Normal position vs drop bar position
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  1. #1
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    Normal position vs drop bar position

    Has anyone experimented with the average speed difference if you stay on the hood for the whole trip vs if you stay on the drop bar for the whole trip over a short distance where discomfort is not an issue (eg 10-15 miles)?

    I am trying to see the net result of the dropbar position: advantage gained by the effect of the aerodynamic position vs disadvantage in power output over a trip with average flatness but taking discomfort out of the equation.

  2. #2
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    Drops are aerodynamically going to be more efficient...that's a given. But, comfort is a factor in power output over a span of time. Ride in the drops for a couple hours and you'll be putting out less power than you might if you spent the whole time in the hoods. That's why we ride bars with multiple positions.

    That said...if you have a power meter, ride the same stretch of road at the same speed several times in the drops and on the hoods. You'll see the difference in output.

  3. #3
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    I'll try and find it but IIRC a study was done on this and found on the hoods to be more aero than in the drops.

    FWIW with the exception of where my hands are placed my position while on hoods v. drops is nearly identical when trying to be aero and pushing a bit of power (for me).

  4. #4
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    In the drops is the normal position. On the hoods is a nice place to rest while warming up, cooling down, or eating and drinking, or a brief change of pace.

    If you can't ride indefinitely in the drops as a matter of comfort, your bike does not fit correctly.

    I may exaggerate a little, but only a little.

    For me, it's generally worth about a gear. Call it 10% or so, probably a bit less.
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  5. #5
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    The other day it was about 4 mph from hoods vs. drops into a 15-20 mph headwind. It was a 7 mile stretch. I find myself in the drops most often too. I think because I ride alone mostly. When I ride with my wife, I ride in the hoods because it's more casual with a lot of chatting.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by danl1 View Post
    In the drops is the normal position. On the hoods is a nice place to rest while warming up, cooling down, or eating and drinking, or a brief change of pace.

    If you can't ride indefinitely in the drops as a matter of comfort, your bike does not fit correctly.

    I may exaggerate a little, but only a little.

    For me, it's generally worth about a gear. Call it 10% or so, probably a bit less.
    There is no normal position. Drop bars are utilized largely because of the variety of positions they provide. One reason, among others, for having a variety of positions is to allow riders options so they do not have to ride indefinitely in one position. Moreover, "on the hoods" is much more than an afterthought position. Many riders, from beginner to professional, utilize the hood position for a significant percentage of their ride/race time. Many use the hoods more than the drops.

    As to the original question, I have no comment.

  7. #7
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    Oh! Your speed is 4mph faster on the drops? That's a lot of difference. I guess the headwind makes a greater difference. Wonder how much that translates to average speed.

  8. #8
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    It all depends on how you position yourself in those positions. Riding with bent arms (something close to your elbow joint being at a right angle and forearms parallel to the ground) gives you a very aero position with flat back. It doesn't make much difference whether you are on the hoods or drops. But if you don't assume that and keep your arms almost straight, the drops will be more aero just because you are lower.

  9. #9
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    The hoods are faster. Think about it. The most efficient position is the aero-bar position with forearms parallel to the ground. To duplicate this the best we can with normal bars we make the forearms horizontal when we're in our lowest position (thighs hitting lower rib cage - you can't get any lower in a "road" position).

    Riding on the drops makes our forearms more vertical (and less aero). It's fine for sprints where you are out of the saddle and you need your maximum pulling force as close to the center of the body as possible (think "power cleans" in weight lifting).

    So lower that stem until the forearms are parallel and you're as low as you can go. Try this - get as low as you can on the hoods (bend zee elbowz!) and now switch to the drops. Can you go lower? Thought not.
    Last edited by Mike T.; 11-24-2012 at 03:43 AM. Reason: Spelling correction!
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  10. #10
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    So sounds like if I am setup correctly there is no need ever to go to the drops at all for aerodynamics? Sounds exciting!

    Currently my stem is at the highest possible position so I have a lot of room for adjustment. If I bend low then my arms will be quite high and in a unnatural position.

    I have 2 options:
    1. Keep stem high and go to the drops occasionally. I am never too confident in this but it is good to add to my repertoire of skills.
    2. Adjust stem lower and stay on the hoods forever.

  11. #11
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    A lot depends on the wind and how fast you are going.

    If you ride at say, 14 mph, without a head wind changes in the aero position of your body don't make much difference. But if you're riding at 20 plus and/or into a headwind, better aero even at the expense of some power (to a certain point) starts to make sense.

  12. #12
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    The largest component of frontal area on the bike is generally going to be the rider's torso and head. The more horizontal the torso and in-line with the head, the less the frontal area. Positioning of the arms is secondary to this. As a very rough estimate, consider the torso to be 40 cm wide. By lowering the shoulders 10 cm, the frontal area is decreased by 10x40=400 cm^2. That's roughly equivalent to the frontal area of a bike.

    Certainly there is more to aerodynamics than frontal area, but it is one key factor. Not only does lowering the torso reduce frontal area, it also increases streamlining, so it actually has a greater effect than decrease in frontal area alone. Positing the arms in front of the torso and in a horizontal position add further. Rider position on the bike can have a much larger effect than the difference between a road and aero frames and wheels.
    ... 'cuz that's how I roll.

  13. #13
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    Take this data for what it it worth, but it is similar in relative #'s to other studies I have seen. The drops are going to be 8-12% faster. The simple fact that your head is going to be lower when you are in the drops is going to make a big difference.


    ww.cyclingpowermodels.com/CyclingAerodynamics.aspx you will need to add w to the front since I apparently can't post links.

  14. #14
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    When I first built my road bike, I rode on the hoods almost exclusively, because the drops made me feel uneasy. After about a month, I finally tried the drops more, and one day it just clicked. I noticed my average speed went up 1-1.5mph over an average ride, and unlike some people, I felt perfectly comfortable in that position long-term. I now spend probably 98% of every ride--20mi or 120mi, doesn't matter--in the drops. The position has also made a huge difference in the amount of power I can put down on hill climbs and sprints.

    Seriously, to each his own, just like picking out pedals and saddles, or what cadence you like to maintain. Experiment and see what works best for you; don't just rely on other peoples' advice (including mine).

  15. #15
    Yea that's right.
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    I'd also say it's worth about a gear on a smooth flat road, all other things being equal.

    I'd also say that for only a 10/15 mile stretch , heck yeah you "should" be able to keep hammering in the drops.

    I just don't think that many people really spend much time there , it takes work and conditioning. It's apparently much easier to just buy a new set of wheels or something and call it faster.


  16. #16
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    I personally find the drops most useful in gusty cross winds. I don't get blown around nearly as much.

  17. #17
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    It seems to me that you can set your bike up however you prefer. If you have a given seat to bar drop that you find comfortable for long rides, you can set up so you have that drop at the hoods or the drops, likewise for reach. What matters is your position, not what part of the bars you are holding. Exceptions are fast descending and hard braking, where you probably have better control on the drops. If anyone cares, I set mine up with about 7 cm drop to the hoods, which is where I spend most of my time. I think shifting is easier there (and no, I don't have Sora). I use the drops for descending, riding into a headwind, or if I am really trying to go fast (for me!) Someone who is always really trying to go fast may prefer to spend more time in the drops and have a higher position for when they are just pooping along.

  18. #18
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    +1 what MikeT and MikeWMass said...

    I think the guys getting even close to 1mph+ faster when they go to the drops are just set up different than others. I can get my head and body in the same position when on hoods as when in the drops. The only difference is how my arms are positioned and therefore probably more aero. Matter of fact, I don't think there's much difference between my positions ever as far as head height, back/shoulder position, etc...The only time I'm upright is while climbing with hands on top. Hell even then I can get my head/shoulder/back close to the same height as when in the drops come to think of it. What critically important in all three positions is being able to roll the pelvis fwd and stay there.

    But, if you're just a rec rider with 70mm of spacers with a 17 degree flipped up then I guess going to the drops would be more aero. Relax. Kidding, just kidding :-) We're all out there riding which is what counts!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    +1 what MikeT and MikeWMass said...

    I think the guys getting even close to 1mph+ faster when they go to the drops are just set up different than others. I can get my head and body in the same position when on hoods as when in the drops. The only difference is how my arms are positioned and therefore probably more aero. Matter of fact, I don't think there's much difference between my positions ever as far as head height, back/shoulder position, etc...The only time I'm upright is while climbing with hands on top. Hell even then I can get my head/shoulder/back close to the same height as when in the drops come to think of it. What critically important in all three positions is being able to roll the pelvis fwd and stay there.
    You got it Woody. I can get as low riding with my hands on the TOPS of the bars alongside the stem as I can on the drops. Thighs hitting ribs is the limiting factor, not what part of the handlebar we're holding. My fave grips are the hoods and I can unbend my elbows to cruise or bend 'em to time-trial. If anyone can get lower on the drops then they're not bending their elbows enough when on the hoods.
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  20. #20
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    Nonsense

    Quote Originally Posted by LuckyB View Post
    The other day it was about 4 mph from hoods vs. drops into a 15-20 mph headwind.
    This is complete nonsense. That is a nearly 40% decrease in power required. Going from normal riding position to a very tight aero tuck (cranks horizontal, knees and elbows on the top tube, hands on the bars right next to the stem, chin on the stem) cuts drag by 33%. There is NO WAY that just going from the hoods to the drops could do this. NO WAY.

  21. #21
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    What discourages me from going to drops are:

    1. Not very confident in transitioning from hoods to drops. I do a slow motion left hand move to drop, steady myself with left hand on drop right hand on hood, then right hand move to drop slowly. The last part I am always afraid of unsettling the handlebars. Is there a better technique or I just need more practice?

    2. Less confident when in the drops as bike feels less stable. I always play safe by having 2 fingers on the brake levers and that could be the reason why it feels less stable. Do you have all fingers holding the drop bar most of the time or always have 1 or 2 fingers on the brake levers?

    3. Less confident in shifting gears when in the drops compared to in the hoods. It is like the act of shifting gears may unsettle the bike.

    4. Having body too low when in the drops hinders the legs from pedalling. I guess it applies to lowering body when in the hoods too but I get more flexibility to adjust body position when on the hoods.

  22. #22
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    Nolight, it sounds like you may be putting too much weight on the bars due to fit or lack of core conditioning (or both). When you transition from hoods to drops, you want to tighten your core to take your weight off the bars, then move your hands. If you're carrying a lot of weight on the bars, then trying to move one hand at a time will make things feel unstable. Same holds for shifting from the drops. If you have a ton of weight on your hands, then relaxing one grip to reach the shifter gets much harder.

  23. #23
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by nolight View Post
    What discourages me from going to drops are:

    1. Not very confident in transitioning from hoods to drops. I do a slow motion left hand move to drop, steady myself with left hand on drop right hand on hood, then right hand move to drop slowly. The last part I am always afraid of unsettling the handlebars. Is there a better technique or I just need more practice?
    You just need more practice. The bars will typically stay perfectly straight if you're going more than a few miles per hour, assuming you're not leaning to one side. I was pretty nervous about it at first, too, but now I feel perfectly comfortable releasing both hoods at the same time, and letting my hands fall down to the drops.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by nolight View Post
    What discourages me from going to drops are:

    1. Not very confident in transitioning from hoods to drops. I do a slow motion left hand move to drop, steady myself with left hand on drop right hand on hood, then right hand move to drop slowly. The last part I am always afraid of unsettling the handlebars. Is there a better technique or I just need more practice?
    I know some people have problems as I used to instruct classes on a 50-degree steep velodrome. I had a drill where the riders moved from tops to drops continually while riding the whole track. It was 1-2-3-4 (hands moving) continually. They were experts after about ten laps. Try it on the road. You won't unsettle the bars as the bike wants to go straight.

    2. Less confident when in the drops as bike feels less stable. I always play safe by having 2 fingers on the brake levers and that could be the reason why it feels less stable. Do you have all fingers holding the drop bar most of the time or always have 1 or 2 fingers on the brake levers?
    Whatever is needed for the situation. You need more practice.

    3. Less confident in shifting gears when in the drops compared to in the hoods. It is like the act of shifting gears may unsettle the bike.
    Same answer - You need more practice.

    4. Having body too low when in the drops hinders the legs from pedalling. I guess it applies to lowering body when in the hoods too but I get more flexibility to adjust body position when on the hoods.
    Maybe your bars are too low. Try rotating your pelvis forward as you bend forward. Bend at the hip; don't round the lower back. Practice in a chair at home - sit on the edge; straighten (hyperextend) the back, lean forward at the hip (don't let the back curve), rotate pelvis forward and down, hold for about 30 seconds, repeat. I do this daily while at the computer.
    .

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