While often overlooked, hood position on drop bar bikes (e.g.road, gravel, touring, etc) is one of the most important aspects of bike fit. Many riders will spend hours perfecting their cleat position, saddle height, and stem length but not give hood position a second thought. Very often, stock hood position on a new bike is essentially an afterthought. Keeping all else constant, just changing hood position can change the overall reach to where the hands contact the shifter hoods by almost 20mm (which has a similar effect to switching from a 100mm to an 80mm stem). In addition to overall reach, hood position has a huge effect on your posture through the shoulders and neck. If poorly positioned, this can lead to hand and wrist issues, such as cyclist’s palsy which is a numbness in the fingers that can persist long after you’ve finished riding your bike. Left unchecked this can lead to permanent damage.
Same Position, Different Hoods
So how do you determine the correct hood position for you?
The first thing to consider is that proper hood positioning is largely based on the reach and drop from your saddle to the hoods. The challenge this presents is that adjustments to your hood position impacts the drop and reach to the hoods, so this can become a recursive problem. We recommend first getting your overall position (saddle height, bar height, and reach) into roughly the range that you’re after (you can do this easily with the MyVeloFit AI system and a few videos of you on the bike). Once you have your general position figured out, it’s time to look at your wrists and hands. Of course, after you’ve adjusted your hood position it’s important to recheck your overall fit.
When considering hood position there are three things to consider –
Vertical hood position:
Hood position relative to handlebar rotation – hoods can be angled by rotating the bar or by changing their position on the bar:
Internal/Neutral/External rotation of the hoods:
To set your hood position effectively follow this order:
1. Set the handlebar angle;
2. Set vertical hood position;
3. Set the lateral hood position (rotation inwards/outwards)
Personally I like to set the handlebar so the bottom of the drops are horizontal to the ground and then rotate the hoods to my desired position. However, this will be driven by the type of handlebars you are using, if you spend much time in the drops, and personal preference/comfort.
Once you have the bar where you want, take a look at the angle of the wrist. Is your wrist rotated down towards the ground, pulling your shoulders forward? This can often lead to a tight neck/shoulders and/or numbness in your ring and little fingers.
Or is your wrist angled up too far towards you causing an excessive bend to your elbows? This can cause excessive triceps fatigue and/or numbness in the thumb, or index finger.
We are looking for a neutral position with your wrists relaxed and straight – Not bent towards your thumb or little finger. However there will be a little bit of play on either side. If you want to reduce your overall reach to take some pressure off your shoulders or arms, you can angle your hoods slightly upward. Conversely, if you are looking to shift weight a little further forward, for alonger and lower position, you can angle your hoods a bit downward.
Lastly you’ll want to adjust for internal or external rotation of your hoods – generally if you have the correct width handlebars (handlebar width roughly equal to shoulder width) a neutral (straight) hood position should work well. The main exception to this is if have very rounded shoulders, rolling the hoods in slightly can help.
If you have handlebars that are too wide- very common on women’s bikes or riders with narrow shoulders – you can cheat a bit by angling your hoods in a few degrees, though a narrower set of handlebars is always the best solution. We never recommend having the hoods rotated outward.
Jesse's cycling journey was destined to end in bike fitting after first being sold a bike that was two sizes too big. The resulting chronic discomfort and related injuries transformed into a passion for finding the right riding position. The improvement he experienced after his first professional bike fit inspired a career change from economics to bikes, fuelling a quest to help others unlock the joy of cycling.