I recently got a question from a rider about my position on Standing Pedaling. As a lot of you know, I am a huge advocate of Standing Pedaling and recommend that mountain bikers use it as their Performance Position. When things get tough and/ or you need to use a lot of skill to get through a situation on the trail then you are much better off standing up than trying to sit and spin.
This position is usually the opposite of what a lot of riders have been told. Instead, they are told to sit and spin as much as possible and only stand up when you have to.
The advice to sit and spin is also backed up by some studies that have shown Seated Pedaling to be more efficient than Standing Pedaling. And this was where the question came in…
Q: Do your recommendations for Standing Pedaling take into account the studies that show Seated Pedaling to be more efficient?
A: The studies you refer to have value but the problem is that their interpretation can be taken too far. Concluding that if seated pedaling is more efficient at sub-max levels then you should only sit down unless you are maxing out is going too far, and that is exactly the mindset that holds a lot of mountain bikers back.
You also have to look at the studies themselves – they are generally done on road riders and they are done in a lab. I’d argue that there are a lot of times on the trail when standing up and using your technique is more efficient than sitting down and just trying to out-fitness everything in sight. But you can’t really measure that in a lab.
Those tests were also comparing only standing to only seated pedaling, not using a mix of the two. GCN did a video and I did a blog post on a few years ago looking at seated only vs. a mix of seated and standing the the mix actually did better than the over-reliance on one position.
And more efficient in a lab doesn’t mean that it is the best thing for the human organism over the long term. There are a lot of problems with the seated pedaling position – even with the best bike fit – and short term study can’t take into account the long term overuse injuries that occur from too much seated pedaling.
There is a saying that “where good sport begins, good health ends”. What pros do to achieve max performance isn’t always the healthiest thing for their bodies, which may be a good trade off if you are earning a living but may not be worth it if you are not.
And last, avoiding Standing Pedaling because you’re afraid it will be less efficient will guarantee that you will always be inefficient with it since you never practice it. Those studies are a snapshot in time and who knows how proficient the riders were with Standing Pedaling in the first place, much less how time spent getting better at Standing Pedaling would impact the results. You can and will get better at Standing Pedaling with practice, but you can’t practice something you are avoiding.
Science is great but, like I said, it can be misinterpreted. Just because studies show that seated pedaling is easier at sub-max levels in a lab doesn’t mean that you should try to rely on seated pedaling as much as possible or to try and avoid max efforts (which is the other thing riders do).
Seated Pedaling is just a piece of the puzzle. That is why I like to use it for recovery – it is more efficient at sub-max efforts which makes it a great position to recover for your next hard effort.
The moral of the story is to not be afraid of standing up more and using it as a weapon rather than something to be avoided at all costs. You’ll be faster, have less aches and pains and find that with some practice you’ll actually prefer it to Seated Pedaling in a lot of situations.
Until next time…