Monday, July 15, 2013

Last Woman Standing

Pushing my bike uphill, I am high off the ground and high on happiness. 

"Look, look! I can stand out of the saddle!" 

My riding companion's face registers confusion, then bewildered comprehension. 

"Oh my God. You mean all this time you couldn't?!" 
"Nope!" 

Funny that she hadn't noticed - although many people I ride with don't seem to notice my deficiencies in cycling skills; I guess I find ways to disguise them. But privately I remain acutely aware of those deficiencies. And ever since I started riding as an adult, I've been trying to master this particular "skill" - something most riders seem to take for granted as just being part of riding a bike. Standing up when a gear feels too high is simply the natural thing to do for them. Pedal sitting, pedal standing, what's the difference?

For me there was a big difference. Since childhood, I've had problems with balance and proprioception (the awareness of one's body in space), both of which made riding a bike in anything but a rudimentary manner seem unattainable. 4 years ago, I could hardly swing a leg over a top tube without toppling over. But my irrational love of cycling made me persistent. Things are much better now than they used to be, to the point that I can almost pass for "normal" on a roadbike - all the more reason my few remaining difficulties are so frustrating. 

So what was the problem getting out of the saddle?.. The physical memory is disappearing now, but try to imagine this: Whenever I'd try to stand up, I would lose the sense of where I was in relation to both the bike and the ground. Not only did I have no intuitive notion of how to hold my body up when no longer seated, but I'd start to experience general disorientation and mild vertigo. Not surprisingly, these sensations would make me anxious, which in turn made the whole thing worse; a vicious cycle. Verbal instructions from well-meaning riding companions did not help. This was obviously just something I needed to work on myself. And I did keep trying.  

But the first break-through came when I wasn't trying at all. It was a couple of months ago. I was riding an Xtracycle Radish one day, up a gentle hill. Just before I was about to reach the top, I stood up and leaned forward instead of downshifting. My mind was elsewhere and the whole thing was unintentional; it just happened. After I realised what I'd done, I was so happy I almost had to pull over on the side of the road to laugh or cry or something. My mind was blown! I tried it again later, this time intentionally. It was not quite as natural as the first time. I was jerky in my movements and my legs grew tired quickly, but for a few pedal strokes at a time it worked. 

Several days later came the 300K brevet. I was losing time on a long climb, and in a moment of frustration I tried standing up again so that I could push a bigger gear. This did not feel the same as it did on the Xtracycle and I nearly fell off my bike. After that I decided to give my standing attempts a little rest.

And I did, until one day - on my roadbike in Northern Ireland - it "just happened" again on its own. I simply stood up, absent-mindedly on a short hill. This time I decided to harness whatever impulse had enabled me to do this. Continuing to ride on rolling terrain I stood up again and again, rather than switching gears, until I began to trust that I could do it. After a week of this, I was no longer hesitant or nervous to stand up at will. 

A few days ago I pedaled over to County Tyrone to visit a friend. It was a 100 mile day with around 6,000 feet of climbing over the "shoulders" of the Sperrins mountain range. I stood up whenever I wanted, and finally, in the course of this ride, it began to feel as I imagine it's felt to other riders all along - normal. 

One thing I realise now, is that in addition to whatever balance issues were involved, another problem was weak legs. At first my legs would start to quiver after just a short time out of the saddle; I felt like one of those newborn colts learning to walk. On a serious hill, I still get worn out quickly when standing. So even though the balance and proprioception problems are gone, I continue to practice just to develop more leg strength. And finesse. At the moment, my technique is not exactly elegant. I don't throw the bike from side to side needlessly, but my pedal strokes are jerky and awkward compared to how I pedal seated. 

As my last two years of roadcycling have shown, it is possible to do even long distance rides without ever standing out of the saddle. And there are, after all, experienced riders who simply prefer not to stand. I do not know whether I am one of them yet. But once I form a preference, it will be exactly that - a preference, and not a limitation.

81 comments:

  1. "A vicious cycle"

    If you ever decide to write a blog with a bad attitude, that would be a good name for it. It's probably been used though.

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    1. There is a framebuilder in Upstate NY called Vicious Cycles : )

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  2. You will be training a lot of new muscle groups. When you push down on a pedal two things could happen - the pedal goes down or your body goes up. On a stiff gear fighting a steep grade there is a strong tendency for the body to go up rather than for the pedal to go down. You will need to brace your hips and indeed brace your whole body to make the pedal go where you want it. U

    Of course this is automatic for most of us. Over the years we have developed muscles and neural pathways that you don't have. Until you have a full complement of musculature and reflexes standing is going to continue to feel wobbly. It will take time.

    Bicycles are the best tool ever for balance and proprioception.

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  3. I went for a long ride on my single-speed bike this weekend, it was hot and I was looking forward to every small hill so I could stand and relieve some of the monotony.

    On the other hand I have kind of a snobbish notion that people who stand to get their bikes started on level ground are only casual cyclists; if they cycled much they wouldn’t waste energy like that.

    On the other hand some of the legendary long distance cyclists like Lon Haldeman would stand for extended periods. So what do I know.

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  4. Cool photo! What is the bike you are riding?

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    1. It's a friend's Giant TCR. Here's a better picture, though I'll upload real shots of it soon and might do a short write-up.

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    2. I was wondering too, I saw the photo and thought "Thasnoterbike"...

      Cool Mercian jersey, I'd want one if I wasn't "Madder'nHell" at them right now.

      Spindizzy

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  5. Said all.

    The Radish is an extremely forgiving, neutral and comfy bike to do things on, doesn't surprise me. Road bikes are the opposite - garbage in, garbage out.

    Step throughs are fine, but have structural limitations. Once you get to the point of better balance a moderate TT height will be no big, the steep through a forgotten preference.

    Of particular note- I said you weren't strong-strong in all the right sporty cyclist ways. You look stronger - in the quads. Very apparent.

    Proof, yet again, miles are the gateway to competent clarity through fitness.

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  6. Congratulations on your personal victory! Regardless of what anyone says, that's huge. Neuroplasticity rocks! And so does persistence!

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  7. Can you walk up stairs ok?

    How would standing and pedaling on a bike use different muscles I wonder?

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    1. It's similar. I find that running up stairs helps train some of the same muscles I use when sprinting out of the saddle.

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  8. Standing up is good sometimes for a short burst of speed or power without having to down shift, but for the most part most folks will agree that getting out of the saddle for any length of time, especially on hills is wasted energy. You're more efficient sitting down to conquer those long slow climbs. I rarely get out of the saddle except to stretch or very occasionally, put on a burst of speed or get that extra bit of power when I'm in the wrong gear and my cadence is slipping. It's a good skill to have though, so keep working at it until you get it down. With that said though, use it sparingly, especially on the really long rides.

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    1. I find that on long climbs, alternating between sitting down and sprinting out of the saddle allows each set of muscles to rest. But sprinting definitely puts me in an anaerobic state, and I can't do it indefinitely. I find it's most satisfying on shorter hills, typically rollers-- the kind where instead of downshifting, you just stand up and sprint for twenty seconds until you crest the hill.

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    2. Standing up on a hill is not the equivalent of sprinting, you do not need to change you rythm. All you will need is a little upshift, as you will be pedalling a slightly lower cadence, the overall intensity stays the same.

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    3. So one interesting thing is that I have to upshift quite a lot (like 4+ cogs) in order to stand. This is because I tend to pedal at a high cadence when seated (90s+ rpm), but can't do anywhere near that same cadence when standing.

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  9. ScottUKEireloverJuly 15, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Good for you Velouria, glad for you.

    Riding mountain bikes as well as road bikes has taught me the benefit of raising ones butt off the saddle with the pedals level when coasting over any obstacle, the so called 'neutral position'. A most comfortable arrangement. Good for many a circumstance, even a casual rest of ones sitting arrangements!

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    1. I learned to do that before I could pedal out of the saddle, just about a year ago, when I started doing dirt road rides. It really is "comfortable" as well as helpful in understanding balance and steering.

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    2. ScottUKEireloverJuly 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      Now you say it I see how that is true. Your writing about cycling is very insightful.

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  10. Congratulations on your new development. It will take time to get the hang of it, and it is impressive that you've been doing all those long steep climbs sitting on the saddle! Don't discount that for one second, as almost everybody gets out of the saddle when they need extra power or need help getting up the hill.
    As someone with trouble with balance and perception it can be daunting. I love cycling and never had a problem with it, started young and never stopped. I even used to mountain bike! I had stopped biking for a couple of years for unrelated reasons and when I started back I became terrified of hills, thought I was going to crash etc. I saw dips in the road as being more steep and scary so began braking heavily which lasted many years until I got over it recently by riding a ridiculously stable bike.
    My problem is more with walking, hiking or climbing, I will see an easy rock climb along the shore as more steep and askew than it is. I will miss a dip and step too far into it, I regularly trip over things, and often trip over nothing at all. My husband loves clamouring over rocks, trees and stuff and for ages I would just freeze, even got myself stuck and in tears at times because I could not figure out how to continue and was terrified! He thought I was making it up, could not imagine that my perception could be so off. It's gotten much much better, but I tend to find the easiest route and crawl if I have to.

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  11. On a city bike if you make your pedals horizontal, stand and coast you have a lot more manoeuvrable because you can shift so much more weight. Also it makes you taller so you can both see and be seen better.

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  12. Good for you! That is a very odd affliction, and I'm glad you are well over it. Standing is such an integral part of good, all round cycling form and ability that it's hard for me to imagine not being able to stand. It's all the more important when you don't have fingertip shifting controls.

    Riding a fixed gear in rolling terrain, often with loads and against stiff winds, I've adapted to relatively long bout of standing; when in shape I can stand on a moderately steep hill for a mile or so (70' or 75" gear) without discomfort, pacing my effort, of course.

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    1. A mile of standing is impressive! I can't sprint out of the saddle for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

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    2. I find that my comfortable time out of the saddle depends on how much running I do. Now recent running so a couple of minutes is possible. In the old days when I would run a thousand miles a year I could stand up forever, at least it seemed that long.

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  13. well, I am surprised, but bravo for being able to stand up now.On Brevets you will have to stand up, to give a break time to your bottom and to change for some moments your specifics muscular efforts.

    Keep on cycling, love your blog.

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  14. Congrats on your new skill and WOW, that's a weird condition you have. How were you diagnosed with it? When did it first present itself? How did you notice it?

    Anyway, it's really great that you can do something now that you couldn't do before. A couple of years ago could you have imagined you'd even attempt a 300K brevet? (I wish I could do a 300K brevet). And standing's a good skill to have when you need it. I mostly stand to get over subtle inclines that don't warrant a downshift or when I'm trying to get over the top of a steep climb. But for longer sustained climbs its more efficient (and much easier on the quads) to stay seated.

    Congrats again. Enjoy your new skill and the confidence it brings.

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    1. I could not have imagined doing a 300K brevet even 4 months ago (and neither did I want to). I feel like I had a sudden growth spurt this spring/summer.

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  15. Very interesting... I have a related, though different problem. I used to pedal out of the saddle on my old heavy hybrid all the time, but now that I have a light road bike I can't seem to maintain it for more than a few pedal strokes. It's like I get such a burst of power that I suddenly feel like I'm in WAY too low of a gear, and my legs can't maintain such a fast cadence. Maybe I need to save it for short steep hills, I dunno...

    But CatMan (my better half) has a problem with his ankle that prevents him from standing out of the saddle at all. So he climbs everything (even some of the really steep stuff - like 15% grade) from a seated position.

    Anyhow, congratulations on your new found ability!

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    1. On my geared road bike, I generally use a gear a bit higher when I'm standing up a hill.

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  16. ah, now a new consideration when designing or reviewing bikes!

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    1. Ha. Yes, of course now I'm riding all the bikes I can get my hands (feet?) on, trying to sense a difference. In Ireland and UK it is so much easier to try roadbikes, since everyone routes their brakes same as me.

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    2. stay calm! :)

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  17. Did you have bad ear infections or any other inner ear issues as a child? I had a bad bought of labrythitis a few years back and it set my balance and body spatial perception back quite badly. It's mostly returned, but I think a lot of the improvement is based on visual queues now. I used to have good balance with my eyes closed, now it's a mess.

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  18. That´s the opposite of your usual spinnig way to go up, so no wonder you feel you legs and muscles work in a very different way ! Living in a very hilly area and growing with simple, heavy bikes, it is a technic we use to master in our childhood ;). Nice jersey, btw.
    Oscar

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  19. Great for when it gets really steep or just to stretch out. Looking good there. It's amazing what the Irish air can do for you. Soon you'll be dancing on the pedals.

    KJS

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  20. As one who has difficulty standing to pedal for anything more than getting started from a stop, thank you for letting me know I am not the only one in the room! I don't remember having any difficulty doing it as a child, but returning to cycling in my mid-50s is very different. Oh yes--thank you for giving me hope that I can learn to do it again.

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  21. well done V!

    You've alluded to this issue for some time - good to see it overcome.

    Keep writing - love it.

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  22. Congrats. Maybe now you can run gears befitting a woman of your fitness level. And, maybe you'll begin to understand that mountain biking is awesome, if you don't mind standing on the cranks. (You'll have plenty of leftover SGS derailers to choose from when building a mtb.)

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  23. So at this point in your progress, how would you rank the importance of the factors you've written about (i.e. fitness, skills, equipment, toughness, …) that you improved to go from ordinary commuter to strong, long distance bike rider?

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    1. Well I don't think being a cyclist in the sporty sense is an evolution or improvement from commuting. For me the two were always simultaneous, rather than one being the outcome of the other. So the factors you list really helped with both simultaneously. They all played a role. But I think there is also much to be said for just plain ole' enjoying being on a bike no matter what. No amount of skills or equipment can compare to that.

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    2. Good equipment makes for a good time makes for more riding. The end.

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    3. OK Mr. SMARTYPANTS, then why do I like riding my CRAP bikes best! RIDDLE ME THAT JIM!!

      Oh, yeah, The repeated fallings on my head. I forgot about that.

      Dinspizzy

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    4. Liar! Anyone w/your mech ability keeps their 'crap' in better working order than a swarm of Cervelo-shod clydes squeaking along with dry chains and pulleys, rendering a fine thoroughbred that asks 'ride me' more than 'show me off din'.

      - this he said after losing a chain ring bolt off his draught horse. Must be the hat's too tight.






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  24. A skull fracture in my teens damaged my cerebellum. I got back to walking and running fairly soon after the injury.

    Riding a bicycle, however, I soon realized that turning my head much beyond 15 degrees or so would cause me to loose balance. Crashed a few times before I finally gave in and started using mirrors.

    20+ years later I have slowly gotten to the point where I can do an almost completely head turn to check what is behind without any loss of balance. A physician friend says it would take an MRI to tell with any certainy, but believes it likely over time a different part of my brain has taken over balance duty from the original smashed portion.

    Persistence can sometimes pay off as both our experiences suggest.

    Good for you.

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  25. Now you have to practise standing up with no hands on a stationary bike.

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  26. Well, you're not *quite* the last woman standing, because I've not quite mastered it yet myself... I never really did as a child, and over the few years I've ridden as an adult I've had moments of almost getting it, but still I can't really get the balance to work for more than a few pedal strokes. Also, I can definitely confirm you don't have to stand to ride - I managed a month long loaded tour through somewhat mountainous country without it.

    But anyway - thanks so much for talking about it, because as far as I can tell it's a skill that *everyone* just gets automatically, and looks at you like you have a second head when they work out that you always spin up hills. I'm glad I'm not alone, and hopeful that eventually it'll just happen.

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  27. That's great that you have conquered this. I'm curious how this works for you on your Rawland, which I thought was twitchier when standing.

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  28. What to say except I'm happy for you! Good job!

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  29. Speaking of skills, how's your track stand coming along?
    I've been sprinting from the saddle for quite a few years. I usually resort to it for shortish hills, or when I'm too lazy to change gears when climbing.
    On the other hand, my track stand could use some work, a new trick this old dog hasn't learned yet.

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  30. That's great news! Standing will be essential in 2015 when you ride PBP.

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  31. Congratulations! One reason this blog is such a pleasure to read is that you write so honestly and joyfully (and well) about your accomplishments, whether completing a long ride of 100-plus kilos (which, at least now, is out of reach for me) or simply standing up to pedal (which is something I have never imagined not being able to do).

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  32. A very interesting revelation for those of us who have been following your cyclist's development over the last few years.

    I helped a woman friend learn to ride in her mid-forties. We started at the very beginning. Her partner and I ran alongside her, holding her up until she could balance. Amazingly, within a year or so she had ridden the two hundred mile Seattle-to-Portland ride - all without standing on the pedals. It makes my backside sore just thinking of it. I'll bet one of the real advantages you will find on long rides is the relief from changing position from time to time. Good luck!

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  33. Wow, wild to read about. To get all that done while only in the saddle!
    I have thought every now and then what geometry is conducive to standing up and really cranking it out be it up hill or accelerating like crazy on the flat. Longer top tube / shorter top tube? I use a heavy messenger bag and my balance gets all over the place if I try to stand sometimes. As a result I think it has done well for my pedal stroke.
    I think some folks overdo it though. It's funny to see these guys / girls flailing themselves about all the way up the Manhattan Bridge with such fury and I come sailing past them not feeling like I am expending much energy at all. Definitely does work a different set of muscles or a different range on the same ones.

    I can't ride without the 3rd eye rear view mirror. Feel too naked without it. I hate turning around and drifting all over the place.

    Congratulations!

    vsk

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  34. I have a bad habit of torque pedaling and as a result I easily destroy square taper cranks if they happen to loosen even a bit. I'm currently tying to kick the habit and increase cadence while sitting down instead. :P (they don't make octalink or isis-splined BBs in french thread)

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    1. That's not a pedalling style issue, that's basic maintenance. The bolts will always loosen a bit after installation/reinstallation. 30-40 foot pounds on the bolt, check after first ride, check after each ride until it stays tight. If it keeps loosening, or keeps driving further onto the spindle you're mismatched or worn out. Once the crank is well seated check on it every thousand miles or so.

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  35. You haven't made a point of it, but one of the hidden subtexts of this blog has been your overcoming limitations of your body. And it has been a remarkable journey to watch, as you've progressed through every aspect of cycling, from frame construction to racing.

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  36. CONGRATULATIONS! It's always fun to pick up a new skill especially after working so hard for it.

    It's natural to me, always has been but I don't like it. It wasn't until a few years ago though that I learned how ot do it properly. Shift to a larger gear as soon as I stand. It cut down on the jerky rotation motion but still, it's rather a jerkish look for me. I usually just end up not pedaling and let my weight "push" the pedal down, shift weight to the other pedal and so it goes, back and forth until I get tired of the jerky movement and sit down, switch back to an easier gear and pedal away.

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  37. Good for you! New skills are always worthwhile in the tool box of life.

    If your gearing is right, standing up to pedal should be a very rare thing indeed. Since I've been using a Rohloff, I almost never leave the seat even while touring in VT and fully loaded in the Canadian Rockies.

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  38. Well done! SO pleased for you – it's what's been holding you back – there'll be no stopping you now! Suppose it just had to happen in its own time, but it must be awesome when it does!

    You'll learn that it's as much to do with technique as leg strength, particularly what gear you use – I suspect the mistake most folk make is to stand up in too high a gear – it should be about dancing on the pedals, not hauling on the bars.

    Try to work it so that your cadence is about the same when standing as it was when you were seated; for that to be the case you'll be a couple of gears higher on your cassette. Ultimately, I guess the longer you stand up without getting tired, the quicker you'll cover the ground, at least that's what I've found – it's like, I'm not consciously pushing harder, just standing up more, so I get there sooner. You'll learn intuitively when to do which over time.

    Funniest (or saddest!) thing is, you'll soon have no further use for your "frying pan" cassette – hate to tell you, but within weeks it will be consigned to the dustbin of Velourian history – what's known as an evolutionary dead end... Hold on to it, though – you're well on your way to being a legend, and some day it will be worth more than you paid for it! :)

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  39. O my gosh Anon 7:03am. I went nuts looking for octalink stuff for French projects (never mind SWISS!).

    I managed to build this Frankenbike with old stronglight 105 cranks on a really smooth stronglight bottom bkt, Shimano front shifter + Campy 9 spd shifters. Had to do some steam punk filling in of the chainwheel spaces so the chain doesn't fall between.

    vsk

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    1. Why?
      I know that francophiles are going to try to live with the obsolete French standards, despite the heartache&headache this brings. But why would anyone exacerbate the problem with something wretched, like Octalink or ISIS? Especially in this day and age, when French-threaded HollowtechII cups are easily sourced (albeit expensive)? I, for one, am so glad that the tiny bearings, annoying BB installation, and goofy competing "standards" of octalink/ISIS are almost entirely behind us.

      When I come across an old French bike, I sell or donate it quickly. But, if I were to keep one, I think I'd keep it square taper for all eternity. If I'm gonna bother with old French stuff, I'm gonna do it all the way.

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    2. Dude you don't know the heartache I put myself through when I get obsessed sometimes!! hahaha.
      I think I can use like, Campy Mirage cranks for square taper and narrow 9 speed spacing one day. The real pain is the Swiss threading (like French, which are available from Velo Orange etc) but the fixed cup is reversed like English. I get this teal blue/green Peugeot PX 50 for a 650B build up. I end up using a Phil Wood bb, the Swiss cups are easy to get. Stronglight 49D cranks and I am happy.

      I get this red Peugot frame w Reynolds 531 main tubes ... because it matched these Bluemels All Rounder red metallic fenders I had. Again, Swiss thread. However it had a square taper BB in it and I greased it up nice and it spins so smoothly. I had no idea about the hollowtech cups. Anyway, it's red and red anodized and that's what's important!! haha
      Very comfy, fits me well. Swiss thread, French cranks, Italian front der (I erred in my previous post), Ital 9 speed ergo shifters, English fenders, not French all the way but it's very ... European!

      vsk

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    3. Don't get me wrong; I like French bikes and French components. I even *respect* the weird French standards; I can see why they tried it, and I like that it's real metric stuff, with more 22.0mm stuff and less 22.2mm (converted from 7/8"). I just can't handle the frustration of sourcing stuff, so I stay away from Frenchies, no matter how hott they are..

      The HollowtechII cups I'm referring to are Phil HT2 compatible OBB cups. Shimano has abandoned the French/Swiss stuff ages ago; I'm not sure they ever made components to fit that stuff.

      Your red bike sounds awesome. Reasoning such as "...b/c it matched these Bluemels All-Rounder red metallic fenders..." totally makes sense to me. Enjoy it!

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  40. Good for you, getting past a mental (and possibly physical) block. Stand, sit, you'll be able to choose your poison. But sitting should always be more efficient as you don't have to gold your weight up. I generally find I can sprint faster sitting too.

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  41. As a result of an accident long ago I have no ACL in my right knee. Physical therapy rather than surgery has kept my knee stable. Before therapy I did fall down a few times. If I neglect the exercises that give me collateral strength in the knee I will begin to experience vertigo, disorientation, anxiety. All the same symptoms you report. This happens in specific but very ordinary postures. My body is telling me it is not well supported, that I am at risk of falling. I reprise my old exercises for a few days and I'm good for months. If work and winter and the exigencies of life keep me off the bike I must do the exercises much more often.

    All the riding you've done the past 4 years has built a lot of muscle in a lot of places you had none before. Muscles that are near neighbors to the set you want for pedalling standing. Enough so that you won't fall down. Enough so that your body doesn't send out the panic signals.

    You can't possibly have weak legs at this point. Just a few very specific absences. Once I broke a seatpost and had to pedal home standing for 40 miles. Barely made it. My legs flamed for a week in places I didn't know I had. Those are the places you will build strength now. You've done all the hard work, results should come quickly.

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  42. Greetings...

    I'm glad to see that I'm not the only bike related phobic. For me it was those pedestrian/bicycle bridges over busy roads. I noticed over the last year or two riding over them was really, really started to mess with my fear of heights. Enough so that I was starting avoid them altogether. Not only that but I started to fear going up unknown hills,well actually, not going up, but what I'd find at the top, so actually the downhill part. It turns this all correlates with when I went clipless...confirmation this last weekend...breakthrough!!!

    All's cool when I'm old school,
    L. J. Biklangelo Jones

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  43. Congratulations! You'll soon learn that by easing pressure of your hand on the handlebars while powering with the opposite leg you can control the sway of the bike. I like to know where in the sway my bike is so I lean back just a touch till I feel the seat horn brush the back of my leg. With practice you'll be able to control how much sway you want to use. A well done sway looks like a clock pendulum, smooth without being excessive. You're on your way! Long time reader, first time replier.

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  44. I had such a hard time learning to stand on a bike too!!! I took me a solid 3 months before I felt even somewhat comfortable. I still practice standing regularly - it's a different muscle set and balance. Way to keep trying until you got it :)

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  45. After four years of cycling one day I just did what you did - stand up to pedal up a hill, in misty rain, on an unfamiliar neighborhood hill. I switched to a lower gear, grabbed the handlebars tighter, stood up and let my weight come down on one pedal, then the other. I don't like doing it for long. And it does put more tension on the bottom bracket area of the bike. I'll always need a triple crank, however, because of my age and strength limitations but it's one more skill I can do.

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  46. For me a big part of overcoming this, and learning how to ride drop bars again as an adult, was getting stronger and more comfortable shifting more of my weight to my upper body. It feels a bit strange, and agressive, to ride this way at first. And, my arms and shoulders killed for a couple of weeks, but learning to ride with my entire body was great. The definition in my triceps was just an added bonus.

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    1. This is an extreme version of this, but you can see how hard his arms and upper body are working (and how far over the bars he is). In this riding posture, you naturally come out of the seat. I'm not sure why--but this is much harder for women--including myself--to do. Fear? Weaker upper bodies? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GregLeMond.1989_Tour_de_France_st_21.TT-crop_(2).jpg

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    2. I don't know about fear, but as far as bodies - Our center of gravity is in the hips/derriere, which could make it more difficult to hoist our butts off the saddle.

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    3. That's an extreme position Greg has, but he could do it because he was the strongest in the world.

      It IS easier to naturally rotate to a standing position, but mostly it's about how strong you are and how much you weigh.

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    4. He's only rolling to the starthouse. Stretching a little.

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    5. http://www.flickr.com/photos/8729526@N02/6978480409/

      Sue Novara, standing. Grainy but good. In those years she often raced the men.

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    6. That pic also leads me to believe that off seat position has more to do with body rotation and upper body strength than leg strength

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    7. Core, legs, hips, glutes.

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    8. Yep, core. Note that by this point in his career Greg has no waist. Like a tree trunk. Not a speck of fat on him, no waist.

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  47. I took a spinning class in 2011 or so (after I'd returned to my mountain bike, and then abandoned it again for a while) and *really* struggled with the standing, but it makes some of the hills on my work commute do-able (and bearable). When it simply is the best option, it does feel significantly more natural, though I've also found that lifting my tush off the saddle when I encounter massive potholes or grates is also much nicer than sitting through them.

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  48. Standing takes upper body strength too. Hit the rowing machine at the gym. It was a game changer for me.

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  49. All animals have natural gaits and it helps to look at standing on the pedals in this light. If the body weight is mostly above the pedal the cadence will be relatively slow, perhaps around 50 rpm. To increase the cadence while maintaning a fluid movement one has some options: pull up with the rising leg while putting our weight on the downward leg; lean more over the handlebars; or increase the downward force by pulling on the handlebars. These actions in practice are not entirely independent, and all help to change the ratio of (free) body weight to pedalling force, thus altering the gait.
    It seems that body morphology indeed affects individual technique. It has been observed that Chris Horner, the controversial winner of this year's Vuelta and a supremely efficient practitioner of the standing climb, has a childlike body with very narrow hips. Good 'danceuse' seem to have a low Q-factor, so to speak.

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