Helping a rider pedal out of the saddle


I am looking to get some information on how to teach a child a certain skill. I have one rider on the team who is really hesitant to stand up on the bike and pedal whether it is climbing or just trying to go faster. They can stand up and coast but they are not fluid when trying to pedal when standing, so this makes them not want to do it. I have discussed it with some of the more seasoned riders I know and they are at a loss because it was a skill they learned early in life and have never came across this situation when teaching younger riders. The rider is a younger teenager so they have been riding a while and just doesn’t like to stand.

Any help would be great.

Wisconsin high school mountain bike league

Hey Doug,

I see this issue all the time, with both kids and adults.

In this case I’ll assume the rider is a girl, because the national high school mountain bike movement has lots of girls — which is awesome! Some day my girls will be shredding in the Colorado league.

Try these things:


The gear should be just right: not too easy or too hard.

What does that mean? The rider should be able to stand on the pedal but not strain against the gear. About one revolution per second (60 rpm) is a good starting cadence.

On an uphill, try a 1:1 ratio. That would be the 36-tooth ring up front and the 36-tooth cog in back (big-big if she has a 2×10 drivetrain). If that’s too easy, add one gear at a time until you find the sweet spot.


Almost every rider on this planet is too far forward or backward when he or she pedals out of the saddle.

If your rider is forward, her arms have to support her weight, which creates tension. If she’s back, she’s hanging against her arms, which also creates tension.

Focus on heavy feet and light hands, just like always.


Based on my work with thousands of riders of all levels, I can almost guarantee your rider’s waist and arms are very bent, and she’s hunched over on the bike. This saps strength.

Have her stand as tall as she can, while keeping her arms as straight as possible (and while keeping her hands light). This take some core strength, but it greatly improves comfort, power and confidence.

I’m showing decent form during coach training in NorCal, but I should be looking farther forward.


In my opinion, most riders, especially kids, have stems that are way too long for effective riding.

If your rider has perfect balance and posture, but her arms are very bent, shorten her stem. This is cheap and easy.

Climbing a steep rock face in Arizona. When I borrowed this beautiful Pivot Mach 5.7, I put on my own 50mm stem.


Start on a mellow, paved climb without traffic. Pedal five revolutions sitting, then five standing. Repeat. Stop before your rider gets tired or frustrated.

Gradually increase the amount of time she can stand comfortably. Five strokes, 10, 15 and so on.

Once that feels good:

• Try different gears and cadences. Encourage her to spin quickly and smoothly. Be careful with young knees; avoid hard gears.

• Try different steepnesses. Practice sprinting on flat ground. Learn to climb steeper pitches. Build up gradually. With skill and success comes confidence.

• Practice on dirt and other slippery surfaces. Always focus on balance. If the rear tire skids, she’s too far forward.

• Add bumps. Small and smooth at first, then — ultimately — she’ll be shredding the rocks in Moab!

Have fun, take this one small step at a time and please keep me posted. If you send video I can help more.


A steep climb with a tight turn is a double challenge. The famous Slickrock Trail in Moab, UT.

Know more. Have more fun!

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