One thing that the indoor trainer etches into a rider is a poor riding position. Because the most comfortable position on the trainer is to ride with your hands on the hoods and your eyes on your top tube, you will spend 93 percent of your time there this winter—particularly when putting in hard efforts. But in a bike race, we race with our hands on the drops with our eyes on the road ahead.
Here are three reasons why caving into these bad habits will hurt your cycling when race season comes around in the spring:
1. There are obvious aerodynamics at work here. Staying low will ensure that more of your body is hidden in the draft.
2. A bigger reason to stay low is control. By lowering your center of gravity, you become more stable. Cornering is easier. Direction changes are more precise. You'll ride a straighter line. If someone bumps into you when you're on the hoods, you're wobbly. If you're on the drops, you're a rock.
Here's a great demonstration of what a lower center of gravity does for stability: take a soup bowl and try to balance it on your fingertip from the bottom. (Please make sure the bowl is empty when you try this. Otherwise, it's really messy.) It's nearly impossible to balance the bowl on your fingertip. But if you turn the bowl upside down, it's a piece of cake.
3. Riding on the drops also makes braking safer by giving you a better reach to the brake levers and a firmer grip on the bars. As a result, you're far less likely to go over the bars should you have to lock up the brakes. And if you do, you're already in the tuck position.
This position is not a comfortable position by any means. It's murder on the neck, back, and shoulders. But it's necessary. If you don't, and instead opt for the bad habit mentioned above, you'll lose flexibility by neglecting this skill during the winter.
It's important to develop and maintain the flexibility needed to ride in the drops by riding in the drops on the already-unpleasant trainer. If you ride while watching TV or looking at a mirror, place them higher. Force yourself to look up while keeping your hands low.
As much as it hurts, that's the posture of bike racing, and it'll help you in the future.
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