Oh, so THAT'S why I kept bailing on my workouts

I recently broke my collarbone in a very dumb non-racing accident. I started training again a few days later with my handlebars flipped around so I could ride upright using one hand.

Endurance, tempo, short SST, and short VO2 intervals were hard but doable.

But threshold workouts? Fuggedaboutit! I would typically make it less than halfway throughout a workout while popping a few times even during the first interval.

I chalked it up to the effects of a broken bone, despite the fact that I had completed SST and VO2 max workouts the week before. Perhaps trying to watch Netflix required too much mental energy for doing threshold intervals, which I have never been very good at to begin with?

Then I tried to do two hours of endurance, thinking it would a grind, but doable. I barely made it through an hour. Weird, I shouldn’t have had too much trouble doing these numbers all day on the road.

I didn’t burn as many calories as I would have liked, so later that day I got back on and loaded a 60 minute free ride just to burn some calories while watching Stranger Things.

Riding with one hand can be kind of tiring, so I would switch between riding with no hands, riding with my hand on the turned-around drops, and riding a bit with my hands on the bar tops, which is now the lowest position I can use.

Imagine my confusion when, just after I switched from riding sitting upright to riding with a hand on the bar top with the same level of effort, I saw my power go from about 175 watts to around 230 watts.

The heck?

I then went to the slightly more upright “city bike” position on my upturned drops. 200 watts. Hmm.

Then back up to sitting up. Power slowly dropped back down to 180 or so watts.

Ooooooooh. That’s why everything seemed so much harder, and why I couldn’t make it through threshold workouts!

I knew position could effect power, but I had never imagined it could have such a massive effect with even such relatively small changes in position.

Now I wonder whether I can’t gain 10-20 watts on my FTP just by optimizing my position, and whether I am losing 10 watts by climbing on the bars instead of the drops. Or is it just a matter of having the most power in whatever position you train in?

Position seems to have a bigger effect on power than a broken collarbone. Haha.

1 Like

Positional changes can most definitely affect power especially short term. Whether or not one can maintain the new higher levels for longer durations is another story. For example, I’ve found when doing threshold work I generate more power when I move hands from the hoods to placing forearms on the bars (pseudo TT road bike position). Almost immediately 20W more appear. 10 minutes later, however, those 20 extra watts may or may not be “free” if you know what I mean.

We are all so different and coming from such different backgrounds/experience/positions/body shapes…you may well have found a new position that is sustainable so good on ya! I’ve been at this a long time and, unfortunately, I just can’t find any free watts anymore.

You should do an experiment and see whether your average HR and RPE is higher or lower for the same power in both positions.

If it’s lower for the invisible aerobar position, you might be better off with a longer, lower stem that gives you more pelvic rotation or at least more weight over the pedals.

1 Like

Those are pretty big power changes. I find it harder to pedal faster when I’m on the tops, hoods are the best all-round but I eek out a few more rpm on the drops without trying. Everyone’s different

Riding with no hands is a very weak position as you’ve got nothing to support and stabilise your upper body. In terms of hip angles it (and to a lesser extent the upturned bars position) is also a long way from the position you normally ride your bike in, so you’re not adapted to it. Would expect much smaller differences, if any, between supported positions you spend a lot of time training in I.e. Drops, hoods, bar tops.

As long as your position is in the right ballpark i.e. Your hip angle isn’t too tight and there are no big discomfort issues that become a problem on longer rides, then I think you adapt to it enough that it’s not costing you any power. Especially on a road bike where you can shift butt and hand positions quite a bit so your body will naturally find the most powerful position. More of an issue on a TT bike where you’re in a much more fixed position (unless you sit up on the base bar which comes with a big aero penalty) so if that position is uncomfortable or costing you power you need to adjust the bike as you can’t adjust your body on the bike.