I am in my last 2 weeks of training for my first tri which has an 18 mile bike leg. During my training i have noticed that going up hills, I do not get out of the saddle... I drop to a smaller gear and keep my cadence high but on really tough or really long hills the down side is that my mph drops significantly. Do I need to force myself to get up out of the saddle and use a slightly bigger gear and power through it?
My heart rate stays in the 145-160 range so am not taxed when I do.
Let me know what you think.
I would say sit. Why?
1) Standing is going to create more lactate acid. While you can generate more power while standing it can beat you up on choppy courses.
2) Ideally you should try to generate even effort as much as possible, going up and going down. Your power should really be a bit higher at the top of the hill and the more you can keep your power even throughout the entire climb, the more efficient you will be on the run. Lots of amateurs take the start of the climb too hard and die out at the end, then they coast on the down hill. Not only is this inefficient, its slower. Do the opposite so when you crest the hill you are ready to go. This is best done by sitting through the climb. Try to keep your HR no higher than Z3.
The reason to stand
1) If you really want to stick it to someone! But you better have some power at the top to pull away from them otherwise they'll hang around.
Well that's not really a reason, but hey, if its a shorter race and you want to hammer, have at it, but be aware of the consequences, those being the state of your legs for the run.
The other factor not mentioned by Niemsco is aerodynamics. As soon as you stand up you just about double your frontal exposure. That may not be a huge issue on long hills, since you probably won't be moving fast enough for wind resistance to play a huge role. On the other hand, if there is a head wind, or if it's a short hill and you're carrying significant speed (>15 mph), standing just creates extra resistance you have to overcome. The only times I stand while climbing are when I want to stretch out my legs and lower back (makes sense to do it on hils when the aerodynamic cost is lower), or when I can't maintain an efficient cadence while seated. Otherwise, I not only stay seated, but I try to stay on the aerobars.
Also depends how long your ride is and how many climbs you are going to be doing. On a long ride or a ride with lots of climbing you probably want to try and stay seated as much as you can as climbing out the saddle will wear you down faster than climbing in the saddle.
for hills that take >> 2-3 minutes to climb you will want to ride at least some of the hill seated. If the hill is going to take 5 minutes or more then it probably makes sense to ride most of it seated and you just try to keep a good even cadence that suits you, don't get too bogged down, maybe get out the saddle as you go over the top if you feel energetic
for short hills up to 2-3 minutes long, assuming you have a reasonable level of fitness these should be rideable out the saddle assuming you don't have to do it too many times! Get a good run at the hill , cadence up and then as the cadence drops get out the saddle and power up the hill, try to keep it below threshold heartrate though.
if the hill is maybe just over 2-3 minutes long then you can alternate seated and standing depending on your available gearing , exactly how you do this depends on how even the gradient is. For short steeper sections then attacking out the saddle makes sense and then if the gradient eases off ride seated.
Try to practice climbing both seated and standing. I have a 10 mile loop I train round with a steep 2-3 minute long hill on it. This morning I did 5 repeats of the hill seated on the first loop and on the second loop I did 5 repeats of the hill standing.
If you are out riding in a bunch then always ride hills at your own pace not someone elses. A good tip if you are not a strong climber is to try and start the climbs at the front of the group so that as you slow compared to the rest of the group and drift back through the bunch you are still in contact ( hopefully !). e.g as you start to suffer you can trade off your position at the front. If you start at the back then you will be in trouble by the top.
the hills I have been climbing do not take that long to climb as of yet. This week I have a hill on my route that should take about 2-3 minutes to climb. This will be the first in my experience of such a challenge and it has a steep gradient, so it should be interesting to see how I do.
On the most part my ride has a lot of rolling hills, some that are quite challenging but I have found that as long as I maintain my cadence and focus I can gradually build going up them to where I am at my regular cadence when i reach the top at a good mph.
Another reason to sit vs stand when going up a hill is your height believe it or not. When a rider is around 5'6 and below, you are more effective when climbing while standing. Taller riders often are more effective climbers when they stay seated.
I agree you can sometimes produce more lactate while out of the saddle and climbing standing up, but also say that when you are out of the saddle it allows you to flush some of the lactic acid you have in your legs (barring this hill is not 2 miles =) )
You hit it right on the head when you are focusing on your cadence and gear changing while climbing hills. If you are only reaching say zone 3 or 4 on a heart rate you are ok no matter which position you choose. When attacking up a hill after someone you might need to get out to try to push that larger gearing up the time.
Best of luck
I find that I sit 95% of the time and only stand as a break because it hits other muscles and relieve tension from being on the saddle. Right before I stand, I click up two gears harder, and click back down when I sit. I'm still learning a lot on the back but I've been concentrating on hills lately and have found this is a helpful rhythm for my body to look forward to. I've also been experimenting with picking an object in the distance (not too far away at all) during a climb and standing until I get to it and then sitting back down. That seems to help break up long climbs and make it more interesting. It's good to know how to do both I suppose but right now I'm trying to get over only having one speed: medium.
Excellent responses. I wanted to point out that Active has some great articles on how to become a better climber, you might want to check them out. Also, there is an art or skill that has to be learned to being a good climber, the more you hit the hills, the better you become. Also, I wouldn't worry about the mph number on your computer, yes it's going to drop. Shift down before you really need to, and start shifting up when you get closer to the top, novices usually do it the exact opposite. The steepest part of the hill is the middle, not the top (usually).
I like the leg positioning out of saddle better than sitting. If you watch professional cycling (I realize its different than cycling during a triathlon) but most of your ridders stay very compititive even on the hardest climbs staying on their saddle. The ridders you do see standing are spinters and those making a move at a late stage in the climb or race. I think it comes down to personal prefrence over anything else. Yes there are advantages and disadvatages to both. I choose climbing out of the saddle because I always feel like it gets my legs streched out and ready for my run, plus I started as a mountain biker and most climbs on a mountain bike you need to get out of the saddle. So I believe it is my tendency to stand a push hard.
I read an article recently that says:
The best position to be in when climbing hills is: aero.
The best position going down hills is: aero.
The best position on the flats: aero.
If you keep your RPMs high, you may get passed by the mashers and grinders, but at the top of the hill, you will have legs, and won't need to coast on the downhill. The idea behind being aero is to engage the quads, no? something that standing also does.
Thank you everyone for all your responses. This information is going to help me drastically after this next weekend's race. It looks like the my race is 18 miles on the beach with a relatively flat course so climbing wont be all that relevant in this situation.
following on from the closing off the lungs comment you stated, would that imply that when you are down in the aero position lets say on a flat road, that you are performing at less than optimal power etc or is that eliminated by having a bit fitted to you specifically by professionals?
I have found that when i am in a climbing position on the bike, I definately breath better and also have better power output at least from what I can tell from cadence and mph.
I guess I am wondering if the aerodynamic position compensates for the reduced lung potential?