I am in my mid forties and ride a seven speed cruiser or maybe mountain bike. I enjoy pedaling while standing, and I don't really care about speed or efficiency. When there is even the slightest uphill grade and I stand. I get in a high gear and enjoy slowly swaying back and forth and using my arms. I've never really measured my cadence, but I'm sure it is sub 60.

I am putting some longer rides in reasonably hilly country with smooth roads. My knees don't ache afterward. Sometimes my shoulders ache a bit after the ride but doesn't feel damaging. I have been doing hills/grades in top gear as my own "check off the list" challenge.

If proper form (for standing at least) and in good shape, am I abusing my body/knees? Up to now they feel great, but I would hate to have "reality" crashing upon my knees someday.

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    Many authorities believe you're not as efficient standing, but it shouldn't damage your knees so long as your stance is not "odd". Riding with too low a seat, though, is a sure-fire way to damage the knees, if they're at all vulnerable. Sep 15, 2012 at 2:35
  • Upvoted Daniel's comment. More generally, anyone worried about their knees should consider reading a little book by Jim Johnson, a physical therapist, called How to Treat Your Own Knees. It is an excellent summary of the scientific and medical literature on how knees work, how to improve their function, and what to do when you have trouble. Another book by him, How to Treat Your Own Rotator Cuff, saved me a lot of pain and effort when I hurt my shoulder several years ago. Sep 16, 2012 at 13:24

4 Answers 4


Standing to pedal won't damage your knees. Supporting and propelling you when you are standing is exactly what knees are designed to do.

If anything standing is better for your knees than sitting. When you are sitting down their motion is limited because the top and bottoms of your legs are 'fixed' in position. When you stand your knees and hips can move freely which is a more natural movement. Watch a child riding a bike and you'll notice they naturally spend a lot of time standing up.

Standing pedalling does require more core and upper body strength than seated pedalling and maybe that's why your shoulders are aching check out BikeJames.com if you are interested in exercises help with that.

As an aside standing pedalling is less efficient than seated pedalling but it lets you put out more power. If you compare top level riders in pretty much any form of competitive cycling you'll see that they spend a lot more time standing up than a comparable recreational rider.

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    I agree with this except for the part about competitive cyclist spending more time standing. In my experience, they spend almost no time standing. Check out this video and watch how much time they spend out of the saddle, even on a big climb (youtube.com/watch?v=8krSCzQGdHY). Standing is less efficient than sitting, and pro cycling is all about energy conservation. Even in shorter races like time trials they spend the majority of the time sitting as it's a lot more aerodynamic. Only at the end of the ride, where it doesn't matter that they are wasting energy do you see them stand.
    – Kibbee
    Sep 14, 2012 at 12:31
  • Yep, the only time you see standing by elite cyclists is when they're starting a massive acceleration or sometimes while climbing also for brief intervals. It is never for any significant length of time (measured in seconds).
    – Angelo
    Sep 14, 2012 at 13:35
  • @kibbee well there's actually a lot of standing in that video, an average person wouldn't be standing up at all. As you say you see most standing at the end of a stage and that is often where the race is won.
    – Martynnw
    Sep 14, 2012 at 18:38
  • Also, it's not the most efficient rider who wins, it's the one with the best power to weight ratio. That said, standing up is only ever going to be faster over shorter distances because of the decreased efficiency.
    – Martynnw
    Sep 14, 2012 at 18:45
  • One more thing :) i'm not just thinking of road cycling. Check out the standing pedalling in a top level XC race, in the Olympic race Marco Fontana got bronze even after his seatpost fell off.
    – Martynnw
    Sep 14, 2012 at 18:59

Just an observation in my own experience. I used to stand a lot when riding competitively some 20 years ago. Over time (I'm now 60-years old), I've come to ride seated the vast majority of the time. I live in the mountains and a typical training day averages 100 feet of climbing per mile with 40 to 60 miles on any single day. What I've come to find these days is that standing does cause knee pain, mostly in my left knee in the area of the patellar tendon. The more I stand, the more it gets aggravated. This seems counter intuitive... I am a retired surgeon and understand the biomechanics of joint function thoroughly, so I find it odd but figured worth sharing.


I don't think that there is a big problem with riding a bike while standing. It won't be as damaging to your knees as for example running because you don't receive any shocks. You only change the load of your body from one side to the other.

It might be strenuous though, riding a bike without sitting down will put more strain on the lower back and shoulders. I had to ride my bike home for 8km when my saddle was stolen once (long time ago when I was a kid) and it really killed me.

There are stepper bikes though that are intended for standing while riding, maybe you like the idea. They work a bit different of course, instead of a cyclic motion they make use of the motion you might be familiar with from the fitness studios cardio steppers.


Another possibly counter-intuitive data point for you: I used to ride everywhere on a single speed bike and would pride myself on being able to ride steep hills, necessitating standing. I also did a lot of distance running. At about 40 I developed anterior knee pain in my right knee and had to stop running but could continue cycling seated. MRI scan suggested tendonitis so I took several courses of physio which didn't really help. A few years passed and then lockdowns in 2020 seemed to give my knee the rest it needed and now I'm back to distance running without issue. However, standing while cycling gives me real problems. Even a short ride (10 miles) with some standing on the hills causes my knee pain to return for several days. I can't tell you what this all means but I know that my dodgy knee is fine for running but not for standing on pedals up hills

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