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Climbing off the Saddle and Anaerobic Hell(14 posts)

Climbing off the Saddle and Anaerobic HellColombian Climber
Oct 31, 2001 6:06 PM
Climbing off the Saddle and Anaerobic Hell:

Ok people help me understand. I am a pretty decent climber. I keep up with most of the fast guys at the local club and can drop most of the sprinters when the ground points to the sky. BUT I am always, always, always ON my saddle. I get off the saddle only for sharp accelerations when someone attacks but as soon as the speed get stable I am back on my but. I find it to be the most efficient position for my self. I can keep a higher cadence and higher speeds when on the saddle. I have tried climbing off the saddle during non-acceleration phases but find my HR increase dramatically and my speeds drop. I can not keep the same speed without entering Anaerobic HELL.

So for many years I have just simply thought: "hook-on-phonics works for me"; oops sorry, "on the saddle works for me". The problem is....WHAT THE HECK IS LANCE DOING OFF THE SADDLE FOR MOST OF THE AL'DHUEZ (sp?)!!!!????? When I look at the pros many if not all of them are off the saddle for a large portion of their climbing, not only during the acceleration. How is this possible?

Also, I have noticed that it is the little guys who do most of the standing! Pantani, Chucho, all the other Colombian climbers, etc. While the big guys (Ulrich) sit. That makes sense...the problem is... I am a little guy! 5'5 and BMI of 20! So it should make sense for me to stand too, but that is not the case. What am I missing? Any ideas, opinions, flames, anything welcome! ;-)
I used to sitMcAndrus
Oct 31, 2001 6:26 PM
Years ago I spent most of my climbing time in the saddle. I'm 5'11" and 165 lbs - supposed to be 155 and I'm working on that this winter.

Then I started riding with a very strong ultra marathon type rider and he politely but firmly beat my rear-end to the top of every stinkin' climb. And he's about 6'0" and 175 lbs. And he stands.

So, I decided I had to learn how to stand. It took me a good three years to get comfortable with standing climbs.

At first I could only stand for short distances and I do mean *short* - maybe 50 yards, and my upper thighs just screamed. But I was determined.

After years of continuous practice, I'm to the point now where I can do a half-mile or so standing and my distance seems to improve every year.

I think in my case it was simple muscle development. At first my upper thighs were just too weak to take the load and now they're stronger. And it's helped my overall climbing a lot as I can alternate standing and sitting on long climbs to ease the load on my legs.

Could it be a similar thing with you? If you practiced it you'd get better?
Sounds VERY familiar. Thanks for the "practice" advice. -NMTig
Nov 1, 2001 8:34 AM
I did 30mi oncecyclopathic
Nov 2, 2001 5:38 AM
out of saddle at the end of double century saddle sore just could not sit :-(
am I glad it was flat!

on the side most of good out of saddle climbers I came across ride fixie or singlespeed
I guess you get better if you have no choice ;)
re: Climbing off the Saddle and Anaerobic Helllook271
Oct 31, 2001 7:08 PM
I think that if you would watch the entire climb, you'll see that even Lance and the born climbers sit most of the time. They'll stand to accelerate or to change things up, but 90% of the time is spent seated. I have worked on standing to increase speed at times or to power over steep sections, but the improvements that I have made are because I sit alot more now than what I used to. I am still by no means a climber (5'11" 185lbs) but I don't suck too much anymore. Standing uses up too much energy; it's alot more efficient to sit.
re: Climbing off the Saddle and Anaerobic HellNorm
Oct 31, 2001 7:47 PM
I think it has to do with developing efficiency when climbing out of the saddle. Most riders find it more efficient to climb in the saddle and can keep a higher cadence. I don't know the ratio of in/out of the saddle of the top pros, but they certainly utilize both techniques in order to recruit different muscle groups. The reason they can do this for extended periods without going into "anaerobic hell" all the time is because they've practiced the skill and have become extremely efficient in terms of weight transfer and pedal rhythm. For a big climber like Ulrich, he tends to sit because it just takes more effort to move his big body out of the saddle. He can keep up with the best little guys simply because he has phenomenal power.

It takes a lot of practice to be good at climbing out of the saddle. Are you swinging your bike excessively, wasting energy? Is your weight properly centered over the pedals? Are you leaning too far forward? Are you arms strong enough to easily support your weight or are they eating up all your energy? Are you in control of your pedal stroke, or do you find yourself just pedaling faster and faster until you're in a full sprint?

I'm an average size rider (5'10'155) and I tend to climb both in and out of the saddle, depending on whether it's a steep grade. If it's steep, then I'm definitely out of the saddle, because you generate the most power that way by utilizing your arms to a greater extent. On lengthy climbs, I may sit for a portion and then get out of the saddle to tax my leg muscles differently. I find that my cadence is about 80+ sitting and ranges from 65-80 while standing. Often, the transition from sit/stand requires me to upshift to a higher gear.

It seems that you just need to practice the art of climbing out of the saddle.....maybe try climbing at 75% effort in a lower gear at first to develop the proper rhythm & technique, then increase your pace gradually?

Hope my comments help.
re: Climbing off the Saddle and Anaerobic Hellbadabill
Nov 1, 2001 7:15 AM
Well said. Rhythm and technique is the key. To keep HR down I shift up 1-2 gears and drop cadence a bit. I Get into a rocking rhythm turning circles. When I get back in the saddle my legs feel fresher and I can turn a higher cadence. The hole key for me is to use all the muscles of my legs to get over a climb, just seems smarter to me to use your entire range of muscles.
long winded with final advice at the bottomishmael
Oct 31, 2001 7:57 PM
im 5'8 and 150 and stand on hills practically the whole advice is to try to do long distances while going a slower pace and get used to different styles while going at kind of hight rpms...the last time the issue of standing came up people said to just chug up and down like a piston but i disagree, try to move the bike around so as to get a smooth more circle-like movement...side to side movement is something to work on but also back and forward movement while pulling up on the pedal seems to do alot for me..different hand positions changes things alot too...try to just rest your hands on the bars without gripping and see what you come up with... i like to spread my knuckles around the brake levers or else grab the knob on the top of the lever with the bottom of my hand, both methods put me up high, forward, and with minimal hand strenght, it makes alot of difference to me and ive noticed lots of pros trying similar positions...i used to climb in the drops alot too but that was with a larger frame, i also SPIN alot while climbing, infact i spin like mad almost all the time..EVERYTHING IVE SAID ABOVE KIND OF RELYS ON SPINNING, SPINNING, SPINNING....SPINNING IS GOOD..not as fast a spin as sitting maybe but try for high rpms and resting the hands on the hoods..there, that last sentence said it all i could practically erase the rest
Now that winter is almost here ...tarwheel
Nov 1, 2001 5:14 AM
Sign up for some spin cycle classes, and I guarantee you will get better at standing climbs. That's what they do much of the time in spin cycle classes. When I first started going last winter, they just about killed me, but it really improved my climbing. I have always been an in-the-saddle climber, but started getting out of the saddle more after taking spin classes. I still don't climb out of the saddle very much, but I don't have any trouble with it when it's useful. Generally, I stand only on very steep sections or when I'm trying accelerate on a climb.
i'm beginning to think it's all relativeJs Haiku Shop
Nov 1, 2001 6:57 AM
last year 50 miles was a push for me, now 70 is a longish training ride, only limited by free time. this only changed after doing a hilly metric and a climbing century early this year. my target events through the year changed from a metric to a century to a climbing century to a double metric, and now 2002's goals are getting longer still...

same with riding out of the saddle. i'm 6'2", at 195# with a bmi of 25, ideal weight according to the government is 163-178. but then again, i'm not sure exactly what of that matters. i'm a seated climber, seated sprinter (mostly), feel that most of my power comes from my butt and legs and can power over the small stuff in the saddle faster than the other (smaller) guys can do the same out of the saddle. couple weeks ago i started training rides in the largest gear possible at all times, grinding a low RPM, out of the saddle as much as i could stand. now i find myself spinning over longer climbs out of the saddle in larger gears on regular rides and mixing in/out of the saddle to keep a higher average speed. i think punishing my legs and body on those gear-mashing rides has let me gain a little perspective on another level of pain and exertion, and now i'm either a little more numb to it, accustomed to it, stronger, or all three.

perhaps, to a certain point, our bodies will do what we ask of them, over time and acclimation. ride fast in training and you'll ride faster naturally, climb out of the saddle and develop those skills over seated climing, eat spicy food and non-spicy food will become bland. beyond that line, it's bound to genetics...i think...
re: takes time to develop slow twitching fibrecyclopathic
Nov 1, 2001 7:29 AM
you have much higher % of slow twitching fibre in your legs
then in upper body thanks to all those years of training

This is what happens:
when out of saddle you deploy upper body, back, more load on quads.
your upper body doesn't have enough slow twitch mass to produce needed output to match legs.
It deploys fast twitching fibre (FT produces much more lactic acid
then ST) and pushes you over the edge into "Anaerobic HELL"

The only answer is to ride more out saddle for longer time.
Find long gradual hill and ride it out of saddle.
Try to concentrate on aerobic pace not speed.
On longer rides get out of saddle any time grade turns positive on you for longer time.

No it won't happen overnight but it will come.

Now why Ulrich rides in saddle and other guys don't?
Ulrich is very strong. His longer thighs allow him to develop higher
torque comparing to others in peloton.
He can push gear sitting uphill very few can.

On steep climbs most others (taking into consideration standard
gearing) get into situation where they can't maintain high cadence.
they can't even hit Anaerobic threshold if grade turns more then 10%.
That's where they use upper body to get out needed torque.
And obviously they train and prepared to do it.

So does it make sense for you to stand? Maybe.
Maybe you just better off with lower gearing.
If you can sit and spin 90-120RPM up 15% why bother?
Two basic issuesMel Erickson
Nov 1, 2001 8:14 AM
The first is training. To do a certain thing you have to train for it. Training takes time. Before this year I was in the same boat you are in. I sat 95% of the time. For several reasons, primarily my back, I decided to learn to stand on climbs more of the time (it gave my back a good stretch). I started making myself stand more. At first it was hard and I went anerobic in short order. Through perseverance and training I have developed muscles, learned tempo and pace, learned the sections and times of climbs where standing can be more effective and now I stand more. I still sit 60-70% of the time on climbs but increase in time spent standing has improved how my back feels, especially on long rides, and improved my climbing ability.

The second issue is genetics. Some people are better suited to one style because of genetic factors like different muscle fiber ratios, leg lengths, muscle mass etc. It's something you have to work out for yourself, everyone's different. It's a matter of discovery.
re: Climbing off the Saddle and Anaerobic HellLC
Nov 1, 2001 10:18 AM
If you said that you suck at playing the trombone, guess what we would tell you...practice playing the trombone! This is not really any different; practice it.

You can speed up your learning curve by taking away your crutch. Take the seat and post off and then go for a ride. If you can only go around the block, then that's fine, but you might surprise your self on how far you can get without your crutch. Like anything else, it is mostly in your mind.
Here's what works for meDutchy
Nov 1, 2001 3:37 PM
For long climbs.
As the hill starts I gradually drop the gears one at a time to maintain a good cadence
when the gradient gets steeper I click up 2 gears and stand, I stand until I my legs start to burn,
then sit and drop back 2 gears to the gear I started in. I stay seated until I feel recovered, then click
up 2 gears and stand again.
This lets me divide the energy I need between sitting and standing muscles.
When I sit on a hill I try to pedal in smooth circles, pulling up/pushing down.
When I stand on a hill I don't pull up much as the legs don't get any time to rest, It's better to use your
body weight and just push down. But if you put 100% body weight onto the down stroke
it takes a lot of energy to shift your weight to the other side for the next pedal stroke.

If you watch Lance and Pantani they both look like their dancing on the pedals when they climb.
Neither one looks like their pushing down with ALL their strength. They are obviously pushing down hard
but they keep their bodies upright, they don't lurch when they pedal.