Chas resting at the big lake (July 5, 2015)
Chas and I did a slow, tempo ride yesterday, just over 45 km with a mid-ride stop at the big lake. We didn’t go fast, trying to maintain a 20-25 kph pace while keeping my heart rate at 60-70% of my MHR.
That is easier said then done. The route includes several small climbs and descents where it is difficult to maintain both the pace and heart rate. For the most part, I was able to do it. This was meant to be a recovery ride after several successive fast, taxing rides with both Chas and Lou.
I ride on the drops more here than at home. The terrain is flat, and I am either battling a head wind, or wanting to go fast. The drops are more aerodynamic, and efficient than riding on either the tops or hoods. At home, I am climbing 50% of the time and prefer the tops or hoods. Here I ride on the drops, almost all of the time. Hours at a time.
When on the drops, I notice I pedal with more relaxed shoulders. I didn’t notice this before. There is a tendency to lift the shoulders, and lock the arms when on the drops. You want the opposite. Relaxed shoulders extend the arms, allowing the elbows to bend easily, absorbing the road chatter, and positioning you in a lower, more aerodynamic position.
Not everyone can get into this position easily. It requires flexibility, the absence of a belly, and a strong core. The core supports the upper body providing stability, and delivers power to the pedals. There was a time when I was not comfortable on the drops, particularly for extended periods of time. Today, it’s the position I prefer. I feel more powerful, faster, and aerodynamic. I have a lower centre of gravity, and feel I have better control of the bike, particularly when descending and cornering.
I have read of studies suggesting that the most aerodynamic position on the bike is not on the drops, but on the hoods with your forearms parallel to the ground. Personally, I don’t like this as well. I don’t feel I have as good a grip on the bars or as much leverage on the brakes.
It takes time to feel comfortable on the drops, but if you want to cut through the wind, and go fast, you need to make an effort. The more you do it, the more flexible you will become, your core will get stronger, and it will begin to feel natural.