Riding in the drops isn’t compulsory for a cyclist but it does have its advantages. Getting into a tuck position lowers air resistance and allows you to go faster for longer, as long as you can get the power down. If you can’t, you’re only going to go faster downhill.
Fitting a road bike is a long and complicated process. If you have the cash, there is nothing that comes close to a professional bike fit. If you prefer to find your own way, this can help.
Road bikes have drop handlebars for good reason. Get comfortable in the drops and you become more aerodynamic. That means less wind resistance and less energy expended fighting the air. This comes in very handy when tackling a headwind. As a result, you can go further and faster for the same amount of effort. There is a definite kick of adrenaline when you’re in the drops and giving it some beans. Nothing quite comes close to going full pelt on a quiet road!
Another benefit from cycling in the drops is that it gives you more control. There is a definite surety when riding at speed in the drops and the controls definitely seem smoother and more responsive. Your gravity is lower too, which might have something to do with that feeling.
Finally, shifting into the drops helps when on longer rides as it engages different muscles. You can still cycle at pace, but you rest tired muscles while engaging others.
There are two main hand positions for riding in the drops. The first is where the hands are on the round or ‘hooks’ directly behind the brake levers. This is the most aggressive as it forces the elbows to bend in order to be comfortable. This has the advantage of bringing you lower which makes you aerodynamic. It also allows easy access to gears and brakes.
The other position is on the flatter part of the drops, closer to the end of the bar. This is for sprinting or riding at pace on a clear road. It isn’t quite as aggressive as the first position and is slightly easier on the back until you’re used to it. However, it means you will have to shift your hands to change gear (unless you have sprint buttons) or brake.
In either position, you should relax your shoulders and arms, tilt your head so it is pointing straight ahead, bend your elbows and tuck them into your sides. Flatten your back as much as you’re comfortable doing and go with the flow. Ideally, you should be able to sink comfortably into the position and maintain it without hurting or aching too much.
Those new to cycling will find riding in the drops difficult at first but it gets easier the more you do it. It is an essential riding skill so you should persevere even if you only spend 5 minutes in a 1 hour ride in the drops. It rests muscles, helps with headwinds and lets you go faster. What’s not to love?