Stand-up Bikes

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The one I own

Cyclete

Advantages of stand-up bikes

  • No seat, back, or neck pain from a seated posture.
  • Better visibility, both seeing and being seen. Standing tall gives the rider much more visual information, which is more important when on non-motorized vehicles that cannot take a full lane.
  • Likely safer in traffic because people will not be used to seeing such a vehicle and therefore will pay attention to you, as opposed to normal bikes which are more commonplace and therefore easier for drivers to ignore and miss due to adaptation effects (our brains our programmed to respond to new stimuli to a greater degree than things to which we are already accustomed). Recumbents and velomobiles have a similar advantage, but they don’t have the visibility advantages (and are in fact worse than normal bikes on the visibility front). Stand-up bikes are the only thing to have both good visibility and the positive “strangeness” effect.
  • Can more comfortably peddle out of saddle over rough terrain for extended periods of time than a sitting bike due to an upright position (rather than a squatted-over position), and due to having weight on your (much stronger) legs rather than weight on your wrists.
  • Same deal for climbing for extended periods of time out of the saddle.
  • Easier to bail in emergency situations due to the lower frame positioning (your legs don’t straddle the frame as much, so you can’t get caught up in it as easily), and therefore safer.
  • Easier to get on and off due to the lower frame positioning, and therefore more convenient.
  • More airflow due to the more upright position leads to better ventilation during exercise. It also leads to more susceptibility to bad weather etc., but this can be fixed by wearing appropriate clothing, while the better ventilation cannot be had in any way on a normal bike.
  • Stand-up bikes give a more balanced workout because the upright position utilizes core muscles and some arm muscles as well as leg muscles. Imbalances and muscle isolation are almost always a bad thing in training. Additionally, any pedal stroke while standing uses many more leg muscles than the sitting stroke. (Some of the standing running motions are far better in this regard than others: the Cyclete is probably best, then the long-stride ElliptiGo’s like the 11R).
  • More fun due to the extra height. More like a feeling of flying since you’re so high up (the height of sitting bikes is not much different from one’s normal eye level). Fun is actually a quantitative factor since enjoyment can reduce stress levels and have other positive psychological benefits.
  • No top tube and seat post means the frame will be inherently lighter than an equivalent sitting bike frame. Recumbents will be even heavier due to having a much bigger seat, longer frame, and longer chain. The lower weight could hypothetically help in such things as jumping and throwing the bike around on more technical terrain.
    • Weight always comes down to individual designs (big tires increase weight substantially e.g., as on the Cyclete). But it is true that a stand-up bike frame for a bike with given dimensions will always be lighter than a sitting-bike equivalent made out of the same material.
  • Can always bunny-hop without fear of coming down on a seat uncomfortably. You typically would not have good enough reaction time to drop the seatpost (even with a fast switch-actuated dropper post) on a normal bike once at speed. Well, at least most of us non-pro mortals would not.
  • Have far more “travel” in leg suspension since you can squat more than with a raised seatpost, or even a dropped post (the top part of the bike frame still limiting motion).
  • Have greater flexibility in how your weight can be shifted above the frame (including, e.g., side to side, front to back, hanging off sideways), since you have no frame components that get in the way, even when near a full squat.
  • Can more efficiently walk the bike in a tight crowd since you do not have to straddle a seat or taller frame as much. It is still awkward, but not as awkward.
  • Being a strange and somewhat exotic design (especially the not having a seat bit) will make the bike less of a theft target.
  • Hypothetically, the fact that the frame is simpler (less welds) and may also use less material (depending on overall length) means that it should end up being cheaper than normal bicycle frames or recumbent frames, given similar materials and production volumes.
    • But low production volumes for stand-up bikes mean that this potential benefit probably won’t ever be realized in practice, unfortunately.
  • Elite stand-up cyclists can still get a good workout with more casual normal cyclists due to the aerodynamic considerations. Cf. Idai Makaya on the ElliptiGo. Since there are more casual-ish cycling clubs than elite cycling clubs, this means if you want to get social in riding, stand-up bikes would let you do so while still maintaining an elite level of fitness.
    • The same thing would apply when riding with a spouse with a less elite fitness level: they could ride a road bike or whatever, while you could be on a more effortful stand-up bike. Both people could get a good workout together, which would not otherwise be possible.

Disadvantages of stand-up bikes

  • Low production volumes (poor economies of scale) mean that stand-up bikes are expensive. Like really expensive.
  • The long wheelbases make getting stand-up bikes through doors and so on rather difficult. I live in an apartment without a garage so bring my stand-up bike inside, and it’s somewhat of a pain to get it through the door and entryway without bumping the doorframe and walls.
  • Some kinds of stand-up bike designs (like the Cyclete) cannot have rear suspension. This makes certain kinds of gnarly trails unworkable. But most XC trails work just fine on a hardtail, and the lack of rear suspension is somewhat mitigated by the fact that you are always standing (so have no unpleasant shocks going straight into your sit-bones), and have your legs as suspension.
  • Large platform pedals with an axle in the middle of the platforms (e.g., the ElliptiGO MSUB) or dedicated running gear (as with the Cyclete) mean that the wheels on stand-up bikes cannot be as close together, making the wheelbase longer. (On the extreme end, look at the long-stride ElliptiGo’s like the 11R). While this is typically advantageous (better stability), it does reduce maneuverability, and this can be disadvantageous on some kinds of trails, to the point that some kinds of trails may be unworkable (at least if you take them at higher speeds). Some corners may just be too tight.
  • Running gear sticks out more/is generally bigger and more unwieldy than normal pedals on mountain bikes, and likewise the running gear is much closer to the ground than the pedals on mountain bikes with high bottom brackets. This makes trails with high rock gardens and big drops unworkable.
  • A more upright position is more susceptible to wind. Headwinds are more damaging, but you also get more benefit from tailwinds.
  • More wind resistance leads to slower speeds (worse for matching faster traffic more closely – which is safer – if you don’t have electric assistance) and more energy expended to travel the same distance at the same speed (which is usually an advantage in terms of fitness, but can be a disadvantage depending upon your circumstances).