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Riding in the drops - when / how much?

larkimlarkim Posts: 2,301
edited June 2016 in Road beginners
I fully expect answers on this to come down to "it's personal preference", but I don't ride too much (usually when I'm injured through running) so thought I'd ask anyway.

At the moment when I got out for a ride it's primarily to retain fitness, so I'm not just cruising around on a day out with my mates (but neither am I head down time-trialling either).

I tend to head out for somewhere in the 19-25 miles range, looking to average around 17mph (and usually achieve it) on the relatively undulating terrain where I live (e.g. Monday night, 19 miles, 17.5mph ave, 700ft climbing).

But I've noticed I spend almost no time at all riding dropped down, and have to consciously make an effort to do it - usually when decending.

Should I be making more of an effort to use the dropped bars fully (I presume there is an efficiency to be obtained with less wind resistance), or is it literally whatever takes your fancy on this kind of riding? It's not so much that I find riding dropped down uncomfortable, but that it doesn't feel natural and doesn't appear to make the flat or into the wind cycling any / much easier.
2015 Canyon Nerve AL 6.0 (son #1's)
2011 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (son #3s)
2013 Decathlon Triban 3 (red) (mine)
2019 Hoy Bonaly 26" Disc (son #2s)
2018 Voodoo Bizango (mine)
2018 Voodoo Maji (wife's)
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Posts

  • sungodsungod Posts: 13,203
    at higher speeds it makes a more noticeable difference to drag, at >40kph you'd be wasting much more energy than at 30

    strong headwinds are also a good time to be on the drops

    at lower speeds there's less in it

    just do what you're comfortable with
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    As above i find at around 15mph+ the drops are noticeably easier and in a stronger head wind. If you set your bike up well enough, for most people without injuries etc. riding in the drops should be comfortable for longer periods.
  • wongataawongataa Posts: 906
    Hard braking is easier from the drops as you get better leverage on the levers. I mainly go to the drops when I want to go fast as it is more aero.
  • grenwgrenw Posts: 788
    Same boat. Some rides I never leave the hoods, only dropping down when I make a conscious attempt to push the speed up. Need to do it more though as I still don't feel comfortable on the drops.
  • singletonsingleton Posts: 1,662
    If you are only trying to get fit, then having a bigger wind resistance may not be such a bad thing - you get more of a work out at a lower speed.
    However, if you're trying to go faster for the same level of effort, then improving your aerodynamics will help you.
  • milemuncher1milemuncher1 Posts: 1,472
    Personally, I only use the drops, on descents, or when I need an aero tuck to 'press on', on the flat. I reckon a good 80 percent of my riding is done on the hoods, or the flat bar. It's nice to be able to move your hands around positions, to stop fatigue / cramp / pins and needles, but other than that, I don't use the drops that much.
  • mfinmfin Posts: 6,724
    If you fit well on the bike you'll likely spend more time in the drops.

    If the bar design and drop suit you this will make you spend a lot more time in the drops than if the bar is not right for you too.
  • slowmartslowmart Posts: 4,036
    What's comfortable?

    given your description the only advantage of riding on the drops is less wind resistance and increased braking feel and leverage.
    “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring”

    Desmond Tutu
  • singletonsingleton Posts: 1,662
    mfin wrote:
    If you fit well on the bike you'll likely spend more time in the drops.

    Is that a sign of a good fit or a sign that the bars are too high?

    Surely a good bike fit will allow you to use all hand positions comfortably depending on terrain and conditions.
  • MantasMantas Posts: 33
    i can say drops goes when ride more agresive or I need extra stability on my bike.
  • larkimlarkim Posts: 2,301
    Thanks all. Sounds like I'm fairly typical for a noob.

    I've not had the bike fitted, just done a bit of trial and error, so I don't know if I've got the setup spot on, but I've done a 50+ day in the saddle on it in the not-too-distant-past, and evening hour / hour 15 rides don't produce any aches or pains that aren't effort related.

    Perhaps its just that my gut gets in the way too much to be bent over...
    2015 Canyon Nerve AL 6.0 (son #1's)
    2011 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (son #3s)
    2013 Decathlon Triban 3 (red) (mine)
    2019 Hoy Bonaly 26" Disc (son #2s)
    2018 Voodoo Bizango (mine)
    2018 Voodoo Maji (wife's)
  • sheffsimonsheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    sungod wrote:
    at higher speeds it makes a more noticeable difference to drag, at >40kph you'd be wasting much more energy than at 30

    strong headwinds are also a good time to be on the drops

    at lower speeds there's less in it

    just do what you're comfortable with

    Really? I'm sure I've read some evidence of wind tunnel testing which showed riding on the hoods was at least as efficient as riding on the drops.
  • larkimlarkim Posts: 2,301
    If you can find a link to where you read that SheffSimon I'd be interested. Sounds counterintuitive though as I'd be surprised if you had a smaller frontal area on the hoods vs in the drops, so unless there is more propensity to get power out of the lower back / legs in a more upright position I can't see how it would be equally efficient. But I am prepared to see the science and learn!
    2015 Canyon Nerve AL 6.0 (son #1's)
    2011 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (son #3s)
    2013 Decathlon Triban 3 (red) (mine)
    2019 Hoy Bonaly 26" Disc (son #2s)
    2018 Voodoo Bizango (mine)
    2018 Voodoo Maji (wife's)
  • sungodsungod Posts: 13,203
    sheffsimon wrote:

    Really? I'm sure I've read some evidence of wind tunnel testing which showed riding on the hoods was at least as efficient as riding on the drops.

    well, it depends on terminology...

    if 'on the hoods' means in a tuck (as if on the drops) with hands holding the 'horns' of the hoods and forearms parallel to the ground, yes it's efficient, in fact it may even be better than on the drops, it's a nice position when braking is unlikely to be needed

    if 'on the hoods' means riding upright with hands wrapped around the hoods, this is way less efficient than being on the drops in a tuck

    in the context of the op's question i'd go with the latter interpretation within this thread

    also bear in mind, neither the op nor i used the term, "on the hoods" :)
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • milemuncher1milemuncher1 Posts: 1,472
    slowmart wrote:
    What's comfortable?

    given your description the only advantage of riding on the drops is less wind resistance and increased braking feel and leverage.

    Pretty much spot on. You do get better braking leverage, and less wind resistance, but I much prefer the hoods in general. It doesn't matter how well the bike is fitted, I still prefer the hoods.
  • deejayseedeejaysee Posts: 149
    Only ever use the drops on downhill (better breaking) or when i'm proper tanking it on the flat.
    Not that much in all
  • Simon MastersonSimon Masterson Posts: 2,740
    sheffsimon wrote:
    sungod wrote:
    at higher speeds it makes a more noticeable difference to drag, at >40kph you'd be wasting much more energy than at 30

    strong headwinds are also a good time to be on the drops

    at lower speeds there's less in it

    just do what you're comfortable with

    Really? I'm sure I've read some evidence of wind tunnel testing which showed riding on the hoods was at least as efficient as riding on the drops.

    Correct - or at least, it's very possible for a position on the hoods to be more aero. Makes sense, as it's effectively a wide tri bar position.

    In general, it should bring your weight forward (which is why it's good for descending), and gives you more leverage. It also gives you an additional hand position, if nothing else. This obviously depends heavily on how your bike is set up - current trend is towards a big drop at the front on race bikes, so there's less need to use the drops to go super low.
  • mrb123mrb123 Posts: 2,831
    Watch the footage of Wiggins leading out Cav on the Champs Elysees - he's got his hands on the hoods, forearms parallel to the ground. That is the most aerodynamic position.

    That said, sometimes it can be more comfortable to sustain the position on the drops than the above mentioned as the arms don't tire as much. Obviously the drops are the way to go for descending.

    I read some advice somewhere that you should aim each ride to spend 10 minutes on the drops just to get used to the position.
  • awaveyawavey Posts: 2,368
    admittedly Ive been fiddling so much with bike setup lately Ive gone and ended up with a really odd and clearly wrong bike fit going at the moment, but riding the drops has always felt quite different to what Im used to being on sit up type bikes, so most of my riding is being done on the hoods.

    Im not certainly as confident when trying the drops, as it feels like Im over leaning forward and then over correcting the steering which makes things start to go all wobbly which isnt great feeling with traffic around you and Im quickly back on the hoods, I certainly couldnt descend riding like that.

    but I tried an extended go at it at the weekend as I had a nice bit of empty flat road for a few miles, and it felt more comfortable and felt quicker too, though as a consequence of the appalingly bad setup I have at the moment, and gravity, my knees where interacting with my chest area alot more than I appreciated,the joys of being a girl on a bike :roll:
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    I mainly use the drops for descending, when I was road racing, sprinting, occasionally just for a change of position out of variety's sake.
    If I'm 'pressing on' I have my hands on the hoods, elbows bent at 90°, head tucked in like on my TT bike.
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  • sheffsimonsheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    sungod wrote:
    sheffsimon wrote:

    Really? I'm sure I've read some evidence of wind tunnel testing which showed riding on the hoods was at least as efficient as riding on the drops.

    well, it depends on terminology...

    if 'on the hoods' means in a tuck (as if on the drops) with hands holding the 'horns' of the hoods and forearms parallel to the ground, yes it's efficient, in fact it may even be better than on the drops, it's a nice position when braking is unlikely to be needed

    if 'on the hoods' means riding upright with hands wrapped around the hoods, this is way less efficient than being on the drops in a tuck

    in the context of the op's question i'd go with the latter interpretation within this thread

    also bear in mind, neither the op nor i used the term, "on the hoods" :)

    Agreed :)

    In answer to an earlier request for where I read this info, I'm sure it was in Cycling magazine, or a cycling magazine at least, and I'm sure it was Wiggins who was involved with the testing.....fairly useless information to help you find the source, sorry.
  • dyrlacdyrlac Posts: 739
    Read rower's articles in which he modelled Richmond Park: http://www.slidingseat.net/cycling/cycl ... l#richpark

    Being in the drops compared to being on the hoods (not counting aero-hoods style) saves a solid minute plus around RP (exact amount dependent on power/weight), which matches my anecdotal experience.
  • BobbinogsBobbinogs Posts: 4,841
    sheffsimon wrote:
    [ref riding on hoods]... I'm sure it was Wiggins who was involved with the testing...

    I suspect the answer is in that, Wiggins has one of the best positions on a bike I have ever seen and just seems to look very aero either on the drops or hoods. For many of us normal folks, I think the 'optimal aero position' for our bikes would only be achieved if we got someone else to ride the bike for us. Hence, fret ye not. Ride with what works and feels fast. Tucking in and going on the drops certainly helps when descending but I still find the best way to achieve aero efficiency on flat ground is to find some big powerful censored to sit behind, luverly.
  • JafaremrafJafaremraf Posts: 26
    I still think of myself of being very much a beginner with lots to learn, but I make myself go onto the drops for long fairly flat, easy roads.... Partly for the practice as I'm not confident enough yet to go fast downhill on the drops, but also I find it brings different muscles into play - to what extent I can't say, but moving into different positions seems to get more muscles working. Then I'll sit more upright up steady hills, out the saddle for steeper hills, but with the majority of time on the hoods. I don't know if any of this is good or unneccessary, but i find it beneficial.
  • styxdstyxd Posts: 3,234
    Riding in the drops offers more control; worth using if the situation requires it. The most aerodynamic position is forearms on the tops with hands together, a bit like riding a TT bike. Obviously steering is compromised in this position.
  • milemuncher1milemuncher1 Posts: 1,472
    styxd wrote:
    Riding in the drops offers more control; worth using if the situation requires it. The most aerodynamic position is forearms on the tops with hands together, a bit like riding a TT bike. Obviously steering is compromised in this position.
    The hands on hoods, arms along the bars position, is my favoured riding position. As an experiment, I went out on a short ride today, and really concentrated on my bar positions. When I was riding in my favoured position, then went to full on 'on hoods, elbows out, Crit race sprint' position, I could feel the difference, in terms of 'drag vortices' off my elbows, between the 2 positions, quite markedly. Again, in the drops, I could feel the difference in reduced 'drag vortices' all over the place ( head, arms, forearms, etc ) quite markedly. That's got to add up to a fair old saving, over a long distance ride.
  • BobbinogsBobbinogs Posts: 4,841
    styxd wrote:
    Riding in the drops offers more control; worth using if the situation requires it. The most aerodynamic position is forearms on the tops with hands together, a bit like riding a TT bike. Obviously steering is compromised in this position.
    The hands on hoods, arms along the bars position, is my favoured riding position. As an experiment, I went out on a short ride today, and really concentrated on my bar positions. When I was riding in my favoured position, then went to full on 'on hoods, elbows out, Crit race sprint' position, I could feel the difference, in terms of 'drag vortices' off my elbows, between the 2 positions, quite markedly. Again, in the drops, I could feel the difference in reduced 'drag vortices' all over the place ( head, arms, forearms, etc ) quite markedly. That's got to add up to a fair old saving, over a long distance ride.

    Yepp, empirical research at its very finest ;-)
  • MatthewfalleMatthewfalle Posts: 17,380
    styxd wrote:
    Riding in the drops offers more control; worth using if the situation requires it. The most aerodynamic position is forearms on the tops with hands together, a bit like riding a TT bike. Obviously steering is compromised in this position.
    The hands on hoods, arms along the bars position, is my favoured riding position. As an experiment, I went out on a short ride today, and really concentrated on my bar positions. When I was riding in my favoured position, then went to full on 'on hoods, elbows out, Crit race sprint' position, I could feel the difference, in terms of 'drag vortices' off my elbows, between the 2 positions, quite markedly. Again, in the drops, I could feel the difference in reduced 'drag vortices' all over the place ( head, arms, forearms, etc ) quite markedly. That's got to add up to a fair old saving, over a long distance ride.


    Drag vortices. Cool. Did you get little clouds of vapor twirling off your elbows as you went along - kinda like a two wheeled Typhoon?

    Back on track - hands on hoods, elbows tucked in or hands draped over the front a la TT seems to work for me.
    Postby team47b » Sun Jun 28, 2015 11:53 am

    De Sisti wrote:
    This is one of the silliest threads I've come across. :lol:

    Recognition at last Matthew, well done!, a justified honour :D
    smithy21 wrote:

    He's right you know.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,012
    napoleond wrote:
    I mainly use the drops for descending, when I was road racing, sprinting, occasionally just for a change of position out of variety's sake.
    If I'm 'pressing on' I have my hands on the hoods, elbows bent at 90°, head tucked in like on my TT bike.

    As above. Exactly the same..
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,553 Lives Here
    Flat backs are faster but more uncomfortable - they require stronger back & core strength - that's why you don't do it all the time.

    Bent arms on hoods with a flat back is marginally faster than flat back on the drops, but that requires even more strength.

    So for long stints with a flat back, sit on the drops. For shorter stints, you can get away with being on the hoods.

    When descending you should always be on the drops.

    Sprinting too.
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