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After reading While pedaling standing up, bike crank gives in as if shifting, what is causing this? , I was thinking well for starters one should probably not be standing up to pedal under normal circumstances, is this an accruate assumption?

Its a practice that I follow to remain seated, but I am not sure if its right, or how to justify why one should not be standing to pedal, other than I feel it may be unsafe due to unpredictably in the drive train.

My practice is to instead be shifting gears to make the bicycle easier to pedal so that I can remain seated at all times?

Should we please remain seated at almost all times when on a multi-gear cycle and why?

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The crank "gives" because the shifters are misadjusted or the sprockets and/or chain are worn. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 8 '12 at 21:01

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

As (almost) always, the great Sheldon Brown has covered this particular topic. Standing while Cycling

To Sit or to Stand?

It is my belief that a great many cyclists stand up to pedal much more often than they should. I've often said:

"If you find yourself standing to accelerate, on level ground, it is a sign that your gear is too high or that your saddle is too low." Standing pedaling allows you to apply more force to the pedals than is possible seated, because you can rest your entire weight on the driven pedal, and, even more, by pulling up on the handlebar, you can push the pedal with more than your actual weight...but is this a good thing? Pedaling that hard is very stressful to the joints, and to the bicycle, and usually involves a level of effort that cannot be sustained aerobically. Unless you have unusually good form, it also tends to involve a fair amount of thrashing from side to side, which is a waste of energy. The added stress flexes many parts of the bicycle, and the energy required to do this flexing is not usually recovered when the parts straighten back out.

These extreme stresses also greatly increase the risk of breaking things. If a pedal, crank, chain, handlebar or handlebar stem should break under this abnormal stress (a very real possibility) you are almost certain to suffer injury in the resulting crash. Even a simple missed shift or the skipping of a worn chain can toss you to the ground when you throw all of your weight onto a single pedal. You should never stand up to pedal a bicycle that you do not know to be in excellent mechanical condition!

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I think it's great to link to articles off-site, but it would be really helpful to include a short summary as well. –  amcnabb Aug 9 '12 at 1:44

There isn't really any reason you can't stand while pedaling. If your drive train is not adjusted properly then they will experience skipping or mis-shifting. That's an entirely separate issue from being able to stand up and pedal.

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Pedaling in standing position usually serves at least two primary purposes:

  1. To compensate for a shifting error. I.e. if one forgets to downshift before and incline, one can try to power oneself out of this situation by quickly switching to a standing position. It is inefficient, but in many cases it is a better idea then attempting a downshift under high loads.

  2. To stretch the body by temporarily switching to a different riding position.

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Obviously never ridden a hard Tail MTB off road..... –  mattnz Aug 9 '12 at 1:09
    
@mattnz: The question is about standing up as pedaling technique specifically. Protecting one's arse from rough-road impacts has as much to do with pedaling technique as standing up to snatch an apple from an overhanging branch. –  AndreyT Aug 9 '12 at 22:24
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Agreed, but short, steep inclines rolling over to a downhill often are best tackled by standing up than dropping a few gears then picking them up again. –  mattnz Aug 10 '12 at 3:39

I agree with Hicks sentiment that the crank "giving" is more likely due to worn parts or misalignment. The crank would have to flex a lot to actually be responsible for ghost shifting, which would make it incredibly poor quality. Sheldon's article strikes me as cursory for "When Should You Stand"...

Assuming you have the gearing for whatever you're riding (reasonable terrain), yes - there shouldn't be a need to stand to pedal. Bypassing what Sheldon covered about gearing and saddle height...

From a road riding perspective, standing takes less effort because you can use body weight rather than legs to crank over. It's used a lot when hill climbing - gives the legs a rest, and the opportunity to sprint when others don't know to. The gist I got recently was "if others are standing, so should you" - it struck me as prudent if you don't know the route, otherwise ride as you feel comfortable.

Standing is often used to initiate a sprint on more level ground, to get the momentum up. But depending on the speed, being out of the saddle can mean your body is creating more drag -- counteracting what you intended to do.

I stood while mountain biking on a hard tail (no rear suspension), for psuedo-suspension. I remember my quads getting a workout until I built up the strength. I still habitually take weight off my saddle when riding road.

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+1, standing is occasionally necessary for the reasons you mentioned. It does, however, require more exertion. If you wear a heart rate monitor, you will notice that your heart rate goes up almost immediately upon standing! It is not a good idea to stand and stomp all the way up a mountain (although it might be good to do at the foot or the crest). –  Angelo Aug 9 '12 at 12:28

Intuitively, I don't think it's possible to accelerate as much sitting down as standing up, no matter what gear you're in. Yes, standing up is less efficient, but it is faster over a short distance.

I'm a road commuter/tourer (straight bars), I stand up in these situations:

  • Pulling out at a junction in traffic, usually from a standing start. The acceleration is very helpful in this situation (but see below).
  • Racing (myself). At the crest of a hill, junction or anything that slows me down. My thinking is that this little bit of extra effort gets me back up to a cruising speed on the flat, after which I can relax, rather than spend the next minute or two gradually working up to it. I've got no numbers to compare, but it feels faster.
  • Coasting downhill. Advantages include airflow to nether regions, leg stretching and seeing the view.

Big dislcaimer: It is more risky.

  • Swaying from side to side is obviously a bad idea if traffic is passing close by.
  • It's harder to signal standing up when you need both hands to control the bike.
  • Any unexpected interruption to your forward motion (eg: potholes, drivechain issues) can throw you off the bike. (My last proper fall was when standing up pulling out at a junction - the chain jammed and, as my weight was off-centre, I tripped and slammed down on the tarmac. Fortunately I was only grazed and bruised and there was enough time for me to scrabble out of the way of traffic. However, if I had been sitting down it would only have meant a slightly jarred knee.)
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I'm going to semi-disagree with many of the answers on here, perhaps on a technicality:

Yes, standing is much harder on your bike equipment and does allow you to apply a signnificant amount of torque to the frame and components. For normal cruising riding, staying seated is likely the best route.

Instances where standing is required:

-Offroad riding (MTB) - often quick burts of torque are required to quicky accelerate, such as to gain speed for clearing an obstacle. Standing is the only way to obtain these levels of torque.

-Offroad riding #2: On hardtail mountainbikes, rolling over obstacles and taking jumps will hurt your rear and tailbone if you do not stand up. So when pedalling over obstacles, standing will often be required to prevent injury. This also will increase traction, as your body acts as the rear suspension.

-Onroad racing- Road racers often maximize their output and endurance by alternating between seated cranking and standing high-torque acceleration.

There are other scenarios as well, but in your specific situation, it sounds like you should try to remain seated as often as possible. You may have shifter alignment problems or some other drive train problem that could be exacerbated by high torque pedalling, and having a part fail while applying standing-level torque can be painful (trust me here!)

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