Question: I climb a lot better when I’m sitting. If I stand even for 30 seconds, my cadence slows, I lose momentum, and I get winded. Should I try to learn how to stand or just stay in the saddle? I’m 5-foot-10 and 168 pounds with about 10 percent body fat. — Curt P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I’m about your size and I climb much better seated, too. Last summer I rode the weeklong Tour the Peaks in Colorado. We averaged 97 miles per day with around 5,000 vertical feet. I sat on most of the climbs except to stretch my legs or go around a switchback. Like most riders, my heart rate goes up about 5 beats per minute when I stand, compared to riding seated at the same speed.
I think climbing position is a function of three things: your genetics, how you train, and your goals in the sport.
Some people climb much more comfortably while standing due to their low bodyweight, muscle fiber type, and other inherited factors.
A good example is 142-pound Pete Penseyres, the multi-time national masters champion. Plus, if you want to climb well while standing, you have to train that way. For example, on flat terrain use your 53×12-tooth gear and stand for 5 to 10 minutes into a headwind.
The final factor is your cycling focus and goals. I climb seated most of the time because my favorite event is the time trial. I’m trying to build seated power.