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  1. #1
    Token Canadian RecceDG's Avatar
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    Handlebar and Brake Hood Position Qs

    Hey guys,

    So long time MTBer; soon to add a decent road bike to my stable. I have a question about handlebar position and the proper ways to ride a drop bar.

    Short backstory: was recently on leave in Tenerife, and rented a road bike to see if I liked road biking and to get some ideas about what I do and don't like in a bike before I buy. Started off with a 58cm Leader, and when I broke the paddle thingy on the Campy shifter, exchanged it for a 56cm Mrazek.

    The 56cm frame was clearly a better fit, but on both bikes, with the drops "level" I had to cock my wrists up to be able to reach the brakes and shifters, and the the position was really uncomfortable.

    It felt like maybe a shorter stem would help... but lacking a shorter stem, I made do by rotating the bars downwards. This straightened out my wrists and put the brakes withing reach. It also moved my grip more into the "crook" of the bars, which was more comfortable.

    Pictures:





    The side effect, of course, is that it rotates the hoods forward too. I was OK with that, because I was only going to have the bike for 2 weeks, and I spent most of my time in the drops anyway. Ugly, yes, but it worked for me at the time.

    But as I pay more and more attention to pictures of roadies and their bikes, it looks like most of you rarely spend any time in the drops, and the preferred position is to grip the hoods.

    So I'm a little confused - it doesn't look like there's enough leverage to really use the brakes on the hoods. I suppose one can shift from that position... but it doesn't look easy. And with the hoods up that far, the brake levers seem too far away to work well in the drops.

    So what gives? What is the proper relationship between bars and levers? How is it supposed to work?

    DG
    Last edited by RecceDG; 02-01-09 at 04:33 AM.
    http://veloviewer.com/SigImage.phpa=62d63&r=3&c=5&u=M&g=p&f=abcdefijij&z=a.gif http://farnorthracing.com

  2. #2
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RecceDG View Post
    So what gives? What is the proper relationship between bars and levers? How is it supposed to work?
    The easy answer is that you'd set them so that they're the most comfortable and useful from the position you ride the most.

    My example reflects how I ride on the hoods most of the time:


    Basically, the top of the bars is flat, and the bar-hood combo also becomes a lot like bullhorn handlebars. Yours are actually the same way, except that the whole handlebar is rotated forwards -- see the smooth, straight transition from the flat part, along the forward bend, to the base of the hoods.

    My hands don't actually grip the hoods, then. They're usually at the base, with the heel of my hand still on the bar tape. I have good leverage for braking and shifting, too. If I had a smaller frame, I'd surely have more of the hoods in my hands.

    The thing is, especially with Shimano levers, is that the braking pivot point is still kinda low. That little rivet in my pic, the one that's below the flats of the bars, is the pivot. If I try squeezing on the levers with my fingers partially above that pivot, I'm actually pulling against myself. So, if my hands were further up on the hoods, like they would be if I angled my bars like yours, I might not be able to use my first two fingers effectively for braking.

  3. #3
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    Fit is a compromise as it relates to just about every aspect of ergonomics from seat to hand position. I prefer just the opposite...I like my levers rotated higher than the average guy as I believe this provides the most natural shaking hand position on the hoods without wrist manipulation. I just installed '09 Campy Centaur levers on my bike with the FSA Wing Compact bar and the ergos feel right. Many would prefer to rotate their bars more forward but that is not as comfortable for me. I have no trouble reaching the levers from the drops with long fingers.
    You will find no two bikes alike on here as we are shaped different and each has developed preferences over thousands of miles. The most important thing is to seek a bike position that places you most naturally on it. Lever position as you show it would rotate my wrists much too forward and be uncomfortable.
    Hope that helps..
    Attached Images Attached Images

  4. #4
    Senior Member AnthonyG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RecceDG View Post

    But as I pay more and more attention to pictures of roadies and their bikes, it looks like most of you rarely spend any time in the drops, and the preferred position is to grip the hoods.

    So I'm a little confused - it doesn't look like there's enough leverage to really use the brakes on the hoods. I suppose one can shift from that position... but it doesn't look easy. And with the hoods up that far, the brake levers seem too far away to work well in the drops.

    So what gives? What is the proper relationship between bars and levers? How is it supposed to work?

    DG
    What gives?

    Well to be honest beginners luck worked out for you OK and you just worked out what works without worrying about fashion. It could do with a little adjustment but don't get too worried. Its pretty good already so you don't need to make things worse by following fashion.

    So why are experienced roadies gripping the hoods?

    The answer is because of Machismo fashion. Its the Macho fashion to have your handlebars set as low as possible to impress all and sundry that your a "serious" racer and even the real racers get sucked into this. The problem of course is that now the drops are really too low so they all hold on to the hoods instead

    Don't buy into it. Set up your bars so that you are comfortable in the drops as it is easier to use the levers from the drops. The hoods are supposed to be an easier, take it easy position. I think your lever position could do with some refinement but that will come with time. Don't sweat it.

    Anthony

  5. #5
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    There's a reason why you don't see any pros and very few amateurs riding with their bars set up like that, and it's not "macho fashion". If that kind of setup worked better, then it would be normal. Even touring and rando riders who have their bars up high (compared to pro racers) have them set at the normal angle.

    The angle you have them at makes the hoods useless. But that's the best hand position for standing on climbs. You have a lot of spacers under the stem to get the bars high enough so that you can ride in the drops all the time, because you have to with the angle the bars are at. That means that you can't get any lower if you want to, like when you are riding into a head wind. Eliminating the hood as an option reduces comfort- the reason why road bikes have drop bars with multiple hand positions is to give you the ability to change position so you use different muscles.

    It's just as easy to shift and brake from the hoods on properly set up bars as it is from the drops. The leverage on the brake lever is not quite as good, so for descents it's a good idea to ride in the drops. But for everything else the hoods work just as well. Some people with small hands have a problem reaching the brake levers from the drops, if that's you, then Specialized make $10 shims for Shimano levers the move the brake levers in. You can also move the levers on the bar to a different part of the curve, sometimes that can improve the reach to the lever.

  6. #6
    u mad Mike V's Avatar
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    By the way the bikes are set up I would say the frames are to big.

    How tall are you and what is your inseam?

    What size mountain bike do you ride?

  7. #7
    Token Canadian RecceDG's Avatar
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    I'm 6'1". Inseam 33" or thereabouts. All the bike fit sites I've played with put me in a range of 55" to 59" depending on position aggressiveness and the fit theory of the site in question.

    I ride a L to XL MTB frame - but I like a roomy cockpit to help with the application of body English on the trails.

    The 58" Leader was clearly too big... or at best, I was right on the lower bound of fitting on it. The 56" Mrazek was a much better fit, but it had a super relaxed seat tube angle that had me running the seat all the way forward.

    Both bikes were fit hacks, and I'm OK with that. Perfect is the enemy of good enough, and the fit was good enough for me to meet the goals I had for them.

    My Cervelo will be a 56", and I'll have the shop fit me properly on delivery.

    Hrm, so some of you are braking and shifting from the hoods.

    Any chance I could get some pictures of you at full brake squeeze from both your hoods and drops positions?

    DG
    http://veloviewer.com/SigImage.phpa=62d63&r=3&c=5&u=M&g=p&f=abcdefijij&z=a.gif http://farnorthracing.com

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    "Hrm, so some of you are braking and shifting from the hoods."

    Most people do this.

  9. #9
    Ninja cyclist Dago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vertr View Post
    "Hrm, so some of you are braking and shifting from the hoods."

    Most people do this.
    Exactly, drops are mainly for situations where you really need to be aero and get the most leverage.

    Hoods are usually positioned so that they make a straight line with the handlebars and the line is parallel to the ground.

  10. #10
    Senior Member AnthonyG's Avatar
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    Here's a thread showing how quickly the amount of saddle to handlebar drop becomes a pissing contest, Saddle to bar drop... How much.

    There's plenty more threads out there if you go looking. umd did however post a good picture of himself racing and that photo shows what a good setup should look like. When your going hard you should be able to ride along in the drops like he is. Up on the hoods is a more relaxed position which is OK when your not going hard or are following another rider who is breaking the wind for you.

    There are FAR too many riders who set themselves up with more drop than they can handle and therefore use the hoods only. You should set yourself up to be able to use the drops comfortably when required.

    Anthony

  11. #11
    AEO
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    part of the problem is the handlebad design, the aero levers are the other.

    my thumb is short compared to the thumb shifter position on campy ergos, they're difficult to shift from the drops. some of the short comings of shimano/campy levers have been addressed for 2009 with a better designed shape for both hood and drop use.

    some bars are specifically designed to work with one manufacturer, some have poor ergonomics, others just don't seem to have any thought behind them at all.
    Food for thought: if you aren't dead by 2050, you and your entire family will be within a few years from starvation. Now that is a cruel gift to leave for your offspring. ;)
    http://sanfrancisco.ibtimes.com/arti...ger-photos.htm

  12. #12
    Senior Member AnthonyG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AEO View Post
    part of the problem is the handlebad design, the aero levers are the other.

    my thumb is short compared to the thumb shifter position on campy ergos, they're difficult to shift from the drops. some of the short comings of shimano/campy levers have been addressed for 2009 with a better designed shape for both hood and drop use.

    some bars are specifically designed to work with one manufacturer, some have poor ergonomics, others just don't seem to have any thought behind them at all.
    Good points. For the OP I think you should get yourself some classic curve handlebars and ditch the so called ergo bars. So called ergo bars have the flat section below where the levers usually bolt on and yes this makes it hard to reach the levers. It does look like you've compensated for the awkwardness of the ergo bars by tilting the bars down. Try some traditional classic curve bars.

    Anthony

  13. #13
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RecceDG View Post
    The 58" Leader was clearly too big... or at best, I was right on the lower bound of fitting on it. The 56" Mrazek was a much better fit, but it had a super relaxed seat tube angle that had me running the seat all the way forward.
    I keep feeling like you've adapted your fit to how, at least as far as I can tell, and because of their rotation, your bars are pretty useless except for the upper parts of the hoods and the leading curve of the drops.

    Check the thread that AnthonyG posted, and see the different bar positions in umd's pic. umd himself has the tops of his bars a touch below level, and the other rider (#944) has his set kind of like yours, except with the brifters a little further up on the curve.

    They're both pretty different from mine, since they're spending nearly all of their time in the drops, and I only go to the drops when I want to go faster or I hit a bad headwind. Yet, on both of their bikes, the brifters themselves aren't angled nearly as far downward as yours are.

    I'll post back in a while with pics of my hands and where they fit.

  14. #14
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Three pics, one of the bars by themselves and two of two different hand positions. They're standard Shimano 105 brifters without short-reach shims. I've marked the pivot point of the brake mechanism and drawn lines to approximately where my fingertips meet the brake levers.

    Notice that the distances from the pivot to my fingertips touch aren't that different, although I feel that I get a considerable mechanical advantage when braking from the drops. And, although I didn't take a pic of it, I have the option of pulling the brakes from nearly the end of the levers when in the drops, whereas what you see of the position on the hoods is the best leverage I can get.

    Bottom line is, although it's easier to brake harder from the drops, I can still brake awfully hard from the hoods.




  15. #15
    umd
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    Quote Originally Posted by AnthonyG View Post
    Here's a thread showing how quickly the amount of saddle to handlebar drop becomes a pissing contest, Saddle to bar drop... How much.

    There's plenty more threads out there if you go looking. umd did however post a good picture of himself racing and that photo shows what a good setup should look like. When your going hard you should be able to ride along in the drops like he is. Up on the hoods is a more relaxed position which is OK when your not going hard or are following another rider who is breaking the wind for you.

    There are FAR too many riders who set themselves up with more drop than they can handle and therefore use the hoods only. You should set yourself up to be able to use the drops comfortably when required.

    Anthony
    Since I was used as an example, I may as well show my position on my new bike... this is from yesterday... I haven't gone through all the pics yet so there may be a better profile shot. (edit: why are there no other riders in this photo? Was I dropped? No, I was off the front )



    It does get me really low, lower even than most, as you can see in this picture (in a break)



    This is the bike setup without me. The drop is just over 5 inches, or nearly 13cm.

    Last edited by umd; 02-02-09 at 08:27 AM.

  16. #16
    local pungee's Avatar
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    umd- What stem and bars are you running on you tarmac?

  17. #17
    umd
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    3T ARX Team -17D, 110mm(?) & 3T Ergosum Team 40cm. The post is a 3T Doric Ltd

  18. #18
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by umd View Post
    3T ARX Team -17D, 110mm(?) & 3T Ergosum Team 40cm. The post is a 3T Doric Ltd
    Umd...raise your bars would ya? Looking at that set up makes my groin ache.

  19. #19
    AEO
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    Quote Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
    Umd...raise your bars would ya? Looking at that set up makes my groin ache.
    my thumbs and wrist ache looking at your bars
    Food for thought: if you aren't dead by 2050, you and your entire family will be within a few years from starvation. Now that is a cruel gift to leave for your offspring. ;)
    http://sanfrancisco.ibtimes.com/arti...ger-photos.htm

  20. #20
    umd
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    Quote Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
    Umd...raise your bars would ya? Looking at that set up makes my groin ache.
    I'd probably still drop another cm if I could... I'm really flexible and that position is not the least bit uncomfortable. I can do the fingers on the floor bending over thing. I used to be able to get my palms on the floor but I havn't done it in a while... just tried and didn't quite make it all the way to my palms but I was very close

    I don't know what they are, but it's probably also related to arm/torso measurements, but I've always felt more comfortable going down rather than out. I see some people riding that are so stretched out I don't know how they do it.

  21. #21
    umd
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    Quote Originally Posted by AEO View Post
    my thumbs and wrist ache looking at your bars
    Thumbs?

  22. #22
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    umd - you seem to be the only one with arms comfortably bent. Everyone else seems to have their arms too stretched out. RecceDG - keep adjusting bar angle, height and brake position until you have got it right, then wrap the bars.

  23. #23
    Senior Member kenshinvt's Avatar
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    6'1" on a 56cm frame? Was this the size recommended for you after having a professional fitting done? If not, have you used any fit calculators or other resources to determine a proper frame size based on your measurements? It looks like you are compensating for a bad fit by angling the handle bars. You should be comfortable on the hoods in your default setup. I really thought, in reading the responses, that someone would have addressed this already.

    When you say: "with the drops 'level' I had to cock my wrists up to be able to reach the brakes and shifters, and the the position was really uncomfortable." That makes me think.. why would you have to bend your wrists upwards to fit on the hoods? The only thing I can think of is that your body is so far forward (perhaps due to a too short cockpit) that you have to bend your wrists up to compensate.

    Compare this to a situation such as in umd's first picture, where your forearms would make a natural line straight to where you are gripping with your hands (except imagine this on the hoods, rather than in the drops).

  24. #24
    umd
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    Quote Originally Posted by guidofistpump View Post
    I'm really flexible and that position is not the least bit uncomfortable. - Can you grab your ankles?
    If I could put my palms on the floor don't you think I could grab my ankles?

    Quote Originally Posted by guidofistpump View Post
    but I've always felt more comfortable going down rather than out - Really?
    I see what you did there

    I may want to rethink my previous answer in light of the context you are presenting.

  25. #25
    AEO
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    Quote Originally Posted by umd View Post
    Thumbs?
    campag4life's bars, hard time reaching for the thumb levers from the drops at that angle.

    but, oh yes, you use double tap
    Food for thought: if you aren't dead by 2050, you and your entire family will be within a few years from starvation. Now that is a cruel gift to leave for your offspring. ;)
    http://sanfrancisco.ibtimes.com/arti...ger-photos.htm

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