Standing Up On A Bike: How (And When) To Ride Out Of The Saddle

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Whether you’re a mountain biker or roadie, you’ll split your rides between sitting on the saddle or standing up on a bike.

For experienced riders, this is second nature – and you’ll often find yourself changing between riding positions subconsciously. 

However, you’ll often notice during a group ride that some of your buddies are sitting while others are standing, especially while climbing.

So who is correct?

To help you to understand when standing up on a bike is best, we’ll be taking you through these key points:

  • Why (And When) Cyclists Ride Out Of The Saddle
  • 7 Beginner Tips For Standing Up On A Bike

Ready to learn all about standing up on a bike?

Let’s dive in!

Standing Up On A Bike: Title Image

Why (And When) Cyclists Ride Out Of The Saddle

#1. Climbing Hills

One of the reasons we ride out of the saddle is to use our body weight to help press down on the pedals.

This comes in handy when we approach a steep climb.

You can, of course, change down a few gears to increase your cadence, but it is often better to push harder on your pedals. When you’re standing up on a bike, you can put extra pressure into the downstroke. You can also pull up with your other foot if you use clipless pedals.

By pulling slightly on the handlebars, you can transfer even more power to the pedals, helping you scale steep hills.

#2. Finding An Extra Burst Of Speed

Standing up on a bike can give you a sharp burst of speed.

If you’re in a race, riding out of the saddle can give you lots of acceleration to pass a competitor. But in the real world, it can help you get a fast start from a stop sign or away from traffic.

#3. Absorbing Bumps and adjusting balance

Not all surfaces you ride on are smooth.

When you ride a road bike on uneven roads, you feel every crack and cobblestone. Standing up on a bike helps soften the impacts, as you can keep your knees loose and let them absorb the impacts.

Standing up on your pedals on a mountain bike also helps you to absorb impacts with your knees, but also lets you move your weight around more freely. This allows you to maintain control on technical descents.

#4. Giving Yourself Some Relief

After being in the saddle for a while, you may start to get sore. Standing up on a bike will give you some relief, even if you’re only out of the saddle for a few seconds.

#5. Building Leg Strength

If you want to use build your leg strength, it’s a good idea to work as many different leg muscles as possible. 

Standing up on a bike activates different muscles to pedaling while seated, so helps to give your legs a more balanced workout.

#6. Relaxing Your Knees

When riding your bike, your knees can be constantly bent for long periods of time.

Even though they’re moving, your knees experience lots of pressure, restricting the blood flow across them.

When you pedal while standing up on a bike, the change of riding position relieves some of the pressure. So, occasionally rising out of the saddle can make the experience more enjoyable.

A mountain biker in a grey jersey descends a hill into a sunlit valley.

7 Tips For Standing Up On A Bike

#1. Practice by Standing Up On A Bike While Freewheeling

As we’ve mentioned, you stand up on a bike to use your body weight for extra pedal power, which is excellent for climbing hills.

But if you’re a beginner on the bike, you may find it awkward on flat roads. So how do you get started?

A good way to practice is to start by standing on the bike while freewheeling, with the pedals level.

Try and apply equal pressure through both feet. You use just enough pressure with your back foot to control the front foot and the pedal going down.

Once you’re comfortable with the feeling of standing up on a bike while freewheeling, it’s much easier to get the hang of pedaling while standing up too!

#2. How To Avoid Bumping Into Your Saddle

If you ride a mountain bike with a dropper post, you won’t have any problem with the saddle being in your way. You can just lower it down and concentrate on the task at hand.

However, your saddle can be really annoying if you are on a road bike or mountain bike without a dropper seat post. You can constantly bump your backside on it while standing up and pedaling.

The first thing you can do to avoid this is to move your weight forward. You’ll probably be doing this anyway if you’re tackling a steep climb.

This will bring your hips further forward, away from the saddle. Try to keep your head up, so you’re looking ahead of you instead of downwards at your front wheel.

Another technique for avoiding your saddle is to subtly adjust your pedal stroke. Some cyclists tend to ride with their heels down, but you can get a little more clearance between you and your saddle if you ride with your toes pointing down. Doing so raises you an extra inch above the saddle.

#3. Slow Down Your Pedaling

Most of the time, when standing up on a bike, you’ll want your pedaling cadence to be a little slower to really let your body weight apply some pressure. 

So before you rise, make sure you are in a gear that will give you enough resistance to allow you to stand up.

There is no ideal cadence for pedaling while standing up on a bike. It depends on your natural rhythm, your gearing, and the gradient of the terrain. It will also depend on how hard you press on the pedals – the harder you press, the faster you’ll want your pedals to turn.

A cyclist in a burgundy jersey pedals along a flat tarmac ride while standing up on a bike.

#4. Think About Your Upper Body

Your upper body should be pretty still when standing up on a bike, but your hips will move up and down slightly. 

It’s best to keep your shoulders relaxed but reasonably steady. You don’t want them moving from side to side too much, wasting your energy.

It can help to rock your bike from side to side slightly, however. Tip your bike away from the downward pedal to help with transferring more pressure into it.

You might find that you put a little bit of weight into your handlebars at slower speeds. However, the more effort you put into the pedals, the less you’ll be leaning on the handlebars – and you might even start to pull on the bars for more power.

#5. Limit Your Time Standing Up On A Bike

Standing up on a bike delivers extra power for short stints, but over a sustained period, it becomes less efficient than pedaling while seated.

The inefficient nature of standing up on a bike will zap your energy more quickly, even if you’re fit. Therefore, it’s worth being selective in choosing where to ride out of the saddle, especially if you’re on a long or challenging ride.

#6. Practice!

Like anything related to cycling, standing up on a bike is a skill. If you don’t feel like it is coming together straight away, this is your cue to practice!

A cyclist climbs a hill while standing up on a bike.

Now You Know All About Standing Up On A Bike…

The key points you need to remember for successfully standing up on a bike are to keep your weight forward, point your toes, rock your bike, and control your pedaling with your back foot.

If you’re a beginner cyclist and you’re finding it difficult when starting out, keep practicing and be patient – it’ll be second nature in no time!

Found this Article Helpful? Develop your cycling knowledge Further With The BikeTips Experts’ Guides Below!

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Tom is an experienced freelance cycling journalist and mountain biking expert who competed nationally in the junior ranks. Now based in the world-famous mountain biking destination of Morzine in the French Alps, Tom spends his summers shredding off-road trails by bike and his winters on the same mountains on a snowboard.

2 thoughts on “Standing Up On A Bike: How (And When) To Ride Out Of The Saddle”

  1. Great article, Tom. I’m an older rider on mountain bike/forest trails. I also ride a fat bike, but every time I go to stand up, as soon as I think about pushing down on the pedal, I get scared that I’m going to fall. It feels awkward. Any advice? Thanks!

    • Thanks Paula! To get confident riding standing up, there are two main steps I’d suggest. First, get used to standing up while freewheeling. Practice every opportunity you get when you’re on a flat section where you won’t need to pedal to get yourself more and more familiar with the feeling of riding out of the saddle.

      Once you feel confident enough to try pedaling while standing up, I’d suggest shifting to a harder gear than you really need. This will give the pedal more resistance, making it a more stable platform for you to stand on as you get used to the movements needed to pedal standing up. I’d suggest practicing while riding slowly on flat ground rather than uphill, so that you don’t need to pedal continuously – you can turn the pedals a couple of times, then coast for a moment without slowing so much you become wobbly.

      It’s normal for it to feel a bit awkward at first, but with a bit of practice it quickly starts to feel natural!

      Hope that’s helpful.


      BikeTips Editor


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