How to improve your standing pedaling balance and traction…plus the winners of the Comment Contest.


I wanted 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 start get loose.

If you have any questions please post a comment below. If you liked this video please click one of the Share of Like buttons below to help spread the word to other riders who could benefit from the info.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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  1. Jan says:

    Time to take the video camera out on the trail to show us what the standing climbing looks like on a steep climb. Maybe show the good and poor positions so we can see the difference.


    Reply • July 29 at 11:16 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      The stick figures don’t do it for you? 😉

      I’m going to shoot some stuff on the trail this week but the reality is you won’t see anything different than what I illustrated in the video and, in fact, may be tougher to discern which is why I used the drawings to exaggerate things a bit.

      Reply • July 29 at 1:43 pm
  2. David Loucks says:

    Your explanation has some areas that do not address the physics of what is going on correctly and although the techniques and strength requirements are correct the explanation of the physics is wrong.


    Reply • July 29 at 12:35 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Cool, can you please let me know what is incorrect? I don’t claim to be an expert on physics and while it seemed pretty straightforward to me as far a how changing your COG in relation to the bike’s COG affected things I’m always up for learning if I’m mistaken.

      Reply • July 29 at 1:42 pm
      • Zeev says:

        Well James actually your explanation of physics is a bit off. When standing the position of your butt does indeed determine the position of your center of gravity WRT the bike, but this is not the point. The point is, how does the position of your butt while standing standing up affect the respective pressures that are applied to the front and the real wheel contact patches.

        When you stand you exert pressure on the bike at 2 points: the BB and the handlebars. The pressure applied to the BB is further distributed between the contact patches of the front and the rear wheels. The pressure on the handlebars is de facto transferred only to the front wheel’s contact patch.

        When you shift your butt backwards you increase the part of the pressure that you exert on the BB that is transferred to the rear wheel patch, and decrease the part that is transferred to the front wheel patch. This is accompanied by further decrease of the pressure applied to the front patch via the HB. This is why the effect of a slight shift of the butt back is more dramatic for loosing traction on the front wheel than on the rear wheel.

        Reply • February 7 at 10:35 am
        • bikejames bikejames says:

          Thanks for the explanation and to be honest I agree with you. It sounds a lot like what I said in the video, like the part where I talked about shifting the weight back over the rear wheel to increase the the traction on the rear wheel. I was just using the COG to show how things change when you climb and you have to shift your COG to compensate for it. I see the two things as relating to each other rather than being a different explanation for what is going on.

          Reply • February 7 at 12:19 pm
  3. Wade says:

    If I only get my hips back and don’t get my chest down enough, is that why I pull the front wheel off the ground on climbs? I always thought that a shorter stem would make pulling the front wheel up worse but it didn’t seem to make much difference.

    Reply • July 29 at 5:11 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Yes, getting the chest down is what weights the front end and a shorter stem actually makes it easier to do when standing.

      Reply • July 29 at 10:15 pm
  4. Dave says:

    James, you said “seated” at 2:53 when I think you meant “standing.”

    Reply • July 29 at 6:05 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Yeah, I did. Didn’t realize I misquoted myself there…

      Reply • July 29 at 10:14 pm
  5. Mike says:

    I thought the stick figures were great, especially the one that illustrated standing pedaling while climbing on loose stuff. However, I agree with Jan. It would be nice to see someone actually doing these things on the trail. There are so many videos of riders using bad technique out there.It would be helpful to see what good technique really looks like.

    Reply • July 29 at 8:18 pm
  6. Steve says:

    Hi James, great little videos you post.
    One little technique I use for hill climbing when the surface is loose (and rear tyre grip suffers) is to literally sit on the very tip of my saddle, lean forward and with the correct gear, power the pedals. There is a very fine balancing point to achieve this. Too much weight towards the back and the front wheel lifts, too much weight over the bars and the back wheel spins.
    Thanks for all your help, keep up the good work.

    Reply • July 30 at 3:43 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks for the tip, although with practice and a bit more core strength you can do the same thing without having to jam the nose of your seat into your crotch, which for me is another big benefit of standing pedaling/ climbing.

      Reply • July 30 at 11:09 am
    • Erik says:

      I have to agree with Steve here. I have climbs of 15-20 % on typically loose to hardpack trails in my area.
      Putting my butt on the tip of the saddle seems to give the best balance point to avoid front wheel lift and back wheel spin. You are NOT really sitting on the seat as most of the weight is on the pedals so in fact you are ‘standing’ (basically a squat). The tip of the saddle acts as a balance point.
      I am riding a xc bike so the seat is high up to begin with. The demos you show in your other clips (bunny hop for example) is using a small bike so maybe you need to get totally off the seat to generate power going uphills.
      Your position on the bike and technique performing difficult steep climbs will depend somewhat on many factors including bike size and set-up and one’s own size and abilities.
      But a real live demo would be useful in addition to your stick figures.

      I would suggest the following video explanation for steep climbs:
      The body posture is more or less the same as you advocate, but with the butt balanced on the nose of the saddle.

      Reply • February 8 at 9:00 am
      • bikejames bikejames says:

        I’ll work on getting some videos of this in action but your point goes along with mine – putting weight on the seat isn’t what is giving you the extra traction. And if you can get to the point that you don’t need the tip of the seat for balance then you can effectively stand up without the aid of the seat at all. Standing up works the same no matter what size bike you are on, smaller bikes just force you to stand up sooner as they are less optimized for seated pedaling but once you stand up these points remain the same on any bike.

        Reply • February 8 at 12:01 pm
        • Erik says:

          Maybe I should try steep climbs with the seat dropped down. My current set-up doesnt allow me to assume the proper steep climbing body position without ‘sitting’ on the seat.
          In fact, your stick figure steep climbing position (bottom right in your video) shows the butt either on the seat or just hovering above it. Personally, I dont see the benefit (other than not having the seat tip up your butt) of just hovering above the seat as it would take a lot more energy just to support your body weight. Possibly with the seat dropped down out of the way, you could use your body weight to help drive the pedals with some movement of your hips up and down.
          Any ideas ?

          Reply • February 8 at 1:32 pm
          • bikejames bikejames says:

            I like to lower my seat for steep climbs. When your butt is on the seat in any way then you can not move or let the bike move under you as efficiently. Getting your butt separated from the bike is important for maneuvering the bike going both up and down.

            • February 9 at 8:54 am
  7. April says:

    Hello! I really enjoy your tips and exercises..you may have already addressed this, but on long rides with a lot of climbing my neck and shoulder blades really become fatigued/sore. Can you recommend any exercises that will help strengthen my neck?

    Thank you!

    Reply • July 30 at 8:14 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Neck pain isn’t from a weak neck, it comes from bad shoulder position which places too much strain on the neck. First, standing pedaling will help get your neck into a better position and being aware of your shoulder position both seated and standing will help a lot. Check out this video I shot on shoulder position, it should help your neck.

      Reply • July 30 at 11:11 am
  8. I like to explain it as keeping your COG over the rear tire contact patch, which on a climb is in front of the rear axle. Once your COG get over or behind the axle them bike will want to pivot in that direction. Bringing the chest down to the bars helps bring your COG in front of the rear axle, preventing wheelies. Sitting on the noose helps you locate the bike, though I like to hover to make slight changes in COG easier.

    Reply • January 31 at 10:12 am

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