I went for a ride with my trusty trail mutt Aka and my riding buddy Pete. We hit Butter Knife, which is a super fun trail with some of the best single track in this area. It is technically challenging and it ends with a 45+ minute ride back up a jeep road to the car, which makes it a good test of your skills and fitness.
This doesn’t mean that standing pedaling doesn’t have the potential for great traction, simply that you have to learn how to tap into it.
Pete is a really good rider who I’ve worked with on and off for several years and shares a lot of my views on mountain biking. He rides flat pedals and stands up a lot to climb and after our ride we started talking about physics and philosophy of standing pedaling.
One of the things we talked about was the sensation of using our hands and wrist position to help us “wedge” ourselves down into our pedals. This wedging sensation is extremely important because it not only gives you the platform you need to get a strong pedal stroke but it also puts pressure down into the tire, giving you better traction as well.
Without that wedging sensation your platform for pressing down into the pedals is weak and your rear wheel doesn’t have very good traction. This doesn’t mean that standing pedaling doesn’t have the potential for great traction, simply that you have to learn how to tap into it.
In fact, I’m no longer willing to concede that you ever need to sit down for traction – you may be too tired to hold it but if you have the right body position and can wedge yourself down into your pedals you can get all the traction you need no matter how steep and loose something is.
I’ve already pointed out how sitting down when climbing doesn’t actually put weight on the rear tire so that isn’t what is giving you the extra traction anyways. I think it is actually the wedging of your prostate into the seat that gives you the extra traction you feel when seated, which isn’t the best thing to do to your prostate (or your privates either ladies).
If you can learn to effectively wedge yourself into your pedals with your hands and not your groin you can gain the traction you need without the damage to your sensitive bits.
But again we get into the fundamental issue of movement and core strength. This wedging sensation is the same thing you learn from a proper deadlift, which means that you need to be able to get into a good deadlift – a.k.a. hip hinge – position and you need the core and hip strength to lift some weight.
If you can’t get off the bike and do it I guarantee you that you will have trouble doing it on the bike. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done, simply that you may lack the fundamental movement and strength needed to do it.
The point we both arrived at was that standing pedaling is pretty much completely misunderstood and misapplied by most mountain bikers. Standing up to lay down power and sitting down to recover for your next standing effort is better for your body and opens up a new way of riding that taps into your body’s own natural movement and strengths.
On a side note, I’ve noticed a pattern when talking to riders about getting faster. They note that the faster riders tend to stand more but they haven’t made the connection yet – they aren’t faster and they stand up more, they are faster because they stand up more. Standing up is faster and if you want to get faster learn to stand up more.
So, to help you get started on applying this wedging sensation to your riding make sure you watch this video on how to deadlift and pay attention to the set up before I actually lift the bar. You’ll notice how I wedge myself under the bar right before I lift it and that is exactly the sensation you want to apply to you standing pedaling when you really need to lay down power or get extra traction on a steep climb.
Please note that you will need good hip mobility to get your hips back when you need them on steep climbs so it is a combination of mobility, specific core strength and skill that you need to develop. The trade off will be more speed, traction and fun while also sparing your privates from getting smashed.
Hope this at least gives you some food for thought. I think that there is a lot more going on with standing pedaling than most people have been told and until you know how to tap into some of these things you’ll continue to use your seatpost as a crutch.
If you have any thoughts or comments on this please leave a comment below this post, I’d love to hear them. And if you liked this post please click one of the Like or Share buttons below to help spread the word.
BTW, Besides being tough on your prostate and groin I also strongly believe that too much seated pedaling is behind the epidemic of low back pain we see in mountain biking. Riders spend more money on bikes and bike fits than ever before and yet just as many riders as ever seem to suffer from low back pain.
I released a simple 30-day program designed to target the real mobility, movement and skill issues behind low back pain from mountain biking. It is based on the same principles I have used to help both myself and hundreds of other riders overcome low back stiffness, soreness and pain caused by long hours on the trail.
If you have low back pain then you’ll want to be sure to get a copy of the MTB 30 Day Low Back Pain Program.
Until next time…