TdF '11 Part 1: Climbing on the Hoods vs. Drops

By Peg Labiuk | 10/19/11
TdF '11 Part 1: Climbing on the Hoods vs. Drops

Team Traveller, “Wintergreen Hill Climb 2009” May 2, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

After viewing Tour de France coverage, our e-mail newsletter reader Bill Grandi posed four curious questions. With each being so different, our coaches have decided to answer them in a series. His first question that follows was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

TdF '11 Part 1: Climbing on the Hoods vs. Drops


I have seen many riders use the lower bars not just for speed but also on some hills. What are the advantages/disadvantages of that? I always thought using the hoods to climb was better.



That, my friend, is all about aerodynamics and being young and flexible enough to ride in that position. As Chris Boardman notes in a aerodynamics article,

"When on anything other than the steepest of inclines, more than 80 percent of a rider's effort goes into simply pushing air out of the way. If we take that energy spent and break it down, only 20 percent is the bike, the rest is the riders' body forcing its way through the air. Bike aerodynamics is important but as you can see, changes to body shape will yield the largest returns."

By lowering the upper body, you reduce the profile of the rider, reducing drag, reducing the amount of force used to overcome wind resistance. These racers have adapted to these low profile positions while maintaining power output.

I also asked racer Zack Garland, of Team H&R Block, for his perspective. Zack just won the RBC Whistler Gran Fondo solo! He says,

"Total personal choice. When on the hoods or top of the bars, I have heard that it opens one's chest for more efficient breathing. However, in these pro races they go FAST up some hills so being aerodynamic would be an advantage." He should know.

Coach Peg

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