How is ideal handlebar height worked out?

I've often read on the net comments telling people to flip the stem so that it's horizontal rather than rising up.

On the Bupa ride most people have their stem down. They also ride on the hoods. I didn't see riders in the drops.

I have my stem rising up. This lets me ride in the drops comfortably or on the hoods comfortably. I'm not very flexible.

Is there a way of working it out?

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There is some good info in this article 

https://www.stevehoggbikefitting.com/blog/2011/07/behind-bars-bar-a...

I had to flip my stem over Christmas as I have pinched a nerve in my lower back and bending too far forward strains is not good for lower back posture. So my hands are a little higher but I am much more comfortable.

 

Bike fit! You can flip the stem to give you a bit more front end height if you're not comfortable in a lower position or you're not as flexible in the hip flexors.
The higher the front end the less aerodynamic you are.
If you are using all the spacers in the head tube then it might be better to flip the stem or get an angled one.
Everyone's life would be made easier if they learnt to ride for extended periods on the drops. Particularly in windy conditions.
Hope this helps.

Paul, I rode in the drops most of the way as I have an integrated stem and bars that seems to fit me exactly now....use to get bad wrist strain but when I went for the new bars I went 5mm longer in the stem....no more wrist pain :)

The geometry on my last bike and new bike are like chalk and cheese.  The old bike had a very aggressive geometry and I found with the seat post at the correct height I couldn't get comfortable on the hoods let alone the drops!  This made me think the frame size was too small for me but the new frame is the same size...  The new bike is perfect for me in comparison, reaching the drops is comfortable and I'm using them more and more (including during the downhill parts of the Bupa ride).  I certainly notice the aerodynamic difference on the drops but I tire fairly quickly.  I think as DB mentioned, you use different muscle groups on the drops but they'll strengthen with more frequent abuse.

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