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Scott Murray

Some good research on this was done by Hansen & Waldeland (2008) that showed that both seating & standing were equally effective when on a gradient that elicited under 86% of maximum wattage whereas over 94% of maximum wattage it was preferable to stand.


I guess each rider has his/her own style as well. Remember monte zoncolan on this year's giro? Cadel did almost the entire zoncolan standing while Basso did it seated.


Joe thanks for that thorough reply. That clears it all up for me. I had been trying to stay seated as often as I could as I thought if I stood up I would be loosing power as I would be stomping the pedals.


Scott: Is that really 86%/94% of MAXIMUM wattage? Or is it FTP? Maximum wattage depends on duration ...

I lost 15 pounds (on the paleo diet) this year and now have a wt/ht ratio of 1.72. That made all the difference in being able to climb out of the saddle without overdoing it aerobically.


I'm a bigger guy: ~6'4, ~175-180. I have found that the best strategy for me on a typical rolling hills course is to mix a 50:50 to 70:30 ratio of seated strides to standing strides. I find it's a rhythm I'm comfortable using and it helps me ride at a cadence I like in a gear I like. If I stay seated, I feel like I have to ride too small a gear to keep my cadence high. If I stand for too long, I feel like I burn too much energy.


Certainly not the easiest of questions to answer because it depends on many factors. The main one being the individual's riding characteristics and strenghts (e.g. Evans X Basso). The best way to find out is to climb, climb, and climb. Then, climb more.

Another question, at what point on a climb will a TTer move from his/her aero-position (on the TT bars) to the bar ends and keep the speed up?

And have fun!


Hi Joe,
can I apply your speed guideline of 12mph on sit/stand to drafting? Some friends and I are entering the Tahoe 100 (with the goal of simply finishing before the cut-off) and have thrown around the idea of working in teams to use the draft to our advantage. Thanks! Interesting and useful column, as usual!

Joe Friel

Aaron--Yes, you can.


Hell Joe,

Nice article for summing up the challenges of uphill riding!

In the section about speed, you write:

"A headwind essentially reduces your actual speed."

That seems like a typo, or that two sentences got mixed up.

May I suggest a different turn of phrase?

"A headwind can increase your windspeed, increasing drag, therefore requiring greater force to keep the same actual speed."


Hi Joe, I'm about 1.9 lbs/in so am quite interested in your advice about standing a lot when climbing. I normally climb seated because I understand it is more efficient, but I'm going to try this new strategy this weekend! I'm interested to know why standing is better than seated climbing for a lighter person? Thanks.

Joe Friel

Phil--Smaller riders don't have as much leg muscle mass as big riders to get over hills so standing allows them to use body weight to help drive pedals. For big riders standing means they have to support a lot of upper body mass (big bones, large muscles, organs, fat) which causes them to work harder than if they stayed seated.

Joe Friel

Jan--Great suggestion. I wrestled with that sentence for quite a while.


Hi Joe,
Thanks for the great post on climbing technique. I'm training for the Everest Challenge in Bishop, Ca. If you're not familiar with it -- http://www.everestchallenge.com/page1.ihtml?id=10 -- it is a two day stage race, approx. 105 miles per day, 50 miles of climbing each day, 15,000ft of climbing per day. Three climbs per day with Day 1 having climbs of approximately 20 miles, 10 miles, and 20 miles. Day Two is approx. 10 miles, 10 miles, and 20 miles. The time between climbs is almost all descending. The race takes place between 4,000-10,000ft. I'm a bit baffled as to how to pace myself for this race. I'm not sure if I should try to ride tempo all day, or FTP for the last 20 mins of each climb, or...? I understand that the race blows up and riders mostly ride their own pace so my consideration isn't covering attacks so much as time trialing for 6 hours. Any recommendations would be immensely appreciated.


Hi Joe,
Good article, I hadn't thought that different weight riders would use different techniques. Can you tell me which can provide the most power - standing or seated, which should be weight independent...

If you don't weigh much, then you are limited by gravity when you stand, so 1x body weight of power on the pedal as the most power you can exert.

If you remain seated then potentially you could exert more than your body weight (due to strong leg muscles) through the pedals and this, in turn, would produce more power at the back wheel.


Neek, You can pull on the bars and lever the bike either standing or seated.

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Certainly not the easiest of questions to answer because it depends on many factors. The main one being the individuals riding characteristics and strenghts (e.g. Evans X Basso). The best way to find out is to climb, climb, and climb. Then, climb more.

Another question, at what point on a climb will a TTer move from his/her aero-position (on the TT bars) to the bar ends and keep the speed up?

And have fun!


Hi Joe,

In regards to climbing intensity, when attempting long and difficult climbs for the first time in a training program (say 16km @ 6%), what heart rate zone is best to try and stay in to complete the climb initially? Also, during races are these sort of hills climbed at threshold by leading riders? I'm not currently racing but I just wanted to get an idea of what sort of intensity difficult climbs are ridden at at the pointy end of races.


Joe Friel

Brenton--It's probably best to stay below z5. Which zone would depend on your fitness. But you'llprobably find that for such a hill you will be in z3-4 even when holding back. Yes, in road races such hills will often be done by the climbers around their threshold but there are likely to be surges to much higher intensities if their purpose is to reduce the group size.

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