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Which is faster – climbing in or out the saddle? | Cycling Weekly

Which is faster – climbing in or out the saddle? | Cycling Weekly


Is it faster to climb in or out of the
saddle? Common sense would say that riding out of the saddle is going to be
a lot less aerodynamic than being lower riding in the saddle. To find out we’ve
come to Mount Teide in Tenerife to do an experiment to see if that is the case. Now riders like Chris Froome and Bradley
Wiggins famously stay seated most the time when they are climbing, whereas riders
like Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana who dance up the climbs on the pedals out of
saddle. Now which of these is more biomechanically efficient is likely to
depend on the individual rider however we should also think about aerodynamics
because once you’re riding above 10mph or 16 kmh, aerodynamics
starts to become significant. Now our experiment is going to involve
riding up a 5 kilometer section of Mount Teide near the top which averages roughly
7% and we’re going to do this twice and to also keep it a fair test I’m going to
weight my complete system weight of me and the bike prior for each run and if I’ve
lost weight or gained weight in between two runs
we’ll adjust to make it the same. So the complete system weight of the bike and
rider is 81.4 kilograms. We’re going to start the first 15
minute section My heart rate is it 168. So for the first
run I was 81 kilos and now I’m just a little bit under by about 300 grams so
I’m going to add a little bit of water just to get me back up to the same. So now
the weight’s the same and I’m going to do the second run which is out the saddle. My heart rate’s quite a bit lower only at
165 beats per minute at the moment which is a lot less than the 180 I was at.
What we want to know is the aerodynamic difference and already this is looking to
be slower. So I’ve done my two runs and for the first one where I was seated I
did this section in 15 minutes exactly and an average power of 301 watts and my
average speed was 17.4 kilometres an hour now my second run out
the saddle was considerably slower, it was actually 17.5 minute
and my average speed is just 15 kilometers an hour so a significant
difference if you’re doing a mountain time trial or climbing in a race. So in
conclusion it’s probably faster and more efficient to ride in the saddle now I
know biomechanically it’s easier for some people to ride out a saddle I’m
included in that my heart rate was much lower on this out of the saddle run but
as humans you could argue we didn’t evolve to ride bikes
perhaps I’m only good at riding out of a saddle because I’ve done it more and I
trained more doing that if I trained more seated
maybe I’d be faster maybe that’s what I should do and others as well.
I don’t know Alberto Contador’s watching this video but he wants to win the next
Tour de France maybe should climb seated

26 comments on “Which is faster – climbing in or out the saddle? | Cycling Weekly

  1. You might be right by saying out of the saddle is less aerodynamic than seated. But I really dont think anyone ride up a whole mountain either full seated or full out of the saddle. Sure you should primarly be in the saddle and sometimes get out if there are brutal gradients or you want to use different muscle groups of your legs to dont overuse your main muscles. Use "out of the saddle" wisely and you gain 25% of power while up. But keep in mind its like a turbo, its not permanently. I like to ride a constant pace and sometimes drop 1 or 2 sprokets and go out the saddle short then getting back seated and shift up to my previous gear, nice relaxation.

  2. The problem with your test is that you´re focussing on doing the same power for each run, but for people like Contador it´s about producing maximum power over an extended period of time. You can normally produce more power when out of the saddle. Of course there are exceptions like Froome.
    There´s probably no point in trying to figure out which style is fastest because it´s individual how you can produce a high wattage over a certain amount of time.

  3. For short punchy climbs I like to ride out of the saddle.
    For sustained climbs I like to climb in the saddle.
    For really long sustained climbs I go home and sit on my couch.

  4. Congratulations you just tested which is more aerodynamic, with the obvious result. By the way you didn't need to do that on a climb…You should have kept the system weight and climb conditions (sales section, temp, wind etc) as well as heart rate constant and determined what power differences and therefore time were…or…kept power constant and sea what happened to heart rate. Ultimately the result is standing provides more power, much more than needed to offset less aerodynamic position, but at a cost of higher heart rate.

  5. Did you do the runs in succession one after the other? You could have been more tired for the second. Maybe reverse them and see what happens? then compare.

  6. but the extra sprint out the saddle is important to win a stage , more power for a short period of time , you pay that effort after a couple of minute , it s logical

  7. But it depends on the situation. The gradient is very steep then need to get out the saddle…. some sections there is no way I could do it seated. I was on the ride two days ago and I passed everybody who was seated climbing by getting out the saddle.

  8. the fact is that riders need to vary the muscles they are using to prevent muscle fatigue. it you have to ride standing anywhere it should on the steepest parts of the course.

  9. Thank you for including the Heart Rate, I am trying to get back into cycling and my Doctor wants me to keep my Heart Rate Down as much as possible (just had a stent implant), I wear a HR monitor but have never been able to climb out of the saddle (I feel off balance for some reason) but I will give it a try and practice a little at it, again thanks

  10. Interesting. Didn't realise the aero effect would be that much
    I used to ride naturally in a big gear, low cadence, and out of the saddle a lot on climbs. Got an injury which forced me to remain seated, so taught myself to stay in the saddle and spin in a smaller gear. Anyway went for a pb up a 2min 13% powerclimb the other day and decided I'd stand the whole way. I was faster but ended up with back strain for the last 2 weeks because of it! So you'll be better at what you do more of, and it takes awhile to get used to a new style of riding.

  11. Here in Florida we don't have any long, steep climbs.  We have short climbs and only some of those are really very steep at all.  Therefore, out of the saddle for the 30-60 seconds up the hill is way faster than staying seated.  On longer climbs, I find it's best to change it up to recruit different muscle groups and keep your legs as fresh as possible.  Seated to start, then out of the saddle for a bit etc…

  12. You've completely missed the point here. Some riders are able to produce significantly more power out of the saddle, so it even compensates for the disadvantage in aerodynamics. This makes these riders much faster than their seated position with much lower power output. Examples: Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Marco Pantani.

  13. I don't buy this! You even mentioned h/r was lower. Most likely because you weren't pushing the same power.
    I can't see what powermeter did you use, but it was certainly not a crank based one.

    Of course wind can change too, and traffic overtaking you helps a lot.

  14. an out of saddle position averages much higher wattage than seated given same speed. The test you need to do is same speed in/out of saddle then look at the power and heartrate. The conclution should be what method is more efficient.

  15. One thing you didn't mention, obviously you had time constraints, is the method of being predominantly in the saddle and standing up every now and then to inject surges of speed. I find this method can give a higher average speed on climbs.

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