Last week I shared a video showing how standing pedaling can be just as efficient as seated pedaling. In the video a rider who uses the same amount of oxygen (an indicator of movement efficiency) during two 10 minute time trials, the first being done seated the whole time and the second one alternating 30 seconds of seated and standing climbing.
In my post I pointed out that while seated and standing pedaling came out the same in this test, for me it was a win for standing pedaling since that position has several benefits and advantages that seated pedaling does not. If you missed it then you can click here to learn more about the hidden benefits of standing pedaling.
In response to that post a few riders pointed out that there is a difference between standing up on a road bike – like the rider in the video I referenced in my post uses – and standing up on a full suspension mountain bike. They pointed out that the road bike is stiff while the full suspension bike suffers from the infamous “pedal bob” and this means that my points didn’t apply to riding a full suspension bike on the trail.
Just in case you don’t know, pedal bob is the motion you see in the suspension from pedaling efforts and minimizing it is the goal of every rider. It represents wasted energy and the less pedal bob you have the more efficiently you’re applying energy into the pedals.
However, while pedal bob is an efficiency robber it is also a very misunderstood subject. The truth is that your pedal stroke doesn’t cause the suspension to move, it is your body movement. When your body is bouncing up and down you see movement in the suspension so the real goal is to minimize that body movement or to minimize that input into the bike.
The two common ways to minimize pedal bob are to use an efficient bike and to sit down to pedal. When you ride a rigid bike, use suspension lock out or a super efficient linkage system, you minimize the input from the body movement into the bike. When you sit down you help to minimize the amount of movement your get from the body.
And while both of these things work, we’re also told that we need to avoid standing pedaling. We’re told that standing up is “less efficient” and that increased pedal bob is a big reason. It is almost like standing pedaling is a hopeless cause and that a lot of pedal bob is just a given with it.
But that isn’t really true. The problem is that most riders tend to rely too much on their bodyweight to turn over their pedals when standing and this results in a lot of suspension movement when they stand up on a FS bike.
The less your center of gravity is bouncing up and down while standing up to pedal the less suspension movement you’ll see. And like anything else on the bike, you can train yourself to get better at this skill.
Not sure what I’m talking about or how it all applies to the bike? Check out the video below to see me demonstrate this concept on my bike…
I learned this myself early on in my riding career. I started with a hardtail bike and eventually upgraded to a full suspension bike. At first I thought I made a mistake buying the full suspension bike – I bounced up and down so much that I felt like I was on a pogo stick.
But after a few weeks I found that the bouncing had smoothed out and I was much more efficient. I realized that once you learn how to rely less on “bouncing” up and down on the pedals to turn them over and learn how to “hover” over the bike creating a strong platform to move your legs from you’ll see much less suspension movement.
Once you gain the strength, body awareness and specific skill to do this on the trail then “pedal bob” won’t be an issue.
I stand up and pedal a 6 inch travel bike on the trails all the time and I feel very little suspension movement at all. In fact, I’ve found standing up to climb is better since my bike can move underneath me and the suspension can actually work to help smooth out rocks and edges on technical section.
When I’m sitting down I can feel every rock or root I hit being transferred directly into my butt via the seatpost. Plus I never have to worry about my front end popping up and wandering off and I’m in a better position to get up and over ledges. In my opinion, standing pedaling is the better pedaling position and one that you can use to great advantage on the trail.
Pedal bob isn’t a matter of standing vs. seated, it is a matter of how still you can keep the body on top of the bike. I’ve seen new riders bounce along much more while sitting down to pedal than I do standing up so it obviously isn’t about the position as much as the technique.
Proper standing pedaling technique requires that you learn how to support yourself with your arms so that you can maintain a still upper body and core. It also requires that you learn the balance points needed to get your hips forward and get your center of gravity in front of the bikes center of gravity.
In fact, I wouldn’t really call what most riders do “standing pedaling” as much as getting into an unsupported seated pedaling position. Just raising your butt off the seat isn’t the same thing as knowing how to get your hips into the right spot at the right time to create the most balanced platform possible.
And once you learn how to use your upper body properly and learn the balance points and “feel” for standing pedaling it is much, much easier. Yes, it requires some upper body and core strength but just because it does, you don’t want to take your early struggles with standing pedaling as a sign to avoid it. See it as a weakness that needs to be addressed, suspension or no suspension.
Until next time…