What Does it Feel Like?

I was enjoying a nice ride around the neighborhood with my wife last weekend. We had gone over to the Veloway and were headed home. I would continue on for another 12 miles or so.

We turned off the main drag onto a residential street with a small hill. I stood on the pedals to get a little more oomph and crested the hill easily. She followed, a bit winded.

“What does it feel like?” she asked.

“What does what feel like?”

“When you stand on the pedals. What does it feel like?”

That caught me by surprise. I wasn’t sure what to say. It made me think about a simple bicycling act I do innumerable times on each ride.

“Well, you feel more power to the pedals,” I answered. “You get up to speed faster.”

“I just did it a little bit, and it felt funny,” she said.

Now, Pat has been riding for about five years. She gets out several times a week, and has done some organized rides, including two 50-milers. In fact, she started riding before I did. When I saw that she could ride 50 miles, I figured I could, too, and that started me in biking.

But she once told me she wouldn’t stand on the pedals. She was afraid it would make her lose her balance. So even when she struggles up hills, she does it seated.

“How do you mean, funny?” I asked.

“It’s like, I have trouble pulling up on the pedal,” she said.

“Oh. Well, when you stand, you don’t pull up on the pedals. You get your power by pushing down.”

“Yeah, but that feels jerky. I push down, but then I have trouble pulling up.”

“No, you don’t pull up,” I said. She was really making me think here. “Let’s say you push down on the right pedal. Once you get to the bottom, then you push down on the left pedal. Don’t worry about pulling up.”

I should have mentioned that that’s why it’s called mashing.

That exchange did me good. It made me think about a simple part of cycling. By forcing me to explain that simple act clearly, it helped me crystalize my thoughts on the matter. Better yet, it indicated that Pat is thinking about getting better on the bike. The weather around here is starting to moderate with the onset of fall. Maybe over the next few weeks, she’ll be tackling hills with me — standing on the pedals.


  1. says

    Interesting. Your wife’s technique needn’t be wrong. It can sometimes be useful to use a different technique when standing up, presuming you’ve got clips or cleats or straps that let you pull:

    – the pedal that’s on its downward stroke: just stand on it and let gravity acting on your body do most of the work of creating the downward force.

    – the other pedal, that has to go up: Use you hamstring and bum muscles to pull this pedal up.

    This is can be really useful if you’re on a long, steep hill, and have run out of gears. Alternate between sitting down and pushing and standing up and pulling. When your sitting, you’re using your quads to push, then when they start to get tired, you use the hamstrings and bum to pull until they tire and go back to sitting and using your (hopefully slightly recovered) quads.

    For situations where you have energy to spare, it can be useful to *both* push the downward pedal *and* pull the upward pedal, of course.

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