Question: I’ve always been told to hold the brake hoods during out-of-saddle climbing. They say this makes it easier to breathe. But I see many pros climbing with their hands on the handlebar drops as if they were sprinting. What made the old advice obsolete? —Stan M.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: THere’s nothing wrong with holding the brake hoods while climbing out of the saddle. The old advice is still good. You get more breathing room plus plenty of leverage.
But you’re right. The pros often climb while holding the drops, a trend popularized by lightweight Italian climber Marco Pantani (RIP) back in his day.
Here are two reasons for a low grip while standing on a hill:
- Gripping the drops gives you even more leverage than holding the brake hoods. It improves your ability to use your upper body to counteract the downward push on the pedals. This lets you use a larger gear and still turn it over at a reasonable cadence.
- Cycling continues to select better athletes and train them more scientifically, so pros are going faster and faster on climbs. And the faster they climb, the more important aerodynamics become. You can get lower and more aero when gripping the drops rather than the brake levers.
Bottom line: Try both techniques and see which works better for you.
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Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.