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I've heard many cyclist say they can go faster (and are more comfortable) with a large bar drop.

If my bar is more than 5cm below the saddle (even by 5mm) -- or if I increase the reach -- my power drops at least 20% (3-4 MPH slower up a 10% grade). Is this because my torso is 10cm+ shorter-than-normal compared to my legs? Or, can it be because my hips are large for a guy? (Isn't a large pelvis/hips one of the reasons that woman tend to need a more upright position?)

Could it be that the saddle position isn't ideal? (If I lower or move the saddle rearward from my current position -- about KOPS & HOP -- the opposite occurs: I'm slower when upright, then gain power as I force myself into a long, low position. But, comparing the 2, the more upright, higher/forward saddle is noticeably faster then the aggressive, lower/rearward saddle.)

Is it simply a matter of "getting used to" a lower position? (If I lower the bar 5cm, and just continue riding that way, will I eventually be able to put out the same power I did while more upright?)

I've had SIX bike fittings done over the years, every one making me LESS comfortable and SLOWER, so there's no way I'm spending more money on that. (Every fit was completely different. One had the bar 52cm from the saddle, another set it at 59cm! One had the saddle 6cm behind BB, another had it 12cm back!)

Since I live and ride in the mountains -- I live 600 ft up the side of one! I'm MUCH more interested in power/efficiency than I am in getting aero (if I need to be more upright to climb as fast as possible, so be it -- but it would be nice to be reasonable aero -- lots of descents, too! -- if I could do so without the power loss.

  • Serious question - how's your core strength? Your flexibility? Do you have much of a paunch? (I certainly do!) – Criggie Jul 22 '18 at 6:33
  • The difference in fits could partly be explained by whether they listened to what you're after, or just tried to make you more aero, but that seems extreme for the same bike. Even if you don't have a paunch, thighs vs. ribs can be a limit if you're flexible – Chris H Jul 22 '18 at 8:29
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    It's common to produce more power in a less aggressive/climbing position as it opens the hip angle and brings more muscles into the pedal stroke. – Andy P Jul 23 '18 at 10:41
  • I've had SIX bike fittings done over the years, every one making me LESS comfortable and SLOWER, so there's no way I'm spending more money on that. Read this: peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.php – Andrew Henle Jul 23 '18 at 12:03
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I've heard many cyclist say they can go faster (and are more comfortable) with a large bar drop.

I think this initial assumption is somewhat faulty. Most riders will find they are less comfortable and can make less power in a forward, aggressive position. I certainly find that to be the case myself. (I'm a reasonably fit rider who can hang with the A group on local rides.)

You may just need to accept that your anatomy and strength just don't allow for a aggressive riding position. If you are riding in hilly terrain and are concerned with making your max power, set up your bars in a less aggressive position that is comfortable for you and just ride on the hoods. You can get in the drops on descents where max power output is less important compared to getting more aero.

  • I think OP means the drop in height from saddle to handle bar, not handlebar drops. He would like to have handlebar lower relative to saddle, but that can only be achieved from sitting closer to the handlebar (upright, less aero) or at a loss of power and comfort. – gaurwraith Jul 22 '18 at 13:26
  • @gaurwraith I think Argenti realises that, the advice being to set the bars up higher to avoid OP problem of low power, then make use of the ‘drops’ when they want to get lower/aero temporarily. – Swifty Jul 23 '18 at 6:43
  • Don't know. In any case, my solution for outlier longer leg length has been pushing the saddle way forward to the max and using straight seatpost instead of one with setback. After that, the handlebar asked himself to be lowered. Hope this helps. – gaurwraith Jul 23 '18 at 9:42
  • @Swifty, yep, that's what I meant – Argenti Apparatus Jul 23 '18 at 11:30
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Long legs relative to torso create this problem, where a frame that has an appropriate top tube length has usually a seat tube that is short for you, so you need to have a higher than usual seatpost.

So there's two options with stock bikes:

A) You chose, based on reach, a smaller frame and high seatpost. This will probably mean that you need to also keep the handlebar high with several spacers. And probably you have a more upright stance. But you can produce power.

B) You chose, based on standover or seat tube length, a bigger frame that makes you less upright and more aero, no need for such a high seatpost or taht many handlebar spacers, but you feel like you can input less power.

I think A is the best choice for long legged people. But if the ratio leg / torso goes very off the norm, it's possible that a frame with the appropiate reach is then really small in term of seattube length.

So if you had to get a bigger frame, the solution is probably to push the saddle to the maximum forward. I've seen people that go as far as to turn the seatpost, so that the setback becomes "setforward" allowing to place the saddle quite forward and reducing effective reach length while the legs remain in that sweet spot over the cranks. And then probably drop the handlebar height a bit.

The thing with saddle forward is that you may also need to move cleats a bit back into the arch of the feet.

My suggestion, only based in my experience as someone with long legs compared to torse, is then, push saddle a lot forward, keep it parallel with ground, drop a spacer or two, and put cleats on shoes a little bit closer to arch. It's working for me. Also, if your seatpost has setback, change it for a straight seatpost, or turn it so that it looks to the front.t

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Well, after some more fooling around with my fit, I think I may have figured it out. Apparently, when trying to get lower and/or longer, I was bending my back more than "rotating the hips." Tried numerous saddle positions, and in every one -- even those that were obviously wrong -- I managed to go noticeably faster if I made sure to rotate my hips. (Funny how after doing that, the bar felt like it was too CLOSE and HIGH!) I'm now able to get the bar 8cm below the saddle, and 3-5 cm further away before my speed/power drops. (In fact, with the rotated hips, I also lose power if the bar is too CLOSE! There's now about a 2 cm "sweet spot" where I can maintain max power) My back is flatter now, and my torso/arm angle is now about the recommended 90-degrees.

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    In short, bike fitting is only one part of it - you have to listen to your body and figure out what works for you. Kinda vague words, but that's about all we have. Don't forget to mark this answer as Accepted. because its what worked for you. – Criggie Jul 24 '18 at 0:19

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