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riding in the drops

Old 09-15-16, 08:59 PM
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BikeArkansas
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riding in the drops

Riding in the drops is something I have not worked on or tried in any way to learn. I have decided it is time to start learning how to make use of the drops. Tonight I rode the last 9 miles in the drops. I left my group ride and rode solo because I was not sure how it would turn out. Felt OK, but my shoulders and legs are already sore. Definitely using different muscles. I guess it will take time to develop these new muscle sets. Speed is easier to hold but it is harder to hold my head and neck in place, or something like that. looking for tips from experienced drop riders.
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Old 09-15-16, 09:09 PM
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Nine miles in the drops is a long way, especially for the first time. I would try just a few minutes in the drops, then a few minutes on the hoods, back to the drops, etc. in their words, rotate until you get used to the position.
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Old 09-15-16, 09:22 PM
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I'm 61 and to get used to drops I use a Ritchey adjustable stem set up at about 45 degrees. Really helps as it raised the bar drops about an inch.
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Old 09-15-16, 09:31 PM
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You might look at exercises designed to strengthen core muscles and particularly, lower back muscles. Doing that will speed up the process but simply spending more time on the drops will be critical. Stretching is also critical as much of the issue is finding better stretch, often in the upper back/neck. Your bike position becomes even more critical as your center of gravity is now further forward putting more weight on your hands and requiring a stronger core and possibly a saddle position a bit further back. Saddles made for people that are spending a lot of time on the drops often have a bit more of a curve at the back whereas upright riders typically are happier with flatter saddles. I realize people don't go from all upright to all on the drops but these are important things to understand and consider as you begin to spend more time on the drops. In the early season a 40mi ride with significant time on the drops will leave me with a really sore back part way through the ride. Now, toward the end of our road season I don't feel my back regardless of how much time I put on the drops. It will come, even if you do nothing but spend time on the drops but stretching/exercising will allow it to come more quickly and effectively.
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Old 09-15-16, 09:52 PM
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Riding in the drops is really key for maintaining speed, particularly into the wind. I use them quite a lot, but chiefly just for short sprints or for the duration of a pull in a pace line - 5-10 minutes tops, usually - but I also find it hard to stay in the drops for long periods of time. I don't have any problems with my back and I think my core is pretty strong, but being in the drops allows one to derive power from different muscles - this is part of the advantage actually - most notably the glutes, and I just don't have the fitness in those muscles like I do in my quads, etc. And so my legs fatigue rather quickly if I try to spend long intervals in that position.

People will tell you to do different strengthening exercises or stretches, but I think the real key is just spending more time down there. 9 miles straight is probably not the right approach though. I would suggest (to myself and to you) making sure to do a mile or so in the drops every 10 miles, even on rides when you are not hammering. Just like easy recovery rides are important for the muscle memory of normal spinning, riding in the drops position and having a different assemblage of muscles firing is good training. That's what I've been working on recently, so that when i really need the power and the aero benefit of getting low, I will have it.

I know not everybody here is a group rider, but one thing that I learned for pulling in a pace line is that as soon as I find myself in front, I get down in the drops. Pulling successfully is not usually about a great increase in power output, but if you are out in the wind, it helps a lot to be as aero as possible, and that means getting low. I commonly see people out in front and way up high, with hands on the hoods and elbows locked. Unless they are really strong, they are probably burning up way too much energy that way.
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Old 09-15-16, 10:01 PM
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Another step entirely, and one I've only recently felt comfortable with, is full-on sprinting out of the saddle whilst in the drops. This burns up energy and takes attention to coordination, power and balance that I didn't used to have. I'm getting it though, and it feels pretty great, though it can be exhausting. I definitely can't do this for very long.
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Old 09-15-16, 11:09 PM
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I have stopped looked ahead in the drops, look more at my front tire, glance up often. less strain on the neck.
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Old 09-15-16, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by SammyJ View Post
I have stopped looked ahead in the drops, look more at my front tire, glance up often. less strain on the neck.
I hope you are talking about solo riding? If so, then you are making your own judgements and taking your own risks.

But if I were riding in a group and there was somebody spending most of their time looking at their front tire, I would leave the group.
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Old 09-16-16, 12:43 AM
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Can you post a photo of your bike? One that shows the relation of the handlebars to the saddle.
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Old 09-16-16, 01:27 AM
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One of the best ways to learn to use the drops is to raise your handlebars. Moving to the drops should feel as simple as feeling too upright for the effort or wind. You find yourself bending your elbows a lot, so you move to the drops.

Once you find yourself riding in the drops with sharply bent elbows a lot, then you lower your bars a bit. Your elbows should never be locked.
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Old 09-16-16, 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
I hope you are talking about solo riding? If so, then you are making your own judgements and taking your own risks.

But if I were riding in a group and there was somebody spending most of their time looking at their front tire, I would leave the group.
Yes, solo, I have NEVER ridden with a group.
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Old 09-16-16, 02:13 AM
  #12  
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Definitely look forward, not straight down, although I have a habit of concentrating on road debris in front of my bike.

I used to ride in the drops a lot. Not so much now. But, depending on how you hold the bars, riding holding on the tops of the hoods, with the forearms resting across the bars parallel to the ground may not be so different from riding in the drops with straighter arms. It might also be good practice for lowering one's body.
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Old 09-16-16, 04:17 AM
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One can obtain the "drop position" without holding the bars on the drops. Hold the tops with hands close to stem, forearms parallel to the ground and chin to the stem.......variation of being in the "drop position" with different muscle use. Forearms on tops with hands forward of bars clasped or not, BUT this requires more skill.

Drop riding was once very comfortable for myself but now I use aero bars. They provide more comfort and thus better expenditure of energy for forward movement. In 3 weeks after a shoulder joint replacement, I am hoping for less pain and a return to more drop riding; HOWEVER, aero bars will still be my number one choice for an aero position.

Do all the core work and stretching you want, I never did, but actual drop riding is still the best way to get comfortable and efficient.

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Old 09-16-16, 05:21 AM
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Another advantage of riding in the drops is that you have more positive control of the bike while descending, on bad pavement, or a combination of both. It's not uncommon for my gloves to be soaked with sweat during the summer here, and the hoods can get slippery. Riding in the drops is more secure because your hands can't go anywhere no matter how bumpy the road is.

You should be able to ride in the drops in a paceline because your controls should be accessible from the drops. If you've set your controls based solely on where they're comfortable while riding on the hoods, you may need to revisit their positioning...or just make sure you stay on the hoods in a paceline. We ain't getting paid for this.
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Old 09-16-16, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Western Flyer View Post
Can you post a photo of your bike? One that shows the relation of the handlebars to the saddle.
I will try to post a photo later, but I normally ride my Fuji Transonic with a 4 1/4" drop from the saddle to the top of the bar.
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Old 09-16-16, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by BikeArkansas View Post
I will try to post a photo later, but I normally ride my Fuji Transonic with a 4 1/4" drop from the saddle to the top of the bar.
Years ago I could ride with the bar that low but now I have it around an inch and a half. I use shallow drop bars and can stay in the drops for hours if need be.
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Old 09-16-16, 11:20 AM
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Nowadays I'll carry Ibuprofen, and use it before not looking ahead becomes a safety issue.
And wear a lighter helmet to reduce neck muscle stress. (A Specialized Prevail in my case).

<---Not that heavier helmet shown to the left!
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Old 09-16-16, 02:15 PM
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I only use the drops when I get tired of fighting a headwind, doing the fairly rare speed segment, and to give my hips a slight change in position, which is the biggest reason I find myself in them. I have a bit of arthritis and for whatever reason, it's an almost immediate relief in pain when I go to the drops for a few minutes.

Most riders are in and out, more in than out of the drops. Just spend a little time in them here and there and the muscles will develop soon enough.
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Old 09-16-16, 03:05 PM
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I sometimes ride in the drops or hooks, or sometimes with my arms on the tops like OldTryGuy mentioned, just to rest. At least there are some different muscles holding me up, so it feels like resting. I think it's worth spending some time training in those positions to have a ready alternative if nothing else.

IMO it starts and ends with some flexibility and strengthening of the lower back, and getting the neck and shoulders used to it. I look ahead even in the drops with flat back (parallel to the ground) and while at first I was sore (and not that low) that went away in one season if I recall correctly.
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Old 09-18-16, 01:37 PM
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I use the drops in headwinds and descending. I rarely ride in a paceline, but when I do I use them there at the front. I gained a bunch of weight last year, and found it much easier to ride in the drops after I lost it again!
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Old 09-18-16, 04:37 PM
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Incremental! After you are well experienced at the position, it will be as easy as upright. There is a sweet spot for your own body type.
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Old 09-18-16, 04:58 PM
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As the OP of this thread, I tried the drops again today on a 35 mile ride. Fairly quick ride and some climbing. I was riding with my brother, who is a much better, and younger rider. He told me I was in the drops more on this ride than all the previous rides combined. Thought I looked good in the drops and should stay with it. OK, but I definitely have some muscles telling me about it. Descending in the drops is good. As mentioned by someone earlier, it is better to be in the drops when the road is rough. Obviously going to take some time.
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Old 09-20-16, 06:23 AM
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I move my hand position around a lot so I never stay in the drops that long. Normally even if I think "I'll try it for a longer period", I just naturally end up moving. So yesterday I decided to remember to stay there for a five mile stretch. I was surprised at how much it really changes the muscle groups being used in the legs. My back and neck had no problem, but my thighs had a bit of burn I never experience otherwise.
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Old 09-20-16, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
I move my hand position around a lot so I never stay in the drops that long. Normally even if I think "I'll try it for a longer period", I just naturally end up moving. So yesterday I decided to remember to stay there for a five mile stretch. I was surprised at how much it really changes the muscle groups being used in the legs. My back and neck had no problem, but my thighs had a bit of burn I never experience otherwise.
I am with you on the new muscle burn. Question: Did you find it was easier to hold a speed, whatever your normal curising speed happens to be? My brother told me the air drag is reduced enough to make a big difference. After a couple rides in the drops, I believe he is correct. Can I adapt to the new muscle group.
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Old 09-20-16, 10:47 AM
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The majority of my riding is in the drops. When I come up on someone or unclip if I think I may have to stop, I go to the hoods.
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