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Aero position=more powerful stroke?

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Aero position=more powerful stroke?

Old 10-27-14, 06:37 PM
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Aero position=more powerful stroke?

Is this generally true? I've been riding my hybrids for the past five month. The position is more upright and sometimes I feel like I want to lean more forward and stretch out to get more power.

The last two rides I've done have been on my recently restored Gardin racer with a much more aggressive position. In such a position I feel like I can put out a more powerful stroke. Whether or not I actually do is unknown without have some kind of measuring device. And that isn't going to happen.
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Old 10-27-14, 06:56 PM
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Well, this should be interesting...

It is a yes and no answer. There are optimum hip angles that allow the greatest power over the widest range that vary from person to person but fall with a general range.

Moving to lower position can be helpful and can be most helpful if you can also rotate your hips and open the hip angle. Really it is a matter of leverage.

Some extreme aero positions actually reduce power output as they close this critical hip angle. It then becomes a mixed calculation between aero gains and power loss to see what balance produces the most actual speed.

So strap yourself in for posts to follow...
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Old 10-27-14, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Dopolina
Well, this should be interesting...

It is a yes and no answer. There are optimum hip angles that allow the greatest power over the widest range that vary from person to person but fall with a general range.

Moving to lower position can be helpful and can be most helpful if you can also rotate your hips and open the hip angle. Really it is a matter of leverage.

Some extreme aero positions actually reduce power output as they close this critical hip angle. It then becomes a mixed calculation between aero gains and power loss to see what balance produces the most actual speed.

So strap yourself in for posts to follow...
That's pretty much what I would have said.
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Old 10-27-14, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by halfspeed
That's pretty much what I would have said.
I would have said it too, but a little bit better than you would have said it.
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Old 10-27-14, 07:24 PM
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In general, keep your back angle above 40 degrees and your power will not suffer. Younger and flexible fellows can produce good power with lower than 40 degrees but most of us can't due to age effects. Tri riders move their saddle forward to open the hip angle and compromise set-back in order to produce power while remaining aero. But this position is not the best for general road riding due to non-ideal weight balance. The dynamics of a fast group and the terrain demand better handling characteristics which is better attained with the normal road position weight balance.
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Old 10-27-14, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by canam73
I would have said it too, but a little bit better than you would have said it.
Err. Ditto.
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Old 10-27-14, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by NealH
In general, keep your back angle above 40 degrees and your power will not suffer. Younger and flexible fellows can produce good power with lower than 40 degrees but most of us can't due to age effects. Tri riders move their saddle forward to open the hip angle and compromise set-back in order to produce power while remaining aero. But this position is not the best for general road riding due to non-ideal weight balance. The dynamics of a fast group and the terrain demand better handling characteristics which is better attained with the normal road position weight balance.
Perfectly said!!

I only go to the drops when I really need that aero advantage or am flying downhill....(40+mph) Otherwise, I'm much more easily able to produce and maintain power at the hoods and simply bend the elbows & dip the upper body.

I do occasionally see some produce good power in the drops w/ an unfavorable looking hip angle, but I'd guess they're more the exception.
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Old 10-27-14, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by R1lee
Err. Ditto.
+1.

I never would have been that good.
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Old 10-27-14, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Dopolina
Well, this should be interesting...

It is a yes and no answer. There are optimum hip angles that allow the greatest power over the widest range that vary from person to person but fall with a general range.

Moving to lower position can be helpful and can be most helpful if you can also rotate your hips and open the hip angle. Really it is a matter of leverage.

Some extreme aero positions actually reduce power output as they close this critical hip angle. It then becomes a mixed calculation between aero gains and power loss to see what balance produces the most actual speed.

So strap yourself in for posts to follow...
I would have essentially said the same thing, but some over sensitive newb would get his/her panties all bunched up about the way I said it.

Thanks for saving me from getting an infraction.

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Old 10-27-14, 08:30 PM
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Nope, I think the posts to this point have well covered it, with the only thing I would address is that there is often a perception disconnect between Force and Power (and how they differ) and Perceived Effort. It is entirely possible to have a pedal stroke that feels 'easy' that generates more power throughout the stroke and another that has a higher perceived effort and force that doesn't translate to greater power output. The above being a long winded version of 'sometimes what you think and what is true aren't always the same'.

A power meter might show it, but not a whole lot short of that would.
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Old 10-27-14, 08:41 PM
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I have a two inch saddle/bar drop and I ride in the drops probably 80% of the time. I'm just more comfortable in that position and I feel like I can get more leverage, and the effects of less drag should be obvious. When I really push it to keep a high average speed I tuck in more and my back is horizontal to the ground. I just can't ride on the hoods all the time, but of course my bars aren't too low like so many.
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Old 10-27-14, 09:02 PM
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As you go lower you start to use your glutes (most powerful muscles in the body?)...at least thats what I've noticed.

Your body will naturally start to go lower when you're really grinding out that gear. As the hill gets steeper...the lower my body gets.
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Old 10-27-14, 09:28 PM
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I'm sure not every one measures the same, but when I had a Retul fit done, the guy demonstrated to me with power meter outputs that I generated more power in the hands on hoods, arms bent, appropriately angled back position. Riding in the drops (for me) is more aerodynamic, but at the cost of some power. Real world riding would seem to dictate some blend of alternating between the two, based on the situation and conditions. I have a pretty decent drop for an old man, more than a couple inches.
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Old 10-27-14, 09:49 PM
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There's more to it than just opening hip angles as triathletes know. Besides allowing for a more aero position by being more forward, you pull in greater quad use and less hamstrings.
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Old 10-27-14, 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven
There's more to it than just opening hip angles as triathletes know. Besides allowing for a more aero position by being more forward, you pull in greater quad use and less hamstrings.
Tryathletes are dealing with different issues than cyclists when it comes to getting the fit right. A good fitting for a tryathlete will help their muscles transition to running better than a fitting for a cyclist doing time trials.
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Old 10-28-14, 05:16 AM
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I guess I should have written 'more aero' position in the heading. I was referring mostly to being on the hoods. It is a more aerodynamic position compared to being more upright on a hybrid bike. This is the position to which I was referring, and it seems to put my hips in a better position from which to push.

What you've written (Bob and NealH) makes sense. I would liken it to doing a leg press and doing a full squat kind of feel.
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Old 10-28-14, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by NealH
In general, keep your back angle above 40 degrees and your power will not suffer. Younger and flexible fellows can produce good power with lower than 40 degrees but most of us can't due to age effects. Tri riders move their saddle forward to open the hip angle and compromise set-back in order to produce power while remaining aero. But this position is not the best for general road riding due to non-ideal weight balance. The dynamics of a fast group and the terrain demand better handling characteristics which is better attained with the normal road position weight balance.
Neal,
why don't you stop over in the stem length thread and remind poor Tim of this with his wacky road bike position.

Pretty well said. Don't know if the 40 deg angle is the cut off for power production but probably in the ball park for an older rider. Still comes down to hip angle relative to torso and not torso relative to vertical IMO. Guys on TT bikes with close to horizontal back position can put out big power numbers. Same with sprinters with close to flat back to be aero which sprinting over 40 mph. Close the hip angle too much and power suffers and so a tradeoff relative to aerodynamics. So it does come down to saddle setback and weight balance on the bike versus hip position and ability to ride aero without reducing power. I think Bob said it pretty well also.

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Old 10-28-14, 05:37 AM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006
I guess I should have written 'more aero' position in the heading. I was referring mostly to being on the hoods. It is a more aerodynamic position compared to being more upright on a hybrid bike. This is the position to which I was referring, and it seems to put my hips in a better position from which to push.

What you've written (Bob and NealH) makes sense. I would liken it to doing a leg press and doing a full squat kind of feel.
The leg press analogy with more open hip angle is often applied in the discussion about power production. But most will agree that a rider can't put out anywhere near optimal power when positioned bolt upright. Some fit writers talk about getting out of a lazy boy chair for example. You can't do it without tipping your torso close to the position of riding a road bike. Hybrid flat bar bikes can be set up with a good reach to the bars and can be relatively fast...so you have to be careful about the road bike hood to hybrid flat bar comparison. A good target for an average rider is a 45 degree torso position while comfortably riding on the hoods...and when getting into the drops this angle gets about 20 degrees to the ground. A top racer can get close to a flat back but this takes good flexibility and technique and getting the hip angle properly rotated.
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Old 10-28-14, 06:11 AM
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My two hybrids don't have the same set up. On my Rapid the spine angle is lower, hence the lower hip angle. The Gardin road bike even more so, and I feel that the hip angle on this one is close to optimal for power output.

I was surprised to find such a difference in the feel of the stroke on the two bikes. It'd been about 25 years since I've ridden a bike with drop bars.
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Old 10-28-14, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006
Whether or not I actually do is unknown without have some kind of measuring device. And that isn't going to happen.
Originally Posted by dru_
A power meter might show it, but not a whole lot short of that would.
A power meter can definitely show it (if it's a high quality power meter) but you don't actually need one. The measuring devices you'd need are: 1) a bathroom scale; 2) a speedometer on your bike(s); 3) a wristwatch; and 4) a hill that's traffic-free and that is either protected from the wind or else that you can use on a calm day. With these you can compare the rolling and aero drag of your two bikes, then you can figure out whether climbing that hill with one bike is faster, slower, or exactly as predicted. If you're "faster" (meaning, faster than predicted from the drag parameters) on one bike then you must be producing more power on that bike.
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Old 10-28-14, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006
Is this generally true? I've been riding my hybrids for the past five month. The position is more upright and sometimes I feel like I want to lean more forward and stretch out to get more power.

The last two rides I've done have been on my recently restored Gardin racer with a much more aggressive position. In such a position I feel like I can put out a more powerful stroke. Whether or not I actually do is unknown without have some kind of measuring device. And that isn't going to happen.
You can recruit more muscles when you're bent over a bit. Instinctively people bend over more when struggling on a bike, regardless of their "seriousness level". There's a point of diminishing returns, as pointed out above.

Being bent over makes you a bit more aerodynamic as well. However, for many people that's not the primary concern. For example, on a hill, there's no need to be aero but people are often hunched over when climbing at the limit.

Back in the day I re-fit a customer on a hybrid that apparently I originally sold her ~10 years prior. She'd commented on some discomfort with her saddle and requested a wider, softer saddle. I asked if she'd be willing to try something sort of radical. I pointed out that if she was sitting upright she'd have a lot of weight on the saddle and it would be uncomfortable. If she was bent over a bit more she'd have more weight on her hands and she'd be able to exert more pressure on the pedals (so her legs would support more of her weight over the course of a ride). The catch would be that she'd actually need a narrower and firmer saddle, narrower so when she leans forward it wouldn't be uncomfortable. She agreed to give it a shot. I basically set up her hybrid like a road bike, with low, narrow bars (I moved the levers in as far as possible and cut as much bar as possible), multiple hand positions (I added bar ends). She was much more comfortable, much happier, significantly faster, and was immediately able to do much longer/faster rides.

My mountain bike is set up in a similar way as I don't ride off road on it. Heavily distorted smartphone picture (the head tube and seat tube are actually almost parallel):


I imagine that you could do something similar with your hybrid, to make it more road like. I enjoy riding the mountain bike on the road. It's a bit less efficient but I don't have to worry about regular road hazards.
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Old 10-28-14, 04:30 PM
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Old 10-28-14, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing
I basically set up her hybrid like a road bike, with low, narrow bars (I moved the levers in as far as possible and cut as much bar as possible), multiple hand positions (I added bar ends).

I imagine that you could do something similar with your hybrid, to make it more road like. I enjoy riding the mountain bike on the road. It's a bit less efficient but I don't have to worry about regular road hazards.
Thanks for the thoughtful response.

My hybrid was originally set up like a road bike, and for the most part still is. The flatbars were cut shorter with bar ends installed. It was also quite low. I've since raised it slightly as the lower position was uncomfortable for me initially.

Here's a couple of pics.

I actually don't mind the varied riding positions that I have with my various bikes. Sometimes the mood strikes me to do something different. If I'm riding with the kids I don't want to be bentover all day long riding at 6mph.
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Old 10-28-14, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006
Thanks for the thoughtful response.

My hybrid was originally set up like a road bike, and for the most part still is. The flatbars were cut shorter with bar ends installed. It was also quite low. I've since raised it slightly as the lower position was uncomfortable for me initially.

Here's a couple of pics.

I actually don't mind the varied riding positions that I have with my various bikes. Sometimes the mood strikes me to do something different. If I'm riding with the kids I don't want to be bentover all day long riding at 6mph.
It looks like I set up your bars!

Heh, I understand. Although Junior is a touch young (2 1/2 right now) I did go on a ride with friends with kids, I think between 5 and 8. The oldest was on his own bike, everyone else was on a trail-a-bike or tandem.

Me on my bike:


My view, towards the end, with two of the four adult bikes visible:
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Old 10-29-14, 05:12 AM
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Back to your original question OP, the answer is yes. If you ride your hybrid upright, you will lack power and there will be more air drag. As I mentioned earlier about comparing a hybrid to a roadbike, you have to be careful in that, either bike can be set up aggressively or not. Generally a hybrid is less aggressive but not always. Carped's bike probably emulates close to a roadbike on the hoods. And so did mine...see below. So thought I would show my hybrid bike, now departed or rather parted. It started life as a Motobecane Ti frame with suspension fork and then when I moved it evolved into a fast flatbar bike with solid fork...because it was ridden rarely off road. Ultimately when I moved to FL I parted it because I prefer a drop bar bike for riding on pavement...especially with how the wind blows in flat Florida. You don't have to set up a drop bar bike aggressively is the point. You can have multiple hand positions of a drop bar but without a real aggressive position if that is what you prefer. The position on my hybrid of sorts which was really a 1 x 9 29er sometimes mounted with 28c tires as shown....was rather sporty. A long reach to the handlebar with 140mm stem. This got my back angle close to 45 degrees or so when on the hand grips and back a bit flatter when bending my arms on the bar ends when hammering. It was a fast bike actually and I could ride for 5 miles at 20 mph if I felt like it. A drop bar bike is going to be more aero and faster and why I prefer one but this was a great bike for knocking around town and had enough speed to be fun to ride. It was also a good single track bike with a bit shorter stem and set up for bumpy riding with higher volume tires like Nanoraptors....great versatility I no longer need and why it is gone.

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