Drop-Bar Mountain Bike Stupidity

You ever want to do something so you read about what other people do and then when you do the thing your experience is way different than what you read about?

That’s me with my drop bar hardtail. If you look anywhere about setting up an MTB you will quickly see two things pop up EVERYWHERE as writ in stone, inflexible rules of the process.

  1. Drops should be the same height as the saddle or same height as your flat bar.
  2. Drops should be shallow and flared.

Both these are wrong and lead to poorly riding bikes that look like shit. I’m not saying my bike looks amazing but it looks a damn sight better than the bikes here, here, or here.

The problem is that all these peeps are trying to get their drop-bar bike to ride like their flat bar bike. This is wrong.

Your drop-bar MTB should ride like a different bike, it requires a different skillset and can make you a better rider when/if you do go back to a flat-bar set-up. To the first point, you hands are in a different spot and in a different orientation, everything you do requires different muscle inputs. Want to pop the front wheel over a rock? Well your hands are rotated 90 degrees from where they usually are and probably 15-20cm closer together. Want to rail a berm? Same thing.

The drop bar MTB riding style has to be learned. Everyone wants to switch bikes and go 100% from the first pedal stroke. This leads to blown lines, unnecessary dabs and an overall much less fun experience. I did this myself but managed to catch myself as I was rotating between a cross bike, dropbar 26er and regular old 29er hardtail so I could see where I was going wrong pretty quickly. After spending some serious time trying to figure out why my experience on the 26er was such shit I went back to fundamentals and realized the riding style was way different than I expected.

Riding my dropbar 26er requires a lot of body english, a commitment to riding smart and trusting the bike a lot more than when it was a flat bar or my 29er.

If I just jump from my 29er to my dropbar 26er I feel awkward and like I’m riding terrible. I have to mentally switch gears and remember the basics and then after a quick warm up getting comfortable with the bike I can shred like crazy. Seriously some of my fastest and best times have been on this dropbar 26er, and these are segements I’ve hit dozens of times.

In closing, I know WHY the two rules above exist. Because early mountain bikes through the late 1990s had such short headtubes that it’s almost impossible to fit them well with a flat bar or a drop bar. Combine this with the geometry they had and you end up with a bike that is cheap (attracts the weirdos) but really kinda sucks (you have to make stupid rules). Modern MTBs are immune to this thanks to their longer headtubes and overall higher riding position. A modern MTB, even with forward geometry, should be able to be fit more akin to a cross bike than a 1990s drop bar conversion.

Kit Review – State Bicycle, Heavy Pedal, Veloce and dhb


Let’s start with the worst and move up to best

Heavy Pedal – http://theheavypedal.com/collections/cycling-kit

Heavy Pedal is here to take your money with the lowest quality kit I’ve used in a long time. The fabric feels smooth but is actually mildly abrasive the more you wear it. It does not handle rain well and tends to sag and parachute when very wet. Does not provide much warmth. One of the pockets came un-stitched almost immediately and overall pocket storage feels undersized. Chamois was uncomfortable and oddly sized. Jersey fits like a cut between club and race, kinda shitty. Shorts are true to size. DO NOT buy these kits at full price. These are definitely not worth $140 per kit. They often go on sale for 25-40% off. At the latter they are barely worth it but overall I would not recommend at all.

State Bicycle – http://www.statebicycle.com/collections/riding-gear

State Bicycle is next, these kits are ok but like Heavy Pedal are VERY overpriced. Currently regular styled kits are $149 and the USA/UK flag kits are $89. The USA/UK kits are priced ok but would be more appropriately priced at $69. I purchased two USA kits on sale for something like $59 each. The shorts wore out in less than 50 wearings and wore out worse than anything I’ve seen before. I’m taking both inside seams fell apart, a hole wore though the tailbone area, the chamois came un-stitched and they faded badly. This was with line-drying and gentle wash. The fit is race cut, jersey fits tight and material feels good in dry and wet weather. Shorts are slightly undersized and chamois is fat with a small footprint, not a great design. I would not recommend unless found for less than retail.

dhb – http://www.wiggle.com/dhb/cycle/

dhb is a Wiggle house brand.  Their pricing in inconsistent as there are currency conversions and overall sales pricing is weird. Kits range from $100-150 and I find them to be an average value at the high end and a good value at the low end. These kits are very feature-rich. Aero styling, zipper pockets, reflective touch, excellent graphic design, and good materials. I got about 70ish wearings out of my kit before the shorts were too thin to wear, a good number for the price. Jersey fits race cut but is long in the back so loading your pockets tends to make it sag. You can see it below:

Shorts are true fit with a good chamois. I currently have two more kits I am going to rotate until they wear out. I would recommend these kits at any price but try to find a sale.

Veloce – http://velocespeedwear.com/

Veloce is the best – comfortable, thick without being hot or constricting, durable. I got upwards of 120 wearings out of this before it got to thin in the shorts. Fit is excellent, fits like a good race cut in shorts and jersey but with exceptional tailoring so it feels good to move. Chamois is good density and size and showed almost no wear despite being my main racewear and long ride (+6 hours) wear for two years. I have no complaints, very pricey but worth it.

The Order 1886

I just finished this game. I know it got a lot of negative press at release, which was well deserved as it was a $60, sub-6 hour game with 0 replay value. However, as a $8 used title it’s great! I blew through it in two days and loved the experience. Funny that it really made me want to buy a sword – the just look so cool in the game!

It’s also been cut together as a movie on youtube which is really cool:

Fall is here – Kennesaw Mountain

It’s been three weeks since I’ve ridden a road bike. My time has been spent in the woods.

Watching the leaves, relearning to corner and how to pick a line. Seeing the sunset every night amidst a sea of color.

Going faster and smoother than ever before. It’s been three weeks of a smile every day. T-shirts and cutoffs – no hats, just caps.

But today it was time to go back to the road. Faster and further than I could go on the leafy trails of Cochran Shoals. I head north, under the shadow of a hundred million dollar stadium.

Past million dollar cargo jets – touch and go all evening. I make it to Marietta, Kennesaw mountain and climb. All ride my legs have felt strong, like I could pedal forever.

Riding Sope Creek every day has made me strong. I wish I felt like this all the time.

Standard Deluxe Dirt Road Century and Sac o’ Suds 2016

Photos pilfered from here: http://www.gravelcyclist.com/race-reports/race-report-k-doggs-take-on-the-standard-deluxe-dirt-road-century/

Oh damn was this a good weekend of racing.

Let’s start with the Sac o’ Suds 50 on Saturday.

I got my bike dialed in riding on the road and trails at Sope Creek over the past week. Changed out the heavy 36h wheels with the HED Tomcats from the DB that have been sitting unused, lighter wheels are the best!

I’ve been trying to take less of a racer mentality and just enjoy the ride this year as I’ve been a lot less fit and overall a lot less intelligent with my racing style. I’ve had some life stuff so I haven’t been eating the same as my previous racing diet and holy cow did it show. I ended up having very sore legs from my short opener ride on Friday. Might have been an issue that I went out and got pretty drunk too?

Race day was very nice, warm and clear. I took my camelbak and one water bottle and had more than enough water. Race started as normal, big group moving fast and rotating. I was being dumb and forgot what chainring I was in and got dropped after slipping the rear wheel on one of the first steep climbs. Had to unclip and stop to get back going again as the dirt was pretty loose. After this I just kind of rode my own race and had fun. The steel Soma is much a nicer ride than the aluminum cross/gravel bikes I’ve raced previously. This is a fairly flat course but still had a lot of rollers, I got caught and dropped several times on the way back and ended up 20 minutes off my prior year time. Oh well, still fun. I didn’t notice until I got home but my seatpost had slipped a couple of inches. This lead to me riding the race is a much lower position than normal. Really killed my quads, I got home and had the worst leg pain I’ve ever had from riding. It was like I was back doing 20 rep squats – very painful. So I loaded up on protein and took a hot bath. Once I got home for the evening I tried to massage my legs and did the foam roller even though it hurt so bad.

I think next time I should take a week off, ride regular a week and then race the next week. Might help keep my legs strong.

Anyway, since my legs were so blown I was so nervous for the 100 mile ride I’d registered for on Sunday, The Standard Deluxe Dirt Road Century in my adopted hometown of Waverly, AL. I woke up early, loaded the car with hurting legs and drove down. Stopped about a half hour away, got a starbucks double shot and funnily enough once I got there my legs were like 80% better. Weird?

I walk around a bit at registration and by that point my legs felt like normal (for a day after a 50 miles gravel ride). Even so I knew my mental house of cards was a little shaky so I hedged and took a 60 mile cue sheet as there was a turn off option at the first aid stop. Conditions were the same as the day before; clear, warm and dry. Alabama dirt is different than Georgia dirt – more packed and faster.

Race started in a big pack and was much slower than the previous day as it appeared most of the fast guys were doing the 100. I rotated a bit and then noticed my seatpost slipping. Fuck. Tried to hang tight but it kept dropping and after it was 3 inches down I stopped. Took it out, wiped off the friction paste I had added the night before (so stupid) took a handful of the sediment on the ground, rubbed down the post and reinstalled with as much torque as I dared. Rode a few hundred yards and dropped it about 5mm and then was fine the rest of the ride. No back pain, positions felt good. Funny how I always get things done under stress.

So I’m riding by myself when as SS fatbike guy comes hauling by. I jump on and we cruise for a bit. Catch another guy and then we catch the main pack right before the aid station. I start on the 100 mile route and then decide I’d rather be social tonight and I’ve excluded having a life for bike riding enough so I turn around and start on the 60. And then proceed to get lost, run out of water and have to take the paved way for the last 10 miles after missing a turn.

The course is well designed but there are two longish paved sections that combined with the relative flatness and compact dirt make me wonder if smooth tread tires may be a better choice? Although I guess the 40mm Kenda Happy Mediums I was running are pretty close.

Overall a very fun experience but I wasn’t able to stay with the main pack and did not have a navigation GPS so I was not competitive at all. I’d recommend either one if you want to “race” or be competitive. I’m happy to partici-race and stop to take pics if I see something cool.

Bike performed very well for both events. 100% shifting front and rear, brakes were great and the tires were good but maybe not the best for very dry and sometimes loose conditions?

My drivetrain is toast, gravel racing kills components like nothing else.

Legs are very sore and I’m tired but dang that was a lot of fun. Next year I’m going to plan better and really prepare for both rides.