Tips for improving climbing out of the saddle

Can any suggest any tips or tricks on how to improve climbing out of the saddle? I know most are going to say the more you do it the better you get, but where I live is pancake flat with you some very short (400-500m) 10-12% hills or 1-1.5km 2-3% raises. So I’m very limited on being able to do it more. I find when I get out of the saddle that after 60-90 seconds my quads just start burning and I’m forced to sit down to relieve the quads.

If anyone has any suggestions on how I can improve my out of the saddle climb that would much appreciated.

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Chris Froome lived in a pancake flat area as a kid and he used to ride with his brakes on. I don’t know how practical it is though.

there is no substitute for practice and time… I have a relatively short hill near where I live, the goal was to do it all (10 minutes or so) standing and week by week I developed the ability. Once you can do that it is amazing how it goes to much longer times. I do a trip once a year where we climb multiple mountains that take 30 - 45 minutes to get over. I had never done more than 10 minutes but when I hit those hills I could stand as long as I wanted and just dance on the pedals… it was fun!

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Do repeats of the short hills?

I think there is a technique element to it too, maybe try shifting your weight around when out of the saddle and see if you can find a less quad-heavy position.

my feeling is that as you improve muscular endurance then it becomes easier to look at technique. I found that it became easy to work on that when I was comfortable with the effort needed. One thing I find really helps is trying to keep your upper body still and let the bike and your lower body do all the work. The fewer muscles you recruit the better. Stabilize your core and stay upright . The trick I use is to watch my shadow when possible to see that I am not bobbing or swaying in my upper body and keeping it as still as possible. It just came naturally but is something I do watch.

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The bike should sway/rock beneath you ,while as @Ron says your upper body stays mostly steady. A decent core makes it much easier. I have found that run fitness helps too.

For starters:

  • What is your typical cadence when standing? [Added comments below]

    • Generally speaking, standing cadences can range from 55-75 rpm for typical situations. The main point here is that people sometimes don’t know this and try to apply a typical seated cadence when standing.
    • That 85-105 rpm range we often use seated is totally wrong for standing unless you are looking at kicks and sprint type efforts, that are usually quite short.
    • For any standing effort that lasts for a while, you need to make sure to shift to get into the lower ranges I mentioned above. If you are already in the big ring, shifting 2-4 gears harder on the cassette is recommended. The amount of shifting varies with the rider preference in dropping cadence, along with the cassette on the bike and where the chain is at the start.
    • So, if you aren’t already shifting and dipping into the 55-75 rpm for standing, I’d suggest trying it. From your comments, I am guessing that your hot quads are results of holding too high a cadence, especially if you are on flats or mild hills.
  • Do you have a sense of your body position when standing?

    • Are you putting lots of weight on the hands?
      • This can depend on some factors, but it’s best not to have too much weight on your hands. You should be more centered over the pedals with the bulk of your mass, and mainly stabilize yourself with your hands vs strict support of mass.
    • Where are your hips and bottom relative to the saddle?
      • Proper position will depend on power, rider preference and such, but having your bottom closer to the saddle vs away from it is often good. For most of my standing efforts, my glutes just lightly graze the tip of my saddle at the bottom of each stroke.
    • Are you in a more upright or hunched over position?
      • Again, depends a bit on goals. Upright is good for a “stretch” effort and general use. Lower can help with harder efforts, cheating wind and just a change in position. Experiment with what feels better in different situations and apply as you see fit in the future.

Edits added above to jump ahead just a bit while waiting for answers.

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What kind of power are putting out when standing vs sitting?

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Chad asked the pertinent questions…technique / position plays a critical role.

As for practice, if you live in a flat area, look into using virtual hills on Strava to get longer, extended periods of climbing.

  • Looks like I need to learn about a new-to-me feature. Any info or link on what this is and how to use it?

Damnit…I meant Zwift.

I blame the fact they are both orange-based apps. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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Why do you want to be out of the saddle for more than 60-90 seconds? That should be plenty of time to get a stretch and move around a bit, then get back to the saddle. As noted, you need to keep a pretty low cadence out of the saddle and it is not as efficient to be out for long periods of time as it would be to spend the same time in the saddle. So…what’s your goal and why?

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Just talking for myself here, but I try to get out of the saddle for longer periods too, and the reason why is just because it’s so fun :heart:

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My coach has me periodically stand up on my endurance rides, variations of things like “every 5 minutes stand up and pedal at endurance for 30 seconds.” My endurance zone is 180-215W and when I stand up on pancake flat ground its pretty typical to see 400-500W power spikes. With practice and focus I’ve gotten that down to 250-350W.

Thanks @mcneese.chad for your response.

I think you might be right about the cadence, when I get out of the saddle I’m not changing gears so my cadence does drop a little but defiantly not around 55-75. I’ll try and change down a couple gears before getting out of the saddle. I think in the past I was doing that and found when I got back into the saddle I would have to immediately change gears and get dropped instantly.

As for body position I try not to put all my weight down on my hands but I am putting some and when I get out of the saddle I think I’m leaning forward slightly, so my hips and bottom would be slight in front of the saddle and many a few inch’s above.

I’m sure this looks completely different then how I’m explaining it LOL

@team_bunty I would say if I was doing 300 watt seated and got out of the saddle I would be doing 350-360watts, I think, It spike up higher.

@Jmacll On short steep climbs I get dropped a lot, everyone is out of the saddle for 2-3 + mins and as soon as I seat down, bang dropped quads are on fire and I’m out the back. Just assumed it was something I need to work on?

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I just stay in the same gear I was in when climbing seated. Also cadence shouldn’t change that much, imo.

If the problem is that you get dropped at the top, there may be other things to help you. Beware of the concertina effect at the top of the climb - try and be near the front to avoid that. You can also try being near the front at the start of the climb, that gives you more space to drop back and stay with the group (plus you can set the tempo).

OK, I do recommend playing with shifting then. And if your hesitation is due to drops off a group, you need to consider when and how you shift, as well as your relative effort and timing. When done cleanly, there is no reason that shifting should be the cause of a drop from others. I suspect it’s more about your effort and maybe having overextended fitness at that moment rather than the shifting.

For reference, videos with some decent tips, including cadence and shifting discussion.

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There’s your problem. It’s the watts, not the standing. You’d burn your legs out just as quickly doing 360w if you remained seated.

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Agreed. Part of the technique, especially if aiming for longer stints standing, is learning how to put out similar power in and out of the saddle. Some peaks and drops are inevitable, but it’s possible to improve and keep output more balanced.

It relates to my thoughts that shifting is not the source of his getting dropped, but the effort applied. We have too little context to really speculate, but I think there is more to this than we have in our hands.

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For short steep climbs, try to be at the front of the group before the climb then slide back as the group goes up the climb…you can even try to control the pace from the front a bit. I think you have a power/energy management issue not an out of the saddle/in the saddle issue. You’re arguably going to blow up faster out of the saddle as you’re using more muscles and energy to support your weight in addition to the power to the pedals for the same power output. I’d try to sit, spin, and manage your position in the group to avoid getting dropped.