How to Improve Your Riding out of the Saddle
There are times when getting out of the saddle is better than staying seated. But because standing is inherently less efficient, riding out of the saddle isn’t beneficial unless you practice. Here’s how you can become more efficient at pedaling out of the saddle and how you can integrate the right amount of practice for the racing that you do.
For more on riding out of the saddle and training check out the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast Ep 275.
Do I Need to Practice Standing?
The type of racing or riding that you do can help you determine how important it is to practice standing during your workouts. For example, triathletes and time-trialists will rarely exit the saddle during a race, making standing drills a low priority. On the other hand, athletes who race criteriums, mountain bikes, and cyclocross will likely exit the saddle repeatedly in a given race, and should plan on making standing drills a part of their training.
With that said, regardless of the racing you do, everyone can benefit from some time spent out of the saddle. Even if you prefer staying seated, spending some time on the mechanics can make standing and pedaling a smoother and more comfortable motion when you get out of the saddle. Here are a few places where you can get out of the saddle and practice standing.
Good Times to Stand
Riding out of the saddle is inherently less efficient than sitting, but it’s also more powerful. When you stand and pedal, you can use the anaerobic power from your upper body to output more power. The combination of increased power and decreased efficiency means that it can be more difficult or less efficient to practice standing during certain workouts. It’s much easier to stand when the resistance is high—especially on the trainer. Doing a lot of standing during long endurance rides, for example, isn’t super efficient. Here are a few places you can practice standing during your workouts.
When you’ve got sore sit bones or you’re feeling a little rutted, standing up, even if only briefly, can help ease pain in your sit bones and break up long monotonous efforts. You probably don’t want to spend a ton of time out of the saddle, unless the terrain calls for it, but a few seconds or pedal strokes standing can be all you need to feel better and get in some practice.
Standing might be less efficient, but in some cases, it can actually make things easier. Recruiting that additional power can help you get up a short steep climb faster than if you were to stay seated. Sprinting is another time where staying in the saddle is only going to make things harder for you. If the racing you do incorporates either of these elements with any frequency, you’ll want to do some standing drills during your training.
When not to Stand
Just as there are places where standing can help you, there are also places where getting out of the saddle will work against you. These are a few times where you should stay in the saddle.
When you do a Ramp Test, the workout instructions will tell you to remain in the saddle for the entire assessment. This is because standing and recruiting that additional power might allow you to pedal longer than you would if you were to remain seated. This, in turn, can skew your ramp test results. Standing to relieve pain in your sit bones is fine, but other than that, stay seated.
Because standing is less efficient, it’s often the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling fatigued or grinding out a long climb. As I noted earlier, you might want to stand up briefly to break up a long effort, but you probably won’t want to spend much time pedaling out of the saddle and using that extra energy.
If you’re a triathlete or a time-trialist, getting out of the saddle frequently during training can actually hinder your ability to ride in the aero position for an extended period of time. You might want to try training the mechanics of standing pedaling just so you feel comfortable getting out of the saddle when you do. But otherwise, you can ignore those standing drills.
If you want to get better at standing, start with the basics and work up from there. Work on making your transition in and out of the saddle as smooth as possible. This can help you make this movement safer and more efficient. For a full break down of standing mechanics, check out this video: Sprinting 101.
Some TrainerRoad workouts also integrate optional standing drills through the workout text. If you’re interested in doing standing drills during your indoor workouts, make sure you have the workout text turned on before you start. Training your standing specific strength and becoming comfortable with the motion can train you to be stronger and more efficient when you stand outside or during a race.
You can also integrate your own standing drills during your outside workouts by practicing as you see fit. Remember, the more you get out of the saddle the better you’ll be at standing.
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