So which technique is best, and can that question even be answered?
I know a few cyclists (in fact it is probably the majority of cyclists I know) who struggle with riding out of the saddle. Now this may be because it just does not feel right or could be that he/she once read that seated riding is more efficient or it is even quite possible that, as late-comer to cycling, they feel "out of control" and unbalanced when riding out of the saddle.
If you find standing technique unsafe and/or unstable, you should consider spending some time with a good technical skills coach who will be able to give some guidance about balance and connection with your bike. Countering bike movement with a fluid (counter-active) body motion is the key here and takes a little time to master.
For others, it is more a matter of being mechanically efficient, whether you are in the saddle or out. We have all been told at some point about "pedalling in circles", that magic trick where you are able to apply significant drive force to the pedals at all points of the circle. Most cyclists understand (at least the theory anyway) this and can apply elements of when seated on the bike. But once standing they usually default to a stomping motion that all but completely destroys any notion of a through or up-stroke. These riders will feel more efficient in the saddle and fatigue quickly when they stand.
When next out riding, watch the rider in front, especially when they stand up. Do they "bob noticeably up and down, or worse still, seem to almost lunge from pedal to pedal? The key to efficient standing technique (just as it is whilst riding in the saddle) to to improve pedal smoothness (pedal in circles). Focus more on the up and through stroke when standing, come smoothly "over the top" and try to de-emphasise the downstroke. Here is a little drill: head out to your local climb, ride it in a bigger gear than you otherwise would. REALLY focus on the upstroke (almost pulling your knee to your chest) and come smoothly over the top. Try to keep your hips from bobbing excessively up and down. With the rise in popularity of power meters, we have been able to measure pedal smoothness improvements in standing technique and many of our riders have become quite good at riding out of the saddle.
If you are a rider that usually notices an increase in Heart Rate (for the same climbing speed / power output), chances are, you are less efficient. Improving your standing technique will give you more options and variation as a rider and maybe just improve your performance.
Please feel free to contact us at Bubba's Bikelab if you have any questions about this or any other cycling matter.
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.