A couple of years ago Jenny and I were in our LBS getting a bike fit for our new bikes. The technician doing the bike fit mentioned that women typically don’t ever stand and pedal while they ride. I thought, no way, everyone stands and pedals it’s just part of riding a bike. Or is it? Over the years I’ve tried to watch for this and for the most part he was right! Women don’t stand and pedal even up tough hills. What’s up with this?
Last summer this theory was proven again as I watched the Olympic mountain bike races (on Canadian TV of course). The first night I watched the event was the women’s race. I noticed that all of them stayed in their saddles and ground up the steep switchbacks even as they passed each other. Very rarely did they get out of their seats and pedal.
The next night I watched the men’s mountain bike race on the exact same course and all of them were standing and pounding on their pedals up the same steep switchbacks. Of course there are men who only stay in the saddle and women who stand and pedal but for the most part this theory holds true.
So why the difference? If bikes had been around in Socrates time I’m sure he would have contemplated this situation at length and come up with a theory. Well, here are my theories.
When I stand and pedal these days it’s because I’m running out of patience with sitting and grinding up a hill. My theory with hills is to sit and grind up hills until I just can’t stand it any longer then stand and mash pedals the rest of the way. It burns a lot of energy but it gets the whole climbing experience over with. A lot of the time I stand and pedal because I just don’t have the patience for sitting and spinning. I think women have a lot more patience for this.
Center of gravity
If you haven’t noticed men and women are built different. OK, I really hope you’ve noticed. Because of this their center of gravity is different. Could that make it more uncomfortable for women to stand and pedal? This is probably a weak theory but hey it could happen.
Boys grew up standing and pedaling
As a kid as soon as I learned how to ride a bike and had a little confidence I had one goal in mind. How far can I jump my bike and what kind of ramps can I build out of scrap wood in the backyard to jump my bike farther. Back then it wasn’t about riding distance but jumping distance. When you jump a bike you certainly don’t stay in your seat, at least not more than once if you know what I mean. Also, most boys grow up riding BMX bikes which are very small and don’t really lend themselves to sitting and pedaling. They scream to their riders “stand up and pedal so we can go fast”. Riding wheelies was also a right of passage as a boy. If you couldn’t ride a wheelie you just weren’t cool. You have to do this standing. Therefore, standing and pedaling quickly becomes a very natural thing for a boy who is looking to jump over anything and everything and ride wheelies in their neighborhood.
On the other hand Jenny can count the number of times she jumped her bike as a kid on, well..... no fingers. She can’t remember ever jumping her bike. The only time she ever remembers standing up and pedaling was when she had a friend on the back of her bike and they needed to get up a hill which probably wasn’t a very common occurrence.
The next time you are out on a group ride check this out. I think you’ll be surprised at what you see.
I’m sure there are tons of other theories out there and you probably have a great one of your own or maybe you totally disagree with me. If you’re brave enough to share your opinion I’d love to hear it
By the way, have a great weekend.