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Beginner technique: Hill climbing made easy

By Phil Mosley, Triathlon Plus | Friday, July 24, 2009 12.00pm

It’s something we’ve all asked ourselves at the foot of yet another seemingly endless climb – should we sit or should we stand-up? And yet surprisingly few people know the answer.

You’ll have noticed that some riders prefer to keep their bottoms diligently on their saddles, churning away at the pedals, their relaxed upper bodies making it look far easier than it feels.

Other riders prefer to stand up and power their way up the slopes, their bikes leaping forward with every pedal stroke.

Knowing when to sit and when to stand could potentially propel you up our next hill more quickly and easily.

For many people, it all boils down to personal preference – however there is some logic you can apply to climbing that might prove useful next time you’re at the bottom of a big ascent.

Standing up

Pro: You work a wider range of muscle fibres, easing the pressure on any one muscle

Pro: You can ride at a higher maximum power, allowing you to battle up the steepest sections of a climb

Con: You use up more energy because you are supporting your body weight on your legs rather than your saddle

Con: You use more energy because you are working your upper body

Con: While standing you create slightly more drag, which can slow you down

Sitting down

Pro: While sitting, your upper body is relaxed, so you don’t waste any energy

Pro: You also conserve energy as the saddle takes your weight, not your legs

Pro: With your body low, you’ll create less drag than you would standing up

Con: Your legs can feel sore from repeatedly using the same muscles on the climb

Conclusion

Staying seated is generally better for climbing, because it uses less energy. If it’s a long or steep climb, you should alternate between periods of sitting and shorter bursts of standing up.

The short periods of standing will give some welcome relief to your legs and provide a much needed boost of power on the steep sections.

When you’re climbing in the saddle, focus on spinning your legs in an easy gear, keeping your upper body relaxed.

Think about maintaining a smooth, fluid pedal stroke and keep your hands resting lightly on the handle bars.

Meet the expert

Phil mosley:

Phil Mosley is a triathlete and coach, and has a degree in sports therapy from the University of Chichester.

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