Longer Commute on Hills – Road or MTN?
funny thing about the riding posture and handlebars. I was VERY resistant to try any of the bikes with drop bars. Honestly it took quite a bit of test riding before I felt ok with them. I actually visited my bike 3 times before I bought it- mostly because of the handlebar issue. Now, not saying you’ll convert over to them, but I ultimately feel that they are more comfortable and perform better in climbing hills.
Tabby, can you talk any about your process of having adapted to the drop bars? And what you feel you get out of the different positions? I’m almost always up high on mine, only (very nervously) going into the drops when I know my braking power won’t be sufficient to stop me from the higher grip.
If you like the Smoke, I ended up going for a Novara Buzz V ’09, I think the ’10 has 700 wheels and is a nice ride.
The thing to remember about drop bars is 95% (or maybe 99%) of the time you are not riding in the drops. When you’re on the hoods the posture is not that much different than flat bars.
I can say from experience, coming from MTBs, it takes some getting used to. It took me a long time (weeks if not months) to go from “I made a terrible mistake” to “these are pretty cool”. The bad news is you can’t really judge when you’re out shopping – you’re almost guaranteed not to like the drop bars because you’re not used to them.
The variety of hand positions is a big win IMHO, especially on longer rides.
the hand positions thing is a huge deal to me. my hands would always start to hurt after a mere twenty miles on flat bars, and have made it 140 miles in a day with no difficulty.
one way to make the transition easier is to get a bike with inline brakes on the top bar. this way, you can hold yourself in a more upright position, on a flat bar, and still have control over your brakes. it’s hella convenient.
Thanks salty and HV,
I’m on the hoods most of the time, on the top bar when my hands need a break, and in the drops when I’m on a scary downhill where I need to know I can slow myself down.
When do you find yourself using the different positions? Like where are your hands when you’re climbing vs descending vs uneventful flats? Or do you just try to mix it up to save your hands without any particular pattern?
HV: I actually have inline brakes, but have yet to use them. Thanks for the prodding to do so. On the older bikes there was a brake in that position they called a suicide brake, I think? I understand that the brakes in that spot on modern bikes are much more effective, but there’s a part of my brain that maintains a leery aversion.
personally, i find that i don’t keep my hands on the hoods all that much, unless i need to shift frequently (e.g. in traffic). if i’m just cruising around, i’ll usually have my palms on the top, and if i’m trying to get somewhere or if i get tired of that position, i’ll dip down to the drops.
as for the inline brakes, i find it a lot easier to stop there than in the drops, plus when i’m braking hard, i like to be upright for a) air resistance, and 2) better sight lines.
@bikefind- getting used to them just took a bit of practice. nothing in particular besides riding around in an area where I could focus on myself and not traffic. I’d say it took a week of riding to feel at ease with them.
Most of the time I’m on the hoods, very comfortable. I use the drops down hills, sometimes climbing hills mostly. I only use the top bar occasionally when I want to sit upright and stretch a bit.
If moving your hand position is awkward you could try practicing moving in and out of the drops while riding somewhere flat. If you only are moving to the drops when you’re about to go down a big hill, I could see that feeling not so good.
Thanks Tabby – I’m going to have to dedicate a few rides to playing with the drops. Up til now it’s been one of those “can’t fix the roof in the rain / why fix the roof – there’s no rain coming in?” situations. I know better but am still susceptible to that.
Thanks again HV – it helps to hear what other people have come up with, even if they’re not all the same.
Drop bars didn’t evolve just because cyclists are masochists. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pootling around the block on a 50-pound gaspipe upright tank if that’s what you want to do. But if you get to the point that you want to cover some distance in a reasonable time, then you’ll need more speed, and there is equipment that has evolved to suit that task. There seems to be a kind of reverse snobbery about this, sometimes, which is silly.
If you really think there’s nothing wrong with it, and if you’d like to help reduce the amount of reverse snobbery (or stuff that might come off as reverse snobbery), I might suggest not calling it pootling.
Not that some people might not choose to take a slow easy ride around the block and see it that way, just because that’s what they’re in the mood for that day.
But you could also easily have people in your audience who have had to put as much effort into what would be pootling for you as you’ve had to put into some of your greatest accomplishments on a bike. It’s hard to know what challenges each person may be dealing with.
That said, I’d be really interested to read more about how the equipment relates to the task. If you feel like writing more about that.
Hey, ejwme, how tall are you? I bet I could lay hands on a ‘cross bike if you want to try one out.
I could lay hands on…
mayhew is a paladin? who knew?
Pootling is relative to the pootler. I don’t mean it as an absolute term. There are people who use bicycles as a substitute for walking because walking is too much work. They only bicycle distances that they’re easily capable of walking, but the great thing about a bike is that you can do it SITTING DOWN, and you can coast. These are the target market for the Segway (though that seems not to have caught on too well). In my hometown, the latest fad seems to be little gas scooters. They have a top speed of about 16 mph, and their owners ride them three or four blocks. On the sidewalk, half the time. (It’s probably better than starting up the Chevy to go to the corner store. That’s a tough call.) This is pootling.
Something you do, and put an effort into, that’s not pootling.
I’ve taken some road-style bikes on some short rides on occasion, and one thing that kept bothering me was my neck when I was down on the drops. It was immeasurably more comfortable to be looking down right at the front wheel, but of course you want to be looking forward to avoid potholes and all manner of road hazard.
Is there some secret to it that I’m missing? It’s quite possible that the specific bike I was using was a bad fit, but I couldn’t imagine doing any real distance or duration with my neck in such an uncomfortable position.
Whoops, sent too soon. How the equipment relates to the task:
1. You generate more power when you’re bent over at the waist. It gets your glutes into the action, which are the biggest muscles in your body.
2. You can be more aerodynamic if you present less frontal area to the wind. Drag is proportional to the square of the velocity, so an effect that is not significant at 10 mph with a 13 mph tailwind becomes *very* significant at 12 mph with a 13 mph headwind. When you’re only going a couple of blocks, most of your time is spent getting on and off the bike, locking it up and so forth, so you really don’t care if you average 7 mph or 14 mph. But you probably can’t afford to spend more than two hours a day commuting to work, and if that commute is 12 miles each way, you’re going to need to be traveling somewhere around 15 mph most of the time. So aerodynamics starts to become a practical matter. Even if you think you’re not a strong enough rider to develop any speed, we have a lot of hills around here. You can easily reach 30 mph on some of those downhills without working a bit. You paid gravity’s price to get up that hill, now if you want to get as much of that payment back as you can, you’ll care about aerodynamics. Drop bars reduce your frontal area in two different ways. First, they allow you to bend down and get some of your torso behind the rest of you. Second, if properly sized, they bring your arms in closer to your body so you’re not making a parachute of yourself.
3. Drop your hands to your sides. Relax. Now, without moving your hands, lift your arms up in front of you. The position your hands are in is a nice neutral position for your wrists. The more you deviate from that, the more likely you are to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, or just plain numbness and tingling in the hands. Mountain bike bars are about the worst on this score. There are various kinds of upright bars which provide better hand positions, and could also be an option.
Yeah, it’s time for bed now, so that’s it for the moment.
Drag is proportional to the square of the velocity, so an effect that is not significant at 10 mph with a 13 mph tailwind becomes *very* significant at 12 mph with a 13 mph headwind.
drag is only linearly dependent on the drag coefficient, so remaining upright will contribute the same multiplier to drag at 15 mph as it will at 25 mph (though what it multiplies increases, as you say, with the square of velocity, so the magnitude of the effect is larger).
i apologize to all for my pedantry, but i’m a sucker for precision, especially in re: physics.
re; ieverhart, it’s just a matter of getting a different set of muscles in shape and up to the task, it takes some getting used to, but after a while it’s nothing. In reality you don’t have to crane your head back nearly as much as you might think, you get used to letting your head drop down more naturally and turning your eyes up to look forward. I don’t know if you know much about swimming, but think of the crawl stroke, beginners tend to struggle to keep their head way up in the water and waste tons of energy, experience teaches you to let your head down in line with your spine and go fast.
What Edmonds Said.
Also, nobody really spends all THAT much time in the drops. Unless they’re riding into a 13mph headwind.
A few more items on hbar choice:
– drop bars are sized so that they’re nearly the same width as the cyclist’s body. This is in part so that nothing sticks out when riding in a pack. That’s a criterion that is irrelevant for most of us, most of the time, except for the start of the MS150 and splitting lanes in Oakland…
– some people, such as those with back or neck problems, or the heavily overweight, will find it actually impossible to achieve anything remotely like the classic roadie aero position. They would need a higher stem position, and perhaps one of those other new/old-fangled hbar styles like the moustache bars or the albatross or something else. There are lots of choices. However, people often tell themselves that something is impossible for them, when it really isn’t, they’re just unwilling to try. A minimal level of core strength is required. I’m probably the walking example of that minimum ;( Yoga or pilates exercises will help there.
I have a handlebar fetish, so I’ll jump in.
For commuting and general noodling, I find a nice upright bar like the Albatross (or the new FSA Metropolis, of all things) works very well. I’ve also done long, fast-ish (not race/training pace–think “club ride”) on several bikes with non-drop bars. I had no issues getting getting aero-ish if I needed to, and I appreciate the comfort of the upright position, too.
That said, I have no reverse snobbery against drop bars. No other bar style offers as many different hand and wrist positions. Heck, even Grant Petersen extols their virtues. If you aren’t sure about what bar style is right for you, check out the above link.
My intuition was completely backwards wrt (1). I think on some level I was comparing the hip joint with a mechanical system you’re trying to loosen with a couple of wrenches, where a bigger angle makes the job easier. Completely not taking anything about human anatomy/musculature into account.
Anyway, all the explanations you gave have me really psyched. This time of year I’m kind of obsessed with mtn stuff, but once all the autumn leaves cover all the dangerous stuff on the trails, I’m going to get out and play with all this on my cross bike.
@chris – I’m 5’8, but Dirty Harry’s has a few that I tried on Friday evening.
I love all the advice/perspectives. It all helps make sense of all the bikes I tried.
I think I tried like 6 different bikes adjusted about eleventy thousand different ways Friday evening. The Most Awesome Bikeshop Guy Ever had me trying different bikes, positions, and interpreting my responses “Crouchy but light” and “Wobbly and pinchy”, and my least helpful, “my elbows went wrong”. I rode a road bike for what I believe to be the first time ever, and WOW it felt fast just to get on it. The only thing that I wasn’t so keen on with the road bike was the shifters – they just felt… sketch. They were also the cheapest shifters possible, so maybe if I try something sturdier it might be better. But the shop was closing.
So I can now honestly say that what I like in posture is a DECENTLY FIT bike, and what I do not like in posture is an INCORRECTLY FIT bike. I like crouching and upright equally, recognized as different styles, but comfort-wise I can feel both as comfortable – as long as the bike actually fits *me*. For my commuting, upright is not what I want, though I may not be slower, the psychology of *feeling* slower will be a disservice.
I also managed to figure out that… bike seats matter, and I really like the stock Specialized one that comes on a Sirrus Elite. Heck, I would have bought that bike Friday night, but The Most Awesome Bikeshop Guy Ever said he wanted to think more to see if he could improve on it, and he’s completely earned my trust. But bike seats matter to a degree that will prevent me from cycling at all if not tended to with the utmost care.
glad you found a shop you like and trust. dh is a quality shop and the people there definitely know what they are doing. also glad you have learned that fit is EVERYTHING before buying your first expensive bike.
I’ve ridden the Sirrus and have to agree that the seat (and the hand grips) are really comfortable. The difference in comfort and performance between your old and new bikes is probably staggering. You’re going to be showing up places 20 minutes early!
hey – if I show up 20 minutes earlier that’ll only be 30 minutes late!
But really, the difference in comfort will probably force me to donate Crate Bike, or in the very least get a new seat. It’s like the difference between running uphill barefoot on potholed pavement and taking a stroll on the beach. Even uphill cobbles feels better.
I’m so ridiculously excited – and I haven’t even picked a bike out yet.
Dirty Harry’s is awesome, they actually measured me and swapped out stems until I found a size I liked on the mountain bike I bought from them.
Isn’t riding the hoods actually bad for your wrists/hands? I believe I saw something on Sheldon Brown that discussed how the handlebar jams into that valley at the heel of your hand, putting undue pressure on the nerves and vessels there.
Or I could be totally wrong. Hope so, cause that is the most comfortable.
I think maybe on older setups that might have been the case, esp with smaller hoods. Look at the guys from the 80’s and how their bikes are set up. The bars are pretty high but they are in the drops a lot. Also, the hoods are pretty low.
Nowadays most roadies are set up so that they can barely reach the drops but have the stem low to the hoods are a nice comfortable all day position.
And a proper ‘cross racing position is about being almost entirely on the hoods the whole time.
Noah – I saw the same thing on Sheldon Brown’s site – I think he was more cautioning against pressure here, rather than just being anti-drops…
much of what is on sheldon’s site is a bit old and more than a bit biased. lots of good info on certain things, but too many people take his every word for gospel.
You dare criticize Sheldon?
May you be forced to ride a Real MAN ® saddle from Cranberry to Meadville until you repent of your heresy!
sheldon started it when he said downhill racing was an abomination and not a true discipline of cycling.
not to mention the almost luddite stance he took on many things new and different. if i want to learn about older road bikes, bents, or anything fixed or single, hes my first stop. anything about suspension, high tech parts or gravity disciplines, not so much.
regardless, pressure where anatomy wasn’t designed to take it (soft parts, hand, non-sits bones parts of butt, etc) = not good. That’s what I got from Sheldon on that. I missed any anti-downhill bias. I think going downhill as fast as possible is one of the bonuses of riding a bike. Reading the top of his post on posture makes me think that his anti-stance is mostly anti-people setting up their bicycles for a posture that is not anatomically efficient for their riding goals/style.
But I DO have a pro-Sheldon bias. I just like the guy’s writing. Easy to read, easy to understand, a good place to start my learning while I figure out what words to google to get more details/perspective.
not riding a road bike down a hill. downhill mtb, along with dirt jumping, slope style, four cross, dual slalom, bmx, etc. were all in his mind bastardizations of “true” cycling and therefore not worthy to be included in the sport.
the problem with the thing about the hoods on his site is that its outdated. the basic idea about keeping pressure off soft tissue is good, but it was relevant when he wrote it, but the design of the hoods has changed a lot since then, along with the design of the bikes they are on.
it isn’t that he didn’t have a ton of knowledge, its that people believe that he was infallible and everything he wrote is the absolute truth now and forever. no matter what.
i like sheldon’s site because he explains his reasoning for everything. that makes it easy to disagree with his stance, if you disagree with his reasoning or find that it’s not relevant (in the case of outdated material, for example). he wasn’t afraid to express his opinion, but he also didn’t hide the fact that it was opinion; a demagogue, he ain’t. we have a d00d who spent a whole lot of time thinking smart thoughts about bikes and wrote it all down – what’s not to love?
that said, i’ve never seen him call anything “true” cycling (or not) or anything snobbish like that, and i’d like to give it a read if you can point me in that direction.
i’ll see if i can dig it up. it was pretty crappy.
my issue isn’t really with sheldon. its with the people that blindly follow everything he said. he was always very clear that it was his opinion, but more and more he is referenced as FACT. and with him being unable to add more or change opinions, due to not being alive, it is now UNCHANGING FACT. the following that he has among internet engineers and would-be know-it-alls has achieved an almost religious state of blind stupid faith.
from the glossary:
I consider this fad to be bad for cycling, and contrary to the spirit of cycling. It is effectively just a variant form of motorcycle racing, since most of the power is provided by the machinery that carries the rider and bike to the top of the run. Bicycling should be a human-powered activity, or it is not bicycling to me.”
it used to be even more of an attack on the sport but i cant find an old enough cache of the page. the beginning still shows up on a google search though:
“Down Hill, specifically, down hill racing. This activity goes against the spirit of cycling more than any other branch of the sport, since it is the only …”
also whenever he refers to downhill he adds “(yuck!)” before it. such as:
“These are mainly intended for use on (yuck!) downhill bikes,”
“even if it does involve (yuck!) downhill racing.”
downhill is also the only bike type that appears in quotes consistently throughout the site. its: cross country, road, touring, etc for everything else, but with downhill its: “downhill”
couldn’t go back far enough to get the original definition. i saw it somewhere else before so i can look around for it, but i did notice that he made a small but important change to the current “definition” a few years ago. he added the “to me.” at the end. it used to say “Bicycling should be a human-powered activity, or it is not bicycling.”
the thing is, he never did it and has no idea how much “human power” it takes to do, which is a LOT. its more relevant to me as someone who is very passionate about the sport of downhill, but its really just an example of how one sided and biased his site can be. that in itself is fine as long as what he writes is taken as his opinion, the issue is when people start pulling the “well sheldon says…” card as though it were “IMMUTABLE AND INDISPUTABLE FACT”
err… while his statements are all very disputable, what Sheldon actually said is immutable, since he’s passed on and can’t revise it anymore.
that being said, I’ll keep an eye out for Sheldon Worship in myself and others, and try to keep it in perspective. He’s made me think, and I’ll try to let your comments continue that activity in my head
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