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A quick guide to cycling positions and when to use each of them

A new video from GCN shows you how to improve your position on the bike. The video is really aimed at beginners but more experienced riders might pick up some tips too.

You really have three different hand positions available to you on a drop-bar road bike: on the hoods, on the drops, and on the tops. The video explains when to use each of them.

You’ll probably spend most of your riding time with your hands resting on the hoods because that gives you a comfortable body position and easy access to the levers for braking and shifting gear.

Holding the hoods is also a good option for when you’re climbing out of the saddle, although you’ll want to stay seated most of the time to maximise your efficiency.

The video advises you to use the drops for descending and other fast riding because this is the most secure position. Plus, of course, getting into a low, tucked riding position with your elbows bent reduces wind resistance so you can ride faster, making it the best choice for sprinting.

Riding with your hands on the tops of the handlebar is comfortable for long, steady climbs when you know you’re not going to need to change gear or brake for a while.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

8 comments

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DavidC [134 posts] 1 year ago
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This video is mostly about hand position — there is no mention of moving back or forward on the saddle under different conditions.

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Gizmo_ [1333 posts] 1 year ago
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More good work by the GCN guys.

Took me a surprising amount of time to get used to riding on the tops while climbing but do it all the time now.

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fennyvelocarbon [6 posts] 1 year ago
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I've been riding road bikes for a couple of years now but I'm learning something new all the time. I think I'm only just really getting to know how to handle the bike properly.
I've just started using the tops now for climbing some of the gentler climbs but I am also now finding it a lot easier on the drops and am now using them a lot more than i used to, although I'm no demon descender on the steeper slopes.
I noticed there's no mention of saddle position.

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dottigirl [73 posts] 1 year ago
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For a start, there's 5 hand positions on a road bike, not 3. The hoods, the hooks, the drops, the tops, and the ramps/shoulders. This explains it well:
http://lovelybike.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/drop-bar-hand-positions-introdu...

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dottigirl [73 posts] 1 year ago
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dupe

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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dottigirl wrote:

For a start, there's 5 hand positions on a road bike, not 3. The hoods, the hooks, the drops, the tops, and the ramps/shoulders. This explains it well:
http://lovelybike.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/drop-bar-hand-positions-introdu...

Nice link, thank you! That and the video are both helpful.

But neither address the issue of going downhill and not wanting to do it too fast. Do you ride the drops, where resistance is less but braking strength is greater, or on the hoods? Does the extra resistance of the more upright position overcome the lesser braking efficiency?

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edster99 [336 posts] 1 year ago
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If you want to descend slower, I'd be on the drops still : better braking and more stable. i.e more control, which is really the bottom line. And if you want to work on your descending, its the best place to start.

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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edster99 wrote:

more stable. i.e more control, which is really the bottom line.

Good point, thank you!