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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 09-23-13, 11:04 AM   #1
mgb
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How do I learn to ride in the drops?

58 years old, 257 lbs. Riding an old style steel sport tourer with old style handlebars -- which I like. Brooks B17 saddle at the same height as the bars. It doesn't give me the "Disappears under me cloud" feeling that some report but I can do a century on it without feeling beat up. But I rarely ride in the drops.

Yesterday I did a 66 mile ride with the last 30 into a pretty stiff headwind. (This is why they tell you not to ride north on CA hwy 1! ). I wanted to be in the drops that whole way, it really makes a difference in speed and effort, but I couldn't do it. The Brooks is NOT comfortable for an extended stay in that position, and after a while, neither were arms, back, or shoulders. And my neck! Just from holding my head up.

Ok, maybe I need a new saddle, maybe I need new handlebars, maybe I need a new bike. But I'm sure that a lot of it is me. If I practice riding in this position will I adapt or just hurt? Pilates? Yoga? Those of you who can do that flat back thing, what's worked for you?
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Old 09-23-13, 11:10 AM   #2
ill.clyde
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The best advice I've ever heard/received for getting comfortable riding in the drops is to strengthen your core muscles.
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Old 09-23-13, 11:29 AM   #3
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sounds like you need to rotate hand positions more often. Get all those other muscles used to the position. If you still have problems a couple months down the road, I'd start swapping parts. Shallow drop bars are pretty easy to find and are comfy. I use the 3T Ergosum.
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Old 09-23-13, 11:33 AM   #4
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I have the same problem, though I can ride in the drops of my current bike for short periods of time. Maybe try switching to a shallower drop bar, along with strengthening your core, working on better back flexibility, and losing weight. I used the [h=1]Salsa Moto Ace Short & Shallow Bar. [/h] That said, pat yourself on the back. You rode 66 miles at age 57, weighing over 250 lbs.
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Old 09-23-13, 11:40 AM   #5
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Try to have the bars 2" higher than your saddle. Works for me. Lots of ways to get a comfortable fit. Just a longer stem would work. Yoga helps me as well.
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Old 09-23-13, 12:16 PM   #6
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I don't know how to learn to ride in the drops. If you put the bars so high that the drops become your current top position maybe that would work. I do yoga and can do a forward fold with the palms of my hands flat on the floor. So flexibility is not the total answer. I have found that the more I lean over like in the drops the more pressure is on my hands and I have to hold my head back to see in front of me.

The tilt of the saddle becomes an issue when you start getting into the drops. Maybe you can tilt the saddle forward to help with this or get a saddle with a cutout.

This will work but for only a short period. While in the drops sprint and there will be little weight on your hands or your seat. Your head will still have to be held up to see though.

Riding with low drops may just be for racers that want to put up with all the discomfort for a little more speed.

If you find a comfortable way to ride with the drops at the same height as the front axle please let me know.
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Old 09-23-13, 12:32 PM   #7
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You ALWAYS need a new bike!

First, 30 miles in the drops? You don't even see the pros doing it, and they're all young, skinny, and flexible!

IIRC, a tourer will be fairly upright already, and you've got it set up with no drop. How tall are you? I ask because a 5'6" coworker who also rides saw my bike, and commented on how much drop I have, which is really only about 2", but I'm 6' with long arms. In other words, comfortable drop is a function of height, flexibility, arm length, etc.

The next question would be, do you normally ride on the hoods, or the curve, or the tops? If you're normally on the hoods, and that's comfortable, the drops shouldn't be too bad. But not for 30 miles!
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Old 09-23-13, 01:13 PM   #8
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Just spend more time in the drops. Seriously. Ride in the drop as long as it's comfortable, change positions for a minute, and then back to the drops. Sounds likr you already stronger in the drops than you are giving yourself credit for though. And those who are counseling raising your bars, you can do that, but than the drops will lose much of their aero advantage.
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Old 09-23-13, 01:20 PM   #9
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Just spend more time in the drops. Seriously. Ride in the drop as long as it's comfortable, change positions for a minute, and then back to the drops. Sounds likr you already stronger in the drops than you are giving yourself credit for though. And those who are counseling raising your bars, you can do that, but than the drops will lose much of their aero advantage.
Not to mention that the hoods will become even less aerodynamic.
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Old 09-23-13, 01:23 PM   #10
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Wouldn't it be harder on your lower back when riding that long in the drops?

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Old 09-23-13, 01:30 PM   #11
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Not to mention that the hoods will become even less aerodynamic.
Excellent point.
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Old 09-23-13, 01:46 PM   #12
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The weird thing is that for me riding in the drops became a lot more comfortable after I had put a longer stem on my bicycle, so I had to stretch out a bit more.

All my bikes have a Brooks B17, most have the handlebar lower than the saddle.
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Old 09-23-13, 03:04 PM   #13
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Easy answer, ride in spin class with the front bar slammed. If they don't go down far enough, bring them closer and use them like aero bars. After 3,4 classes, you'll find riding in the drops feels much more natural.

Of course, the comments about core strength are right on; and your saddle is a problem. My experience: the B17 saddle is nightmare for riding rotated in the drops. A SMP saddle for a Brooks rider is not a bad transition, or some of the old classic saddles on eBay with more of rolled nose work fine too.
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Old 09-23-13, 05:28 PM   #14
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If you rarely ride in the drops, you'll rarely be comfortable riding in them. Try riding a mile at a time in them, when you don't really need to. It does help. Build on that. I'm so comfortable on the drops that I occasionally "forget" to resume the hoods when I turn out of the wind.

And of course, strengthen your core, and work on flexibility. I'm 60, and I can still rest a closed fist on the ground in a straight-legged bend. But then again, when I was 30, I could palm the floor, to there's age for ya.
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Old 09-23-13, 06:34 PM   #15
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Flexibility, core strength, not to big a gut, and bike fit (longer stem?) are all issues, as have been mentioned above. And, yes, riding in the drops is something you do for a short period of time--ten minutes or less, not an hour.

However, riding on the hoods with the elbows bent 90 degrees, studies have shown to be as aero as in the drops. Riding in that position will begin to condition your body for riding in the drops, but won't give you that feeling of not being in control of the bike. In this position you also don't put so much weight on your hands, gripping the bar like a death grip, something too many people do trying to ride in the drops.
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Old 09-23-13, 08:28 PM   #16
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And of course, strengthen your core, and work on flexibility. I'm 60, and I can still rest a closed fist on the ground in a straight-legged bend. But then again, when I was 30, I could palm the floor, to there's age for ya.
Lucky so-and-so! I have NEVER been able to reach past about mid-shin, even when I was 17 and doing stretches all the time for track. On the plus side, I've never had that much flexibility to lose!
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Old 09-24-13, 10:42 AM   #17
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Lots of good contradictory advice here! That's what I want. My take: I can work on core strength and flexibility off the bike but I need to practice riding in the rotated forward position on the bike. The saddle is the first issue. I think I'll try lacing it so it's stiffer and less hammocky, which I hope will let me lower the nose a click or two closer to level. I can raise the bars if I need to now and lower them again as I improve, but I can't easily change the 110mm stem length. The advantages and disadvantages of a quill stem. So as usual ride more, practice more. And avoid headwinds.
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Old 09-24-13, 11:22 AM   #18
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I have often wondered what was so great about riding in the drops. Like someone said you can be on the hoods and bend your elbows and get into almost the same position as being in the drops.

I have considered putting some aero bars on my bike to see if it would be comfortable. I am hesitant to use aero bars because it seems that all the road vibration would go directly into the shoulders and cause problems over time.
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Old 09-24-13, 12:18 PM   #19
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I have often wondered what was so great about riding in the drops. Like someone said you can be on the hoods and bend your elbows and get into almost the same position as being in the drops.
Depends on what you're doing. Obviously when descending, your have better leverage on the brakes. When riding into a headwind, I like drops vs. bending elbows because that way I supporting my upper body primarily with my bones, not my muscles.
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Old 09-24-13, 12:32 PM   #20
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Might have to be realistic .. with less than washboard abs ,
the extra Me in-front gets in the way of my legs going around on the pedals .

so the bars come Up to compensate , the bike setup choices have changed over the last 30 years.
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Old 09-24-13, 01:05 PM   #21
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One other thought that I have had is that if I am pedaling and if I want to be the most efficient that I can be then I need to be as aero as possible. At some point efficiency has to be sacrificed for comfort and or power output.

I guess that I am never comfortable on my bike because I am always squirming around and changing hand positions and sitting back and then forward and standing and anything that I can think of the help relieve some discomfort.
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Old 09-24-13, 01:21 PM   #22
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One other thought that I have had is that if I am pedaling and if I want to be the most efficient that I can be then I need to be as aero as possible. At some point efficiency has to be sacrificed for comfort and or power output.
I think about aerodynamics in terms of returns on investment. More aero = less comfort, so I only subject myself to it when I'm going to get a real benefit.

I spend most of my time with my hands on the hoods or the curve, which are both pretty comfortable. Assuming no wind, I'll stay on the curve up to about 15 mph, then move to the hoods. If my speed goes over 25, I move to the drops. If it goes below 10, I'm climbing and I'll move to the tops. A headwind will lower the various speeds, a tailwind raises them. Riding in the drops into a headwind, sure, for a few miles. But at a certain point I'll be back up on the hoods, and just grind along hating life.


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I guess that I am never comfortable on my bike because I am always squirming around and changing hand positions and sitting back and then forward and standing and anything that I can think of the help relieve some discomfort.
Hmmmm. Sounds like your setup needs work. I don't find myself squirming to relieve discomfort all that much, unless I'm in the drops. Sure, over time your 'saddle interface' benefits from a brief 'stand and stretch', but if you're uncomfortable all the time, you might be able to fix that.
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Old 09-24-13, 01:22 PM   #23
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I've got 2 road bikes: a Klein Quantum with the tops of the bars set a couple inches below the seat and a Long Haul Trucker with the tops of the bars about even with the seat.

I'm too goddamn fat to use the drops much on the Klein. My knees find their way to my gut. But I'm working on it.

On the LHT I used to have the bars even higher, I think they might have been above my seat. I got used to riding in the drops that way, the drops on that bike were probably about as low as the tops on the Klein.

Eventually I lowered the bars on the LHT by a spacer. And I'm perfectly comfortable in the drops this way after getting used to the taller height.

So my advice is to raise the bars until you are *almost* comfortable in the drops. Then ride in the drops until you get comfortable and then lower the bar again. Lather, rinse, repeat until you find the right balance of tuck and comfort.
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Old 09-25-13, 02:05 AM   #24
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I found what helped me is to make sure my grip was fairly loose. A lot of people use a grip of death when they go on the drops and 1) force their body to pedal in a way it doesn't want to 2) expend a lot of energy.
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Old 09-25-13, 06:16 AM   #25
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I've always found road drops to be useless. Oddly enough track drops are more comfortable for me, so I guess it has less to do with drop than overall position. There are better positions for staying out of the wind than using the drops anyway. The best position is with elbows close together resting on the top bar. You can also do just as well resting forearms on the bars with wrists over the hoods. I use bullhorns on my touring bike and find it way more comfortable and aerodynamic that road bars. So I guess my answer is if drops are not comfortable for you, they are many other options. Of course you could always go the strap-on route With a lower position you might have to drop the nose of the saddle just a bit to avoid pressuring the parts that don't like pressure.
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