As you probably know I have some different views on mountain biking compared to most “experts”. From the value of flat pedals to the ridiculousness of spending hours on a road bike to improve your mountain bike conditioning I try to get riders to stop and think about things, if only for a second.

Standing pedaling is only a bad option if you don’t have the mobility, strength and endurance in the core, upper body and hips to sustain it.

Funny things happen when riders stop and think about things. Some of them start to realize that there may be more to the story than what they were told. The world of mountain biking is littered with myths, half-truths and outright lies and one of my goals is to help shed some light on what it really takes to improve your riding.

One area that I’ve talked about before but I think needs some special attention is Standing Pedaling. Most riders view Standing Pedaling as something to be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

They are told that they’ll tire themselves out too quickly and they think they need to sit down in order to weight the rear tire on climbs.

They end up shackling themselves to their seats, which really impedes their growth as a rider.

Once you understand that standing pedaling is better than seated pedaling in many ways and how you can incorporate it more into your riding you’ll never look at the trail the same way again. More riders are held back by this one myth than anything else on the trail. Break free of the seat shackle and you’ll have way more fun on the trail.

My wife and I standing up to enjoy some sweet singletrack.

To help dispel some of those myths and help more riders break free of seated pedaling I created this podcast where I go over all things standing pedaling. I’ll dispel the myths surrounding it and reveal…

– Why it can actually be easier on your knees to stand up while climbing.

– Why you have to stand up to execute skills properly.

– Why clipless pedals can make it harder to stand up.

– How to use standing and seated pedaling together over the course of a ride.

Download this episode (right click and save)

I also wanted to share 5 things you can do today to improve your Standing Pedaling. Just like anything else on your bike, it is a skill that you must understand and practice to improve.

5 Keys to Standing Pedaling

1 – Use your pedals to help support your weight. You can do this by using a gear that gives you some tension at the pedals. This is usually going to be a harder gear/ slower RPM than you would use when seated. You also do this by getting the ball of your foot in front of and not on top of your axle, which will allow you to achieve better balance and use your hips more efficiently.

2 – Use your upper body to stabilize/ support your body and to help add power to the pedal stroke. The better you can get your upper body into the right position and the more you can pull to add to the pedal stroke the easier standing pedaling will be.

3 – You want to simply drive hard with your lead leg i.e. mash your pedals and use your upper body to hold you up and keep you smooth. While you don’t need to stomp every bit of your weight into the pedals don’t try to “spin” circles or keep a “smooth” pedal stroke either. Just try to stay light on top of the bike using your upper body while keeping pressure on the pedals with good gear selection and foot placement.

4 – Know how to use your hips to get the most out of your traction. When traction is good then you want to push the hips forward, almost like you would fall forward and your bike is keeping you from hitting the ground. When traction is poor you want to sit your hips back over the rear tire to weight the rear while also keeping your shoulders over the front end to keep it down.

5 – Focus on your shoulder and upper back position and as it is the real weak link in the standing pedaling kinetic chain, not your legs or lungs. In other words, you can have the strongest legs and the best VO2max but if you can’t help maintain an optimal shoulder position and posture for standing pedaling then you’ll waste so much energy it won’t matter. This will be the hardest habit to overcome so it has to be on the top of your mind.

Last, I want to share this new video I shot this weekend showing you how to instantly improve your standing pedaling balance and traction by understanding how to best use your hips. Through the power of bad stick figure drawings I’ll show you exactly what to do when you stand up and when traction starts to get loose.

So there you have it, a blueprint for overcoming the weaknesses that keep you from easily standing and hammering out singletrack.

Standing pedaling is only a bad option if you don’t have the mobility, strength and endurance in the core, upper body and hips to sustain it.

Sure, you’ll have riders in your group tell you that you will tire yourself out quicker, you’ll just have to wait for them to hear what they were saying at the top of that steep hill you were killing them on.

So how about you? Have you heard this advice only to find out that it wasn’t true? Or do you have any questions about getting better at standing pedaling? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons below to help spread the word to fellow riders who could benefit from the info.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

2 thoughts on “Everything you need to know to improve your Standing Pedaling

  1. Beau Schutz says:

    Thanks! Great info! My question is: my core is already fairly well developed and reasonably strong. I want to strengthen it more and, since I love standing pedaling anyhow, I am very interested to know whether or not I can develop my core strength even more by specifically choosing to ride standing even more often (and for longer intervals) than I already do? In other words, using standing pedaling as a core training exercise in itself (as opposed to or in addition to other off bike core training exercises). Thanks again.

    • bikejames says:

      Yes, standing pedaling is the best way to strengthen the core for standing pedaling. The more you do it the stronger your core will get from it and the more you will be able to use it.

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