Daily Commuting Tip - Heads Up or Heads Down?
This is the debate that divides the commuter tribes. Are you a head up or head down rider? Do you go Dutch or do you fit time trial bars on your commuting bike to shave seconds off your commuting PB? Who's better, who's best?
Above: 'Heads down for a full house' or 'Meerkats United'? It's your choice.
There's an argument which states that if your bike is more efficient, you'll get to work faster, or just as quickly with less effort. So it would make sense for us all to commute to work on carbon road bikes, right? Lightweight, highly efficient, with a riding position that's both aerodynamic and allows the rider to generate lots of power - the very apogee of cycling physics. And many people do commute on such machines, every day.
At the other end of the continuum is the Dutch roadster. Made in Holland from drainpipes, bolt upright riding position, comfortable as hell, purpose built for negotiating tight cobbled streets, being left outside in hail, rain or shine, as attractive to thieves as a contagious disease and about as efficient as Sherman tank (that's not very efficient, by the way). And again, for many people around the world, the roadster is the weapon of choice.
So what's best? Well, as ever, something on the midpoint of that continuum between Dutch and drop bars is the commuting sweet spot, that ‘neither-up-nor-down riding position, that blends comfort, efficiency and importantly, good visibility.
In practical terms, this midpoint normally equates to a position where your back is at around 45 degrees and your arms are at a similar angle, slightly bent. This position will spread your weight evenly between your three contact points. It will allow you to pedal efficiently - too upright and it's difficult to generate torque, allowing you to crest small rises without dropping down through the gears.
A semi-upright position also lets you see the world around you without craning your neck too much, important for safety, people watching and on-bike window-shopping. Plus it's a lot easier to ride a semi-upright bike in normal clothes - riding a road bike in normal gear tends to expose your lower back, giving you the kidney chills and worse still, a bad case of builder's backside.
So in commuting, as in so many areas of life, the middle-way is usually best. Boring, but true. However, if your commute is short, you can pretty much ride what you like. Be it a BMX, a Dutch roadster, a TT bike or a butcher's bike. Whichever you choose, you'll have a blast.