Minor changes in cleat and saddle position can greatly alter the amount of glute, hamstrings, quads and calf muscle that are used when cycling while seated. But is the same true of positions when riding out of the saddle?

While climbing I tend to be on the hoods and fairly upright, letting my weight assist in pushing the pedals round. Whereas while sprinting (of sorts) I'll be lower, on the drops, back much more horizontal, and it feels like my bum is further back and nearer the saddle, although this may be due to the flatness of the road; on a climb the back wheel and saddle will naturally be lower than normal in relation to the front wheel.

I tend to like using my glutes more (because they're massive) and my calves less, so what kind of climbing and sprinting position would achieve this? Or does it not really matter because being out of the saddle is a dynamic position in relation to the bike, as opposed to a static seated position?

  • Is your goal for comfort, power, or endurance while out of the saddle? I'd guess you're trying to develop as much power as possible for climbing.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 21:42
  • 1
    I guess 'make the most of the glutes' would be my goal, because I rarely feel them aching after a ride so it feels like they could take a bit more of the workload! They are definitely activating though, I could feel them stretch while seated when I used to have my drops too low.
    – Wilskt
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 22:12
  • Yes, it's dynamic, and I doubt you'd hold a position that didn't feel right for long (you'd naturally settle into a better one). Saddle position is almost not an issue (i.e. only if the nose gets in your way). But you do have options for hand positioning - hoods or tops for climbing, hoods or drops for sprinting, though standing and using the drops can be awkward e.g. for braking. This will affect the angle at your hips, and the work your glutes do
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 6:50
  • How can one use the calves during bicycling? I’ve never ever had my calf muscles feel exhausted or sore from bicycling.
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 8:43
  • If the pedal spindle is somewhere under the ball of your foot, it takes more calf muscle to hold the ankle steady. Moving the ankle can also help push the pedal down, like an extra lever. Too much of that, or if the foot is extended too far downwards thus stretching the calf too much, it can cause cramps/injury.
    – Wilskt
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 10:36

1 Answer 1


I suspect your glutes are working harder than you think. Because they're big muscles, and cycling (seated) uses quite a lot of their range, but excludes the extremes, they'll be late to fatigue. This is even more the case if you do a lot of squats or leg press.

That's not to say that you can't recruit them more. When I get out of the saddle for climbs, which I don't do very much, I tend to be overgeared. That certainly seems to make them work harder; it also makes the quads work harder, but not by as much.

I reckon - and you'd have to test this - that a lower torso position while standing would help. That would suggest hoods, but with your arms bent and taking some weight on your triceps - just a little to steady you at certain points in the stroke - the vast majority still needs to go through your pedals, even more when climbing steeply. It's also going to be more aero than a more upright position in sprints. I assume standing while using the drops isn't an option. I sometimes do for short rough patches but it doesn't really work for long, for neck and wrist (brake) angles. Or maybe it would work for you.

You sound almost like you're over--using your calves. If that's true when seated and not just out of the saddle, there may be some room for tweaking.

  • I used to have my saddle further back and higher, and my feet further back on the pedals, and I did have problems with calf ache or cramp, but not since I moved myself lower and more forward. You may be right with the lack of extreme use of the glutes, that makes sense.
    – Wilskt
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 10:48
  • I can 'sprint' out of the saddle on the drops for a minute or so but it's not an easy position to hold. I'll give it a try on a climb but obviously wind resistance is much less of an issue at lower speeds.
    – Wilskt
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 10:49

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