Power out of the saddle Vs seated Vs TT position

Hello everyone,

I have a question…
A few years ago I had to take a few months of cycling (due to work). Ever since then I have found that I can put significantly more power out of the saddle rather than seated, and even less when in the TT position. TT power I guess could be somewhat expected - I’ve only fairly recently started training in position.
But seated power should not be the case… I do most of my intervals in this position so definitely spend enough time there!

Numbers-wise, 20 minute power is approximately:
350 - 320 - 290 - standing, seated, TT.

Anyone got a suggestion why? And what can I do in training to bring the other two up…?!

Standing allows more muscle engagement from greater part of your body, so higher power output us a possibility. But, not that there is also a higher demand on your body from that additional engagement, so consider the energy cost (calorie burn and muscular fatigue specifically).

Seated loses a bit on muscular force from standing. But is more efficient with respect to energy and fatigue.

TT / Low Aero can lead to lower power from restricted breathing and less efficient power delivery via the muscular chain as a result of the more folded position.

Search a bit and you will see this is all common. As far as solutions, time in adaptation 9f the TT position is one main approach. That and considering a slightly higher position of less restriction are also worth a look. Balance of the aero / power equation is not simple since actual aero values are not easy to assess.

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Agree that it’s very common to be capable of more power out of the saddle than seated, and even less in TT position.

I guess the surprise is that I’m able to maintain it for such a long time (20 minutes standing is no problem). And as for efficiency, my legs seem to tell me when I’m stable on a long climb at ~300 watts that standing is actually more efficient for me… :laughing:

You stand for 20 minutes?

The power may be higher but the drag is also significantly higher. Unless your climbing or I assume doing some massive sprint, it makes no sense to ride like that very long.

Personally I climb out of the saddle for anything steep, but I try to keep the power reasonable. Once stuff starts evening out I get as small as possible and ride in the TT position if I can. Typically I think I stand <15-20km/hr climbing, I will sit when it gets steep and I want to keep speed up but not stand and I always lead in with as much speed as possible in the TT position. I seem to have a good climbing pace if that means anything.

Power=/=speed. Yes you get more power out of standing and typically sitting vs TT, but the Power/CdA is more important than anything unless you are riding slow.

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On a long climb, yes I can stand comfortably for 20 minutes and would be capable of significantly more power doing that. I definitely wouldn’t do that on a flat road though - as you say, aerodynamics…

The worry is that the deltas are so big. If I could close those gaps somewhat then I could be a much better rider. Frustrating when you see that you can do the power

You must be pretty light to be able to stand for 20 minutes on the bike…like Alberto Contador or some other light weight climbers.

Not crazy light. I’m about 69kg. But I also do a lot of running, might play a part

The gaps you talk about, are you absolutely sure you have this relative to threshold values? I typically climb at a higher power than normal (just how I roll) and spend time at a lower power than I otherwise would in a TT effort. My reasoning is that aero gains are exponential, so you get more “bang for you buck” going slower on higher power (climbing) and then getting up to speed but not pushing it on the flat/downhill, so you have more “recovery” when your watts would otherwise get chewed up by the aero losses (again laws of power). This will typically net you higher gains, as V is lower even though SA is higher.


Theres a happy middle ground you have to figure out where you should be. If all you care about is pushing high power, by all means doing it in a position to maximize power would be the best (mountain bike), but if all you care is about pure speed, well… its not all about power.

On a TT bike my short term interval power on the extension is about on par with my seated upright power and perhaps even slightly higher. Over a longer interval seated upright is slightly more powerful. Out of the saddle power is higher again on the short intervals but less sustainable. Perhaps I can get more oxygen in seated up right or standing. The TT position will trump both for longer term speed even if it’s not as powerful :wink:

Hmm there seems to be no way to board that plane. It has no doors.

:thinking:

I have never heard of anyone doing 20 Minutes out of the saddle, but Alberto Contador.
Don’t your hands get numb?
Have you seriously done a 20 minute power test standing the entire (most of the time?)

Anyway.
Of course you can produce more power standing. Ultimately, you can make more use of your full body and also your full weight.
This usually (for anyone but you and Contador) comes at the cost of fatigue.
Riding out of the saddle is pretty inefficient of multiple levels.
Firstly, you will be higher and shorter, which in turn means your A (frontal area) is larger and therefore your CdA higher. That is really bad on the flat or descent and becomes less of a penalty the slower you go, ie the steeper the road.
There is a GCN video where Ollie bridgewood attempts to ride up the Colle del Reis (from Sa Colobra) in sub 30 minutes, and aero coach has estimated the penalty from riding the entire climb out of the saddle at 7 to 9 watts. That’s a 7% climb, and an average speed of just under 20kph.

The bigger penalty however is likely the physiological inefficiency. You can utilize your entire bodyweight to produce power, but it also weighs down on hands, arms, feet and legs. Also, you utilizing more muscles will likely be more wasteful than staying seated and spin at a high cadence.

It is not crazy to think, that on anything that isn’t a out and out hill climb of something like Monte Zoncolan, that you will be better off when seated for most of the time putting out 320W, and only get out of the saddle for the steepest bits or for some relief (that’s what I use it for most of the time).

TT Position:
This is a big word that doesn’t give us much of an indication of how this is compared to your rb position.
A 10% power drop from RB to TT, especially if you aren’t used to training in the position, isn’t necessarily crazy.
Besides training in the position more frequently, things that might help you is looking at opening up your hip angle. A to narrow hip angle is often a cause of discomfort and low power.
Means to do that:

  • higher saddle
  • saddle more forward
  • shorter cranks
  • shoes/ cleat/ pedal interface with less stack
  • higher front end.

Especially the last point is often frowned upon because only a low front end is aero.
Not really.
If you look at most current TT set ups, saddle to arm cup drop will be minimal.
Not only does it help cyclists to get more power out, but also, to get their head lower relative to their shoulders, which creates a faster overall shape.

This is what a 4cm taller front end has done to my position.

The latter is more efficient (as tested) and has me push a good 10W more.