- Late last year the UCI banned the infamous super tuck aerodynamic descending position
- The super tuck ban could mean the adoption of new technology allowing riders to move into a more aerodynamic position safely
- Dropper seat posts allow riders to assume a lower seating position while remaining on the saddle
In December last year, cycling’s governing body; the UCI (Union Cycliste International) announced a number of measures to improve rider safety.
The announcement outlawed super tuck and time trial positions, where riders rest their forearms on their drop bar equipped road bikes, in order to gain an aerodynamic advantage.
"One of the key measures approved are stronger regulations concerning potentially dangerous conduct of riders, such as throwing drink bottles on the road or within the peloton and taking up dangerous positions on the bike, especially on descents," said the statement from the UCI.
The super tuck position sees riders sit on their top tube in order to gain an aerodynamic advantage. It has been successfully used by riders like Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali to increase the time gap on a chasing peloton.
While the position definitely offers an aerodynamic advantage, it comes at the cost of control. The position requires fully bent elbows and the majority of the riders weight over their front wheel.
Controlled wind tunnel tests by Belgian sports aerodynamic expert, Bert Blocken, compared super tuck to a traditional seated position. Tucking in the saddle with a lowered back was 12% faster, while the Sagan style super tuck, with the rider’s posterior pushed against the saddle, was the quickest with a 17% advantage.
Enter the dropper post
Dropper posts have become a must have piece of kit on mountain bikes in recent years. They allow riders to adjust their seat height when descending technical terrain via the simple push of a lever.
The recent rule change and outlawing of road cycling’s super tuck could very well see dropper posts make their way into the peloton. This will allow riders to get a lower seating position and be more aerodynamic, while remaining seated on their saddle, all at the push of the button.
Dropper posts are within the rules and will offer the best of both worlds. Riders will gain an aerodynamic position by getting lower, whilst retaining full control of their handlebars and brake levers. While the lowered dropper post riding position is yet to be extensively tested in a wind tunnel, it should aerodynamic advantages only slightly less than those of the super tuck, but much greater than a traditional seated position, with a rounded lower back.
An added bonus is that this seated position will be more comfortable meaning riders could assume it for longer periods of time. The addition of dropper seat posts will also make sharing of bikes within teams easier. Shorter riders can get onto the bike of a taller rider, and will be able to get very close to their ideal seat height, thanks to the adjustability of a dropper seat post.
The UCI and technology
Dropper posts in the correct diameter for road bikes have become more widely available thanks to their growing popularity in the gravel bike scene. Yes, they might carry a weight penalty, but very often World Tour mechanics need to add weight to team bikes to ensure they meet the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum weight requirement.
The way the UCI regulates the World Tour peloton very often slows the uptake of new technology. Disc brakes are a good example and so is the now antiquated 6.8kg weight limit.
This latest ban might actually have the opposite effect, accelerating the adoption of dropper posts. We could see component manufacturers scramble to develop dropper seat posts that are more suited to road bikes.
Engineers could solve issues around weight, sizing, the amount of drop and how these adjustable seat posts are integrated and controlled on a drop bar bicycle into account. And that will ultimately benefit customers and real-world road riders.