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Various sources indicate that when climbing to slide back on the saddle. In about a month I plan to attempt Whiteface Mountain with its 13 km at an 8% grade. If I manage this climb I will be at my limit. Should I move my saddle back for the climb?

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    The advice is seems like nonsense. To keep your center of gravity ahead of the bottom bracket, so that you have a mechanical advantage in pedaling, you have to shift forward when climbing, since your seatpost has tilted backward. Speaking of tilt, adjusting the tilt of the saddle so that it is level at 8% might not be a bad idea. – Kaz Jun 1 '17 at 20:38
  • @Kaz maybe the advice was getting at using more quads as opposed to hamstrings during the climb. – ebrohman Jun 1 '17 at 22:26
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    Can you quote the sources, coming from a MTBing perspective, this is counter to anything I have experienced. Weight back downhill, weight forward uphill (more accurately, weight centered over the BB at all times, but seat moves with respect to BB as slope changes) – mattnz Jun 1 '17 at 22:52
  • Back would be a bad thing to do. As the grade rises, your saddle moves further behind the rear axle (vertically) which unweights the front wheel. Its very hard to balance, apply power, and steer if there's not enough weight on the front. So you'll have to be off the saddle and leaning forward to provide front wheel weight. I've found moving the full waterbottle to the frontmost cage to have a small but noticeable impact on weight distribution. Your hands will be best forward, which may be hoods or whatever leans you forward the most. And pace yourself up the climb! – Criggie Jun 2 '17 at 3:18
  • @mattnz - Nosing up on the saddle in mountain biking is more a function of being able to keep the bike stable and maintaining traction than it is about mechanical advantage (if you are lifting the front wheel or breaking traction you are at a much bigger deficit). In road riding neither of these are problems. Here changes in body position typically relate more to improving mechanical efficiency. As such, MTB advice may not be entirely appropriate for the OP. – Rider_X Jun 2 '17 at 18:38
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Most of the new schools of thought suggest moving back or forth on your saddle is more of an indication that the saddle offset isn't set up correctly, than it is advantageous. I would tend to agree. If you find yourself constantly shifting forward or backwards, this likely indicates that the saddle isn't in the correct position.

Old school fitting have been obsessed with KOPS (Knee over pedal spindle), but this was originally derived as a general method to determine whether or not a frame size was appropriate (i.e., if you couldn't get into KOPS, you needed a different size). (There isn't even consensus on how you even measure KOPS as everyone landmarks the knee differnently - this can result in over 1cm difference in offset alone). Depending on your body proportions and bike position if you setup your bike to comply with KOPS this may have put you into a sub-optimal position, which is why you may find yourself moving forward or backwards.

Best advice is to go out with a set of allen keys and level and ride a reasonably long climb. If you find your self wanting to move forward, try moving the saddle forward (0.5cm at a time) then retry. Eventually you should be able to fine tune your fit. The level is used to ensure you can keep the attitude of your saddle (i.e, nose up, level, or down) the same between trials. Optimal saddle attitude is a topic onto itself (I feel a lot of "experts" have little understanding on the functional bio-mechanics of hips and how this inter-plays with saddle attitude.)

In about a month I plan to attempt Whiteface Mountain with its 13 km at an 8% grade. If I manage this climb I will be at my limit. Should I move my saddle back for the climb?

Honestly, I think gearing will be the most important factor for surviving 13 km at 8%. I have done a 40 km ride at a similar gradient and being able to spin is a life saver (when I saw the "only" 19 km remaining I shed a tear). There are lots of long cage road derailleurs and wide range cassettes available now. I would consider this as the most important change over fine tuning such as saddle offset.

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    +2 for the remarks on KOPS and gearing. – Michael Sep 14 '18 at 18:59
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It is not necessary to change your saddle position for climbing. It will not increase your chances to overtake this mountain. It will only give you a less confident feeling as you are riding in a position you are not custom to.

I recommend to do this at the most comfortable position you know and that is your current saddle position.


Climbing advice:

If you can, try and stay in the saddle, going in and out the saddle costs energy. I only recommend going out the saddle when you feel the current section you are on is too steep ( but you must feel this for your own ) or you feel you should change the tension on the muscles ( climbing is a constant tension for the muscle and to change the feeling you can go in and out the saddle ).

As for you being at the limit. I don't think that this is possible, almost anyone can do these climbs if you have the right gears to do it and the motivation to get to the top!

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    In a previous attempt last summer I failed horribly. At 2.5 km my lower back and glutes became too painful to continue. I have had a quality bike fit, and I have been doing strength and core exercises since that time. In 2017 I have logged over 5,000 km, and twice a week I do hill repeats on an 8 – 10 % grade. I’m a stubborn 70 year old and refuse to change my 28 on the rear cassette. My estimate of prolonged wattage (150) suggests that I will need to ride slowly (8 - 9 km/hr), to have any chance. I need all the help that I can get! – Bob Jun 2 '17 at 10:06
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    Wow @Bob your quite the example of a mental strong cyclist! I respect that! I know the pain of refusing to change the rear cassette.. I used to race with the espoirs in Europe (i'm belgian) and after 3 years of being almost fully inactive we went to do the marmotte course.. still riding my old competition bike with the 11-21 rear cassette.. It just felt silly to replace it so I know the pain :D but you should really consider it. What is the gear you have at the front (please don't say 39) :D – Mech_Engineer Jun 2 '17 at 12:28
  • @Bob Be careful with your now-72-year-old knees. You're less likely to damage them pedalling faster in an easier gear than pedalling slower at the same power, which requires higher forces. – David Richerby Mar 4 '19 at 14:33
  • @Bob I find a 34x28 is still over-geared for many climbs and my FTP is little more than 2x yours! There is no shame in some in easier gears. With 11 speed I find there is little penalty to running a 32 cassette, and a lot to gain. – Rider_X Mar 4 '19 at 19:04
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Moving backwards in the saddle straightens out the leg and increases the peak power output (hence why track sprinters have their saddles set so high), but it also reduces efficiency.

The advice to slide backwards in the saddle was probably meant for short steep sections.

Think about getting a gear ratio that lets you pedal at a reasonable speed and sit in as normal a position as you can as this will be the most efficient and effective.

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Depends on whether road biking or mountain biking. in mountain biking you are looking for traction on uneven terrain when climbing - sitting forward facilitates traction on both tires. In road biking, you have smooth tires and smooth terrain. Shifting slightly back in saddle when climbing increases traction on the rear wheel, which is the only wheel taking your power (front wheel is passive), and reduces friction on the front tire, which is what you want.

  • Welcome to the site! I'm not really convinced by this: unloading the front wheel while putting out a lot of power is likely to cause a wheelie. And if reduced load on the front wheel were desirable, wouldn't we ride that way all the time? Why just on climbs? – David Richerby Mar 4 '19 at 15:42

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