21

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

I remain seated while pedaling but I am not sure if it's right, or how to justify why one should not stand, other than it may be unsafe due to unpredictability in the drive train.

Instead I shift gears to make the bicycle easier to pedal so that I can remain seated at all times.

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

  • 2
    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

12 Answers 12

29

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
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    St Sheldon generally has good advice, but I think he's off the mark with most of this. The idea that pedaling too hard can damage the bike, whether one is sitting or standing, is just plain wrong. If a bike cannot take the amount of power one person can generate it's not fit for purpose. Most cyclists stand for just a few meters when (as Sheldon says) the gear is high and we just need a bit more power. But sprinters are out of the saddle for 200+ meters, generating more power than I ever will. I don't remember seeing one of them break the bike by pedaling too hard! – andy256 Jul 28 '16 at 3:59
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    @andy256 Basically this translates to "don't stand up when testing other people's bikes". Because, as a follower of Sheldon Brown, of course you have a great, strong bike in excellent mechanical condition! – Kaz Jul 28 '16 at 22:57
  • @andy256 I totally agree. Make sure the bike is fit for your riding style and road worthy. Sitting all the time is no fun anyhow. – ebrohman Jul 29 '16 at 0:16
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    @andy256 Lots of people can't afford quality bikes that are fit for purpose for one reason or another. There are BSOs and used bikes that might not have been perfectly maintained. Not everyone can afford a mechanic, or has the skills and tools to keep the bike in tip-top shape. I wish I'd read "St" Sheldon's article before I stood up to pedal my used ten-speed BSO ages ago; if I had I might not have had the worn chain strip several teeth off the rear cog, sending me flying over the handlebars to end up with nasty road rash on both forearms ;) – rclocher3 Feb 8 '17 at 18:30
17

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
14

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.

7

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.
  • Racing up a steep hill. Joe Friel has written about when to stand when climbing.
  • When my muscles are getting tired on a long climb. Standing up uses some different muscles and it feels like a change is nearly as good as a rest.

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.)
  • +1 for 6 years of experience between first answer and last update :) – Criggie Sep 26 '18 at 11:47
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    Thanks. It has been six years of riding much longer distances, so this point is from recent experience. – James Bradbury Sep 26 '18 at 12:08
4

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 an 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
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    @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. – AnT 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
4

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!)

  • Indeed, sitting is most efficient, but the outlined examples require sanding up. – Vorac Dec 8 '14 at 8:22
  • Offroad #2 applies to commuting given the state of the cycling infrastructure and roads round here and many other places -- the traction aspect is really quite important at this time of year (wet leaves, muck washed onto the road). – Chris H Dec 8 '14 at 13:47
2

The bike is designed to support your weight during normal driving conditions, namely sitting. However you can usually stand up with little extra tear since the frame is constructed to support your entire weight on any one pedal (Usually how you get on to the bike in the first place). Care should be taken as to how much force you apply to the drive chain, but common sense and using the right gear as you normally would, should be ok.

You should stand rather than sit when you cross bumps, this way the shock is transfered through the frame to the other wheel rather than through the frame and applied to the momentum of your body. This dramatically reduces the stress on your materiel and is also generally a better ride comfort practice. Doing this you can more safely cross on to sidewalks and the likes without risking puncture or rim damage.

0

As a rule of thumb for road bikes...watch the pro's on a grand tour mountain climb.

They VERY rarely stand on the pedals, even when making a break off the front. Often the reason you see them standing is when they are losing momentum and don't want to shift gear...but they sit back down at the earliest opportunity.

You might see one stand for a short burst, but watch those around them...mostly they will still be seated.

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    Fair points - a burst of power is sometimes required to make it over a short steeper grade, or a speedbump, even though it is less efficient. Also, sometimes the grade is too steep to stay seated because each power stroke is lifting the front wheel. This is no fun at all at slow speed. – Criggie Jul 28 '16 at 0:06
  • Have you really watched the pros on grand tours? Most of them stand briefly, multiple times on a climb. Somebody like Contador used to spend long periods out of the saddle. Sprinters sprint while standing. If you watch a grand tour closely, the only reasonable conclusion is that standing on the pedals is an important (though I agree relatively small) part of pro cycling. – David Richerby Sep 26 '18 at 13:34
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I mostly pedal up the climbs or hills only seated.

But recently I have tried using the highest gear before the climb. And wow the results are fantastic for me. I climbed not only faster but easier or so it seemed.

But when I got off the bike I felt that my legs were taxed very much and there was a slight bend in my knees from the fatigue.

-1

Out of experience, it's a bad idea. Depending on weight, you could stress the crank arm, which might break at the threading, and you might fall, at considerable speed, which is quite dangerous. It happened to me once with one of my older road bikes, I fell on my head, lost conscience for a bit and got a really bad concussion. That and the crank arm had to be replaced.

-2

I would say no, if your bike is in good condition. I average about 400 miles a month on/off road and would stand to bale a flashing light before it turned red, that is until I stripped my rear cassette gears , replaced them and chain now I still slip if I stand because front drive sprockets are worn down to much.

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    That sounds more like you had a chain that you used long after it should have been replaced, so it became stretched and wore the cassette and chain rings. Since the chainrings were worn to accommodate the stretched chain, they slip when used with an unstretched chain. This has little to do with occasionally standing on the pedals to accelerate and everything to do with inadequate preventative maintenance. – David Richerby Jun 9 '17 at 21:34
-5

Some sports physiological professor at a USA university point out that cycling is not a sitting sport. I totally agreed now.

I have been cycle commuting over 16 years and recently started riding standing up for a round trip of about 15KM. I removed a 24' wheel bike's saddle to force me stand up all the way back and forth and enjoyed it very much.

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    This should be backed up with some references, especially for the first claim since it is contrary to the other answers. – Batman Dec 8 '14 at 4:35
  • If you're good with never sitting down, you should totally get a BMX bike – BSO rider Jul 29 '16 at 1:39

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