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  1. #1
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    Drops vs Hoods: When to ride each?

    I am a road bike newbie so this may be a question with an obvious answer but I'm embracing my ignorance. When should I be riding in the drops and when should I be on the hoods?

  2. #2
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    Up to you.

    The "normal" way to do it lately is to ride the hoods most of the time, and get in the drops for sprinting and descending. Ideally, the handlebars are positioned so that the hoods are the most comfortable place to ride for an extended period. Some riders put their handlebars higher, and ride in the drops much more of the time, and some riders could cut their drops off and not miss them.

  3. #3
    A wheelist
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    Ride on the hoods. If you need to be lower and more aerodynamic, just bend the elbows so the forearms are horizontal - that's more aero than forearms pointing down at the drops.
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  4. #4
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    Switch positions every so often to relieve strain, pressure and stiffness on any one area and also helps blood flow.

    Also depends on the training for me. I will spend more time on the drops during hard training than I do at this time of year.

    It is up to you in the end.

  5. #5
    wim
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    Some thoughts.

    As said, the hoods are the place where most riders, including pros, spend most of their time nowadays. If in the right place, they offer a good blend of comfort and aerodynamics.

    But assuming that you're a little more aerodynamic on the drops than on the hoods, ride on the drops to eke out that last bit of speed. when riding by yourself (not drafting) at the limits of your strength. An example would be during a time trial, or when trying to reach a group ahead of you and not making as much progress on the hoods as you need to make.

    As Mike T. implied, there are riders who ride on the hoods all the time. Some of these riders found that they can actually generate more power on the hoods than they can on the drops. Generally, that's because they're simply not used to riding on the drops, and their body says WTF? when they do so on rare occasions. The drops can be a powerful position for some riders, but you've got to ride the drops a lot for that power to become a reality. But there is a limit: excessive upper body inclination robs power.

  6. #6
    A wheelist
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    I've spent a ton of time (and lots of money) working on my position with a Physiotherapist this year. We've done video taping and still photos of me on rollers in my old position and my new position.

    Now, with my forearms parallel to the ground and holding the hoods, I'm as low as I can go without my thighs bumping my lower rib cage and upsetting breathing. Moving my hands to the drops only does one thing - makes me less aero as my forearms are more vertical. I can't get any lower on the drops.

    To stretch out to the ultimate, I move my hands forward on the hoods so that a couple of fingers are ahead of the levers and the pointy part of the hood is in the middle of my palm and I rotate my pelvis forward This position really isn't any different to the tri-bar position except that my elbows aren't close together. It's the ultimate Roadie aero position without riding and gripping my STI cables. I use a 140mm stem and a 55.5cm top tube and I'm just 5' 8" tall.

    If, on the hoods, I straighten my arms, I'm in a normal, general purpose "upright" cruising position. It feels weird to be this high! If I sprinted, I'd hold onto the drops as I'd be lower out of the saddle but I don't sprint anymore. My bar tape on the drops is like brand new.

    All this took a lot of effort, plus much core strengthening and position and strength adaption drills on the bike. I read much about Chris Boardman's techniques for adapting to his low time trial and world hour record positions. You and I have mentioned this before.

    I'm a month shy of 63 and am more flexible and have a stronger core than at any time in my past 48 years of cycling. We all should find what works best for us but we don't have to follow total tradition because we might be missing out on something special.
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  7. #7
    wim
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    Good post, Mike T! Among other things, it illustrates how riders find different ways to reach a goal. Since I'm on a 1970s-bend handlebar and downtube shifters, my old-timey narrow hoods are so far down the bar that their location could be described as half-way between the tops and the drops. And because my hands are up and down the bar constantly during a ride, this works well for me. But I suspect that's more because of habituation than anything else. Never had a fitting or evaluation done, other than some person in authority saying things like "you need to get a little smoother at higher cadences" during a ride.

  8. #8
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    Safety First

    Quote Originally Posted by anotherguy
    When should I be riding in the drops and when should I be on the hoods?
    There are times when I consiously go to the drops:

    Sketchy Cornering - when cornering hard or in sketchy corners/pavement the drops offer a lower center of gravity and more control. It also makes countersteering more intuitive.

    Sketchy Riders - when I am around other riders I do not know or trust. Oddly enough this occurs more often on tours than in races. Being in the drops protects your bars from other riders taking you out or worse yet, sliding their bars inside your bars. The drops also allow you to use your elbows to create some personal space or resist someone from pushing you off your line. I spent a lot of time in the drops when riding RAGBRAI. Note - this suggestion is not about agressive riding but about staying safe.

    Hard Braking - times when I anticipate the potential for grabbing a big handful of brakes. Being in the drops keeps your center of gravity lower and helps avoid an endo if the front wheel locks up. This could be descending fast, city traffic, sketchy packs of riders.

    Finally I will ride in the drops sometimes just to get a different hand position. Switching hand positions throughout the ride helps keep you comfortable.
    Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

  9. #9
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    When you're going fast enough down a hill that you start thinking your within reach of the edge that's a good time to be in the drops because you'll have better control.

    Beyond that and sprinting, whenever you feel you need to cut the wind more. And if you find this is quite often, that's probably a sign your hoods should be lower.

  10. #10
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    I go to the drops mostly when there is a strong head wind and when I am going downhill. That's pretty much it though. I feel like I have less balance/control in the drops - that'll probably imrpove over time, no reason to push it.
    I ride mostly in the honorable pursuit of being kissed on both cheeks at the same time by one blond and one brunette. But not redheads, they scare me.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BostonG
    I go to the drops mostly when there is a strong head wind and when I am going downhill. That's pretty much it though. I feel like I have less balance/control in the drops - that'll probably imrpove over time, no reason to push it.
    That should improve with practice. I have my best balance and control in the drops. Solid grip, maximum abillity to control weight distribution, most secure braking -- everything that affects handling is better in the drops. That's why I'm generally there on those 40-mph descents.

    To the OP: everybody's different, as you've heard here. Some people are in the drops 50% of the time, and some not 5%. Find what works for you.

  12. #12
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    Aero position

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    Now, with my forearms parallel to the ground and holding the hoods, I'm as low as I can go without my thighs bumping my lower rib cage and upsetting breathing. Moving my hands to the drops only does one thing - makes me less aero as my forearms are more vertical. I can't get any lower on the drops.
    I agree with this, and this is the position in which I time trial.

    However, I find it more comfortable in the drops, and ride there probably 90% of the time. I get a bit more support from my arms when they are not bent so much at the elbows. To each his own.

  13. #13
    A wheelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    To each his own.
    That's for sure. I'll bet I haven't done 5 miles on the drops in 40 years. On the other hand, I ride the indoor track weekly and it's ALL on the drops there. Well most of it anyway. But if I felt like shelling out $400 for a set of bars I'd have some of these Cameron Meyer 3T bars in a heartbeat. He recently lapped the field 3x solo in the Commonwealth Games on them -
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Drops vs Hoods: When to ride each?-meyer.jpg  
    Attached Images Attached Images  
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  14. #14
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    I get a bit more support from my arms when they are not bent so much at the elbows. To each his own.
    Interesting. In an old (1950s) German road-racing training tome I just dug out, there's the statement that (my translation) "...the tired rider often finds a few minutes of needed rest and comfort in the drops while locking his elbows. Because bike handling is somewhat compromised, this is only recommended to those riders who have the requisite bike handling skills and experience."

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia
    That should improve with practice. I have my best balance and control in the drops. Solid grip, maximum abillity to control weight distribution, most secure braking -- everything that affects handling is better in the drops. That's why I'm generally there on those 40-mph descents.

    To the OP: everybody's different, as you've heard here. Some people are in the drops 50% of the time, and some not 5%. Find what works for you.
    Whether real or imagined, the bolded statement describes me as well. I never feel as 'in control' or confident as I am in the drops. On the hoods is for occasional use when cruising, but 90% of the time, I'm in the drops.

    As has been noted, YMMV.

  16. #16
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    Now that we're talking about different designs of handlebar...

    I have a set of these on my nicer road bike.



    They have a shallower drop, which means the positions are more similar to each other. I've never been able to get a set of traditional bend handlebars to be comfortable for me in the hoods and work well for me in the drops, and the ergo bend 'bars that those replaced were just impossible. The compact bend, which has a few other names in other brands, works much better for me.

  17. #17
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keeping up with Junior
    The compromised bike handing is the result of the locked elbows not the hands in the drops.
    Yes, of course. The sentence is out of context, so it might have implied something to you it shouldn't have. It's from a passage about finding some rest on the bike by locking your arms, i.e., shifting from muscular support to skeletal support of the upper body for a minute or so. You often see tired riders do this, but they're not doing it consciously.

  18. #18
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    Lock and Load

    Quote Originally Posted by wim
    Interesting. In an old (1950s) German road-racing training tome I just dug out, there's the statement that (my translation) "...the tired rider often finds a few minutes of needed rest and comfort in the drops while locking his elbows. Because bike handling is somewhat compromised, this is only recommended to those riders who have the requisite bike handling skills and experience."
    The compromised bike handing is the result of the locked elbows not the hands in the drops.
    Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

  19. #19
    The Slow One.
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    I ride on the hoods 95% of the time- even in races (until sprints). While I am comfortable in the drops and can ride there for extended periods of time, I just prefer riding on the hoods and adjusting my elbows to raise and lower my body position. I have large palms and long fingers, so I don't feel like riding on the hood compromises handling, shifting, or braking. YMMV.

  20. #20
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    The key to the lock

    Quote Originally Posted by wim
    Interesting. In an old (1950s) German road-racing training tome I just dug out, there's the statement that (my translation) "...the tired rider often finds a few minutes of needed rest and comfort in the drops while locking his elbows. Because bike handling is somewhat compromised, this is only recommended to those riders who have the requisite bike handling skills and experience."
    I don't ride with locked arms, and when I see someone who's doing it I give them more space because I know their bike handling will suffer. I just find that if my elbows are bent 20 degrees (riding in the drops) it's a bit easier on my arms than if they're bent 70 degrees (riding in a good aero position on the hoods).

  21. #21
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    I don't ride with locked arms, and when I see someone who's doing it I give them more space because I know their bike handling will suffer.
    Sure, Kerry. You have to consider the venerable Teutonic advice I posted similar to someone telling you to uncleat from one of your pedals, grab your shoe and pull it up to your buttock to get rid of a cramp. Not something you'd do as a matter of course in a tight pack, but a useful bit of knowledge should the occasion arise.

  22. #22
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    I think it's a bit of a correlation vs. causation thing.

    Most people who ride with locked arms also don't know what they're doing. IMHO. While the locked arms may not help, the person was already a bad bike handler.

  23. #23
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    I can ride for long periods of time in the drops & be very comfortable. I'm more likely to be in the drops when going into the wind, taking a pull, or sprinting for a town sign. Overall I'd guess that I ride 70% of the time on the hoods-30% in the drops. I like to vary my hand/arm position to avoid fatigue, especially on long rides.
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  24. #24
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    I ride in the drops alot. I also run a Salsa Woodchipper bar on the road. They work well for me.
    My point? Everyone is different. Do what works for you.

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