At the same cadence and torque, and hence at the same power output, which generally presents the lower repetitive strain injury risk: pedalling seated, or out of the saddle?

How does the distribution of forces on the body and the risk of injury change as force on the pedals goes up, both for seated and for out of the seat cycling?

For an aging recreational cyclist, with no great need to sprint, is it always the better choice to downshift and remain in the saddle, rather than to get up and stand on the pedals?

(Edited: made clear I'm interested in repetitive strain injuries specifically, rather than injury in general. Apologies to those who answered with respect to general injury risk - these answers are interesting, but not what I was looking for)

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    With the present boundary conditions the question is not likely to receive a useful answer: Wouldn't one pedal at a different, lower cadence, out of the saddle when power is constant? For instance, I shift up when I go out of the saddle at constant incline. Otherwise I should have not enough resistance for stability and would spin too fast. In your third paragraph you stipulate the same when mentioning down shift.
    – gschenk
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 21:42
  • OK, yes. I'll think and reformulate. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 8:24
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    Downshifting and increasing cadence will benefit your cardiovascular system, standing and pushing through will tax your leg muscles more. For me it depends on the incline and has no relevance on safety, if your balance is not that great you can just as easily fall off sitting down as standing.
    – Dan K
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 11:50
  • This is too broad to be properly answered. The cyclist's skill level, protection gear available, type of crash and conditions all matter. You could crash while standing, clear the bike and roll into soft dirt and be fine. The same crash into a wall may be catastrophic. Similarly on ice, a seated crash may be a simple 3 foot drop onto a hip, followed by a slide. The same crash standing may introduce height and damage for the fall onto ice. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 14:17
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    Can you clarify if you are talking about repetitive strain injuries? The answers appear to address acute injuries caused by collisions or loss of balance. I have a feeling that you're asking about repetitive strain injuries, but the wording isn't clear.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


This depends entirely on the conditions one is riding in. Crashing on ice, one is probably better seated as the fall has a lower drop and sliding is easy enough. In a rock garden, you may be better standing so that you can clear obstacles and not have your bike as an extra factor involved with the crash. On a busy sidewalk, being seated and stopping more quickly might avoid entangling pedestrians/additional cyclists, etc. On a roadside, it might be preferable to stand and roll away from the road to avoid the dangers of laying in a heap on a roadside with your bike.

Additionally personal skill comes into play, people who don't know how to roll with a fall are perhaps more likely to be injured from a higher fall (standing). However, there are skills that help with a sitting fall as well. Taking a sitting fall on your side (rolling up from hip to shoulder without slamming knees or elbows) is preferable to going over the bars while sitting or putting an arm out and breaking it.

I think conditions and personal skill with falls will make a larger difference than what position you start in.

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