BACK to Drops?

IMG_3822Oh no…I might have been too quick to praise the albatross bar. This realization is a huge disappointment. Even typing it was a bit difficult and, after my recent glowing review post, a little embarrassing. I’ve been enjoying the bar change immensely, but it is possible that my three-month adventure with albatross bars could end soon. Unfortunately, there just might be a correlation between some of my recent upper back/shoulder issues and the bar change.

I’ve had an upper back/neck/shoulder condition for years. It has been annoying, but manageable. Good posture seems to help, and bad posture seems to make it flare up. I won’t bore you further with my physical analysis. The point is that I just realized that I’ve had more flare-ups lately and they seem to happen after spending several hours on the bike. In the past (when I used drop bars), a ride would sometimes improve my situation. Since the upright position has been so much fun, and I haven’t been uncomfortable on the bike, I haven’t (before now) associated my recent issues with a bar change. This realization is an unwelcome surprise, and I’m not sure what to do next.

My guess is that adding core strength and upper body strength would help significantly. Improved fitness might be an effective solution for the long term, and it would certainly be a good thing for overall good health. Returning to drop bars, however, would likely (if my analysis is correct) provide more immediate benefits. Since my drop bars were not really a ‘problem’ anyway, maybe the best plan is a ‘combo’. I’ll be pondering my alternatives.

If you happen to notice that green dusty bike leaning against barbed wire fences has drop bars, you’ll know why. It’ll have nothing to do with the look or ride quality of the albatross bar, and everything to do with what seems to be a cumulative disagreement between my recently new ride position and my bad posture and poor fitness.

Who knows? Maybe my body, over decades, has adapted to the shape of a drop bar bicycle. There certainly are worse things than that.

18 thoughts on “BACK to Drops?

  1. Chris,

    Interesting. I have been reticent to make the move from my drops as I always feel comfortable with drops. When I need to stretch my back I place my hands on the rear flats. When and it’s not that often I get up out of the saddles the hoods are a natural and comfortable hand position. I also feel that I can get into a more comfortable aero position when facing a head wind. I have the Bosco’s on the Trek 850 and will have that to experiment with the up right position but I still love my noodles.

    Don’t feel weird about the recent post praising the Alba’s it happens to lots of folks working out different cockpits.


  2. You’re just trying to confuse me! I also have the upper back/neck/shoulder thing going on, and I was hoping getting away from drops. Who knows, maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

    It won’t matter until my Achilles knits itself back together anyway.

    • I don’t think anyone should make any negative decisions about albatross bars based on my unique physical malady unless you find out a lot more information about it. I’m happy to share, but didn’t really want to dominate a blog post with it. Email or phone would be fine. I certainly can’t predict how albas would work for you, but I sure have been hopeful. Remember drop bars work fine for me.

      This bar seems to work well for a lot of folks.

  3. On longer rides I have always thought drops a better option. Better balance basically. Your weight is more evenly distributed front to back allowing your back and shoulders to “hang” and be more relaxed. This longer lower position doesn’t lend itself to looking around though. I had the same experience as you and reverted to drops. Once you have a position that “disappears” and becomes a none issue keep it. The grass is never greener!!!!

    • Yeah, this sounds right. For me both positions ‘disappear’ for a little while, fatigue calls them both to my attention, but in different ways. Maybe the new position lingers it’s influence for afterwards. Maybe the old way is best.

  4. I think you make a really good point about upper body strength and cycling stamina. I believe it also helps balance, at least in my case. I think Albatross bars are good for shorter trips, and maes bars are better for longer trips.(At least in my experience) Have you tried trekking bars? I find they work for me as an alternative, giving me a stretched out position and upright viewpoint.

  5. Hi Chris, I went through your same experience, trying to find the grail of fit. First it was the saddle chase, then the bar enigma. I have albas on my LHT. I have run those now for two years and have two summer tours of two weeks each in the books with the bars. I like them, and really like the upright position to watch the world go by. Last summer I finally acquired my Ogre (after a long process of saving!!) and equiped it with Surly Open bars. I might like these more. I will get a tour on this bike this coming summer on the Katy trail and will have more of an idea on the fit. I also agree with the commenter that said after fatigue sets in, bar choice is less important. Having tours on both drops and Albas, when it is the end of a long day, You just get tired!! Have you heard any word on the new Ergon grips that are designed to go on swept back bars?? I get tired in the wrist/palm area first, maybe they would be a help. I have the ergon grips on my open bars on Ogre and it is a good ride.
    I got to your blog by way of Annie, and I sure have enjoyed reading back on your posts. I am enviable of your miles of gravel roads you seem to ride. We have not much of that around here, but that is the style of riding I am interested in getting into more and more. It is busy road riding here, or crazy technical single track. I got Ogre for some nice gravel road riding with low traffic. I’ll keep looking.

    • Oh man, don’t mention the Ogre with Surly Open bars. I think about that too much as it is. I’ll bet that is tons of fun. I hope it works well on the Katy. That is a tour I’ve been considering as well.

      I have no knowledge of Ergonomic grips for swept back bars, but often thought something like that would be great.

      • The new Ogre complete bikes come with Jones Bars. That might just be my next try for LHT. Although after riding Ogre, I am in love with the disc brakes (never had those before), so naturally I lust for the disc trucker… never ends….the bike lust….

  6. Sometimes I think riding is just an excuse to have something to thinker with. And I’m as guilty as anyone else here. The good thing about all this is there is no right or wrong answer. If it works, it works. Now on to tinkering around with panniers . . .

  7. Pingback: A Few Enhancements | Pondero

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