A fella who goes by the name of Eben Weiss recently wrote a wrong-headed article for Outside Magazine that gives examples ranging from poor to silly as reasons bicycle manufacturers should do away with drop handlebars; Presumably, so we can all ride the kinder, gentler flat-bar bikes which he approves of. Put simply, if flat bars become the only option, I’d simply stop buying new bikes (or I’d be the one to retrofit drop bars and sell the components to others).
From his article:
So… because something works well enough to stick around, in an industry known to change things faster than my teenage daughter changes clothes, for decades, we should just change it because this wahoo says it’s time to change?!
Dammit, I am easily infuriated by egomaniacs with superiority complexes (I’m different my friends – possibly an egomaniac, but I have an inferiority complex – big difference). I digress…
His next claim is that the drops are underutilized. Because?! The people he rides with don’t use them, presumably because they’re either too weak or fat to bend down far enough to use them. Honest, you can’t make this up:
Before your next group ride, surreptitiously put some ink on your palm and shake everyone’s hand. If by the time the ride is over even one of those riders displays so much as a smudge on their drops, I’ll give you $100.*
I don’t have to use ink… and he owes me, let’s see, $2,700 A WEEK for, let’s see, the length of the season… 35 weeks, carry the… $94,500. I won’t even use my Wednesday ride (which has been designated “drop day”) or Friday, Saturday and Sunday rides with my friends. That number, for a season would get me a shiny, new Colnago with Campy EPS… for me (and all of my friends – all 27 of us).
Most cyclists, in the group I ride with, use the drops every time they’re up front, because riding 24 mph into a 15 mph headwind is hard. The drops allow one to ride a mile or two an hour faster than one would sustain on the hoods. In fact, in those conditions, the first two or three cyclists in the pace-line are in the drops. The drops are necessary for a 22-24 mph average on open roads. Alas, Mr. Weiss disparages “fast” cyclists, one would assume, due to envy or ignorance.
Then it gets fun…
The upshot of all of this is that the typical road bike is set up for maximum comfort while riding on the hoods, and the entire drop zone of the bar has become vestigial. This is why you’ll often find them set up so askew, with the bars canted upwards in a manner that brings the levers closer to the rider and completely obviates the presence of the drops—now pointing fang-like at the floor and wrapped in unsullied bar tape that has never known a rider’s touch.
Well, surely that’s just my race bike. My other road bikes must be askew, because we often ride like that…
Surely the tandem!
Nope, maybe Eben is simply a cranky butthole in this case. Moving along, ahem, Mr. Weiss attacks those who don’t ride like ninnies as “delusional” and claims the ninny crowd should be riding drop bars because they can ride on the bar tops which he presumes is “more comfortable” (?). Apparently he forgot, this is ironically exactly why he claimed drop bars should go the way of the dodo, earlier in his article.
Another tidbit that caught my eye:
…and it’s only riders who fancy themselves fast who position their handlebars virtually beyond their reach.
Wait, virtually beyond their reach, what?!
To end my critique on a fun note, Eben writes:
Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a rider who doesn’t keep her hands on the hoods pretty much all the time.
Mr. Weiss needs to put on his big boy shorts and ride with my wife. She’ll show him, in one 30 mile ride, how a woman rides in the drops and why he needs them too, as he’s trying to suck her wheel.
In the meantime, we road cyclists like our drop bars just fine, Mr. Specialized, Mr. Bontrager, Mrs. Giant, Monsieur Cervelo, Señora Bianchi. We use them. We train on them. We love them when the wind is whipping and we’re heading dead into it. We need them to be fast and efficient whilst pulling for our brothers and sisters.
Please leave them be. Don’t listen to that crank. He either has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about, or he’s just putting out clickbait – which is just as bad as being ignorant. Those of us who use them and appreciate them, vastly more than 10% of us, rely on the increased aerodynamics. Those in the know understand how important that is when the speed cranks up.
I should also clarify: I am a 47 year-old cyclist. Drop bars and an aggressive position on my bikes fixed my lower back pain that once made life uncomfortable at best, ugly at its worst. The group I ride with has a range of cyclists from 30 to 70 years-old. We are fast. We are respectable. We certainly don’t make apologies for those who choose to discriminate against us because we like to ride our bicycles fast. My God, does that sound silly anyway!