Club-mate Mark was racing a criterium the other day and, looking at a photo of the race afterwards, realised he was the only one on the hoods; everyone else was in the drops. Being an insecure sheep like any dedicated road cyclist (yours truly included) he openly wondered how much of a difference it really makes?
Well, I’m no engineer or data boffin. Nor do I own a wind tunnel. But I’m guessing a lower and more compact position is likely to make you more aerodynamic in the same way those ridiculous aero helmets do. Over the course of a decent length race, that might just be significant. Flip side, of course, is if you’re not used to holding a more aggressive riding position you might be bloody uncomfortable and lose any infinitesimal energy and/or time gains when the whips are cracking through uncontrollable back spasms that render you essentially immobile. Or you might just crash.
Regardless, I’ve scoured plenty of online forums on the subject in the last 24 hours and as far as I can gauge there’s no clear right or wrong way to hold your bars. Like most things bike related the best advice appears to be simply: do whatever works best for you. That might mean spending 95% of your time up on the hoods and just 5% in the drops. Or vice versa. Or, in other words Mark, keep doing things your way.
For all the engineers and data boffins out there feel free to decipher this and report back. It’s all gobbledygook to me. But I think it might be relevant?
Cycling Aerodynamics & CdA – A Primer : Cycling Power Lab.