Don’t let anyone tell you that cycling standing up can compromise your pedaling technique. It really depends on the type of riding you’re doing and if circumstances make it necessary to stand up.
Standing while pedaling can be a difficult but an essential skill to apply while riding your bike. If done correctly with proper technique it can give an edge to your riding and provide many benefits.
In this article consider the 12 benefits that will show when it’s necessary to rise above the saddle and stand up on the pedals, and the muscles used cycling standing up.
1. Gives You An Advantage Accelerating
You may not race or compete in cycling but there may be times where you will need to speed off on the bike for various reasons.
Accelerating while standing usually helps to get off to a great start.
For an example when this might come into play is when you’re at a stoplight. It can be slightly difficult to take off while sitting on the bike seat, fiddling around with the clipless pedals. You might as well stand up, find your footing and accelerate across the intersection in one smooth motion. This will not be so easy at first, but over time it will become second nature.
Another instance in which you will need to accelerate is when you’re trying to avoid danger.
If you live in a congested city or town, you already know this is vital.
People in cars sometimes ignore giving bicycles the right-away when making a right turn. Instead of waiting behind the cyclist, approaching a right turn, they may cut in front to beat the rider making a turn.
One of the best moves a cyclist can make to avoid this is to acknowledge when a car is behind you and going to make a right turn.
Use good judgment on how fast you need to accelerate, then ride out into the middle of the lane left of the right turn to train cars to make space and get behind you.
This will not only create space but will protect you from other cars that may try to cut across in front of others to turn.
2. Improves Sprint & Interval Riding
Now if you race or cycle competitively, accelerating while standing up becomes a crucial component to beating your competitor, taking the lead and or gaining position.
Ever notice some of the greatest athletes in cycling stand up while sprinting that final stretch before the finish line. Even the best climbers in pro cycling have been seen accelerating up hills standing up on the pedals. Just check out YouTube and you’ll be amazed at how some of the best comebacks in a cycling pack are won by a rider accelerating out of the saddle.
Cycling races begin sometime with some pretty nasty crashes as large groups of cyclists pack together in tight spaces. It is very wise of cyclists to accelerate ahead of the pack if you can to avoid ending up in the human stack of riders crammed together during the very start of a race.
Competitive cyclists often perform interval training as part of their workouts. This type of training includes alternating between different speeds and power. They eventually develop fast-twitch muscles enabling them to accelerate efficiently to let out that burst of speed when they need it.
Using a technique in road racing called “attacking”, involves accelerating very quickly while standing to catch up with a group or to close the gap of a cyclist. In like manner accelerating to break away from a group is another way a cyclist will take advantage in a race.
3. Climb Hills Better
Many cyclists may prefer to cycle up hills while sitting but it depends on how steep the incline. Standing up on the pedals during climbing shifts the stress off other muscles groups and places more focus on the quads and upper body.
Proper technique for climbing hills on a bike is important if you are to climb effectively.
One way to do this right is to engage the hips in your pedal stroke to drive the ride. Leaning over the handlebars. just a little, will transfer the weight from the rear of the bike to the front creating a position that gives more power output climbing up hills.
Also, your quads should not be the only muscles engaged. The upper body including the arms, abs, and back are being used to support your weight standing. Your arms muscles are activated when you push and pull on the handlebars to stabilize the body while putting force on the pedals. The back muscles are worked as you are leaning forward over the handlebars. Finally, your core/abs are what support your back and hip flexors.
To become a good climber it will take time and practice standing pedaling and seated on climbs. But one thing for sure is that seated climbing will not improve climbing out of the seat, and this goes the other way around.
4. Gives You A Break From Sitting
Going on long rides can be brutal in the saddle. Your butt gets numb and uncomfortable and you can really lose focus placing all attention on your rear end.
Transitioning from a seated position to standing while cycling will help relieve these symptoms. The only thing with this position change it can be short-lived as you exhaust more energy riding while standing up.
Here are 6 Tips to endure standing up riding for long periods:
- Wear Comfortable Well-Fitted Cycling/MTB Shoes You don’t want shoes that are too narrow or too loose that they take the comfort away from mashing the pedals. If you have “flat feet”, it may be wise to find a shoe insert that will give you greater support.
- Try Compression Or Copper Infused Socks. This may be a different approach in cycling, but many athletes in other sports have benefited from these types of socks which have aided in performance.
- Strengthen The Core. Having tight abs will definitely improve your ability to endure standing up on the bike. You don’t even have to follow old techniques of lying on the floor to get a good core workout. This also will keep the lower back from suffering from fatigue on long rides.
- Maintain Proper Posture. Riding in this upright position after covering some miles can lead to poor posture. Keeping good posture would include distributing your weight evenly on your feet standing tall
- Stay Well Hydrated Drinking plenty of water or electrolytes during rides will be vital to preventing dehydration. Plan on bringing enough water on long rides and in hotter climates to minimize muscle fatigue.
- Move Around To Promote Circulation Some cyclists remain very stiff while standing up on the bike. It’s better to move around a little at least with the bike. A way to do this while riding is by swing the bike by the handlebars from side to side. Making adjustments in standing up straight with the chest high and chin tucked will help aid in circulation as well.
5. Increases Blood Flow In Lower Extremities
Our bodies were not designed to stay seated for long periods of time. Many can relate to feeling lower back pain and cramps from sitting for a long time.
Standing up on the bike for long periods can’t be done all the time. But blood flow can improve with short episodes standing while cycling. Keep in mind that with any exercise, blood circulation can improve. Cycling standing up is just one of the ways you can achieve this.
As a good rule of thumb, if you are having poor circulation issues, it is best to consult with a medical professional to advise if cycling is the best exercise for you to do.
Sitting actually slows blood flow making circulation from the legs down and back up to the heart happen inefficiently. Standing while riding squeezes the leg veins pushing blood up to the heart more efficiently.
This movement actually promotes greater oxygen flow through your body as your heart is pumping and lungs are taking in more air.
Improving circulation also goes back to wearing compression socks which help to assist in pushing blood back up to the heart. These socks will help support leg muscles and tendons and also help your muscles recover.
6. More Control Of Your Bike
Believe it or not, some have noticed that standing allows them to have more control of their bike.
Standing while cycling in low speeds allows you to maneuver between tight places, jump potholes and curbs, and when standing at a light waiting for it to change.
A skill that many cyclists may want to learn is how to track stand while you’re waiting at a stoplight. This is only done while standing on the pedals, finding your balance on the bike and maintaining that balance without getting off the pedals or clipless pedals. Once the light turns green you’re ready to get moving.
In my experience, I’ve noticed that I’m more confident cornering at low speeds while standing up. The way the body is positioned and weight distributed, it allows for more stability and artfulness. You also are less likely to fall cornering if standing up on the pedals since you can shift your body away from the turn while still balancing the bike.
Another scenario you would have control cycling standing up is when you’re cycling in narrow allies in urban cities. Cars and pedestrians almost never look for bikes coming through the alley. But, if you’re standing up it will be easier for you to see them and avoid getting hit or running into them.
7. Makes Vehicles Notice You More
I like this idea of standing to let vehicles notice you because it makes sense that one’s will clearly see what’s right in front of them and what is much taller than them. While riding in a low position or just on the saddle, many vehicles may not notice you right away.
In order to not only see and be seen, standing up on the bike near cross streets or high trafficked areas will make you more noticeable.
There have been times where I stood up from a seated position and it made the vehicle across from me more aware that a cyclist was there. It’s the little things you do on your bike that can make a world of difference avoiding an accident.
8. Better For Your Knees
Overall cycling is a low impact activity so it’s reasonable to state that it’s better for your knees while standing. The reason for this is that the knee is more stable standing than in a seated position.
Riding in a seated position on longer rides actually places the knee under a lot of force and tension. When the knee is under pressure it starts to behave differently due to overuse.
It’s important to note that riding seated is not bad but you want to alternate equally between sitting and standing.
You will know when to switch between the two positions when the tension on the knee bothers you. Only you know when you have reached this threshold, then it’s time to check your position on the bike and allow for knee extension by standing.
9. Promotes Better Visual Acuity
It’s common when road cycling to crouch low on the bars and look forward and down towards the wheel. But this position can block your view of what’s ahead and around you.
Cycling standing up will allow a better visual to see the path in front, side, and across from you. It’s good to be observant of your surroundings on a bike so you can navigate situations well.
Being able to see obstacles from afar becomes especially important in the sport of mountain biking too. Since trails that are ridden by mountain bikers are rough and rugged, having a clear view of what you’re up against becomes essential.
10. Helps To Ease Through Poor Road Conditions
Potholes, train tracks, and concrete tears, Oh My! If you cycled around your town or other cities then these road conditions are no strangers to you.
Standing up while cycling over these types of road conditions can prepare you to absorb the shock. It also helps to stand to give you greater stability depending on the bike you have.
Many road bikes are lightweight and designed for either casual riding, touring or racing. So when riding over poor road conditions they can throw you around, making the ride unstable and uncomfortable.
Let’s not forget how unstable you’ll be when cycling in the rain. Riding in a seat position might make your reaction time to slipping low. But when standing you can react more quickly, getting a foot out of the clips and taking control of your balance.
Sometimes standing all the way up on the pedals is not necessary. But you can slightly lift up off the seat to brace yourself.
11. Builds Strong Quads
The primary leg muscle that will be engaged when cycling standing up will be the largest group of muscles in the body – quadriceps.
Many muscles are engaged in the legs while cycling, but the quads and hamstring muscles do more work, especially on elevated terrain.
The reason the quads are built up is due to the fact that they are the power and force that pushes down the pedals. Standing uses your own body weight to add resistance, therefore providing an excellent workout for your quads.
According to livestrong.com, “Because you can push down on the pedals with all your might, cycling with heavy gears causes physiological adaptations and muscle growth similar to weightlifting.”
12. Takes Pressure Off Your Lower Back
Not all riders experience lower back pain while cycling but for those that do, they prefer to stand up cycling for relief.
Cycling standing up will help align your body in a way so the weight is not compressed in the lower back. The weight and pressure will be focused more on the hips and legs when pedaling.
When riding in a seated position either upright or stretched across the bike, we place stress on the lower back. The stressors being traded are between compression and stretching. Standing upright on the pedals alone will help ease some of this stress.
Standing while cycling alone will not eliminate lower back pain, but it will help give your back a break. To really take the load off the lower back, many cyclists obtain bike adjustments and proper bike fitting by their local bike shop. If they find that those options do not help with low back pain then they may benefit from strengthening the lower back and the surrounding muscles.
Point Of This All
Cycling standing up is not just limited for hill climbing and making a dash for the finish line in a race. There are many benefits you have read that riding in a standing position helps make you a better cyclist.
If someone wants to become good a something they don’t just try it once, forget it, then miraculously become experts. We constantly work at whatever craft it is and constantly learn how to improve.
Practice doesn’t always make perfect but makes you better. To improve your bike skills, taking the time out to learn and apply some basics can go a long way.