Question: I have read many articles about circular pedaling techniques, but they all relate to seated riding.
When I’m standing and climbing on short, steep hills, my feet feel like they are attached to a stair climber and I’m just pumping up and down. What exactly should my legs be doing when I’m climbing out of the saddle? — Keith D.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: When you stand, pedal action changes. It’s hard to pull up because you aren’t in contact with the saddle — there’s nothing to brace your hips to pull against.
Generally, when you pedal standing you should use your body weight to help you push down. Let the bike rock rhythmically side to side in an arc of about 6 inches (judged by the movement of the handlebar stem). This gives each leg a direct push against its pedal and makes the best use of your weight.
You can think about getting the non-pushing foot “out of the way” by attempting to pull up. But classic pedaling form is almost impossible.
Be careful not to lean too far forward when standing on climbs. This overly weights the front wheel. It presses the tire into the pavement, scrubbing speed.
Stay back a bit and find the front-to-back sweet spot. This helps center your weight over the crank to drive the pedals as just described.
On short, rolling hills, the trick is to click to the next higher gear (smaller cog), then stand and pedal up and over with a slightly slower cadence. This keeps quads from loading up with lactate because it helps you pedal with body weight.
In fact, it can actually feel like you’re stretching your legs and getting a short rest. Some riders like to get out of the saddle for that reason alone.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.