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Getting used to drop bars

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Getting used to drop bars

Old 09-20-15, 02:35 PM
  #1  
Gerryattrick
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Getting used to drop bars

I recently built up my first road bike in over 40 years. I have bought a couple of road bikes in the past year but they were for flipping, not keepers, whereas my new one is a modern steel frame bike that I got specifically to get back into road riding.

The bike is great, fairly light at just over 21lbs fully kitted, with a very smooth ride but I'm wondering when I'm going to love riding drop bars.

I can see the aerodynamic benefits of riding in the drops, but tbh increased speed is not a very important factor in my riding and so far I reckon I've ridden the drops probably about 2 or 3% of the time.

I've never had wrist, arm or back problems riding my normal 2-3 hour rides on flat bars with bar ends, nor on a 98 mile ride on an mtb. On the plus side I'm not getting the problems I thought I might have had with my long-lasting back and neck issues as I've set the drop bar reasonably high.

I'm not giving in yet, especially as I'm only just getting back to riding after a long injury lay-off and my longest ride on the new bike has been 20 miles.

For those who moved from flat bars to drops how long did it take you to to get really comfortable with them?
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Old 09-20-15, 02:44 PM
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Not clear what the problem is?
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Old 09-20-15, 03:33 PM
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A tall stem with a short horizontal reach can be your friend here.

As a VERY rough check, put your elbow against the nose of the saddle and see whether your fingertips can touch the horizontal top of the drop bar. If they fall short, you will need to move the saddle forward or replace the stem with one with a shorter reach. (Or get an adjustable reach stem, if you can find one. )

I have the opposite problem, in the sense that I am more likely to experience hand tingles with the mountain bike than with my road bikes, although putting bar extensions on the mountain bike did help a great deal.
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Old 09-20-15, 03:39 PM
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I've always had drop bars. I ride in the drops when riding into a headwind or just for a different riding position. I spend most of the time riding on the top of the bar or on the hoods. Never had any problems with comfort.
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Old 09-20-15, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Not clear what the problem is?
Did I say it was a problem?

Just making conversation and wondering about other people's experiences as, so far, it hasn't been an epiphany.
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Old 09-20-15, 05:04 PM
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My mountain bike and my commute bike have flat bars whereas both of my road bikes have drop bars. Each type of bar has advantages but I don't find it a bother to switch from one type of bar to the other. Doubt you'll have much of an issue with it and the as noted above, the drops are good riding into the wind an on twisty descents.

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Old 09-20-15, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Gerryattrick View Post
I recently built up my first road bike in over 40 years. I have bought a couple of road bikes in the past year but they were for flipping, not keepers, whereas my new one is a modern steel frame bike that I got specifically to get back into road riding.

The bike is great, fairly light at just over 21lbs fully kitted, with a very smooth ride but I'm wondering when I'm going to love riding drop bars.

I can see the aerodynamic benefits of riding in the drops, but tbh increased speed is not a very important factor in my riding and so far I reckon I've ridden the drops probably about 2 or 3% of the time.

I've never had wrist, arm or back problems riding my normal 2-3 hour rides on flat bars with bar ends, nor on a 98 mile ride on an mtb. On the plus side I'm not getting the problems I thought I might have had with my long-lasting back and neck issues as I've set the drop bar reasonably high.

I'm not giving in yet, especially as I'm only just getting back to riding after a long injury lay-off and my longest ride on the new bike has been 20 miles.

For those who moved from flat bars to drops how long did it take you to to get really comfortable with them?
Just because you have drop bars doesn't mean you have to ride in the drops. The advantage of this type of bar is that it provides numerous positions: In the drops, on the brake hoods, on the top of the bars (hands closer to the stem), etc. You can experiment and find one that is the most comfortable. On longer rides, you can switch between positions.
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Old 09-20-15, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by bikepro View Post
Just because you have drop bars doesn't mean you have to ride in the drops. The advantage of this type of bar is that it provides numerous positions: In the drops, on the brake hoods, on the top of the bars (hands closer to the stem), etc. You can experiment and find one that is the most comfortable. On longer rides, you can switch between positions.
+1

I've found I have basically five positions on drop bars: On top, at the bend, at the base of the hoods, on the hoods and in the drops. It's really nice to be able to switch around, even on shorter rides. Plus, I have interrupter brake levers on top and rarely use the brakes from the hoods. For me, the brifters are just shifters.
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Old 09-21-15, 01:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Gerryattrick View Post
Did I say it was a problem?
You said "I'm not giving in yet, ..." which implies you're not enjoying it much.

It'll take a while, and may require gradual adjustments. When I got back into riding I rode with a relatively small drop for a while, because that's what I found most comfortable. But as the months passed I became more and more comfortable going lower, and now ride as low and as stretched out as I did when younger.

As others have said, one doesn't have to spend all the time in the drops - I probably use them more than most but am still there only about 10%-20% of the time. Quite apart from their aero advantages into a headwind they are superb for descending.
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Old 09-21-15, 06:53 AM
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For me, its having the different hand positions available with the drop bar configuration. Flat bar set ups, other than the bar ends, are restrictive for my riding. Once I get the reach and height correct for my physiology I don't feel any strain on my back, it is straight, like the neurosurgeon wants my spine to be because of the two levels that are fused and plated/caged. The load of my weight is not concentrated on the back or arms, its spread out between them.

I'd venture that you'll come to appreciate the drops, and the various hand placement options you have with them. As Chas said, most of my riding time is not in the drops, much the same percentage as his. Mainly on the hoods for me, and just a small bit on the top/flats. Keeping the core strengthened in order to support things without any excess in any one muscle group, has helped me out a great bit. YMMV.

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Old 09-21-15, 08:38 AM
  #11  
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I agree that core strength is going to be important as perhaps I am putting too much pressure on my hands when leaning forward on the bars.

I fully understand what everyone says about the flexibility of hand positions with drop bars, and I probably am going to have to put in a few longer rides of 40 to 50 miles and more to fully appreciate the benefits.

It's still early days in my efforts to increase the variety of the types of riding I do to include road bikes, and perhaps I was expecting too much too soon, especially as I've never experienced discomfort on long rides with flat bars where I can use at least three different hand positions.
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Old 09-21-15, 08:45 AM
  #12  
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I had a little discomfort at first and added the following to my weight training routine:
hyperextensions
back machine (don't know for sure what you call it, its the one where you sit and push backwards)
wrist curls
reverse wrist curls

These helped the adjustment a great deal. For me, it is having the variety of hand placement.
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Old 09-21-15, 05:43 PM
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I'm on the drops about 20% of my riding time, mostly when I'm going into any headwind or just sprinting for fun. One thing to note is that handlebars come in a huge variety of shapes and drop distance. My handlebars are about level with my saddle. A more racy frame might have the bars a big vertical drop from the saddle, putting the drops even lower, so there are drop bars and then there are drop bars. If your handlebars are already several inches below your saddle you might want to take a good look at the vertical drop from your handbar to your drop section and look over other handlebars just for comparison.
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Old 09-21-15, 06:53 PM
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I'm 63 and I have just built my first bike equipped with drop bars (that weren't flipped). I did this for style, as the bike is a fixie and I wanted it to look classic, not current. Prior to this all my bikes had high(ish) flat bars, for the most part.

For the past 50 years, I have found drop bars painful. For the first time, I am comfortable with them. I am 6'1 210 lbs down from 270 over 3 years. Here's an observation, by no means scientific.

While my previous instinct to raise the bars when my shoulders hurt provided temporary relief, it was short lived. The wrist and shoulder pain didn't go away, it moved to another spot. If the tops are just the right height, the balance between the spring effect from your bent torso and the support by your arms, makes it less painful on your shoulders and wrists. I still rarely visit the drops. That is why the tops are dead level and the drops at a rakish angle, almost parallel with the down tube.

The seat being at the correct height and practically level, I can position my sit bones near or even off the back of the seat for additional comfort. I would prefer an anatomical seat but styling dictated an age appropriate saddle.

I know the rest of the civilized world thinks suicide levers are dorky and useless, but I differ on this. Leaning way forward to brake on a fixie with only a front brake feels risky. If adjusted right, extension levers stop the bike well from a more upright position. They need to be tight so they brake with very little pull. The more you have to pull them, the less effective they feel. There has to be a good inch of air between the hard stop position and the bar. Again, my observation and not scientific.

I hope you find safety and comfort with your road bars.

Heres a picture of the bike in case any of this is unclear:

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Old 09-21-15, 07:26 PM
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I love riding in the drops. Anytime there is headwind or when I push my speed to over 20mph, I'm down in the drops. It's very relaxing.
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Old 09-21-15, 11:24 PM
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Answering the question that was asked...

When I moved from flat bars to drop bars, it took me a couple of months at an average of 150 miles week for my neck and shoulders to get used to holding my noggin out in front of me instead of right on top of my spine. This was with a terribly conservative bar height and reach. (READ: A short riser stem.)

It was closer to six months before I was genuinely comfortable.

Then it was a year before I started moving the bars out and down.

As my flexibility and core strength have improved, my bars have moved out 3cm and down 7cm in the years since, but always in small increments. All year this year I've been toying with the idea of moving them out another cm. With three bikes, that means three stems, so the economics are holding me back.

For the record, then as now, I spent 95% of my time on the hoods.
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Old 09-21-15, 11:41 PM
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I feel like I'm still transitioning. There are a lot of different drop bars. So far I've tried Cinelli Giro d'Italia on a Paramount, rando handlebars on a Super Sport, and modern compact handlebars. I've liked the rando handlebars the best. But I can see how they wouldn't work great with brifters, the hoods would be way out there... and I can see how that leads to a modern bike fitting smaller than a classic. I still have a set of anatomics to try.
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Old 09-22-15, 08:13 AM
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.. been there , now I use my drop bars bike rarely.

The bending over into a headwind is done nicely with a far reach grip, on trekking, figure 8 bend bars.

and bending my elbows..

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Old 09-22-15, 11:35 AM
  #19  
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Thanks for the replies and suggestions, especially tsi. Relieved to know I'm not the only one who hasn't taken to drops like a duck to water.

I know I will probably tinker about with things a bit before I get it completely right, but I think my current set-up is not far from right for me especially when I adjust to the factors related to my conditioning and years of riding flat bars.

Here's a pic of the bike, with bars set at roughly seat height.



I'm looking forward to riding it for longer distances and am hoping to fit in a week-long touring holiday around Wales next summer staying at country pubs - probably fitting a triple chain set for that.
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Old 09-22-15, 11:44 AM
  #20  
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If you are comfortable with the bar height you have, get the reach sorted out so you aren't stretched out too far, or bunched up from a too short stem. You probably have things right when you mentioned your conditioning, and getting used to the drop bar set up. After what you just had to go through with your thing injury, you are probably still not in great condition, especially your core strength. Miles will bring you along to a state where you are better able to deal with the position. Please get that leg 100% before you do any big increases, or some harsh mashing, Gerry.

The great majority of my riding is on the hoods, as tsl and several others indicated, with having the fit dialed in now, arm problems have not been an issue for me in quite a while. I'm fortunate that things weren't difficult to dial in for me, no real anomalies in my physiology, thnkfully. Best of luck on that hoped for tour, it sounds like a great time to me.

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Old 09-22-15, 01:51 PM
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Dunno how you lot can ride on drops, if youre not permanently looking at the ground in front of your wheel, and you hit a pothole. . . yer neck'll take it bad. . . even on the hoods, its not ergonomically ideal imo.

But bolt upright? Hard on the nether regions. . ..Nobody wants that!
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Old 09-22-15, 07:55 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
If you are comfortable with the bar height you have ...

Bill
Thank you for someone finally raising the issue of bar height. I've seen road bars dropped 4 inches or more below the saddle to as high as where the "drops" are level with the saddle. Obviously the bar height is going to be a significant factor in terms of comfort, besides the horizontal reach that others have mentioned.

From the photo of your bike (nice looking bike by the way) your bars appear to be level with the saddle, but that could just be the angle of the photo.

Most of my bikes are set up with the bars about 1.5 inches below the saddle, and the one bike where the bars are approximately even with the saddle has a totally different feel. So small differences can make a difference. Having said this, I ride 99.9% of the time on the top of the bar or on the hoods. I'll drop only when fighting a strong wind and only for a short while. That's just me and my aging ergonomics.
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Old 09-22-15, 09:08 PM
  #23  
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I started riding (3+ decades ago) with narrow drop bars, everything else is uncomfortable for me.
How can people ride those wide bars? - either drop or flat or with barends?

Guess it's just what you've started with. Maybe your drop bars are too wide?
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Old 09-22-15, 11:12 PM
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I guess if youve rode motorbikes that kinda changes things somewhat. Wide and high, or low and narrow applied equally to those. But a petrol tank got in the way of the latter making for a wide turning circle.and squashed thumbs. And, yes. I did topple over on occasions, hence the aversion to low bars!
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Old 09-23-15, 06:45 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by lphilpot View Post
+1

I've found I have basically five positions on drop bars: On top, at the bend, at the base of the hoods, on the hoods and in the drops. It's really nice to be able to switch around, even on shorter rides. Plus, I have interrupter brake levers on top and rarely use the brakes from the hoods. For me, the brifters are just shifters.
My old roadie and my new semi-tourer commuter both have drop bars with interrupters, which I consider esential for commuting in traffic. On the old downtube shifter roadie I'm on the tops mostly, on the new brifter bike, I'm mostly on the hoods, but I believe that's a function of how the bikes are set up. I may monkey with the roadie's positioninglater on.
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