How to Prevent a Loss of Momentum When Climbing

A kickback (in cycling lingo) is when someone moves from the seated position to standing and the result is a pause in forward momentum. A kickback is more noticeable when a cyclist is climbing a hill or going for the sprint in a race.

The problem with a kickback is that it can cause a crash. The person that created the kickback is not likely the person that will go down—it's the rider behind that will usually end up on the pavement. And this isn't just a problem with amateur cyclists either; professional cyclists can be just as prone.

More: 3 Shifting Tips for Rookie Cyclists

Example of a Kickback

Recently, while watching a replay of a crash in a road race, I saw a rider rise up out of the saddle. His bike seemed to move backwards just before he bumped into the front wheel of the cyclist following, causing a major pileup. Now, his bike didn't actually go backwards, it just seemed that way. The rider's sudden lack of acceleration caused a lag in his pedal stroke. This lag slowed the bike for just a brief moment, while the riders close behind were caught off guard by the change in speed.

How to Correct the Loss of Momentum

When a cyclists stands up, more power and weight is placed on the pedals, which can cause the chain to skip. In turn, this causes your bike to lose momentum.

More: 4 Tips for Cycling Uphill

One way to correct the problem is to move the chain down two cogs on the rear cassette prior to standing. Adjust the gears to put more pressure on the chain, which will provide a smoother, lag-free cadence. In other words, your bike will not slow. This is an easy fix—just remember to shift to a harder gear before you stand.

The other common cause of a kickback occurs from a problem in positioning. When a cyclist is stopped at a stop sign or a red light, weight is often shifted toward the back of the bike before pushing down on the pedals. This rolling kickback is a nasty habit that most cyclists don't realize is occurring.

The fix is to keep the weight of the body in the middle of the frame when standing instead of shifting weight to the back of the frame. If you are riding with someone and you see this happen, mention it. You can't fix a problem until you know it exists!

More: Why Fast Pedaling Makes Cyclists More Efficient

Practice

  • Warm up for 20 minutes. Pick out a rolling hill or even a mailbox off in the distance. Spin between 70 to 90 rpm. Shift gears down 1 to 2 cogs, then jump out of the saddle, holding your cadence without a lag for 20 seconds. This drill will not only teach you to shift prior to standing but it will also help with your sprinting and climbing. Do 5 to 10 jumps, with one-minute recovery between each jump.
  • For a rolling kickback (like at a stop sign) practice rolling very slowly to a line on a flat road. Release your brakes and stand up. Think about the placement of your hips—you should feel the nose of the saddle touching the back of your legs as you stand. Do not shift your weight. Spin for 15 seconds out of the saddle, then spin for 15 seconds seated. Do not sprint on this drill. The purpose of this drill is to correct your body positioning when standing. Complete 5 to 10 efforts, then ride normal for about 30 minutes before repeating the drill again.

More: 3 Drills to Improve Cycling Efficiency and Pedal Cadence

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About the Author

Lori Walker

Lori Walker is a full time USA Cycling Level 2 coach. She has been involved in cycling for over 20 years and is an avid racer and race organizer. Lori currently coaches at the Dick Lane Velodrome in Atlanta, Georgia, working with racers competing at junior, collegiate and Master's age group championships.

Lori Walker is a full time USA Cycling Level 2 coach. She has been involved in cycling for over 20 years and is an avid racer and race organizer. Lori currently coaches at the Dick Lane Velodrome in Atlanta, Georgia, working with racers competing at junior, collegiate and Master's age group championships.

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