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Need a Little Help with Drops!

Old 11-19-04, 06:25 PM
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Need a Little Help with Drops!

I’m riding a new Trek 1500 after a few months on a hybrid. I’m no young flat-belly, but in reasonable condition. I had several 30 to 50 milers on the hybrid. Now, things are going pretty well, with the exception of trying to settle on the right saddle (no pun intended there) – AND most importantly –getting used to the drop bars. The setup is pretty basic, except we did reverse the stem to get the bar up just slightly.

First, what exactly is the correct position of the hands while on the drops? How much reach should there be to the levers? Also, in making a transition to or from the drops, how should one go about it to make it smooth and without causing a twitch in the front wheel? From the first day on the hybrid, I have been fighting numb hands, and it appears this will continue, but is much better with the greater variety of hand positions. When I’m in the drops, my reach to the levers is too long. Not sure if there is a reach adjustment on the Shimano 105 levers.

Well, aside from that, I was in another bike shop getting small items and happened to eye a high-end bike with a carbon handlebar. I placed my hands on the drops and all over the bar for that matter. Wow, what a difference. Felt as if my hands were molded to the bar. Anyone know the approximate cost of upgrading, probably staying with Bontrager, handlebars? (Not necessarily carbon). I think I could use a much shallower drop – and somehow I have to get the levers in a safer position.
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Old 11-19-04, 07:46 PM
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Hand numb = bike fit problem.
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Old 11-19-04, 08:01 PM
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Your hand position in the drops is largely a matter of personal preference. I like to ride with my hands on the flats near my bar end shifters. Some may like to be deep in the bends. You can adjust the angle of the bars accordingly so your wrist is not at an uncomfortable angle. You may want to adjust the position of the brake levers as well so you can easily reach them when neccessary. Once again, it's a matter of preference.

Transitioning to and from the drops just takes practice to do smoothly. Keep at it and it will become second nature.

Numb hands are always a problem. They are caused by pressure on the nerve at the base of the palm. It can be aggravated by handlebars that are too low as with virtually all road bike sold today. The problem there is that the further bent over you are, the more of your upper body weight is supported by your hands. Raising the top of the bars to within an inch of the saddle helps. Other remedies include changing hand positions frequently and good padded gloves. I use Specialized Body Geometry gloves with good results on both road and MTB bars. Losing weight also helps as it results in less weight on your hands. You could also try two layers of bar tape or some extra padding where you place your hands the most.
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Old 11-20-04, 07:44 AM
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The absolute worst thing that bike manufacturers have done in my lifetime has been to transition to threadless headsets that make it harder to make handlebar height adjustments.

Most road bikes are designed for young, slim, athleticly-built folks. If that's not you, if you can't ride reasonably comfortably for extended periods in the drops, your handlebar is probably too low. Anything that you do to fiddle with the handlebar position before you get the height right is probably wasted time.

On most stock road bikes, the handlebars wind up to be around 3" or even 4" below the seat height. That's probably too low for guys like you and me. My handlebar is 2" lower than the saddle height on my go fast bike and 1" below the saddle height on my retro grouch bike and on my tandem. You may be able to get the height that you need just by flipping your existing stem over but, even if you have to buy a new stem, that's money well spent. A stem that has more angle will also move your handlebar closer to you, so think through the geometry before you buy something expensive.

Now look at your bike from the side and notice the angle of bottom most section of the bar. I think that when you get it right not only will you be able to ride for extended periods on the drops, but I think that you will find that you prefer that section of the bar to be nearly parallel to the ground.

Once you get there, look at where the bottom of your brake lever is relative to the bottom edge of your handlebar. Usually if an extended straight edge from the handlebar just touches the bottom of your brake lever, you will be able to access it comfortably from the either the drops (with your forefingers) or the brake hoods (with your three shortest fingers).
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Old 11-20-04, 09:15 AM
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If you have small hands, then you need bars with a small radius drop (as well as being the correct width).
You can reposition the brake lever up and down the bar, and in rotation about the bar.
You can position the bars and hoods to be exactly where you hands want to be. Some people ride with drops in quite a high position, where the tops are level with the saddle.
Most (non racing) riders use the drop position very rarely,when going into a strong headwind or when tackling a steep descent.
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Old 11-20-04, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by bboseley
AND most importantly –getting used to the drop bars.
When I bought my first bike with drop bars (2002), I was accustom to my mtb bars, and geometry from years of mtb riding. Like you, I was not comfortable in the drops. At first, I tried to just acclimate myself to the new position, and it helped a lot. After a warm-up, I would spend entire rides in nothing but the drops. Again, this helped, but was not the final answer.

After doing some research, I bought a set of Ritchey Biomax bars, and a Thomson seatpost (allowed me to get over the pedals better), and saddle. Now my fit seems perfect, and I'm very comfortable in all positions of the bars. However, it was a combination of getting acclimated to the new position, and the addition of a few new parts that got me to a comfortable riding position.

In terms of your reach to the brake/shift levers from the drops, you can play around with different positions of the levers, as well as different rotations of the bars to find a good middle ground. Over, and above that, Shimano makes an STI lever that adjusts the distance from the drops to the STI levers, but they are pricey:

Shimano Ultegra R600 Short Reach STI

Good luck!
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