View Full Version : Crit Strategy: Climbing out of the saddle or seated?

06-25-2005, 10:18 PM
We’re having a pair of crits this weekend in St Louis and earlier today I went down to watch the Saturday races. A question came up about climbing.

Background: It was an 0.75 mile course with 6 turns. There was a long shallow descent on the backstretch, at the bottom of which there was a very sharp (I’d say about 120 degree) turn and an immediate steep climb, where over about 40 yards you gained back all the height you had lost earlier. There was lots of action at that corner so I spent a fair amount of time watching there. (During the 4/5s a few guys climbed the curb, another one rolled his rear tire, stuff like that. Nothing terribly serious.)

At the start of the races most of guys climbed the hill out of the saddle. However it seemed to me that later in the race more would do it seated, as they tired. I mentioned to one of the older guys who had been shelled off the back and was resting in the grass that that was a good way to figure out who had something left in the tank. (I stopped to talk to him because he had been riding a Legend). Both he and his buddy thought that that was not necessarily the case. They thought that if you were strong enough, and you could climb the hill seated, you should, since it would help keep your heart rate down. I figured that on a “short” race like that (40 minutes +6 laps, for example) and a short hill, there was no sense in holding back. If you were strong enough to do it seated you could do it ever faster out of the saddle. They thought it would be better to be more efficient.

Any thoughts?


06-25-2005, 10:21 PM
all personal preference- about the only hill I climb out of the saddle is yours- Louis- Most of the time I think my legs get tired too fast if I stand and climb- If I had to go all out on a big hill I would stand- but for most hills on most crits I would stay seated-


06-25-2005, 10:47 PM
Whatever you gotta do man. Don't analyse. ride. Don't look at the other ones, do what YOU need to do.

And don't ever roll a tire. I am sure you won't because otherwise you would not have noticed those who do. Phreds. All of 'em.

06-25-2005, 11:48 PM
Louis- I reread part of your question that I dont think I answered- Yes I probably can climb a hill faster standing- but the sacrifice is too great- I WILL run out of gas faster than seated climbs- so if I can stay with the group seated I will do that- even if I lose a bit to the group- but I am able to make it up somewhere where I am stronger- like a flat- I will still stay seated.

Do you remember my post on my ride in Nashville a few months ago? I was riding in the foothills with a bunch of hot shots with compact gears- I knew i wasnt going to stay with them on the hills- I backed my gearing off on the hills and kept the group near but basicly "rested" on the hill- Then when we were back on the flats- where I knew I had them with strength and gearing I made up the difference.


06-26-2005, 05:32 AM
i've thought about this exact question a lot. recently i read an article that made an interesting point: when you climb out of the saddle, your legs must not only propel you forward, but they must support your body weight too. seated, your legs don't have to support your body weight. of course, out of the saddle, you can also use your body weight to your advantage.

short explosive climbs seem best suited for standing. but there are always exceptions. most of the images i have of marco pantani climbing are of him out of the saddle. tricky ricky also seemed to climb alot out of the saddle. maybe it was just their more natural style...or maybe with EPO, who needs to worry about getting tired? ;)

personally, when i'm seated, i feel as though i can control my movements better. i'm more efficient. out of the saddle, i feel more explosive, but perhaps more wasteful with energy.

06-26-2005, 09:21 AM
I had to work last night, hid from the SCC guys today because I just don't want to have to open it up the way I feel but now I think I go ride some hills of varying steep and length to try stuff out. I've been playing around with my climbing tech this year to see what works.

Old days: downshift to the 39-23 and sit, drop into the 39-25 when it gets hard and pound along seated. Rollers excepted.

These days: less than half a mile, less than 10 per cent stay in the big ring and stand. Longer than half a mile, combo standing and seated but range up and down the little ring depending on if I'm up or down. Standing works well shifted up 2 or 3 gears. You don't have to run standing, a nice tempo will get you moving OK. The trick is to time when you stand and sit so you don't get all cooked in one or the other, I haven't figured that out yet.

They say a bike shouldn't make that much difference and if I were a real rider it wouldn't but that damn Legend they built me is a huge factor. I said I wanted a bike that I could ride a long way and that would climb hills fast and they did just that. It also accelerates great. Is a rocket, yes it is.

06-26-2005, 09:38 AM
I didn't know Marco Pantani raced crits.

Short course criterium is what we're talking about, right?

Recently I raced a course similar to the one mentioned and although you could sit and climb it, you could also stand. Watching the pro race, which had Mr. Lance Armstrong in the field, just about everyone was out of the saddle trying to accelerate up the short hill. The reason being is that's where somebody was always attacking either the hill or the riders around them to gain an advantage. You'd sit unless somebody would stand and try to get away. At the end of the day you did what you had to do to not get dropped.

06-26-2005, 10:50 AM
...I'll never forget seeing the US Pro in Philly either last year or the year before. On the last climb up the Manyunk wall, there were a couple of little climbers hauling a** out of the saddle, trying to blow the race apart. Fred Rodriquez was right on their tail, turning over a big gear in the saddle, staying right with them. I know this wasn't a crit, but it was crunch time when nobody was holding anything back. You do whatever works better for YOU. In my non-racing context, I do most short climbs out of the saddle and most long climbs in the saddle, with short portions out of the saddle just to change up which muscles are working. I suspect in the race in question, if I raced, I'd be out of the saddle. But if I could get up the damn thing faster seated, I'd stay seated.


Dr. Doofus
06-26-2005, 02:44 PM
put all the little guys into the curb then ride up the hill at your own pace

06-26-2005, 08:52 PM
I think I read the same article as Climb01742, and they made an interesting point: if the energy "cost" of climbing out of the saddle is partially due to having to bear your own weight, then it stands to reason that smaller climbers are less "taxed" when out of the saddle.

I'm a hill guy and a small guy. On the really tough hills (Bolinas-Fairfax) I find myself standing a lot. I ride a double with a 25 as my lowest cog and I find if I want to sit and spin fast as I would like to, I have to be going at least 12mph. As I get slower, I spend proportionally more time out of the saddle. I notice, however, when I get to a grade that I can spin on my stroke gets much more efficient because I can use the bottom and top of the pedal stroke instead of just mashing and pulling up.

This has nothing to do with crits, I was just bored and thought I'd write something... :D

John H.
06-26-2005, 11:55 PM
Bolinas-Fairfax (from the Bolinas side) is my favorite climb on Mt. Tam.

06-27-2005, 01:07 AM
yeah, me too. It just keeps going, and going, and going.
I did it today in the fog and every turn looked exactly the same -I felt like I was in an Escher drawing . . .

06-27-2005, 04:56 PM
Whatever you gotta do man. Don't analyse. ride. Don't look at the other ones, do what YOU need to do.

And don't ever roll a tire. I am sure you won't because otherwise you would not have noticed those who do. Phreds. All of 'em.
Yeah, there you have it.you have to do it with feeling (soul).saab knows what he's talking about good luck.Cheers