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Old 06-04-16, 08:54 AM   #1
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considering a bike with drops - a few questions

Hi:

With an entire four or five months of cycling (commuting/errands/fun rides) under my belt, I am of course now searching for that n+1.

One of the things about my current (and only) bike is that is good for a lot of things, but probably not fast group rides. Of course, that could be me too...after all, only four/five months on the bike doesn't really build the stamina and muscle you need to ride quickly. I'm fifty-nine years old, and I do have a sedentary desk job. I'm also working against over thirty years of inactivity, at least as far as exercise goes. I've always walked a lot, but that doesn't do much for cardiovascular health; at least not like biking does.

In any case, if I buy another bike, it has to be something that is different enough from what I have that I can justify the purchase to myself. So what I was thinking is: my current bike is an aluminum frame, flat bar, balloon-tire bike. Why not make my next one steel with thinner tires and drop bars?

When I started talking to the more experienced riders at work, they all cautioned against drop bars. They said that using drops would often place my neck and head in an unnatural position, and I would risk damage to my vertebrae. This last caution was from two people who raced bikes in the teens and twenties, and _did_ have subsequent problems with their necks.

So...I'm asking advice. To drop or not to drop?
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Old 06-04-16, 09:01 AM   #2
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Do go into a Bike shop.

I have been riding for 50 years and now like My IGH , Butterfly bar bike because I sit more upright, at 68, 210 than 34 & 175..

Trekking bars are easy compatible swaps with all the flat bar controls retained.
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Old 06-04-16, 09:04 AM   #3
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First, a different color is enough to justify a new bike

Drops are not going to cause damage to your neck unless you somehow are dumb enough to go through extreme pain for a long period of time and just ignore it. I have broken my neck and it is fused, not biking by the way. So, I can only ride a bike with drop bars for a max of about 2 hours. My neck is highly susceptible to damage above and below the fusion, and I did not damage it any further riding in drops, because I stopped when it hurt too much. My guess is you might have some discomfort at first, but if you allow your body time to build the supporting muscles that all will be fine.
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Old 06-04-16, 09:20 AM   #4
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Raced bikes in my yoot'. Developed severe degeneration in my c-spine years later, related to the vertical shock loads from many more years of running. Had a fusion and artificial disks done above and below after sustaining mild cord damage. Rehabbed like crazy and did the strengthening I should have done 30 years earlier. Now I ride in the same aggressive, roadie position I always did, the difference being that it feels a whole lot better.

Rehab was was focused on the deep neck muscles and involve a lot of the same sort of strain produced by riding in the drops. I have trouble believing that this will cause problems in a properly prepared athlete. I have my prejudices, obviously, but I think a year in the gym would cure the great majority of the postural issues people complain of on these boards.
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Old 06-04-16, 09:41 AM   #5
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Visit a few bike shops and look at and test ride the drop bar bikes that you like. Then buy the one that speaks to you.
FYI: I'm 71 and ride only road bikes. Never owned a hybrid or flat bar bike.
No neck problems for me. My spine doc (who is a roadie) said road bikes are the best thing for my back. It stretches out my spine and relaxes it.

If you want to try a different road bike, test ride a few carbon bikes. They aren't that expensive.

Let us know what you get.
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Old 06-04-16, 10:02 AM   #6
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The advice you are getting from people at work isn't correct. Either they don't have the exoerience they claim, are basing statements on false assumptions, or have unwarranted biases.

Drop bars don't have to be ridiculously low. You can set them so riding with your hands on top is similar to your current flat bars. Use the drops for getting lower for more speed, going into the wind, or just an alternative position. Plus you can ride with your hands on the brake hoods in at least a couple of ways. So overall you have more hand positions with flat bars.

A new road bike, maybe in an endurance e style, can add enjoyment in more speed and longer distances.
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Old 06-04-16, 10:39 AM   #7
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There are so many variations of drop bar positions that you are almost certain to find the right combination of saddle height and bar height/reach that you can adapt to.

I was in a similar position to you a couple of years back, considering going for a road bike but having problems riding the road bikes of friends of mine because of neck strain. But they were quite aggressive positions, with the saddle high and the stem too low for me with my neck problems so I gave up looking for a while.

I then read a lot of reviews of road bikes, particularly the comments on the comfort for long rides, rather than the out-and-out speed. In the end I settled for a steel Genesis Equilibrium frame (steel was a personal choice and you may well prefer alloy or CF), and built the bike up myself with a fairly high steerer so that I am not bent or stretched too far in the drops (incidentally, if you are like most riders you will spend very little time actually in the drops, and a lot of time on the top or riding on the hoods).

After riding a lot on my road bike this year I am glad I went for it. I love it and now ride it most of the time, with no neck pain. I think the slightly stretched position is also good for my troublesome spine.

The advice about trying out first at the bike shop is good. Also see if you can experiment with different steerer/stem heights and lengths before making a choice.

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Old 06-04-16, 10:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dougmon View Post
Hi:

With an entire four or five months of cycling (commuting/errands/fun rides) under my belt, I am of course now searching for that n+1.

One of the things about my current (and only) bike is that is good for a lot of things, but probably not fast group rides. Of course, that could be me too...after all, only four/five months on the bike doesn't really build the stamina and muscle you need to ride quickly. I'm fifty-nine years old, and I do have a sedentary desk job. I'm also working against over thirty years of inactivity, at least as far as exercise goes. I've always walked a lot, but that doesn't do much for cardiovascular health; at least not like biking does.

In any case, if I buy another bike, it has to be something that is different enough from what I have that I can justify the purchase to myself. So what I was thinking is: my current bike is an aluminum frame, flat bar, balloon-tire bike. Why not make my next one steel with thinner tires and drop bars?

When I started talking to the more experienced riders at work, they all cautioned against drop bars. They said that using drops would often place my neck and head in an unnatural position, and I would risk damage to my vertebrae. This last caution was from two people who raced bikes in the teens and twenties, and _did_ have subsequent problems with their necks.

So...I'm asking advice. To drop or not to drop?
If you switched out the stock tires, I see no reason you can't go fast on your current bike. If you are using the stock tires, you should be able to save a lot of rotational weight by going with a lighter tire. That said, I prefer drop bars to flat bars. But if I were you , I would stick with the Big Rove for awhile.
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Old 06-04-16, 11:18 AM   #9
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Hilarious! Non-fit people cautioning about getting fit, like smokers telling you how bad the shakes will be if you try to quit. Ignore them. Yes, it may take a lifetime to get really fit, and yes during the rest of your life you might experience pain from working out hard.

Yes, go with a drop bar bike. You might rethink the steel thing. New steel is getting hard to find and expensive. Modern aluminum has come a long way and carbon has become much less expensive. The standard road position has been essentially unchanged for over 100 years. The reason for that it that it's the most comfortable position once one gets used to it. That it's more aero is a side benefit.
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Old 06-04-16, 11:49 AM   #10
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Get the drop-bar bike, and ride it like you stole it!

I started riding drop-bar road bikes at 57. I'm now 67. After 49,000+ miles, I do not have neck or back problems, and I ride "in the drops" quite a bit.

My first modern-day drop-bar road bike was an aluminum frame Fuji, which I still ride. I've since added a carbon fiber bike to my modest fleet.
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Old 06-04-16, 12:59 PM   #11
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Except for my very first bike, a 2-speed Schwinn middelweight with paper boy ape-hanger bars, I have always ridden drops. When I got my mountain bike I missed the variety of hand positions and quickly added extensions to the ends of the bars, which helped immensely. If you are unable to get accustomed to drops, make sure they are not set too low and that your stem reach is not excessive. The old "elbow against the saddle nose / fingertips to the top of the drops" is not a bad first approximation.
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Old 06-04-16, 01:07 PM   #12
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If you switched out the stock tires, I see no reason you can't go fast on your current bike. If you are using the stock tires, you should be able to save a lot of rotational weight by going with a lighter tire. That said, I prefer drop bars to flat bars. But if I were you , I would stick with the Big Rove for awhile.
I'm sorry, but are you actually suggesting that I don't buy a second bike. If so, I sense you are not long for these forums....

Your idea of switching out the tires makes sense; but the tires that are on there are perfect for most of what I do.

A lot of my desire for another bike is spurred by:
  • Wanting a bike that fills the gaps
  • Wanting another bike
  • Wanting another bike

But your advice is noted, and I thank you for it.
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Old 06-04-16, 01:18 PM   #13
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One of the things about drop bars is that many recreational riders seldom, if ever, go down on the drops. Most seem to ride on the hoods. No skin off my nose, but I like to stay in the drops at least half the ride. I find simply getting into the drops automatically increases my speed by about 2km/h without any apparent increase in effort. Rent a few different road bikes and try them out. You may find yourself attracted to cross bikes that can be used on the road or as gravel-chuckers. They are not quite as fast but very stable for a newer rider. They also come with a built in excuse for why you are behind in the group ride: "Well, of course I'm riding my old gravel-chucker!"

I also second the non-steel idea. Try out aluminium and Carbonfibre bikes too. I think you'll enjoy them more than steel in group rides.
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Old 06-04-16, 01:21 PM   #14
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I think you'll enjoy them more than steel in group rides.
unless it's a C&V ride and you're shunned ..
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Old 06-04-16, 01:22 PM   #15
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One of the things about drop bars is that many recreational riders seldom, if ever, go down on the drops. Most seem to ride on the hoods. No skin off my nose, but I like to stay in the drops at least half the ride. I find simply getting into the drops automatically increases my speed by about 2km/h without any apparent increase in effort. Rent a few different road bikes and try them out. You may find yourself attracted to cross bikes that can be used on the road or as gravel-chuckers. They are not quite as fast but very stable for a newer rider. They also come with a built in excuse for why you are behind in the group ride: "Well, of course I'm riding my old gravel-chucker!"

I also second the non-steel idea. Try out aluminium and Carbonfibre bikes too. I think you'll enjoy them more than steel in group rides.
The irony is, the Kona Rove AL comes in a drop bar version that is, pretty much a gravel/cross bike.
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Old 06-04-16, 01:29 PM   #16
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I'm sorry, but are you actually suggesting that I don't buy a second bike. If so, I sense you are not long for these forums....

Your idea of switching out the tires makes sense; but the tires that are on there are perfect for most of what I do.

A lot of my desire for another bike is spurred by:
  • Wanting a bike that fills the gaps
  • Wanting another bike
  • Wanting another bike

But your advice is noted, and I thank you for it.
N + 1 is a trap a lot of riders fall into. As my wife often reminds me, you can only ride one bike at a time. I know of some cyclists that are constantly rotating through bikes, or who have different bikes for different uses. (commuter for commuting, mountain bike for off road, road bike for fast club rides, etc...) But there are some riders, including myself who have bought extra bikes thinking they would find a use for them, only to watch their new purchases collect dust in the garage while they ride their favorite bike 99.9% of the time. Among the purchases over the years include a vintage Schwinn (because I thought I would really love going back to downtube shifters. I didn't), a Bianchi Milano (because I thought I would use it to ride to coffee shops and around town. Turns out it looked better than it rode, and I found myself going more often than not back to my 1997Bianchi Advantage because it is both more comfortable and faster.), and currently, an early 90s Trek 930 (same idea as the Bianchi, and because I liked the idea of riding an American made Trek. Alternately, I thought maybe my son might like it. My son appropriated the Bianchi Advantage and doesn't really like the Trek all that much. As for me, I am just used to the fit of my Salsa Casseroll, and I have only ridden the Trek 4 times in 18 months. Though I did lend it out twice, so it has been ridden 6 times in 18 months.)

As for the your tires, Schwalbe Big Apples are fine tires, but extremely heavy. (like 800 gms or more per tire) Not saying you should go with super skinny road tires, but you could probably find a reasonably durable and comfortable tire in 32 or 35 mm that would do most of what the Big Apples can do at half the weight.

Last edited by MRT2; 06-04-16 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 06-04-16, 01:34 PM   #17
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1) You can put drops on your current ride. I bought a hybrid this Spring and did just that.

2) Having said that, getting a new bike is fun, and having a spare bike can come in handy.

3) Somebody said don't look at steel. I've had Alu, Ti and Steel. Steel is my favorite. Frankly, getting the type and size is more important, but I just love my Gunnar Sport.

4) Drop bars can be as high or low as you want (assuming you don't get a bike with a precut steerer thingy.) Mine is quite high.

"The whole idea of raising the handlebars isn't revolutionary; it's the way everyone used to ride until things got crazy, and it still makes sense."
The Reader: A Comfortable and Efficient Position

"There is, however, a position that allows good performance while minimizing risk of lower back injury. I like a stem height and length that puts your back about 50 degrees from horizontal, while your arms and legs bend slightly at the elbows, as shown in figure 2 up there. To achieve this, you'll probably have to raise your bars, and assuming you want to keep the same bar style (as opposed to riding with stingray bars or something), that usually means getting another stem, one with a taller quill or a steep rise to it. If you hit the sweet spot, a photo of you from the side will reveal a nice pyramid composed of top tube, torso and arms."

Lower Back Pain
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Old 06-04-16, 01:45 PM   #18
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I fit your description pretty closely so maybe you can relate to my experience. I got back into biking about three years ago. I now have three bikes. They are a Giant Escape 1, a Specialized Sequoia Elite and a Norco Blue cross bike. The Giant is a hybrid with flatbars. It weighs about 28 pounds, has triple front with a 9-speed rear. I use 28's tires on it that are good on pavement where I ride almost all of the time. The Specialized is nearly identical to the Giant in many ways. They have about the same wheelbase, both are triple fronts with 9-speed rears (the Giant has a wider gear range) and the Specialized came with interrupter brakes so that I can brake with may hands on the tops of the dropbar. It weighs about 23 pounds. The cross bike weighs about 18 pounds, has a shorter wheelbase, a double front and a 10-speed rear. They are all good bikes, but the bike I prefer riding almost all the time is the Giant. I often ride with people who have road bikes and we maintain a pace of about 16 mph (sometimes faster). I have not found the Specialized or the cross bike to be any faster. I have three bikes because I had the Giant and thought I'd be faster with a lighter bike with dropbars. It hasn't really worked out that way. I've discovered I appreciate the stability of the flatbar, the range (11-34) of the Giant's cassette, and I find I much prefer trigger shifters and brakes over the "brifters" on dropbars. I agree with the comment that the first thing you should do is get narrower tires with a tread good for pavement. I think you'll find that will make a big difference. Good luck.
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Old 06-04-16, 07:16 PM   #19
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Lots of differing experiences here. I've degenerative discs in my neck and spinal stenosis (I'm 63) and flatbars just kill me, at least when riding any distance. The wider hand position and upright stance just puts my neck in a weird position. Sitting more upright also forces your spine to carry more weight . I've a few younger friends with troublesome backs who've been sold hybrids and found they were not so comfortable. Drop bars spread the weight between butt and hands, offer multiple hand positions and force you to develop core muscles that help to carry the burden over time. I do 90% of my riding up high on the bars (hoods or tops) and my bars are almost as high as my seat. IMHO, flat bars work well for mountain bikes or short distance road riders. I can't see making the argument that a flat bar bike is faster. If it is, its because its rider is animal strong so its not a fair comparison anyway. I know I'm way faster on my road bike then I was on a flat bar. If you're going to be riding mostly on the roads then I'd advise a drop bar bike, especially if you want to ride distances.
All that being said, get what you like knowing that nothings permanent and you can change down the road. Just find a way to ride !
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Old 06-04-16, 08:10 PM   #20
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If you think a flat bar hybrid bike is as fast as a proper full on road bike it is because you are a)delusional, b) have never actually tested them; or c) you are just not riding hard enough to tell the difference. I suspect in most cases it is 'c'.

and that is fine if what you want is a leisurely ride in the country. But don't pretend you are pushing yourself or your bike to the limits!
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Old 06-04-16, 08:32 PM   #21
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My daily ride is a Minnesota 3.0 fat. I ride mostly on a beach with strong afternoon winds so I switched to Salsa Woodchippers and...a Ritchey adjustable stem. Depending on winds...I ride on the bars, hoods, drops, corners of bars, all forward or part back on hoods, all forward or part back on drops, I'll ride split fingered or knuckles down. This setup offers many hand position choices. Slight disadvantage on technical single track but the wide open beach is my place. I used 46 wide bars and if you've strong forearms, the width issue is not a disadvantage. The adjustable stem really helped. I use the drops in stiff headwinds. The hoods in modest not so stiff breezes. I'm 61.

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Old 06-05-16, 07:49 AM   #22
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As has been pointed out above, you can set up your drop bars so the top is in the same position as your flat bars.

As to experienced riders saying to "stay away from drop bars", wow. I don't know of any road rider who would say such a thing, and I have been a member of a road club for 27 years. We have riders in their 80s who still use drop bars, some just set them up higher than others.

Whenever I ride my flat bar mtb on stretches of road, I wish I had drop bars.

On the road bikes, I usually climb with my hands on the tops, unless there is headwind, then I climb in the drops.
In the drops when descending, chasing, trying to stay in a fast line or just trying to cover ground quickly.
Sometimes I am in the drops for hours, and I am not flexible. I set my bars with the tops about an inch below the saddle.
When I was younger it was 4 inches below the saddle.

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Old 06-05-16, 08:05 AM   #23
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They said that using drops would often place my neck and head in an unnatural position, and I would risk damage to my vertebrae.
I'm with those calling hogwash to this.

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My neck is highly susceptible to damage above and below the fusion, and I did not damage it any further riding in drops
I'm also 59 and have been cycling for ten years now. I've had a rheumatologist since age 26 for ankylosing spondylitis, which is gradually fusing my spine. I own three bikes and zero cars. Everywhere I go is by bike. All my bikes have drop bars. My spine has not gotten noticably worse in the past ten years. If anything, they've slowed the progress of the AS.

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Originally Posted by Kindaslow View Post
My guess is you might have some discomfort at first, but if you allow your body time to build the supporting muscles that all will be fine.
This was my experience. Refreshing my memory by looking at my ride logs from the time, it took at least two but no more than three months for my upper back, shoulder, and neck muscles to get in form to hold my rather oversized noggin out front in that "unnatural position" your co-workers are warning you away from.

Hmmm. Once upon a time, "unnatural position" meant something else entirely...
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Old 06-05-16, 12:23 PM   #24
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Hi Doug. Much like you started later, at age 63 with "old fart bike." Heavy hybrid got lungs and legs in shape over four years and asked same questions as you about what's next. By then rode about an hour a day four days a week which with vacations worked out to about 1,000 miles per year at 11, 12, 13 MPH each year solo.

Decided on a road bike and so pleased I did. Get lightest bike you can afford and get a fitting that's often included with a new bike. If go carbon fiber you want new so get lifetime warranty. The fitting wilth adjustments reduce body problems yet still need to break in hands, arms, core, legs etc.

Fourth year began on road bike and now in 8th year. Third year with group where we ride 20-25 MPH. Road bike makes big difference at that speed and good to have drops as mentioned if pulling or in wind. Mostly ride in hoods. Bars with drops give you several hand positions over a flat bar; have newer hybrid still ride).

Found very nice, supportive group to ride and its been a life changer. Being 71 now and riding 45-62 miles at 19-20 MPH on average with nice, safe people is a lot of fun. WEEEEE!!!!

We are all different. I had no idea where a road bike would take me, just had to give it a chance and being open about new experiences. Not everything good in life is obvious or predictable.

Enjoy the journey
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Old 06-05-16, 02:49 PM   #25
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Okay - I know you need another reply. Got back into biking last summer with a Trek 7.4 fx hybrid. Rode that about 50 miles a week. Then a couple of months ago, I bought a road bike - a Trek Madone...love it. My bars are about 1-1/2 inches below the saddle...not a full Tour de France tuck, but sorta aero. Now clocking 70 to 90 miles a week. Mostly riding on hoods. No back/neck problems...by the way...I am 74.
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