Riding out of saddle is so much harder—why?

I don’t understand why RPE and HR increase when riding out of saddle. Maybe it’s because of more recruitment? Perhaps I have a higher distribution of fast twitch fibers that become recruited when getting out of the saddle.

For example, I can be riding at 65% of FTP at a HR of 130-135 BPM, but if ride at that same wattage out of saddle my HR will gain upwards of 20 BPM veering towards LTHR and RPE goes from 2-3 to 5-6.

I have always noticed this phenomenon, even stationary on a trainer and it’s hindered race performance IRL. How do I fix it?

Certainly is, because you are supporting your entire body weight and having to stabilize that in motion… which requires more muscle control than when seated and effectively fully supported.

Are you shifting a taller gear with lower cadence when standing, or are you keeping a lower gear and similar cadence to the seated effort?

  • If you are keeping the same gearing and cadence standing that you use seated, I could easily see that as a key reason for your BPM & RPE increase.

I do plenty of standing efforts in the 60-70rpm range compared to seated efforts in the 90-100rpm range at those power levels. I usually see a 3-5bpm increase when I stand in Endurance ranges, maybe 5-10 once I step into SS and above power.

Overall, once you nail the basic standing efforts and associated gearing, I think most people can improve their efficiency to reduce the bump up in BPM & RPE to a minimum. But the need to do that varies with each rider and their preferences to stand or not.

Is it possible I’m tapping into fast twitch fibers that are less aerobically conditioned than the slow twitch which I could be using more of when seated?

Same gear, same cadence. But it doesn’t matter, cadence has no impact either way on RPE or HR response.

  • Are you sure? What testing have you done in that light (seated and standing and such)?

  • It’s pretty common to see a lower HR at lower cadence since it places a higher muscular load on the body vs higher cadence that swings toward the cardio system.


I have no idea on specific muscle demand, but I strongly believe that standing efforts at 80-100 rpm will be more demanding on the rider’s cardio system (your HR specifically) than if you did the same exact power in the 60-70 rpm range.

What is your typical cadence for these seated & standing efforts?


I’m positive. I’m actually on the trainer now and just did 195-200w standing at 65-70 RP, and my HR went to 165 standing in the span of only 30s. Previously I did a higher cadence standing effort at 80-85 RPM and the HR hit the same number in the same amount of time.

FWIW, my HR @ 190-200w is usually around 140 bpm when seated. We’re talking an increase of 25 BPM simply by moving my butt 12" off the saddle. It seems very excessive, but it is what it is.

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  • Yeah, not sure what to suggest other than doing it more often if you want to improve and potentially reduce that delta.
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I am no research hound, but found this via search and could be worth a skim:

ETA: A different study looking at HR response between Low & High cadence, so it potentially overlaps for some users that drop cadence when standing.


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Out of curiosity, what happens if you drop it to, say, 45?

Let’s try it. I’ll be working on my OOS riding all winter, it’s something that has always plagued me and created unwanted fatigue; even at incredibly low percentages of FTP. From a performance perspective it’s been a major hindrance because I know that if I need to get out of the saddle on a climb or something I will exponentially fatigue.

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What does your posture look like when you stand up? It’s possible you look like you’re riding the stairmaster in which case there is a lot of wasted motion and not super efficient.

Start around 3:30 in this video. Or check out Zack Morris’s instagram for some reels and videos with more tips.

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Heart/blood overcoming gravity plus additional muscle recruitment. Mostly.

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One of the reasons could just be lack of time training standing up so if feels worse than it is.

Might just be annocdotal but Contador was said to do hill reps standing and he’s not exactly shabby when it comes to climbing (or anything else for that matter).

  • I don’t think so. As shown above, a basic standing effort is reasonably similar to fully seated (not totally vertical like standing) so it gravity is not a factor in this at all IMO. It’s not like we are talking prone to vertical body position deltas here.

  • Any change in position is marginal WRT gravity compared to the more significant difference in the muscle activation required to keep us in position without the rigid support of a saddle (as you cover in the latter half of your comment).

Might have to do with position, or with core stability?

For me, RPE in and out of the saddle is pretty much the same initially. After a few minutes, out of the saddle gets harder, I think because you’re basically doing a constant half-squat. But RPE doesn’t really increase.

I’d also add, riding out of the saddle indoors feels pretty weird and unatural, because you can’t lean the bike. Do you have the same RPE increase outdoors?


One of the benefits of a rocker plate

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I agree, that some of the HR increase is due to posture. If I’m riding in Erg mode I can see my HR increase as I move from the drops, to the hoods to sitting fully upright hands off the bars.


Really depends on the grade at which I’m riding. On the flats (or trainer) it’s pretty upright unless I make a deliberate effort to stand while in the hoods.

I have “good” core stability and do a lot of core work among olympic lifts. I don’t feel core weakness or lack of stability is at play here. It totally feels like muscle engagement. My quads seem to burn up more when OOS, which goes against convention—OOS generally recruits more posterior chain from what I have heard.

Great question. If I had to guess I would say it’s not as bad given it’s more natural, however, I do know that anytime I’m OOS, be it indoor, outdoor, low cadence, high cadence, on the flats, on a climb my HR will increase by a significant margin (Δ 10-15 BPM at a given wattage)

Oddly, when I eat bars or something that requires a lot of chewing my HR also increases. I suspect that’s due to restricted breathing while chewing. Shit’s weird, man.

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