How do I correctly set the angle of my drop bars
Are there any tricks to setting the correct angle for the drop bars on my road bike, when adjusting my handlebars in the stem?
Is it just a matter of personal preference or is there a general consensus on what angle you should use?
Mostly personal preference. You may find that you prefer to have the angle slightly different depending on whether you ride mostly on the top, on the hoods, or on the drops, and you will likely discover that what's comfortable for a short ride is less so for a day-long outing. So adjust to suit your riding style.
I suppose I was really after how the mechanics do it when they set up all the new bikes in a bike shop. Sure many will adjust to suit themselves but a lot of people will leave it in the "generic" position. What is this position and is there a method/trick to setting it - like placing a spirit level across the first 90° angle after the stem?
Depends on the bar. So the hands feel comfortable on the hoods and also on the drops. Some bars have the two nearly parallel, some at a fairly large angle to each other, some bars have a shallow drop (which makes more angle on the drops comfortable), some have a deep drop (which makes a more horizontal drop position better).
Handlebars will be mounted parallel to the ground or angled slightly upward. While they may never be pointed down at all, they may be angled up slightly; allowed handlebar tilt is to be between 180 and 175 degrees with respect to the level road. The brake levers will preferably be mounted such that the end of the brake lever is even with the bottom of the bar. Modern bars, however, dictate that this may not always be possible, so tolerances are permitted within reason. Brake hoods should not approach anything near 45 degrees, as some riders with poor taste have been insisting on doing.
From the rules.
I will post my "non-specialist" way to do this setup, considering:
- I have no current bicycle with drop bars;
- I've been bred on bicycles riding flat-bar mountain bikes, no tape;
- I have more than one bicycle, and the following method is the only one I use for any bike (currently use a lot of riser bars, have used some albatross-style bars).
- With your chosen stem already tight in place, and your saddle the height you usually ride, install only the naked bar(bare metal), and don't tighten it too much.
- Install the brake levers in a "starting position" (but not the bar tape) and attach them to the brakes so they actually brake.
- On an empty parking lot or the like, ride the bike while trying a lot of handlebar positions, rotating the dropbars forwards and backwards until you can grab a good and comfortable grip either in the drops, or in the upper parts. Don't overemphasize the brake lever position for now. Instead, focus on the bar position itself. Let the clamping bolts a bit loose, so you can get the "sweet spot" with precision and without too much effort. When done, tighten the stem bolts.
- Repeat previous step for the levers, clamping them lower or higher. Find the ideal balance between comfortable "in the hoods" position, both for hand rest and brake reach, and a good brake reach in the drops. You can use the "classic position" (whatever it might be) as a reference, but not as a measure of quality. Your comfort, functionality and safety should always be the measuring rule. When done, tighten the brake levers clamping bolts.
- After tightening everything in position, go out for a short ride "in the field", perhaps in light traffic, or in the road (a rolling terrain with crossings would be perfect), and perform some final adjustments;
- Get back home and wrap the tape.
Of course, these steps might be adapted freely.
Hope it helps.
There are more than a few factors to consider when adjusting the angle of your drop bars. Moreover, it is important to consider that your stem length and angle, in combination with drop bar dimensions and shape, will affect your final drop bar's ideal (albeit ultimately personal) setting.
I'll use the following image for my examples below:
Consider the bar alone, as a floating object in 3-dimensional space. The alignment of the drop portion of the bar in relation to the ground provides a starting point for creating a natural alignment. Commonly, you will find the ends of the drops to extend to the tail of the bike in a parallel fashion to the floor. However, due to the wide variety of bar shapes, this method will fail to help you set up your bars. As seen in the example image, the drop portion extends towards the floor due to the "short" drop segment.
In combination with the brifter, some may prefer the connection between the bar's tops and the brifter's hood to be parallel to the ground. This creates a smooth transition between the bar and brifter, creating a comfortable surface for your hand to rest on for long periods of time. The example image shows this quite well. The hoods resting area has a smooth transition with the bar. The angle of this resting area is a matter of personal preference, but as with any adjustment, a neutral 0 degree (parallel to floor) setting will do (as in our example image).
The ideal method for adjusting the combination of bar angle and brifter angle would be to remove the bar tape and start from scratch (bare bar).
But as @DanielRHicks mentions, this all comes down to personal preference, however a good starting point always helps!
I didn't know what a brifter was (of course I knew it to see but wasn't aware of the terminology)so in case anyone else was confused check here. Brifter = gear shifter + break lever.
Yeah, a good point is that the mounting position of the brake levers/brifters can vary quite a bit. They need to be onto the curve far enough that the levers can be grasped from the drops (with the hands shifted forward to the front of the drop section), but you also want them to be in a position that's comfortable for riding with your hands on the start of the down curve of the top bar with the thumb and index finger straddling the brake hood, or the hand actually extending out on the hood a bit. Again, it's personal preference, plus a lot depends on the geometry of the specific bar.