riding on the drops

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riding on the drops

Postby fionahills » Wed Nov 07, 2012 6:58 pm

Sorry another question

Noticed a comment in another post about the number of people Not riding on the drops on a downhill -sorry if this is a dumb question but is it mainly necessary because of better access to the brakes rather than on the hoods? I am generally too wobbly on the drops to be confident to ride on them, but was on a steep unknown downhill today and noticed that my braking ability was severely compromised riding on the hoods - and actually got on the drops a couple of times - but then felt a lack of control so did a bit of swap and switch - on my way down.

as my bike handling us still at beginners level I wonder is the increased braking better given I will probably not corner as well etc on the drops. Not confident on the downhill at best of times but do get better as I become familiar with a particular road

thanks for any info - fiona
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by BNA » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:52 pm

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Re: riding on the drops

Postby Nobody » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:52 pm

The reason people ride the drops on downhill is for more speed (lower tuck), better lever actuation of brakes and better bike handling (debatable).

If you are having problems with control on the drops, you might be too short in reach for the reach of your combination of frame/stem/handlebars and/or your bars are too low.

If your bike doesn't brake well on the hoods (for you) then it might be worth your effort to get better brake pads for the front brake (power brake). Your rear brake (control brake) doesn't really need better pads usually.

This may help:
http://www.coachcarl.com/training_artic ... raking.htm
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby twizzle » Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:24 pm

Wobbly in the drops? As nobody said, sounds like a problem with the bike fit.


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Re: riding on the drops

Postby Nobody » Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:54 pm

Another useful article on braking and turning.
http://sheldonbrown.com/brandt/descending.html
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby ldrcycles » Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:59 pm

+2, i would look at your setup, you should be as comfortable in the drops as you are on the hoods. I have found downhills, especially faster ones, to be more stable when i'm tucked right down, i think it is to do with putting more weight towards the front of the bike.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby fionahills » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:22 am

Hi guys- my main problem with the brakes while on the hoods is that its hard to stretch my fingers around the levers securely enough. ok for little light touches but too much when going down a long steep hill -

re wobbles on the drops - I have had my bike fit checked by 2 shops and a coach I am using - all said fine so I suspect that I am maybe a nervous nellie and not well enough balanced yet on the bike - ie comfortable now with 'normal' position for me -but not good at anything that feels different -

I don't think I can blame the bike - I am pretty 'bike handling challenged" - i am only just starting to be brave enough to drink while riding, hate giving hand signals cos that means I only have one hand on the bike and I cannot yet stand up on the pedals and pedal at same time- can stand and stretch but after two pedals freak and have to sit down - that means every hill is a sit down effort.... :oops:

I have bookmarked the articles you mentioned and read through them once but will keep going back and trying to practice the things they recommend - for instance I had no idea of how important it was to understand the difference between back and front brakes -usually apply both - to be on the 'safe' side :D

More great advice and help and will mention the wobble when I take my bike in for a service and get them to specifically check my position on the drops - thanks so much AGAIN :D fiona
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby AndrewBurns » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:36 am

It took me a while to get comfortable riding with one hand on my road bike and even now I won't ride with no hands :P

As for being comfortable pedaling out of the saddle perhaps you need more resistance? It's a lot harder to pedal at high cadence out of the saddle, I find it easier to go up to a bigger gear before standing up to get some extra resistance.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby toppity » Thu Nov 08, 2012 9:03 am

The more you practice on the drops the better. Practice on the flats and get more used to it.

As mentioned above, all things being equal, you should be handling a bike on the drops as well as on the hoods (if not better). The three things I like to do on the drops are fast corners, descents and sprint. Remember the hoods are not the handlebars. They are tightened on to the handlebars with clamps. They have, from time to time, been known to come loose. I'm not saying this to scare you, as it probably doesn't happen any more with modern equipment, but particularly with sprints its best to stay in contact with the handlebars.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby twizzle » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:01 am

fionahills wrote:Hi guys- my main problem with the brakes while on the hoods is that its hard to stretch my fingers around the levers securely enough. ok for little light touches but too much when going down a long steep hill -

As in, your hands hurt from applying the brakes, or are you worried your hands are going to slip off?

As for the rest of your post.... after 30 or 40 thousand k's it will all feel easy. :mrgreen:
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby Nobody » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:25 am

fionahills wrote:Hi guys- my main problem with the brakes while on the hoods is that its hard to stretch my fingers around the levers securely enough. ok for little light touches but too much when going down a long steep hill
Common problem for women. If you have brifters (STI or Ergo brake and shift levers) then your options are very limited with hardware changes as they are usually universal fit. Unless you want to delve into your hardware braking options, then you'll just have to learn how to use the drops.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby rpmspinman » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:58 am

My biggest problem when braking in the drops is my short fingers cant reach around far enough to grab enough of the lever to press. I find it easier to brake when Im on the hoods. It could be that the rake of my bars is too far back. I might have to adjust the rake to make it a bit easier to reach when in the drops.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby twizzle » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:33 pm

rpmspinman wrote:My biggest problem when braking in the drops is my short fingers cant reach around far enough to grab enough of the lever to press. I find it easier to brake when Im on the hoods. It could be that the rake of my bars is too far back. I might have to adjust the rake to make it a bit easier to reach when in the drops.


Shims are available for the newer shifters for people with shorter fingers. Otherwise, it's that elusive search for 'the right bar'.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby bychosis » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:53 pm

I think the drops is a less natural position, leaning way forwards and down too. That is why most comfort bikes are upright, it's more comfortable. More time in the drops should help your body get used to it. I've only recently got a roadie after a long break only riding MTB with wide riser bars, and I know which I prefer for stability - not riding on drops that's for sure. I am however getting moe used to it and finding it easier. I mostly cruise along on the hoods, but for speed, either powering along or coasting downhill will switch to the drops.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby fionahills » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:49 pm

sound good guys -like verything else practice practice practice is the key -

never realised that the hoods were not part of the bars - OMGosh :oops:

think my brakes work fine and are not hard to puch levers, it is just my fingers - didn't feel like I had a secure hold

so the answer is ride on the drops - also re resistance for standing - that makes sense and I will try it - at the moment still in low gearing most of the time trying to keep rpms up - will switch down(? hope that is right terminology) and try standing -

as always thanks so much for great advice and the time you all take

fiona
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby rustychisel » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:09 pm

Hi, I think this might be a response to my 'little rant' elsewhere....

I'll be brief for the moment. It seems to me that your issues Fiona might be related to fit as others have surmised, based on reach, comfort of hands on bars and shifters, ability to properly 'connect' with the control points etc, and as such opens up a wealth of possibilities, claims and counterclaims.

In simple terms, bikes and components (bars, stems, STIs, Ergos, even saddles) are largely designed for an 'average' user, and only in the last few years have we got to the point where others are considered or had componentry made available for them (at a premium price, usually). This can mean womens specific designs (WSD) and things such as controls for smaller hands etc.

The problem is exacerbated by the current trend for ergonomic bars, which are works of art in either aluminium or carbon showcasing just what is possible in design. The problem is they're designed by engineers who think they know best. Often they don't; most obviously because they design and manufacture without knowing exactly who is going to be using these products, in conjunction with what stem, what groupset, your age or flexibility, and - dare I say it - your level of experience or your riding expectations. Sometimes, they're just so poorly designed they just don't work, which is why there exists a strong market still for 'classic curved' drop bars.

Clearly, there might be issues here for you in terms of comfort and fit and confidence and overall balance (ie fitting the bike) so what follows might be moot, but a final point on this...

just as stems come in varying length, so too bars come in different sizes and shape, not only in width but also in reach, drop, depth etc, and a little further reading on this could be very useful. Currently, many amateur riders are very poorly fitted in this regard particularly (not their fault, often, since scant regard is given to age, posture, flexibility etc), and in an effort to get comfortable on the bike they rotate the bars back and the shifters up, so that they resemble antlers. This is not optimum and not their designed usage, the levers can be too far away from the bars for effective usage when you ride in the drops, for instance. Yes, this can be addressed with better fitted bars, better position, shims in the levers and so forth. Raised bars on longer steers and the current trend for rando bikes with higher headtubes add to the problem rather than help, by the way, even though they may effectively solve other issues.

So anyway, on to riding in the drops. Assuming your fit is pretty good, riding in the drops is a skill which must be practised and attained, like any other. You SHOULD NOT read an internet forum then go and practise downhills at 60kmh, obviously, but some acclimatisation on the flats and on quiet roads might be a good thing. Get comfortable switching from tops to hoods to drops, work out where in the drops your hands feel best (eg clamped on the ends or tucked in behind the STIs). Try and work out why you feel less stable and less in control.... reaching too far, not flexible or lacking in mid torso strength, tumbling forward with too much weight on your hands? These are all fit issues.

You should be able to ride smoothly and powerfully in the drops, handling the rock n roll of your hips and pelvis and using your shoulders and a little downward pressure from either hand to steer the bike. You should be able to form a firm connection with the bars without discomfort or crooked wrists, or pain from compressing the ulnar nerve or the pad of the base of the thumbs. You should be able to reach the controls easily and operate them effectively, in the case of brake levers utilising often the forefinger and middle fingers (ie one or two fingers only), although I'll admit the dexterity to operate the Campagnolo thumbshifter in the drops eludes me.

Downhill and the drops.
Firstly, it lowers your centre of gravity slightly and shifts the weight slightly forward on the bike, both useful for control in downhill riding. If you're falling forward or have to lock your elbows to stop leaning too far forward the fit is wrong.

Secondly, it aids in balancing the body such that your weight is distributed between the primary and secondary shock absorbers (legs and arms respectively). If you're sitting more upright then most of your weight is on the saddle, and any road shock will tend to throw you up and off the saddle. Correctly, you should be just resting on the saddle, using your arms and legs to soak up any unexpected bumps, using you inner thighs against the saddle to maintain road position. Again, I stress, all of this takes practise, it's not learned overnight, but clearly there's some pretty good reasoning behind it.

Thirdly, most riders lose control when their grip is broken. A bump which is powerful enough to throw you up from the saddle is enough to break your grip on the bars (or STIs), if one hand slips then the bike will veer that direction and it's odds on you'll overcompensate with the other hand. In the drops your grip is much more secure, you can lock two fingers around the bar and leave a couple free to feather the brake levers, for instance. Your balance and control should be much greater even if one hand is momentarily knocked free - I don't think you should necessarily practise this to determine the truth of it, but it works.

Fourthly, braking in the drops is much more powerful, even using just one or two fingers. You're pulling the lever straight back rather than compressing it back under your palm (from the hoods). Because your CG is marginally lower you can brake harder and lessen the chance of popping the back wheel up, locking wheels, or throwing yourself forward. In the drops you can shift your body back on the saddle to facilitate powerful braking. You can brake quicker, and later, lessening the chance of overheating rims etc.

Fifthly, aerodynamics. Less frontal area = greater speed. Until you get all the other things right this is relatively unimportant. After all, you just get to the point at which you want to bale out a little quicker.

I'm not sure if there was a sixth so I'll stop now.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby burger » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:51 pm

Hi Fiona,
I had the same problems with 'reaching' and being able to put enough 'finger grip' onto the brakes as well.
I got the shims for the brake lever and they brought it just that bit closer to allow more finger reach/grip. Both on the hoods and in the drops.
Just moved the brake lever that little bit closer to the bar for those of us with smaller hands/fingers!
cheers,
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby newie » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:21 pm

I have teeny stubby little fingers and don't feel confident braking from the drops - even with shims. But my new bike is better with women-specific bars. The fit of the bike overall is somehow better too so that I now feel comfortable riding in the drops and will go down into them when I want to power up a long gradual gradient. But I am still a long way to feeling confident about descending in the drops. I know I need to practice and actually discover whether reach and balance really are problems I should try to get sorted out or it is just a matter of practice and confidence. I am not a confident descender in the first place - not helped by stacking it on a downhill switchback a couple of months ago. So thanks for asking the question Fiona - I would really like to hear more advice from the forumites on this issue. Awesome post rustychisel.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby Nobody » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:27 pm

burger wrote:I got the shims for the brake lever and they brought it just that bit closer to allow more finger reach/grip. Both on the hoods and in the drops
Interesting. Could you please post a link to these shims?
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby fionahills » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:33 pm

Rusty - WOW - thank you for the time you took - it will take me some time to digest all you have said - I do have a lot to learn - its quite daunting so I will read up as much as I can -

Am sure so many of my problems still relate to lack of experience, skill level and therefore confidence - I really only thought 'racers' needed to ride on the drops - so your initial post about riding on them down hill did get my interest - and when it got a bit hairy for me I remembered it and thought I'd give it a try - never fear - I was a long way from going 60 km....but was struggling to feel in control of the brakes - when I swapped to drops the braking was so much better but felt my position was insecure.

But on reflection the fact that I went on them and off them and got to the bottom in one piece is a start - always look for the positive !

The feeling of insecurity on the bike while on the drops could also be in part due to the fit of the various components you mentioned (some of which I have to look up cos I don't know what they are - sorry) - will explain exactly what is going on to LBS - and get a coaching session to see if he can pick up anything that needs to change.

In the meantime I will try to address the my end of it first - by lots of practicing - maybe (hopefully) its like clipless - initially felt so insecure - now would not ride without them.

I am lucky that my bike does not hurt me to ride - even after a 100kms I don't get any numbness or soreness anywhere - back, neck, hands etc all good. I am Ok with core strength because of previous sport but think flexibility is an issue even though I am on a WSD that is said to be relaxed (Avail advanced Giant) - at my age, starting something from scratch was always going to be a physical challenge - and a huge part of its appeal - if it was too easy it would be no fun - riding to the shops is easy - trying to do it 'properly' is tough and I love it. :D

BURGER - will mention shims to the bike shop - once I figure out what they are!! and see if they are an option for me when on the hoods BUT maybe I shouldn't because then I won't learn to ride effectively on the drops - :) they are used to me coming in and asking about things that I really have no idea about- oh no she has been on the forum again!!!


Newie - part of what is so nice about this forum is that you always find someone to help and someone who shares the same issue - will have to try the drops on the uphill and also get brave enough to stand up and pedal - at the moment regardless of length or grade I have to get up there sitting -and spinning - that side to side action just feels soooo wrong at the moment!


At the end of the day I guess bike handling does come down to skill, comfort, experience and natural ability to wrestle one of these two wheeled beasties - I am comfortable and can gain experience through practice and hopefully learn skills with some coaching and advice from others but don't think I am a natural bike rider though -left it too late and have a bit too much fear these days, and probably no bike DNA to boot....see even at my age can still blame the parents...

thanks again fiona
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby warthog1 » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:45 pm

Nobody wrote:
burger wrote:I got the shims for the brake lever and they brought it just that bit closer to allow more finger reach/grip. Both on the hoods and in the drops
Interesting. Could you please post a link to these shims?


Reach adjustment is now built in, however – well, sort of. Unlike Dura-Ace's hidden screw-type adjustment, Ultegra's reach is tuned by inserting one of two included rubber shims. True, the adjustment increments aren't as fine as a result but the rubber shims handily fill in the space for a more finished look than Dura-Ace's unsightly gap


http://www.cyclingnews.com/reviews/shimano-ultegra-6700-group

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They fit between the lever and the hood and are available in two thicknesses. Basically push the lever forward a touch by not allowing it to return back to the shifter body as far.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby Nobody » Thu Nov 08, 2012 7:15 pm

Thanks WH. :)
Hopefully this will help Fiona to get a solution that suits her.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby burger » Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:16 pm

yup that's them! Thanks WH.

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Re: riding on the drops

Postby fionahills » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:24 pm

Thanks so much - off to see boys at lbs in the morning - fiona
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby AndrewBurns » Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:28 pm

Thought about this thread on the way home from work this afternoon and bombed down the local 'hill of death' in the drops of my disc-braked CX bike, got to 69.8 kph before cooking the brakes approaching the roundabout at the bottom. Some things I noticed about how I rode:

- I sat very lightly on the saddle, supported most of my weight on my feet, had my pedals at the 3 and 9 o-clock positions
- I was hardly holding the bars, in fact my fingers weren't even wrapped around them, I was just kinda resting with the bars between my thumbs and fore-fingers
- I shifted my butt to the back or slightly off the back of the saddle and my head and chest forward, flattening my body to lower my CG and to stop me from going over the bars under heavy braking
- Really be delicate with the movements, at that speed everything reacts very fast, I also tried to take a very straight line and avoided sharp turning

Pretty much already been covered already and just my experiences but there you have it. Some people I know still leave me for dead on fast twisty descents, they trust the grip of their tyres a looooooot more than I do.
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Re: riding on the drops

Postby fionahills » Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:44 pm

thanks Andrew - i am going to try a smallish steep hill tomorrow that immediately kicks back up so I should not get into too much trouble - its my speedy one - I actually hit 53.9 kph which is not much compared to others on the forum but for me is twice what I do on the flat...!!! but I have ridden it a few times so I don't feel too scared -

I will try and concentrate on the things you have said - it is straight so I don't need to worry too much about the steering so I should be able to focus on position on the bike - really appreciate your advice and thanks so much for taking the time to set down how you do it - will let you know how the weekend goes.... :D
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