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I just bought my first road bike, 2 months and a thousand km ago, and into several 50 to 130 km rides I found myself riding mostly in the drops, like reeeaally in the tip of the bar. I even removed the bar end plugs so the plastic edges won't hurt my hands. On the climbs I go to the top of the STIs, and I also use the tops, altough rarely.

I'm 180 cm tall, and my bike is a 54 cm, with a bit of a longer top tube for this size, and I feel pretty comfortable. My stem has a positive angle, pointing up. I had a bit of a back pain after a few of the first rides, but now I've got rid of them, somehow.

What intrigues me is why everybody else seems to use the drops only for sprints and aerodynamic hard riding, but not me. Am I doing something wrong/damaging?

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    The most dangerous thing I see in your case is that you've taken the bar end plugs out. If you're in a crash, an open tube can do a lot more damage to your fleshy parts than a closed one. – Jamie A Jun 5 '17 at 18:43
  • I'm also new to drop bars and finding I spend more time in the drops than I'd expect. Mine are set quite high, and my hands took some getting used to the hoods. Do your bars seem high compared to similar size bikes? Do you mostly ride solo or in a group? I am to use the hoods much more when out with friends (slower, but I'm never fast). The only reason I don't answer with "do what works for you" is my own inexperience. – Chris H Jun 5 '17 at 18:46
  • Good point @JamieA. There might be some better plugs, or some tape over the edges of the plugs. – Chris H Jun 5 '17 at 18:47
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    It does sound like you might be a bit far from the brakes though, if you're on the end of the drops. – Chris H Jun 5 '17 at 18:48
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    @JamieA: In the olden days we used wine bottle or champagne corks as bar end plugs, soft and comfy! – Carel Jun 5 '17 at 20:32
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Cycling is a non-natural activity (i.e., homo sapiens did not evolve bio-mechanically over millions of years to ride bikes). As such, the only real rule is whether or not it works for you. Many road bikes are set up for racing, where the effort is high and the change in position small. Here the drops are often used for sprints and hard efforts. Because modern races are quite short most people spend the majority of time in some sort of aggressive position and as such getting up tall wasn't really needed (contrast this to historical races which were generally much longer so having a very upright position was important). For the few times where an upright position is required (e.g., extended climbs) the bar tops now fill this role. As such, over time the hoods have evolved into de facto position, with now a short distance to the drops (i.e., compact bars). It doesn't have to be though. If you go back and look at road cycling photos from the 1920-1950, the drops tended to be used more and the hoods less so. In fact the brakes were really designed to be optimally actuated from the drops. Drops were also much deeper (compared to modern road bars) as there was more of a need to have a bigger range in positions then.

I would ask the following:

  1. Is your position sustainable? (i.e. comfortable over long periods of time)
  2. Can you use all your controls effectively? (i.e., shifters and brakes)

If you can answer yes to both then you are doing reasonably well.

Can you optimize further? Potentially, but you won't know until you experiment. I would suggest keeping a log book of your bike set up along with notes on how you feel. This way you can always revert to a previous setting. If you want to ride using more of a modern form (i.e., you have a modern road bar and a modern set of shifters), then try flipping your stem down. The hoods will likely become the go-to position and the drops for harder efforts. Ideally, you should still be able to use your drops, they will however feel best during harder efforts. See if you like it, if not try a different change. Also note that hood angle plays a huge role in comfortable when riding on the hoods. Modern hoods should be angled up slightly. I actually use a digital level to ensure even settings. You can also pull the bar tape and measure with a ruler against the edge of the bar to get the same result.

Good luck!

  • 1. yep 2. yep, although I feel my STIs are a bit too long. There is a trend on newer higher end STIs getting shorter, right? as my stem is tilted upwards and sitting above 3 or 4 spacers, I definitely have room for some testing :) – Emílio Dolgener Cantú Jun 6 '17 at 19:15
  • I saw some old PBP pictures today, and the drop bars used for racing then looked more like touring geometry than modern racing, as you say. – Chris H Jun 6 '17 at 19:16
  • @EmílioDolgenerCantú - I run the same setup on my commuter. When I want to get to work I am usually in the drops for ~ 40 minutes, otherwise I am on the hoods. My fast club bike is more slammed as I never get a chance to ride slow. Finally, more recent Shimano shifters seem to be getting longer brake levers, while I find SRAM noticeably shorter. – Rider_X Jun 6 '17 at 19:19
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    @ChrisH - Sure, but you can't maintain 300 watts for 2 days straight. At higher wattage a lower position is more sustainable as the higher force on the pedals allows your core to support weight associated with a lower body position. Longer durations = lower average wattage, which necessitates a higher body position. You can't let your hands support much weight or they go numb, you support your upper body through core activation. Aerobars are an exception. They make it much easier to support upper body using your arms and allow a lower body position. Most ultra-endurance riders use them. – Rider_X Jun 6 '17 at 19:32
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    @ChrisH - we often get "slow" pros on club rides, I have enough problems breathing let alone talking. I definitely change my setup for longer slower rides. I keep a log book so that it is easy to flip between. Some don't, but they tend to be younger more flexible bodies. – Rider_X Jun 6 '17 at 19:45
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I'd like to start off by saying that bike fitting is almost completely a matter of personal preference and the "rules" are often broken and should be broken as long as it is safe, doesn't cause injury and feels comfortable to you.

Although, riding on the very tip of drops might make bike handling and accessing your brakes or shift leavers difficult but I have seen others who feel very comfortable in that position.

This position could mean that your handlebars are too far away from you and too high but could also be a number of different factors (In bike fitting every position is affected by surrounding positions). Without seeing you riding your bike it is hard to decipher more, but I would start by adjusting your stem length, riding for a week, and seeing how that feels, then you can adjust your stem height and ride for another week, repeat this with your entire bike fit until it feels perfect.

The other option if you do start to have problems in that position is to see a bike fit professional. My general advice though, is to make sure you spend more time riding your bike then fitting your bike.

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There are many variable which combine to create the 'bike fit' you are experiencing. Your height is a simple measure, people of the same height can have different leg and torso lengths. If you are on the tips of the drops because your wrists hit the top then you can consider twisting the whole drop bar downwards in the stem clamp. A small adjustment might help alot but be sure to check yours hands are still secure in the hood position after any adjustment - you need a secure grip for safety. Most riders finding the drops 'easy' to be in for a prolonged time would probably make the stem angle negative to lower the bars. This means you can get even lower for descending (lower centre of gravity and strong grip on the bars are cited more than aero as reasons to be in the drop bars) however its all subject to personal preference. Any position that is uncomfortable will be 'damaging' but their are ways to mitigate this if you choose the benefits of that position over comfort.

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