What a difference a few cycling seasons make. Not only am I now more comfortable where I previously dared not tread (in the handlebar drops), but there are times when riding on the brake hoods of my road bike handlebars feels like an unnatural act. My bicycle handlebar world has been turned upside down, and I’m a better cyclist for it.
It wasn’t too long ago that riding in the drops on a technical decent felt weird. Weird enough that I wouldn’t do it.
I’d rather go slow and tentative down the decent, getting dropped like the descending sissy careful cyclist I was.
Now I feel completely out of control on a fast, twisty descent if I’m not in the drops. All it took was a fierce dislike for giving up my hard-earned climbing advantages to descending daredevils.
Work, work, work up the hill.
Watch a couple of cycling Evil Knievels scream past on the downhill.
Life was unfair for Mr. Cycling Sissypants.
I just saw at Bike Nashbar.
Three of them were at 50% OR MORE
Reason #1: Riding In Handlebar Drops More Stable, Riding On The Bicycle Brake Hoods Can Be Squirmy!
Hairy legs and brake hood riding .
-Sidenote- Sasquatch roams within a few clicks of my town, so hairiness is celebrated here, not scraped off with a razor. But that’s another story; best left untold.
Back to riding on the brake hoods…
A bike racing clinic by a former racer who excelled in two of my weaknesses (sprinting and descending) introduced me to counter-steering. I’m not so sure I’ve mastered the nuances of counter-steering, but the concepts of weighting the outside pedal and getting very low over the top tube did stick. You don’t get low over your top tube if you aren’t in the drops.
And once I got used to it, there’s been no turning back.
So if you aren’t taking advantage of the increased stability of riding in the handlebar drops when circumstances dictate the ‘need for speed’, force yourself to stay with it until descending on the brake hoods feels most unusual.
Reason #2: Getting In The Drops Of Your Road Bike Handlebars Reduces Your Frontal Area
Once you’ve spent a little time in the drops, sitting up feels like you’re impersonating a sail…because you are.
Try this on for size. Force yourself to stay in the drops for about 15 minutes while you’re cycling along at a good clip. Sometime in that period you’ll ‘make the switch’ to drop bar orientation. When you come out of the drops and onto the top of the bar, you’ll feel like you’re sitting terribly tall. You’ll feel like you’re wasting a lot of energy to move too much air.
And you won’t like it.
Reason #3: Road Bike Handlebars Offer Some Variety
I’ve recently increased the time spent on my mountain bike… and I’ve come away from the experience with an increased appreciation for the variety of hand positions my road bike handlebars offer.
A little time on the top of the bars, a little time on the hoods, a little time in the drops, a little ‘look mom, no hands!’, and before you know it the ride’s all done.
But there’s a road bike handlebar position that I see seasoned racers use when in a solo break that I haven’t mastered. It’s the ‘forearms on the top bar’ maneuver. When I try it I have this idea that if I hit a bump, my forearms will slip off the bars and my old carcass will end up sliding on the asphalt.
But I’m going to to keep practicing until it feels comfortable, because it has its place in the cycling world.
Just like working on the ‘no hands’ style which must be perfected, so that you can ‘assume the victory position’ when you win that road race!
And don’t forget to look for road bike handlebar deals at Bike Nashbar.