If you recall your Greek mythology, the Anemoi were the God’s of the wind with Astraeus being the father to Boreas (north wind), Erus (east wind), Notus (south wind), and Zephyrus (west wind). As all Greek God’s, they were typically up to all sorts of shenanigans, messing with human kind and pissing off other God’s. Notus was particularly active today as we had a sustained 15mph wind with gusts in the 27mph range, which made the windward half of the ride a little challenging. Nothing like a 27mph gust hitting you at the same time a truck passes by…talk about white knuckle riding.
A modern road bike allows us to cheat the wind by assuming different postures on our bikes, which not only make us more aerodynamic but also allows for greater comfort on long rides. Bike setup is key, and is a topic I’ll tackle in the future, but for the moment lets just focus on our handlebars.
Bikes have handlebars of all shapes and sizes and are engineered for comfort as well as aerodynamics. The various types include Drop , Flat or Riser, Upright or North Road, Touring, Triathlon or Aero, Pursuit, BMX, Cruiser, Moustache, and Ape Hanger. Road bikes use Drop handlebars (the classic ram horn style). These bars give the rider a multitude of hand positions to not only adjust your aerodynamic posture, but also help combat stress on your hands and body during long rides.
There are basically 5 hand positions on drop bars. These include the tops (central, near the stem, thumbs under, fingers on top), the corners (a little farther apart, with thumbs on top and fingers curling outside and under, as if holding a pizza box), the hoods (most popular position. Slide hands straight forward from the “corners” until they are on the brake hoods, with thumbs inside and fingers wrapping around the outside and grasping the brake levers), the drops (hands on the low part of the bar, but forward, grasping the brake levers. Good for descents and best position for strong braking, and the bar ends (the lower final section of the drops).
Riding on the tops provides a more upright riding position allowing you to rest your back and take advantage of tailwinds. It’s the least aerodynamic position, and requires moving your hands for shifting and braking. It’s generally not a good position for technical descents (like that happens in Florida) or for riding in any situation where you may need to brake hard suddenly.
Riding on the hoods, perhaps the most popular position, stretches you out a bit more making you more aerodynamic, while still offering better visibility. It’s good for general riding and provides easy access to brakes and shifters while providing a comfortable angle for your wrist.
The drops offer the best aero position and are used for headwinds and some crosswind situations. It’s also a good choice for powering up on windless flats, since you engage different muscle groups. Mostly, this is the prefered position for fast descents. Steering control can be exceptional in the drops, and you’ll get superior leverage on your brake levers. Even for recreational riders averaging <15mph, getting in the drops occasionally for a couple minutes helps stretch out and relax the lower back.
The handlebars should be positioned slightly below the level of the top of the saddle. Bear in mind that if the handlebars are too low it can cause pain in the lower back and the shoulders. A significant bend in the elbow, with a near horizontal forearm, is good and helps reduce shock from the road. The proper bar position comes down to comfort. If your bars are set up correctly, it is comfortable to ride in all positions. Just be sure to move your hands around. Different hand positions will vary the amount of stress on your hands, wrists, neck and back. If you "lock into" one position, you can end up with rather sore after a long ride.
Today's Lakes Park ride was against a gusty SE wind, completely opposite of what I had been getting used to. There were a few stretches where it felt as if I really was going uphill, but the down wind return was a joy. I had another lengthy technical support break at the mid point, but I'm not about to complain as the day was delightful.
Route: Lakes Park via Six Mile Cypress
Ride Time: 1:50:16
Stopped Time: 54:58
Distance: 26.14 miles
Average: 14.22 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 23.33 miles/h
Climb: 154 feet