I read once that a cyclist should have his or her road bike set up so that they can comfortably ride in the drops for at least an hour. There’s a lot to look in the setup alone – standard drops, compact drops, the height of the bar top, the angle of the drops and so on. Everything depends on flexibility and how comfortable one can become riding as close to parallel to the ground as possible.
I have become infinitely comfortable on the hoods. That’s where I ride 85% of the time. 10% would be on the bar tops and then 5% in the drops, usually only when I’m taking my pull in a club ride or when I’m heading directly into a stiff breeze. There are a few reasons for this. I’ve got my bar angle set a little low so that my hoods are a little lower which means that I’m more aerodynamic in that position to begin with. I could be more comfortable riding a little more upright, but I’ve always been more about the speed than the comfort and my body has grown quite accustomed to riding like that anyway. In fact, I slammed my stem several months ago once I became accustomed to riding the way I was set up after getting my bike fitted at the bike shop. I lowered the bars by about an inch and I’ve been infinitely happy with that as long as I was on the hoods. Riding in the drops was a different story though. It was just a little too low and I felt like I was a little bunched up at the hips which through my breathing off which messed with my power to the pedals because I always felt like I was overworking – I ended up feeling like I was working harder in the drops, even with the wind advantage.
Fast forward to yesterday. I went out for an easy ride 16 mile ride, with a target of something around recovery pace, to avoid killing myself after the club ride on Tuesday night. About 3 miles into the ride I could really feel a drag because of the wind so I got down into the drops and concentrated on keeping a steady cadence. One mile in I was still feeling fine, two miles, then three, and four… I ended up in the drops for almost all of the last 13 miles, quite comfortable and a mile an hour faster than I’d averaged on the hoods.
Pulling into the driveway I decided that I’d dedicate one day a week to only riding in the drops so I can become more comfortable and efficient. What a great ride – 18.6 mph average (17.0 was my target) and I felt great when I was done… While I was out riding I guessed that I’d end up around 17.5… That’s what I was looking for in the drops.
To set this story up requires a few simple facts. First, I keep my hair short, real short. Not quite high and tight, but close. I also have a sister that works at a prestigious salon about an hour’s drive from my office. She can cut some hair… The trick is, the third (or is that fourth?) fact that must be known is that I’m cheap – especially when it comes to hair cuts because I have to get it cut so often. My sister cuts my hair for free, and won’t let me pay no matter how many times I’ve shoved a $20 in her smock – so the price fits right in my wheel-house. However, as much as I love to dog environmental hippies, I do hate the idea of driving an hour to get my hair cut just to turn around and drive another hour home. The waste doesn’t sit well with me. So, what I do is stop by whenever I’ve got business out that way… That can end up being several weeks so I end up getting my hair cut locally at one of the cheap hair cut shops – it’s not like my dome is all that tough to cut.
So that’s the set-up. Yesterday it was time for a hair cut and I don’t see needing to head out to my sister’s shop any time soon so I went to my local chop shop. Now for what I pay, I expect a decent cut, but nothing too stellar. I’m paying for a Ford Focus, not a Shelby Mustang and I know it. Unfortunately I drew a punk girl to cut my hair. There’s nothing wrong with punk girls, but let’s face it, I’m just too old for that suff. After the cut, on inspection in the mirror (from 6′ away) everything looked fine so I split and went home for my daily ride (which was absolutely awesome by the way)… On waking and shaving this morning – only 1’6″ from the mirror – I noticed that my little punk girl hair cutter left my sideburns longer than the rest of the hair on my head! Now that may be cool on an 18 year old punk kid, but not on my melon.
All was not lost though; because I’m so big on the whole manscaping business what would have required another trip back to the chop shop to get the sideburns fixed only took 10 seconds, standing right there in front of the mirror… Anyone who’s had short hair knows that it’s very difficult to cut evenly with scissors so tight to the melon but I have adjustable trimmers. Grab the box out of the hallway closet, plug in, adjust trimmers to “1”, buzz sideburns, put trimmers back. Crisis resolved, minimal impact.
Having the right tools for the job saved a lot of time and headache – and me from looking goofy until I dealt with it. Rule number 1 in manscaping is: Have the right tools.