’s more aligned with the force of gravity, the result produces more crank power while supporting your bodyweight.
However, unless you’re like former Grand Tour champion, Alberto Contador, who could “dance on the pedals”, most of us can’t stand for long periods of time. Therefore, the study’s final recommendation is that on long climbs, it makes sense to alternate between sitting and standing. Of course, Frank Schleck gave me this advice while climbing Col du Tourmalet three years ago:
I guess when you ride for a living, you quickly learn what works best for you, or go home. Here is the article that explains the study in more detail: