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Riding on the Hoods(16 posts)

Riding on the HoodsKristin
Apr 30, 2001 8:33 AM
Okay I finally got a 20 mile ride in yesterday, it was an awesome day!!! But, I still can't ride on the hoods for very long. There's about a 4 inch drop to the bars, which I figured would take some getting used to. However, the discomfort has me worried.

When I pick the easiest grip, all my weight sits on the crook between my thumb and index finger. I can manage this for approx. 4 miles, then I need to rest my hands. I tried shifting my weight onto the heel of my hand, but in order to do that, I must rotate my wrist inward (inside of my wrists facing the stem). This makes my shoulders tired.

What position should my hands be in on the hoods? Am I doing it right and just need to work up my strength? Is it possible that the bars are too wide for me?
re: Riding on the Hoodsmaximum15
Apr 30, 2001 8:44 AM
I began riding a road bike about 1.5 years ago. At first, I thought I would never get used to the riding positions. Some things I found that helped was to position the bottom of the bars so they are angled slightly downwards -- pointing towards the rear qr. I also re-mounted my controls a little higher on the bars than were they were originally. This gave a more natural wrist position when on the hoods. Although these helped, time in the saddle was a bigger portion of it.
4-inch drop?ET
Apr 30, 2001 9:01 AM
When you say a 4-inch drop to the bars, how are you measuring it? Try measuring from top of seat to floor and then top of handlebars (on its horizontal piece, not the horns) to floor. If that's really a 4-inch drop, that's probably way too much, especially for someone starting out. What size bike did you get? I thought you were trying to avoid such a difference. Well, anyway, you may need a stem which angles up more; this will raise the bar and hoods. Are you wearing proper gloves? Also, you should be moving your hands around constantly so they don't take a beating. Do you know the size (width) of your handlebars? If not, you should ask.
4-inch drop?look271
Apr 30, 2001 9:46 AM
Agreed. If that is indeed the difference from the top of the seat to the top of the bars, that's wayyyyyyy too big of a drop. Lance says you should look for a drop between 1-3 inches, and, as we all know, he DA MAN. Seriously, though, you might want to raise ithe stem (if possible-see your LBS), or if you can't, get a stem with positive rise. You'll be much more comfortable. Also, move your hands around. Alot.
Lance and dropDog
May 1, 2001 7:46 AM
Lance has a stiff lower back. That's why he doesn't use as much drop as others might. You just can't look at what one guy is doing, no matter who he is, and conclude that what he is doing is good for everyone.

Lance's coach says to use this guideline, but then this is for racing: Keeping your legs straight, reach down and touch the floor if you can. If you can put your palms flat on the floor, then a 4 inch drop will likely work fine for you. If you can just touch your toes, 2 inches; if you can't touch your toes, then level -- all with increments in between as appropriate.

For racing, you generally want to be as low as possible; also, taller riders generally can use more drop as they have longer arms.

I use a 4 inch drop and I'm perfectly comfortable, but I can hold my palms flat on the floor just fine. That's just me. With this position on the bike, it makes me very fast descending and certainly helps on the flats, too. I can go faster with less power.

Generally, people will start with less drop and work it down as they get stronger and more comfy on the bike. It may takes years to get there.

Bottom line, though, is that you have to find what works for you.

As for the hands getting uncomfortable, that's normal at first. Lots of body parts have to get used to the various pressures and strains of cycling. I move around quite a bit, unless I need to stay on the aerobars for speed purposes, but it's very comfortable there.

Counterintuitively, I've found that gloves with less padding work better for me. The gel pad types tend to concentrate pressure in some areas, where less padded gloves spread the pressure more evenly. At least for me.

then it seems to me...ET
May 1, 2001 8:30 AM
that standover is rather important after all. So many here, including knowledgeable ones, have come on to say that standover clearance is very unimportant (unless there's too little), and that all that really matters is top tube length, and have pooh-poohed me for emphasizing standover. And then shortly later yet another Trek OCLV victim (size 56 is really a 54, 54 really a 52) comes on to this forum to say his bike doesn't fit because the drop to his handlebars is just too low, even though the top tube is right. Sure, you yourself can tolerate quite a drop, but using your guidelines, many will need between 0 and 2 inches of drop. They're just not going to get it if they start with an extra inch of clearance on a smaller frame. What with threaded, they can't build up their stem much anymore. An angled stem helps, but has its limitations, and too angled looks dorky. Yeah, a custom could have an extended head tube. But for stock frames, a closer-fitting frame for these riders is key.

Also, I wonder what it means that Lance can't get as low as other racers but can still win. Everyone feels loads of air resistance at higher speeds. Does it mean he's that much better than everyone else to make this up?
I dunnoDog
May 1, 2001 11:14 AM
First, Lance does make enormous power, even compared to other pros. Second, even in racing, there are many times where it won't matter much, like drafting and climbing. In the Tour, how often do you see Lance out front unless it's a climb or a time trial? Sure, Lance might be faster if he could get lower, but his back injury prevents it. He has no choice. Also, for time trials, he has spent many hours working in a wind tunnel, carefully dialing in the balance between power and drag. There is a lot more to it than bar height. I didn't intend to imply that it is the greatest measure of speed potential by any means. Yes, you gotta be comfortable and powerful on the bike.

I'm not really following the standover discussion. I think what you are saying is that if you had no standover clearance, and if your seat were all the way down, then of course you couldn't have much handlebar drop, as the head tube is your lower limit (assuming not using a drop stem).

OTOH, there isn't as much of a limitation in the other direction. I've seen some steer tubes/stems built up around 3 inches or so. In fact, it seems pretty common from what I've seen lately.

I'll concede that standover, when you are really talking about head tube height in relation to saddle height, is not irrelevant. Howoever, true "stand"over, that is, how much clearance your crotch has over the top tube, doesn't matter that much, does it, assuming it's not negative?

I rode with a guy a week ago that has a custom Merlin with a head tube that extends about 3 inches above the top tube. He has an injury that prevents his getting low. It looks strange, but that's what he needs. His standover is very large, though.

I think angled stems have a bad reputation. What's wrong with them? While many think it means that you necessarily bought the wrong size bike and are trying to compensate, that may not be true. Anything wrong with them, aside from perceived aesthetics by some?

May 1, 2001 3:56 PM
I agree, it is a mistake to disregard standover height on a frame solely to judge by top tube length. My Trek 5500 experience was what you describe, top tube was fine, but that 54cm frame with all that nice standover clearance had the drops way too low (this is before I changed my positioning) even using an ugly,ugly, +17 degree mtb stem. People are commonly making what I consider to be a major fitting mistake by buying sloping top tubed frames with a disregard to standover height. To me, the 1" or so, is a very good beginning rule of thumb.

Just tried the Armstrong/Carmichael flexibility test mentioned by Doug and wearing my Adidas running shoes, I touched my first knuckles to the floor,not quite the palm but close. By that measure, a 4 inch drop might be a little far, but 3" would be a good guess. However, I went over to the Rivendell version of fit a year+ ago and there is no return to the big drop concept. In my case I also went to a larger frame size (56), accomplished because of the greater standover on my sloping top tubed Zeppelin. Still, I used the 1" clearance for standover and the ride is divine. My hoods are actually only .25" lower than my saddle top. 'Course, I don't intend to do Paris-Roubaix or the Alp de Huez or the Crit de Wal-Mart anytime soon.

Standover clearance is still a valid consideration for comfortable frame fit.
re: Riding on the HoodsGreg Taylor
Apr 30, 2001 9:14 AM
Hmmm....a couple of thoughts.

1. Make sure that you don't have your bike set up too "aggressively" for your first miles. With your bike on level ground, is the top of the handlebar above or below the top of your seat? Right now, I'd start with making the top of the bar even with the seat. You can lower the bar as you get faster/more miles.

2. You need to develop some stomach and back muscles. You really don't want to fully support the weight of your upper torso on your hands. With more seat time (and maybe some sit ups and crunches) you will support more of your weight with your abs, glutes, and back as you pedal.

3. Change hand positions. You don't have to ride on the hoods all of the time. If you are not in a paceline or somewhere where you want to "cover" the brakes for quick reaction, I often "sit up" with my hands on the top, outside portion of the bar where it turns forward and down, palms down, resting on the curve of the bar.

4. Expect some pain while you get in shape. Hey, hands are bones and muscle too, and riding puts them through a workout just like the rest of your body. They will toughen up over time.
Second Greg's motion--raise those bars!Cory
Apr 30, 2001 9:23 AM
If your bars are really four inches below the saddle, that's almost certainly too low. You may need a new stem (or maybe yours will flop over) to get them up. You can make a pretty good argument for having the bars even with the saddle (but I won't make it again here because I'm sure everybody's sick of it). There's not much point in forcing yourself to adapt to an uncomfortable position when it's so easy to change the bike to fit your body. You can always switch back if you decide you NEED to be uncomfortable.
Also, check the position of the levers on the bars, and the angle of the bars in the stem, and the length of the stem. And remember, the point of drop bars is to allow a lot of positions--when one gets uncomfortable, use another one for awhile.
re: Riding on the HoodsNEIL
Apr 30, 2001 9:20 AM
Your hands shouldn't be supporting much weight at all. You should be able to just drap your hands on your bars and support your upper body weight with your back. There just shouldn't be that much pressure. I can assume the normal riding position and just take my hands off the bars and not move my upper body.

A couple things to check which may be preventing you from this is your seat position over the BB. Have a buddy help you with this. Assuming your cleats are ideally posistioned on the ball of your feet, align your crank arms parallel to the ground, (have your buddy verify, it's hard to tell looking from above) then use a plumb bob (any hardware store carries these) and place the string at the top of your lower leg bone, and below your knee cap. The bob should intersect the pedal spindle looking from above. I suspect it may fall in front of the spindle in your case if you are forcing a lot of weight to the front. In which case you need to move the saddle back until the line intersects the spindle. You may find your stem is too long, in which case you need a shorter one. You need to make your bike fit you, not fit you to the bike.

Also the saddle tilt can affect where your center of balance is over your bike. Start with a parallel to the ground setting and adjust from there for comfort.

If you have STI levers, it may help to put the top of the hood in the palm of your hand and hook your thumbs under the cable. This is a nice position and your thumbs prevent you from slipping off the front if you hit a big bump.

A wide bar width shouldn't affect the pressure too much, if anything a bar too narrow would force your to cramp your upper body and restrict breathing. They should be approximately shoulder width.

Finally, if all these things are in line, you can do some back strengthing excercizes. I suspect though, that if your center of balance is correct over your bike, you shouldn't have to do anything extra in the way of strengh training... good luck.

re: Riding on the HoodsChas
May 1, 2001 1:40 PM
I agree with your saddle suggestion. Tilt the nose up, get the back of the saddle level and it will take weight off the hands and put it on the seat where it belongs.
Ride on the tops. Use the hoods for climbing and traffic. nmJimbob
Apr 30, 2001 3:15 PM
How tall are youKerry Irons
Apr 30, 2001 6:52 PM
While drop from saddle to bars is a personal thing, it should generally be proportional to height, since your arm length will partly determine how much you are bent at the waist. As an example, I am 6' tall with a 34" arm length, and ride with 3.5" of drop from the butt of the saddle to the top of the bars. I spend most of my time riding in the drops, and that's just about as low as I can get or my thighs will start hitting my chest. I suspect that you are shorter than me, and so probably find it nearly impossible to ride in the drops with this much difference. Have you used one of the sizing calculators to help you set up the bike?
re: Riding on the HoodsUnderdog
May 1, 2001 10:40 AM
I use a set of aerobars. They're a lot more comfortable plus I cut through the air better.
Try aerobarsUnderdog
May 1, 2001 10:42 AM
I use a set of aerobars. They're a lot more comfortable plus I cut through the air better.