Had flat bars, now drop bars - position?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by ian-m, Nov 14, 2003.

  1. ian-m

    ian-m New Member

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    Hi,

    A short story follows, so open a cold beer if you like ... (It works for me - I like to think of it as carbo - loading)

    I came to road biking from mountain biking, so for a long time I rode my road bike with flat bars and bar ends (although my bikes were always "proper" road bikes, not hybrids). This suited me fine.

    I would like to think that I'm a fairly serious cyclist - my longest ride this year has been 110 miles ... and I never wanted for any more hand positions or riding positions.

    Recently, I treated myself to a new road bike. Based on the theory that all you riders out there can't be wrong, I orderd the bike with drop bars - but I wish I hadn't.

    I willl never use the drops, because it's just too much of a stretch ... now would be a good time to click on the "back" button if you're offended by amateurs like me :eek:)

    Maybe I should point out that I do strugle with back pain from time to time, so I don't want to be too stretched out.

    I have found that (for me) the best position is the one that simulates my old drop bars & bar ends - ie with the top section (between the first bend and the hoods) aligned horizontally. This is ok (except that I have lost my favorite hand position, in the corner between the bars & bar ends)

    With the drop bars in this horizontal position, the drops are useless, because they are now too vertical (although I wouldn't have used them anyway). Maybe i could hang a bell on one? (joke)

    I have tried to shorten the reach by using a shorter stem. I'm currently testing -10 to -20mm compared to my old stem

    So, conclusion:

    I don't agree that drop bars give me more riding positions ... ouch, I can hear the abuse already!

    I didn't need the drop bars and I wish i'd ordered my very expensive (for me) new bike with carbon bars & carbon bar ends

    What do you think:

    Am I wrong?
    Do I need to persevere to discover the benefits of drop bars?
    Why shouldn't I align the tops horizontally and forget the drops?

    If you've got this far, thanks for reading and please reply with any thoughts ... even if you think I'm wrong

    Ian (age 45, leisure cylist)

    ps
    I have set up the shifters / hoods pointing upwards rather than horizontal - a sort of continuation of the horizontal bar tops
     
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  2. Stiffneck

    Stiffneck New Member

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    I feel for you man! I'm 42 with a stiff neck. I commute on a flat bar bike. I've been shopping for a faster bike. Have not found a comfortable RACING bike--even when sized correctly. I am not comfortable on the drops at all!

    I did ride a Rivendell Romulus with a shorter top tube and longer stem. This was pretty comfortable. I can use the drops on this. I plan to buy one this spring.

    You didn't say what bike you bought, but if you're a 45 year-old leisure cyclist with a bad back, then a racing bike may not have been your best choice.

    You might try to get some more spacers for your headset to see if you can raise the bars some more. Or, you might want to pay for a flat-bar conversion. Or you may want to scrap this bike and start over with a non-racing bike with a more comfortable position.

    Good luck man.
     
  3. ian-m

    ian-m New Member

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    Hi Stiffneck,

    Thanks for the reply. This next bit will offend all the purists, but my new bike is a Giant TCR composite - and I would still like to see it with carbon flat bars & carbon bar ends.

    Luckily, as I had the bike built around the frame, I've left loads of steerer tube on, so I can find the right stem position and then cut the steerer.

    I set my bikes up with a 15mm drop, from the seat (where I sit, not the nose) to the top of the bars, where the bars meet the stem.

    I don't think the problem is the drop distance (as it's only 15mm as above), it's more the extra reach of the drop bars, compared to my flat bar setup. I recorded every measurement on the old bike, so i know exactly what the riding position was. My old bike had a 100mm stem, so i'm currently trying an 80 and a 90

    The new bike has campag gears, so no chance of changing back to flat bars and shifters

    Thanks

    ian
     
  4. Stiffneck

    Stiffneck New Member

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    You've obviously thought this through. I am confused by your first and last paragraphs: you want to see it with flat bars, but there is no chance because of Campy.

    I know I've seen a stem extender on Sheldon Brown's site that lets you use two sets of bars with flat bars on top of the drops...but it doesn't sound like that is what you want either...
     
  5. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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    "Drop handlebars offer the most options in hand positions, and the widest variation in grip position and upper body orientation of any bars. That's why they're popular with long-distance tourists, racers, and recreational riders.

    People who say "I don't like drop bars" probably have been riding them too low and too far forward. There's little NOT to like about them, provided they're positioned right, so you don't have to lean over to far to reach them (as is so often the case). To get the benefits from drop bars, they need to be higher, in your "comfort zone."

    From Rivendell web sit, at URL:
    http://www.rivendellbicycles.com/html/101_dropbars.html

    I think you should give the drop bars a chance.
    You might get the position that is best for you with a "road" stem that is flipped over in such a way that it raises the bar and shortens the reach.
    There are lots of shapes and sizes of drop bars. You need to get the right size and shape.
    How wide are your shoulders compared to the width of th bars?
     
  6. ian-m

    ian-m New Member

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    Hi guys,

    A reply for David:

    I have already flipped the stem over to angle upwards, but maybe I need to lift the bars even higher - into my "comfort zone", as you described it. I can do this with additional spacers under the stem - thanks, I'll try it tomorrow.

    About your question on bar width - I have 2 bikes with drops now (a long story, but I converted my old bike at the same time as I built my new one). One bike has ITM 330, 44cm and one has ITM Millenium, 46cm (both measured outside to outside)

    One of these days I'll measure my shoulders, but I suspect the 44's are about right. I see from the ITM website that they're both the same drop and reach (although the wider bar will push me slightly further down)
     
  7. ian-m

    ian-m New Member

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  8. drewski

    drewski New Member

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    interesting link. the moustache bar they talk about, could be helpful too.
     
  9. eddiebrannan

    eddiebrannan New Member

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    get professionally fitted. you certainly shouldn't be straining anything to get into a natural position with your hands on the brake hoods. but this isn't just t do with bar position/stem length etc. it's also to do with your seat etc. when properly fitted your bike feels amazingly different - like all of a sudden it changed shape to match your body. IMO the "flat" part at the bottom of the drops should be aligned so it's pointing at the rear brake. but try to persevere for a while. often just the unfamiliarity leads you to feel that something's wrong. but as long as you're fitted correctly, with the right width bars, a riding position with the hands on the hoods and the heel of the hands on the bar should be a natural and comfortable riding position that shouldn't bother you at all over a long ride, especially since you're obviously a seasoned rider
     
  10. ian-m

    ian-m New Member

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    Thanks Eddie. I'm sure the seat position is right. I determined my seat height some time age, by measuring the angle at my knees (42 degrees) and by all the usual checks (heel on pedal, etc). I've also moved the seat on its rails so that my knee is correctly positioned over the pedal spindle (although various theories are available here too).

    Do you think that the corect reach should put me on the hoods, rather than further back towards the top bend? I liked the fact that flats & bar ends allowed me to stretch forward into a crouch if I wanted to - by resting on the ends of the bar ends. If I'm correctly positioned on the hoods, there would be nowhere forward of that to stretch out? I'd rather stetch forward than down onto the drops, but maybe as you said, I need to persevere for a while

    Thanks

    Ian
     
  11. ian-m

    ian-m New Member

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    Oops, sorry, I meant to type 32 degrees leg angle!
     
  12. eddiebrannan

    eddiebrannan New Member

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    to me there's a more upright just-cycling-along kinda position with the heels of the hands on the back of the bars - the part either side of the stem 90° to the top tube - and a comfortable slightly dropped position on the hoods. you should feel totally unstretched out while on the hoods, just comfortably leaned forward and supported by your arms which shouldn't be overly bent at the elbows, like maybe 70° or so? with the bars aligned rights and the brake levers correctly positioned the hand should comfortably rest between the hood at the base of the thumb and the heel on the curved corner of the bar. your back shouldn't be hurting from this. it shouldn't be an overly dropped position - that's for the drops, obviously - so your spine shouldn't be too far off around 45° from perpendicular. don't go getting your protractor out or anything; these are rough guesstimates of the correct angles. if someone knows better please leap in and correct me.
     
  13. Geonz

    Geonz New Member

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    I've never been able to adjust to drop bars either, and I suspect it's for teh same reason I can't do sitting postures in yoga; there are back muscles I don't seem to have. Nothing hurts, just can't sit on the floor without falling over ;)
    I have not been professionally fitted, though, since I've simply not had the need and my Trek 7500FX goes fast enough for me and was cheaper than a road bike. I prefer the lowered expectations when I show up on a group ride anyway,
     
  14. ian-m

    ian-m New Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Thanks again for all the feedback. David Ornee's comments about raising the bars into my "comfort zone" got me thinking. I really thought they were as far up as they could sensibly be, but yesterday I went out withn the stem jacked up as far as I could lift it (till I ran out of spacers and steerer tube!).

    For the first time ever, the bars started to feel better. I left home with the forward pointing top section horizontally aligned (more like flats & bar ends), but I kept stopping to lower them a bit at a time and they felt ok.

    Any thoughts on how far the top of the bars should be below the seat for leisure cycling?

    Applying the "front hub obscured by the bars" theory, the bars are still behind the hub, unless I'm right back on the "straight" section, either side of the stem. I think this is telling me that the frame is too long. Following one of your links, I came across this formula:

    BIKE FRAME SIZE (c-t, in cm) = Inseam (cm) x .67

    For me, this comes out at 52 cm ... and my frame is a 54 (c-t and crossbar). At least it all makes sense, even if I'm on the wrong frame! My current test stem is an 80, which sort of confirms it too - a 52 cm frame + 100 mm stem would be better. I suppost that when I had the flat bars on this bike, the extra 2 cm length of the crossbar would have put me into a good riding position - it certainly felt ok.

    Any thoughts on the angle the hoods should be at? I've got then fairly high at the moment

    Is it ok to angle the bars so that the lower (drop) section is at a fairly steep angle? - almost to the point of being useless (but then I'll only be using the tops anyway)


    ok, I've rambled on enough for now - thanks again for all your help

    Ian
     
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