One of the secrets to surviving long rides is shifting your riding position regularly so you don’t get stiff and sore. Even shortish rides are more enjoyable if you can change your posture. It all relates to on where you put your hands.
There are basically two kinds of handlebars: drop and straight. Most road and touring bikes feature drop bars. They probably give you the biggest range of hand positions.
The most common is “on the hoods”. It’s a reasonably aerodynamic position and gives you immediate access to the brakes. On newer bikes you can also change gears without having to shift your hands.
The drops get you tucked right down along the top bar – great in a headwind. On a descent that position also gives you lots of control.
On a long uphill climb placing your hands on the flat section of the bars lets you sit up straighter, opening up your lungs. On a long flat stretch that upright posture can also be more comfortable. Keep watch ahead for anything that might demand braking because you’ll have to change your position quickly.
Flat bars are standard on hybrids, mountain bikes, commuter and some road bikes. They give you lots of control at low speeds or over rough ground. They also limit you to one position. Not a problem on a short ride, but you might be looking for a change on a longer ride.
Enter “bar ends”. These short handles fit at right angles onto the ends of your handlebars. You can adjust them up or down to get the most comfortable position for your hands and back. Bar ends have a smaller diameter than handlebars. Made of various metals, they can also be cold to hold. For a more comfortable grip wrap them with handlebar tape.
A cycling reviewer once described bar ends as an extra low gear on her bike when she had to tackle steep hills. They certainly do give you extra leverage and they also provide another option for a hand position. Shifting your hands to the bar ends almost mimics the common “on the hoods” position of the road bike rider.
The trick with shifting your hand position is to do it regularly so you don’t seize up from holding the one position for a long time. But you also need to be careful that the position you choose allows you to react to changing conditions in time.
See you on the road soon, God willing.