We all know that standing on a hill feels better than standing on a flat.

Even pros seemingly only stand up for hills (not counting sprints).

What causes this?

Here's what I've thought of so far:

  • Often you can ride up a hill without shifting out of the gear you were using before. If you were to stay seated, you would need to shift down.

  • For a long time (road) bikes had such high gears that you had to stand for many hills. That's not the case anymore though, so maybe it's a moot point.

  • When you're on a hill, the bike is tilted backwards. This makes it easier and more natural to stand up, because the bar is "higher" and more reachable than it would be otherwise.

But I have a feeling there's more to it than this. These reasons are not significant enough to explain the difference I can feel, or the way pros behave.

  • "The candle that burns twice as bright lasts half as long." Standing is faster but uses your energy reserves about 10% faster. That matters if you're racing a short race vs a long endurance ride.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 23:06

4 Answers 4


Because in the flats you reach higher speeds, and at those speeds aerodynamics become very important, so exposing more of your body to the wind is a drag. The standing in flat is then limited to sprint bursts, or just used to give a little rest to your legs and buttock. Whereas going uphill is usually slow so the power advantage you may get standing is worth the trade-off for worse aerodynamics.

  • Yep. But for most riders standing is still only done for short periods, unless the hill is extreme.
    – andy256
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 22:07

One of the reasons for standing on steep bits is weighting of the front wheel.

Many riders have choppy pedalling technique (I know I do) and lower cadence exacerbates the pulsing of power. On a local steep climb of 17% I have to stand and lean forward , or else each pedal push raises the front wheel off the ground leading to an instant of no steering and poor balancing.

It also feels like you could be about to flip-over backwards, which is an unpleasant sensation.

Techniques to help:

  • use clipless pedals and provide a smoother delivery of power
  • ride a bike with a longer wheelbase - longer chainstays mean that your back wheel is further aft.
  • decrease the effective grade by zig-zagging
  • AVOID STOPPING ON THE STEEP BIT! There are grades you could ride, but on which you would have difficulty starting in any gear.
  • 3
    True but also keep in mind than on mountain bike trails, standing makes it easier for the back wheel to skid... Or, worst case, a steep climb with wet pavement, with all the power you are pushing, when the back wheel slips, it's quite hard to keep control...
    – gaurwraith
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 23:32
  • @gaurwraith Good point - I'd assumed that uphill climbs implied road, because MTB types just don't climb as much as roadies.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 23:47
  • 3
    When standing, the rider's weight on the pedal is added to the muscle power.
    – Carel
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 8:44
  • @carel Yes I was trying to answer one point well rather than provide an all-encompassing answer. Feel free to add and develop that as a separate answer; its correct.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 10:02
  • @Criggie I think this answer has already been provided to an earlier similar question.
    – Carel
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 15:38

Straightening your trunk opens your lungs, increasing your aerobic capacity. The effect ranges from trivial on the more upright position bikes through to fairly dramatic in a TT position. So standing on the pedals increases the available power, at the expense of greatly increasing drag. Going slowly up a hill you can come out ahead by standing up.

When sprinting the equation is often slightly different - standing brings different muscle sets into play, and if you're running hard on lactic, using muscles that still have extra capacity can give you a momentary burst of power.

What makes this even more complex is where it ties into strategy and tactics. Tactically, if you can win a race without using the above you will be less tired in the future. Strategically, this is usually more important - in bigger races you'll often see pressure to say in contact with the current leaders, rather than to overtake them.


Generally, standing climbing requires more energy than seated climbing. In mountain stages, most riders climb most of the time while seated. However, there are some riders that do stand for much of the climb. Because standing requires the legs to support much of the body weight, therefore require more of the riders energy, bulkier riders are less likely to stand, while the more svelte riders may stand much more often. On flat sections, seated spinning is far more efficient than standing.

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