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Rate my standing technique

Old 09-23-20, 11:01 AM
  #1  
Gary in NJ
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Rate my standing technique

I'm 57 and recently discovered "cycling as exercise" after a hip replacement. I was a runner and in very good physical condition prior to the replacement, and cycling is filling that space quite nicely now. I'm quite sure that I enjoy cycling more than running, especially those last few years. On to my question.

When ascending a hill in excess of 8% grade, I find that I want to stand if the rpms start to fall near 70. Standing helps me keep the cadence right around 70 and gets me out of the saddle for a period of time. Between 8-12% I can usually stand for 60-90 seconds and when the hill is in the 12-16% range I can only stand about 20-30 seconds at a time (I haven't attempted a grade above 16% yet - there's a long one just 1/2 mile from my house). After I've exhausted my standing capability I sit back down and will find myself peddling/recovering around 60 rpm. Once recovered I can either get back in the standing position (if still climbing) or start shifting to higher gears to accelerate. The longest continuous hill I've done so far is 2 miles in length and ascends a little over 500 feet. So while the average grade is 5%, there are long sections in the 8-10% range where I'll stand and then sit when the grade falls below 6-8%.

I have a friend who has been a road cyclist for years (decades) who keeps telling me not to stand. He believes that I'm wearing myself out on the hill and wasting energy. But I feel if I don't stand, my cadence will fall below 60 rpm and I'll waste even more available power. BTW, I have a 50/34 crankset with a 12-32 7 speed cassette (I have a BMC Roadmachine on order) so with 26 and 32 sprockets at the top of the stack I think I have good climbing gears.

Is standing not a good technique/method to climb? When do you stand and when do you sit, or more accurately stop standing? Should I shorten my periods of standing - because I've spent the summer trying to increase my time out of the saddle. Right now I can sustain 3-3.5 w/kg while climbing, and I hit the wall around 4.2 w/kg standing or sitting. Will sitting keep my power down?
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Old 09-23-20, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary in NJ View Post
I'm 57 and recently discovered "cycling as exercise" after a hip replacement. I was a runner and in very good physical condition prior to the replacement, and cycling is filling that space quite nicely now. I'm quite sure that I enjoy cycling more than running, especially those last few years. On to my question.

When ascending a hill in excess of 8% grade, I find that I want to stand if the rpms start to fall near 70. Standing helps me keep the cadence right around 70 and gets me out of the saddle for a period of time. Between 8-12% I can usually stand for 60-90 seconds and when the hill is in the 12-16% range I can only stand about 20-30 seconds at a time (I haven't attempted a grade above 16% yet - there's a long one just 1/2 mile from my house). After I've exhausted my standing capability I sit back down and will find myself peddling/recovering around 60 rpm. Once recovered I can either get back in the standing position (if still climbing) or start shifting to higher gears to accelerate. The longest continuous hill I've done so far is 2 miles in length and ascends a little over 500 feet. So while the average grade is 5%, there are long sections in the 8-10% range where I'll stand and then sit when the grade falls below 6-8%.

I have a friend who has been a road cyclist for years (decades) who keeps telling me not to stand. He believes that I'm wearing myself out on the hill and wasting energy. But I feel if I don't stand, my cadence will fall below 60 rpm and I'll waste even more available power. BTW, I have a 50/34 crankset with a 12-32 7 speed cassette (I have a BMC Roadmachine on order) so with 26 and 32 sprockets at the top of the stack I think I have good climbing gears.

Is standing not a good technique/method to climb? When do you stand and when do you sit, or more accurately stop standing? Should I shorten my periods of standing - because I've spent the summer trying to increase my time out of the saddle. Right now I can sustain 3-3.5 w/kg while climbing, and I hit the wall around 4.2 w/kg standing or sitting. Will sitting keep my power down?
So, the question you're asking is going to trigger all sorts of dogmatic responses from certain ilk on this forum as to why their preferred technique is best, but the truth is you should keep doing whatever you are comfortable doing to get yourself up the hills. If you find yourself struggling to climb, or if you want to improve your ascending abilities, then you might need to experiment with different techniques.

A lot of people will say that standing will fatigue you faster than sitting, but I'm not sure that rigorous studies have really covered that topic adequately. If your cadence is falling below 60 rpm while you are sitting, then it sounds like you need to downshift more. Are you in your lowest gear while seated when your cadence drops to <60rpm?
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Old 09-23-20, 11:39 AM
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Have you tried it the other way? I mean have you tried to shift to a lower gear, stay seated, and spin up the hill?

If you have and are more comfortable doing it your way, then keep doing what is comfortable.
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Old 09-23-20, 11:42 AM
  #4  
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Originally Posted by Gary in NJ View Post
I'm 57 and recently discovered "cycling as exercise" after a hip replacement. I was a runner and in very good physical condition prior to the replacement, and cycling is filling that space quite nicely now. I'm quite sure that I enjoy cycling more than running, especially those last few years. On to my question.

When ascending a hill in excess of 8% grade, I find that I want to stand if the rpms start to fall near 70. Standing helps me keep the cadence right around 70 and gets me out of the saddle for a period of time. Between 8-12% I can usually stand for 60-90 seconds and when the hill is in the 12-16% range I can only stand about 20-30 seconds at a time (I haven't attempted a grade above 16% yet - there's a long one just 1/2 mile from my house). After I've exhausted my standing capability I sit back down and will find myself peddling/recovering around 60 rpm. Once recovered I can either get back in the standing position (if still climbing) or start shifting to higher gears to accelerate. The longest continuous hill I've done so far is 2 miles in length and ascends a little over 500 feet. So while the average grade is 5%, there are long sections in the 8-10% range where I'll stand and then sit when the grade falls below 6-8%.

I have a friend who has been a road cyclist for years (decades) who keeps telling me not to stand. He believes that I'm wearing myself out on the hill and wasting energy. But I feel if I don't stand, my cadence will fall below 60 rpm and I'll waste even more available power. BTW, I have a 50/34 crankset with a 12-32 7 speed cassette (I have a BMC Roadmachine on order) so with 26 and 32 sprockets at the top of the stack I think I have good climbing gears.

Is standing not a good technique/method to climb? When do you stand and when do you sit, or more accurately stop standing? Should I shorten my periods of standing - because I've spent the summer trying to increase my time out of the saddle. Right now I can sustain 3-3.5 w/kg while climbing, and I hit the wall around 4.2 w/kg standing or sitting. Will sitting keep my power down?

Hell must have frozen over because I actually agree with the guy in post #2 . This is really individual. Hills change the geometry of the bike and all our bodies have different proportions, so there isn't a single right answer. I vary by hill slope and also by how much momentum I'm bringing to the hill. Also, wind is a huge factor. Standing into a headwind is generally a bad idea.
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Old 09-23-20, 11:42 AM
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The only thing I have to add to the previous post is that many lightweight riders seem to find climbing for extended periods out of the saddle easier than heavier riders.
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Old 09-23-20, 11:44 AM
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Gary in NJ
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Originally Posted by BoraxKid View Post
So, the question you're asking is going to trigger all sorts of dogmatic responses from certain ilk on this forum as to why their preferred technique is best, but the truth is you should keep doing whatever you are comfortable doing to get yourself up the hills. If you find yourself struggling to climb, or if you want to improve your ascending abilities, then you might need to experiment with different techniques.

A lot of people will say that standing will fatigue you faster than sitting, but I'm not sure that rigorous studies have really covered that topic adequately. If your cadence is falling below 60 rpm while you are sitting, then it sounds like you need to downshift more. Are you in your lowest gear while seated when your cadence drops to <60rpm?
That's a good point. If I'm in 34/26 and the cadence is dropping, at that point the choice is stay seated and go to 34/32, attempting to maintain cadence, or stay in 34/26 and stand. Once I've given the stand effort everything I've got, I'll drop to 34/32 and sit, but at a lower cadence then I probably would have been had I not stood at all.

If I stay seated I feel as though I struggle, however standing makes me feel as though I'm getting the power to the pedals (but maybe I'm not) because I'm able to hold the gear and maintain the cadence. When I do finally decide to sit, I'm usually fairly exhausted and find myself trying to recover rather then climb. But I do recover and I'll go through the cycle again and again.
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Old 09-23-20, 11:45 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
Have you tried it the other way? I mean have you tried to shift to a lower gear, stay seated, and spin up the hill?

If you have and are more comfortable doing it your way, then keep doing what is comfortable.

Also, no points are awarded for consistency, I go with what feels right for the hill and ride I'm on. I might take the same hill completely different ways if I'm on mile 20 vs mile 95.
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Old 09-23-20, 11:45 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
The only thing I have to add to the previous post is that many lightweight riders seem to find climbing for extended periods out of the saddle easier than heavier riders.
I'm 6'1 and weigh around 177 (+/- depending on the day), so I don't consider myself light or heavy.
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Old 09-23-20, 12:07 PM
  #9  
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Both pedaling out of the saddle for an extended time and seated climbing are skills you can get better at. Neither is wrong unless one causes you to go too hard and burn out (usually it would be the natural instinct to crank out massive power out of the saddle attempting to muscle over a hill, only to blow up within seconds, but I've also seen people downshifting and spinning crazy unsustainable RPMs at the foot of a hill and run out of breath within seconds). For the same power, seated climbing is slightly faster, but you have to balance the comfort factor of alternating between both, which recruits different muscles and allows some to recover as you've mentioned.

I suspect that because you were a runner, the standing climb feels more natural to you. A World Tour climber who converted from running, Michael Woods, has said that extended out of the saddle climbing on extremely steep inclines suits his background. But for most of us, the gain in being able to apply more weight to the pedals when standing gets cancelled out by the need to support that weight with our legs rather than with the bike, so very few people can ride out of the saddle for extended periods on long climbs.

I agree with the suggestion to try doing the same climbs both ways until you're used to it. Doing so will expand your pedaling comfort zone. I used to be very dogmatic about the situations I'd stand, and the exact cadence or power I wanted to maintain on a climb, but now I relax and don't feel the need to think about those things so carefully. I just do whatever feels fun, or that I haven't done a lot of in a while.
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Old 09-23-20, 12:11 PM
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Gary in NJ : Sounds like you are doing fine.

For short steep climbs (worst I've done is 37% for a couple hundred feet), I will stand up and power my way to the top. For long moderate climbs (some in Colorado of 6-8% for 20+ miles) I will choose an appropriate gear and remain seated -- but, even then, it feels nice and refreshing to occasionally stand up and work some different muscles. That's what works for me, and that's all that matters to me.
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Old 09-23-20, 12:18 PM
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Because you didnít provide a rating system, or a video, I can only rate it as a B+.

This does take into consideration that you appear to prefer your technique and are able to climb with it without issue.

As for your other questions, everyone climbs differently. The important part is that you are able to complete the climb without being exhausted. Your technique might wear out your friend, regardless of how many decades he has been riding.

John
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Old 09-23-20, 12:22 PM
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There was a Global Cycling Network (GCN) video put out a year or two ago where a number of the ex-racer presenters, having learned that Tour de France winner Alberto Contador often trained by climbing out of the saddle for half an hour at a time, tried to emulate that training technique. World Champion Emma Pooley, at about 100 pounds and five feet nothing, had no trouble climbing for the full half hour. The others found it more challenging. One of the other presenters, lanky and a bit over six feet in height, suffered through the ride--I don't remember whether he gave up or not, but he wasn't happy.

I suspect that people who can climb out of the saddle for extended periods have learned to shift their center of gravity backward such that their hands are supporting very little of their upper body weight. A bit tricky if you're not used to it, but much less fatiguing.
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Old 09-23-20, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
World Champion Emma Pooley, at about 100 pounds and five feet nothing, had no trouble climbing for the full half hour.
GCN likes to poke fun at GTN by suggesting a rule for roadies to live by: if triathletes do it, don't. There should be a corollary to that: if Emma Pooley can do it, you cannot. :Wayne's World we're-not-worthy emoji:
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Old 09-23-20, 01:04 PM
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Where are you riding?

I will sit and spin when going up hill, it works for me. Do what works for you.
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Old 09-23-20, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Hell must have frozen over because I actually agree with the guy in post #2 . This is really individual. Hills change the geometry of the bike and all our bodies have different proportions, so there isn't a single right answer. I vary by hill slope and also by how much momentum I'm bringing to the hill. Also, wind is a huge factor. Standing into a headwind is generally a bad idea.

He who shall not be named.
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Old 09-23-20, 01:13 PM
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as Phil says "he's dancing on the pedals"
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Old 09-23-20, 01:19 PM
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I see no reason to change. Riding out of the saddle has intrinsic benefits in terms of comfort, strength and fitness and itís a good habit to spend a little time riding out of the saddle every so often if the ride allows it. Hills are a great chance to do that.

There is probably a slight efficiency penalty to standing since you are probably doing a bit more work supporting your whole weight with hands and feet, but as you clearly understand, climbing has a lot of factors at play, so if itís working the way you are doing, stay with it. And of course, you can always try climbing different ways and see what works best for you.

Otto
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Old 09-23-20, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Flip Flop Rider View Post
as Phil says "he's dancing on the pedals"
The French term for standing while cycling is "en danse" which is probably why he used that phrase
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Old 09-23-20, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
There was a Global Cycling Network (GCN) video put out a year or two ago where a number of the ex-racer presenters, having learned that Tour de France winner Alberto Contador often trained by climbing out of the saddle for half an hour at a time, tried to emulate that training technique. World Champion Emma Pooley, at about 100 pounds and five feet nothing, had no trouble climbing for the full half hour. The others found it more challenging. One of the other presenters, lanky and a bit over six feet in height, suffered through the ride--I don't remember whether he gave up or not, but he wasn't happy.

I suspect that people who can climb out of the saddle for extended periods have learned to shift their center of gravity backward such that their hands are supporting very little of their upper body weight. A bit tricky if you're not used to it, but much less fatiguing.

I can stand for very long periods of time, but that's because I do my other cardio on an elliptical. That's standing for 3 hours at a time.
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Old 09-23-20, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Hell must have frozen over because I actually agree with the guy in post #2 .
Originally Posted by spelger View Post
He who shall not be named.
Even a blind hen finds a bit of corn now and then.
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Old 09-23-20, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary in NJ View Post
Is standing not a good technique/method to climb? When do you stand and when do you sit, or more accurately stop standing? Should I shorten my periods of standing - because I've spent the summer trying to increase my time out of the saddle. Right now I can sustain 3-3.5 w/kg while climbing, and I hit the wall around 4.2 w/kg standing or sitting. Will sitting keep my power down?
It really depends on what works best for you and standing on the pedal technique can be a very personalized (individual) matter. If standing makes you more effective and less tired at the top of the climb than sitting all the time then keep at it. It only becomes a problem if you experience any lingering pain in the knees (after the ride) or any other joints in the body. Usually that is caused by wrong form or sometimes, poor flexibility.

I prefer to shift to a higher gear and stand on the pedals at 40 to 60 rpm cadence at medium to high gears. If I can climb to the top of the hill in less than 10 minutes, I do the entire climb standing.

There is an advantage to climbing while standing. More time in the optimal knee angle during the pedal stroke, straighter hips which leads to better breathing and power output, a lot more muscle groups employed (less likely to burnout a single muscle group at sustained high power output).

However, if you're heavy, >160 lbs, standing for longer periods, you'll quickly reach your aerobic threshold so keep standing periods shorter. For lightweight cyclists <130 lbs standing while climbing (especially in steep climbs), can be more efficient than sitting and can climb standing for long periods

For example, I'm 125 lbs and climb standing for 10 minutes straight. I'm still a newbie (3 months into cycling) so I'm still improving on that. My current limitation is pain/high discomfort from stretched muscles, not really from reaching aerobic nor lactic threshold because every time I work on and improve my flexibility, my time out of the saddle improves too. The roads in our hills are severely potholed and washboarded so I stand on the pedals with my weight towards the rear wheels to maintain traction. It's a harder way to pedal standing because you are hunched down and stretched more. Which is why I'm working on my flexibility to improve efficiency when standing.

I absolutely prefer standing for as long as possible when climbing. Due to my little weight and the fact, it distributes the load over more muscle groups, I often avoid muscle soreness after many miles of climbs.
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Old 09-24-20, 04:44 AM
  #22  
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If you read Greg LeMond's book his says training should include both aerobic and anaerobic skills, which is what you are doing.
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Old 09-24-20, 05:09 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
Where are you riding?
Warren & Hunterdon Counties. Itís nothing but hills here.
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Old 09-24-20, 07:12 AM
  #24  
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I'm about 2 years now riding a bike. Gary in NJ I didn't have the advantage of prior fitness you have but I wasn't overweight at the start and I'm short. At my heaviest I was 159 pounds 5'6", normal weight for me is 148 pounds and I'm now 62 years old. Right now my weight is about 138 pounds.


This time last year, even with the ability to ride a flat half century or more, I couldn't climb my way out of a shoe box, I mean this literally. A granny gear was no help. I sucked at the hills no matter how you look at it. Over last winter I started working on my climbing the best I could, using a fluid trainer and Zwift. I'm located right over in NE PA (Carbon County) and have local hills galore.


Gary I would describe my method of climbing as quite similar to yours in most details. All I can say is it works, I ride with a fairly large club, usually at least once a week and my climbing ability while not at honcho levels, still usually puts me at the top of a hill kinda, sorta one of the first in the group C+/B- riders. I have gone from being a hill climbing embarrassment to getting an occasional at-a-boy from other riders.


I find that on a 12% +/- long grade I will start to lose momentum just going by the way I feel rather than my actual cadence and it is at that point that I stand, usually for about a minute maybe less. This is how I generally survive a long climb, doing this over and over a few times but not to excess. Over this winter I want to work on extending the amount of time I can stand. My cadence is probably less than most experienced riders, I struggle with 90 rpm for more than short periods of time. 70 rpm is more my style. I have better luck by trying to keep my HR in the 165-170 range. I don't know if this is normal or not but when first start a ride it generally takes me about 10 miles to get my legs to stop complaining and working for me. My bike has a triple CR, 52-42-30, a 11-26 freehub. I do my best to avoid using the 30 CR, most climbs i use the 42 and I try to use the 52 on moderate hills as I think I'm more of a masher not a spinner.


If what you are doing works my vote is to run with it.

Last edited by Thomas15; 09-24-20 at 07:18 AM.
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Old 09-24-20, 07:05 PM
  #25  
livedarklions
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Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: New England
Posts: 8,123

Bikes: Serotta Atlanta; 1994 Specialized Allez Pro; Motobecane Fantom CX; Giant OCR A1

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Originally Posted by Thomas15 View Post
I'm about 2 years now riding a bike. Gary in NJ I didn't have the advantage of prior fitness you have but I wasn't overweight at the start and I'm short. At my heaviest I was 159 pounds 5'6", normal weight for me is 148 pounds and I'm now 62 years old. Right now my weight is about 138 pounds.


This time last year, even with the ability to ride a flat half century or more, I couldn't climb my way out of a shoe box, I mean this literally. A granny gear was no help. I sucked at the hills no matter how you look at it. Over last winter I started working on my climbing the best I could, using a fluid trainer and Zwift. I'm located right over in NE PA (Carbon County) and have local hills galore.


Gary I would describe my method of climbing as quite similar to yours in most details. All I can say is it works, I ride with a fairly large club, usually at least once a week and my climbing ability while not at honcho levels, still usually puts me at the top of a hill kinda, sorta one of the first in the group C+/B- riders. I have gone from being a hill climbing embarrassment to getting an occasional at-a-boy from other riders.


I find that on a 12% +/- long grade I will start to lose momentum just going by the way I feel rather than my actual cadence and it is at that point that I stand, usually for about a minute maybe less. This is how I generally survive a long climb, doing this over and over a few times but not to excess. Over this winter I want to work on extending the amount of time I can stand. My cadence is probably less than most experienced riders, I struggle with 90 rpm for more than short periods of time. 70 rpm is more my style. I have better luck by trying to keep my HR in the 165-170 range. I don't know if this is normal or not but when first start a ride it generally takes me about 10 miles to get my legs to stop complaining and working for me. My bike has a triple CR, 52-42-30, a 11-26 freehub. I do my best to avoid using the 30 CR, most climbs i use the 42 and I try to use the 52 on moderate hills as I think I'm more of a masher not a spinner.


If what you are doing works my vote is to run with it.
There is no normal, there's what works for you. Nothing in the motor is standard issue so we all have to figure out our own strengths and weaknesses. And strengthen the weak parts where we can.

Great post, congrats on the progress!
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