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The View from the Drops…

September 2014
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The view from the the drops is beautiful. Sweet.

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Before this bike I had a more traditional setup, the saddle was only a few inches above the top of the bars. I was plenty fast, around a 20 mph average but the Venge is better. A full 5-1/2″ drop from the nose to the bar top.  That setup didn’t come cheap though… Admittedly I can’t see much in that position but I worked so hard on my flexibility to get there so I feel nothing but satisfaction when I ride, head down, in the drops.  I rode once a week for an hour straight in the drops to get used the position. Then I lowered the stem and again, spent a lot of time in the drops until I got used to it. A couple of months later I lowered it again and continued my Wednesday ride as my designated “drop day”. Then one last time.

Training my body to like that setup was not easy and was anything but painless. There were quite a few times where I thought about raising the bar up a spacer.  I never wrote about that.  I kept it to myself, figuring nobody would want to read about the struggle and I didn’t want to give my indecisiveness any more weight than it deserved, which wasn’t much – but I suppose it makes sense to let that cat out of the bag.  I’ve struggled mightily, from time to time, with staying dedicated to being the best cyclist I can be.  Rather than give up I stuck with it, pushing the pain, doubt and negativity aside.  I had a goal and dammit, I was going to ride flat – except if it meant injury and not riding at all.

I’ve worked hard on several aspects of cycling.  Knowing my way around the components, how to service them and care for my bikes. How to pedal harder and more efficiently, how to climb… I worked on strategies for riding with my club and on developing some fantastic friendships with the guys I ride with.  All of that pales in comparison to how hard I worked on getting flexible enough to ride low and I’ve only written two or three posts on the subject – out of more than 1600. The only thing I’ve worked harder on is getting fast, but that goes hand in hand with this.

The greatest benefit of riding low, out of the wind, is speed. Without that aerodynamic position I couldn’t possibly ride as fast and far as I do, at least without coughing up a lung or blowing up my ticker.  Two months ago I thought I’d finally taken this pursuit a little too far when I dropped the stem the last time…  My first two drop days hurt.

I stuck with it though. I didn’t give up, I kept pushing the length of time… I kept pressing my chin toward the stem cap. The third week was a breakthrough and by the fourth well on my way to being comfortable again.

I can spend as much time as I want in the drops now. Headwinds, crosswinds, taking my turn at the front or even after I’ve dropped to the back so I can virtually be pulled down the road by the group.

I didn’t listen to any of the naysayers who said only pros are flexible or young enough to ride like that. I set my sights, uh, low and went for it…

The view from the drops is sweet because I worked my ass off for it.

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11 Comments

  1. OmniRunner says:

    Man, you love that bike!
    This is Andy formerly of imarunnerandsocanyou

    • bgddyjim says:

      That bike is technically cheating compared to everything else I’ve ever ridden. I do love it, and I kinda run back to it if I don’t have something good to write about. Probably about time to get off that horse. How goes it, Andy?

      • In the final weeks before my marathon. 22 miler this weekend and then taper time begins. Many runners go crazy during taper time, I’ll try to keep it together. I’m trying to figure out how to follow blogs w/ the self hosted site and how to get my followers to find me again. I have a re-direct but I think a lot of people saw my posts via email and did not go to my blog first. I have so much to learn! Hope all is well Andy

      • bgddyjim says:

        I found it by clicking your newer OmniRunner link. I liked your page and right next to the like button it gives you the option to follow the blogs. No worries brother.

      • Andrew Nagelin says:

        awesome, thanks.

      • bgddyjim says:

        You bet Andy, all the luck in the world brother.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I should also add that for those who ride a lot, or aspire to, riding that low is not easy and it goes against everything most setup pros tell you is “comfortable”. At first it wasn’t, but riding like that over a more upright position is good for 1 to 1-1/2 mph on an average. It wiped out 17 years of back pain. Because my blog is so much about cycling anymore, I like to write about the aggressive setup now and again to let people know that it’s possible to change.

  2. dagowop says:

    I was just able to start spending a significant time in the drops, and you’re right, it is uncomfortable. But after about 2 weeks of forcing myself to do so (and with some help from the wind), it does get better. I can’t wait to get to that high saddle point and possibly changing out my drops for some more aggressive bars.

    Thanks for sharing this, last time I rode, I was young and flexible so I didn’t know I wasn’t alone!

  3. I’m engaged in this too. Next year I’m starting from scratch on the fit and plan to follow the patterns you discuss here.

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