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Best road position: bent elbow? light hands?

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Best road position: bent elbow? light hands?

Old 03-22-15, 02:18 PM
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JeffOYB
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Best road position: bent elbow? light hands?

I ride with a group of roadies that seems to have too many crashes. I attribute a lot of the crashing to riding position. I'd like to help them crash less often.

In my view it's a problem when riders have straight arms and weight on the hands. Thus sprinting, bumps, contact, anything and everything that happens to the front end or to the rider's body affects steering.

In my day our team was trained to keep light hands and loose arms to de-couple the connection. Thus we could do anything we wanted without it affecting our steering. Thus we didn't crash. I can take my hands off the bars, ride no-handed in an aero position, push off of other riders as needed with elbows, hands or shoulders. I have no hand stress. I can put the bike where I like it regardless of how I'm pedaling.

But when I look at pro race footage I see most of them also with darn straight arms. ...Of course the pros are crashing a lot these days, too. So who's right?

And, yes, brifters affect today's position compared to when I learned, but the 3 "old dogs" of our club use modern bikes ... and we still have bent-arms, light hands, flat backs.

I want to be sure my ideas are helpful before advising people. I want the facts. Anyone here have the facts?

Here are some tips and drills I am inclined to suggest: If you're riding along and let go of a hand, your shoulder shouldn't drop too much. If you let go of both hands, even when riding in aero/semi-aero position you shouldn't droop too much. Try riding while "cupping" the outside of your bars with a flat hand -- just "hold" the bars by friction -- it shouldn't be a problem. Try to have some bend in the elbow. Try a little bend in your wrist. Try riding with just your fingertips on the tops. If all these things are easy, then you're probably fine. Maybe I'd add the following: try riding with knees brushing top tube, try it with knees brushing both top tube and elbows.

Proper riding is about more than position, it's behavior. It's not static, it's a skill. Our power and stability can be trained to come from a combo of our thighs, butt and the curve of our lower back. So if you droop too much when you let go of your hands it's not necessarily bad set-up/fit or position or lack of core strength.

Of course we change how we're riding during a given ride. We move around and rotate thru positions. But the unweighted hands position seems like it should be a mainstay.

My hunch is that most riders could learn to ride without weight on the hands. My other old-dog pal says I'm right, that the others ride terribly, but they're too stuck to change. Whattaya think?

I've seen it said that position is about power and comfort. I disagree. It's about SAFETY first. Performance next.

Last edited by JeffOYB; 03-23-15 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 03-25-15, 08:53 PM
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Hi, Jeff!

I think your description of light hands is a sign of not excessive weight on the bars. I tend to get that by sliding the saddle back to where my hands do feel light. Sometimes then I need to shorten the stem or the reach to get the reach to the bars comfortable in a deeper riding position. That for me results in my arms resting with elbows bent, not straight.
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Old 03-25-15, 09:24 PM
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JeffOYB

I think what you say is completely relevant... also be aware that a major factor affecting weight-on-hands is, how much weight is on your butt and how much is on your feet.

If there's a lot of your body weight on the saddle, it must be balanced with a lot of weight on the hands. In any reasonable road-bike riding position the body's center of weight is far forward of the saddle, probably near the position of whichever pedal is forward of the bottom bracket. When you put weight on your feet, it takes weight off the saddle and the handlebars. The downside is, more weight on the feet translates in to more pedaling power* whether or not you have the strength/stamina for it.

*pedaling in a relatively high gear can actually mean you keep weight off your hands and crotch without having to put in more power


You said position is about safety first, performance next. Interestingly enough, the riding style I am suggesting here should provide safety, comfort (less weight on hands & seat is almost always more comfortable) and performance.

Last edited by cerewa; 03-25-15 at 09:27 PM. Reason: added last 2 sentences
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Old 03-26-15, 05:38 AM
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I think JeffOYB is asking about a scenario where one could take hands off the bars and not fall forward.

Granted, if one pedals harder there is more weight on the pedals, and less applied to both the saddle and the bars. But if your center of gravity is not centered over the BB, you'll fall forward if you let go of the bars, unless you are gripping the saddle horn very hard between your thighs.

I don't interpet Jeff's question that way.

OP, can you clarify your question?
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Old 03-26-15, 06:16 AM
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Moving the saddle back will take weight off the hands. But that can put too little weight on the front wheel, and affect handling.

I set up a new bike set like that initially. I thought the new bike had surprisingly poor handling compared to my older bike, but it was due to the bad weight distribution. Getting more weight on the front wheel sharpened up the steering response.

Does a longer chainstay allow the saddle to be set back farther and have reasonable handling?
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Old 03-26-15, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
Moving the saddle back will take weight off the hands. But that can put too little weight on the front wheel, and affect handling.

I set up a new bike set like that initially. I thought the new bike had surprisingly poor handling compared to my older bike, but it was due to the bad weight distribution. Getting more weight on the front wheel sharpened up the steering response.

Does a longer chainstay allow the saddle to be set back farther and have reasonable handling?
Good question! One of my bikes where this worked well is a 1980 Woodrup with CS about 43.5 cm.

Have you actually had bad handling from trying this? What was your geometry?
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Old 03-27-15, 11:34 AM
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This is what it's supposed to look like:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z04uoO7U_SA
The hands thing starts at about 6:00. Note her CG is just a bit aft of the BB, and she has KOPS, or close to it, as far as we can see. Nice reach, nice back.
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