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I have no interest in racing, for me a bike is a mode of transport or a pleasant way to enjoy the countryside.

Currently, the only time I ever stand is to accelerate from stationary or for a very short, steep hill... I can't do it for more than about 30s and it ruins my legs!

Friends of mine say they never stand, us it something that's useful to practice or really only for racing? Does it perhaps use different muscles so can be used to alternate with sitting on a hilly route or something, or is it fundamentally a hard core skill?

7

As you have found, pedalling out of the saddle can generate more power than remaining in the saddle, but it is also a more difficult position to maintain. The gains in power is why you see the technique frequently used in racing, but that doesn't mean you can't use it for transportation or casual cycling. In fact it can be beneficial as the human body does not respond well to being restrained in one position for long periods of time. Interspersing periods where you pedal out of the saddle can be a good way to allow your body to change positions, relaxing some of your postural muscles and allows different leg muscles to be used.

You do not need to ride long periods out of the saddle to gain some of these benefits. 30 seconds out of the saddle is not a trivial amount of time. I would suggest keeping the period of time shorter if you find your self tired after 30 seconds, but try increasing the frequency of times you ride out of the saddle. This is will help build endurance, without having to turn your legs into noodles.

Does it perhaps use different muscles so can be used to alternate with sitting on a hilly route or something, or is it fundamentally a hard core skill?

I wouldn't call it a hardcore skill per se, but hard core riders will use the technique more frequently. Even if you are not "hardcore" (whatever that is), it can still be useful to more casual riding. Perhaps you have go for a longer ride than usual, and you are finding you are having difficulty on a hill, standing can help you get over the hill. Or perhaps you are carrying more weight on the bike than you usually ride with (e.g, a big grocery run), pedalling out of the saddle can help you to get moving and up hills you may encounter.

7

In addition to the valuable points made by Rider_X, I suggest two other reasons for learning to stand.

Starting on hill can be difficult if you cannot stand up and pedal. So being able to stand gives you more options for where you can start from.

More importantly, it's a safe bike handling skill. Riders sometimes hit a bump that throws them off the bike, or at least jolts them enough for them to lose control. This occurs when the rear wheel gets to the bump, and the seat gives your bottom a kick. It's happened to all of us, but it needn't.

When coming to a bump, get your bottom off the seat. Easily done if you are confident to stand on your pedals. By standing, you allow the bike to pivot over the bump without giving you that dangerous jolt.

So, not a hard core skill, more of a safe riding skill.

More hard core riders also get their bottoms off the seat on fast descents, when they don't know or can't see the quality of the road surface ahead. Hitting an unseen bump at high speeds can easily cause a crash. And jumps are another case, but I digress ...

  • Going over a bump on the flat doesn't require pedalling while standing, just standing on the pedals. Going over a bump uphill does and is slightly trickier especially if you want to time your pedal stroke to the hit. +1 - I think yours are the real reasons – Chris H Aug 31 '16 at 5:53
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Standing up is also great for increasing your range of vision. I often stand coming up to junctions so I can see over cars, fences, hedges etc. and it means the cars can see you too.

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Stationary stand on the pedal to lighten a bump is a different story. While standing to pedal yourself up to the hill is a bad idea.

Sheldon brown has write something about Standing while Cycling and how to fix it or avoid it. Putting too much pressure on the knee is how people getting sport injuries from bicycling.

I just want to add one more point : knee injuries are difficult to heal. The knee Meniscus are not renewable. You need to checkout explicit instruction to train to use the muscle and tendon around the knee.

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Like andy256 said, standing can be a good technique for safely handling bumps in the road.

It's also much more comfortable than going over bumps sitting! Just stand and let your arms go loose when riding over a bump/sewer grate/curb, and you'll save yourself some painful bounces.

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