Are there any tricks to setting the correct angle for the drop bars on my road bike, when adjusting my handlebars in the stem?
Is it just a matter of personal preference or is there a general consensus on what angle you should use?
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Handlebars will be mounted parallel to the ground or angled slightly upward. While they may never be pointed down at all, they may be angled up slightly; allowed handlebar tilt is to be between 180 and 175 degrees with respect to the level road. The brake levers will preferably be mounted such that the end of the brake lever is even with the bottom of the bar. Modern bars, however, dictate that this may not always be possible, so tolerances are permitted within reason. Brake hoods should not approach anything near 45 degrees, as some riders with poor taste have been insisting on doing.
From the rules.
I will post my "non-specialist" way to do this setup, considering:
Of course, these steps might be adapted freely.
Hope it helps.
There are more than a few factors to consider when adjusting the angle of your drop bars. Moreover, it is important to consider that your stem length and angle, in combination with drop bar dimensions and shape, will affect your final drop bar's ideal (albeit ultimately personal) setting.
I'll use the following image for my examples below:
Consider the bar alone, as a floating object in 3-dimensional space. The alignment of the drop portion of the bar in relation to the ground provides a starting point for creating a natural alignment. Commonly, you will find the ends of the drops to extend to the tail of the bike in a parallel fashion to the floor. However, due to the wide variety of bar shapes, this method will fail to help you set up your bars. As seen in the example image, the drop portion extends towards the floor due to the "short" drop segment.
In combination with the brifter, some may prefer the connection between the bar's tops and the brifter's hood to be parallel to the ground. This creates a smooth transition between the bar and brifter, creating a comfortable surface for your hand to rest on for long periods of time. The example image shows this quite well. The hoods resting area has a smooth transition with the bar. The angle of this resting area is a matter of personal preference, but as with any adjustment, a neutral 0 degree (parallel to floor) setting will do (as in our example image).
The ideal method for adjusting the combination of bar angle and brifter angle would be to remove the bar tape and start from scratch (bare bar).
But as @DanielRHicks mentions, this all comes down to personal preference, however a good starting point always helps!
One point that I don't believe has been mentioned yet. This concerns only gravel bikes or ones ridden as such i.e. a bike that crashes frequently.
Make sure that when the handlebars are twisted far left/right the the handlebar butt doesn't impact the top tube. Twist the brifters ever so slightly inward so that the curve of the handlebars protects them upon crash (brifters are quite expensive).