Convert from flat bars to drops

by Paul J   October 2, 2012  

I've been toying around with the idea of converting my flat-bar hybrid (which I use for commuting) to drop bars. Primarily because I'd like to press it into service as a winter road bike, as it has full mud-guards. The bike is a Ridgeback Comet, which has a Shimano triple front and 8-speed rear. I've looked around the net, and there seem to be a few considerations and options, and I'm wondering what people think.

Hoping people will correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I've learned on the net so far:

The brakes:

Most road levers won't work right with side-pull/linear-pull v-brakes. So I either need to fit cantilever brakes (not as good as v-brakes?), or I need to get "mini" v-brakes that work with road-levers like the TRP CX9 or the Tektro RX5, or I need to use road levers designed for long/linear pull (which?). Another option seems to be a "travel agent", which adapts long-pull v-brakes to work with short-pull levers, but they're more expensive than new brakes, and there seem to be a few stories about them causing early brake-cable wear.

The shifters:

STI is an option, if I change the brake to work with short-pull levers. However, it seems to be near impossible to find 8-speed STI levers, other than Shimano Sora - which are expensive - and I'm not a fan of the hard to get to down-shift button. The other options I'm aware of are Microshift (but the 8-speed seems very hard to find) and SunRace (read mixed reviews on SunRace shifters though). Another option could Retroshift. A little pricey, but no 8-speed option. So I'd have to upgrade the drive-chain to 9 or 10 speed (rear mech, chain, sprocket).

The other option is separate shifters. I don't have bosses on the down-tube, so I guess I'd have to go with bar-end shifters. But not sure I like them (seems like my knees could knock them).

I'll also likely have to change the stem to match the bars.

I think I'm looking at roughly, at least for the 8-speed SunRace STI option:

shifters: circa £110
mini v-brakes: £25
gear & brake cables: £20
quill road stem: £15
bar: £20
tape: £10
LBS to bail me out when I'm stuck: £40

That's £200 to £240, depending on how stuck I get! Anyone tried anything like this? Got any advice?

The LBS said I should just buy a new bike - but they would say that. Wink

8 user comments

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I looked at this option a while back and agree with your LBS.....New bike. Wink

Basically what you need, instead of mixing and matching parts here and there would be a full groupset. Because as you have found out, 8 speed tiagra or above is rare and older model. What you maybe haven't noticed is that triple's are about as rare and expensive aswell.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [7522 posts]
2nd October 2012 - 21:05

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buy a second hand road bike. message ends.


Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [6702 posts]
2nd October 2012 - 21:06

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to elaborate, yes i have converted a bike from flats to drops (and vice versa) - going to drops is generally more expensive because of the STI levers, and braking is normally a compromise if the bike in question runs V brakes. geometry can be compromised too; the frame won't have been designed for drops.

if you're committed to spending £240 on converting a bike, better to throw another £60 in the pot and look for a second hand road bike at around £300. you can get a decent bike for that kind of money if you shop around. you could offset the extra by selling the ridgeback if you needed to.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [6702 posts]
2nd October 2012 - 21:16

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Yes, buy another bike Smile

But seriously - my winter / commuting bike is a trek hybrid (with upgraded wheels), but with the straight bars swapped for some butterfly / trekking bars. They take the original shifters, they bar tape up nicely, you get lots of hand positions, and you can even mount some aerobars if you want to feel like superman.

A hybrid will sort you out with mudguards, rack etc - everything needed to commute in a civilized fashion. All this "a road bike is more than enough for commuting" advice must be from people who don't ride when there's a chance of a puddle.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [481 posts]
2nd October 2012 - 22:40

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Interesting - everyone's advice is to go the "new" bike path. Smile I have had a look on Ebay for suitable bikes, that are near me. Though, no joy so far. The ones that clearly meet the "rack & mudguards" requirement (I'm with PJ McNally on that Wink ) tend to be older ones - 80s / early 90s - and I worry they'll have even more compatibility issues than my Ridgeback if I find the shifters or other bits of the drive-chain need replacing. I worry I could end up having to spend more on groupset upgrades with an old bike (??).

Dave: Well, £200 - £240 is what I think is the upper limit. I'm hoping it'd come to a little less than £200. The geometry shouldn't be a problem, I think. I already have the adjustable stem on the Comet very low, so I think the current flat bar would be about the level of the tops if I changed to drop bar. It'd just give me the drops as an option below that, which I really want Smile.

Also, I can probably re-use the flat-bar shifters. My wife's cheapy bike has fairly awful twist-grip shifters. If I swap mine to drops, I can maybe upgrade her bike with the left-over shifters.

Decisions, decisions. Smile

posted by Paul J [358 posts]
3rd October 2012 - 6:54

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PJ McNally wrote:
All this "a road bike is more than enough for commuting" advice must be from people who don't ride when there's a chance of a puddle.

i'm thinking of a road bike with mudguards on, personally...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [6702 posts]
3rd October 2012 - 8:37

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Paul, I would either buy a new bike if you are going to spend that kind of money or start upgrading the wheels/chainset of the ridgeback. Personally I would keep the hybrid as you will be more upright and more visible. Also your centre of gravity will be better if the roads get iced up (you know the balls that Glasgow made a couple of years ago) I'll be switching to my flat bar (also single) once the weather gets really crappy. If you desperately want a road bike Head to Bike Station in the WestEnd. They recondition bikes and sell them on. Now will be the time as less folk will be getting bikes for the winter. They have reconned some lovely machines. I can dm you directions if you want. Cheers

Oh and defo go with guards your arse will thank you for it. The panniers will be useful depending if you shop or lug a lot of kit about.

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posted by giff77 [844 posts]
3rd October 2012 - 8:58

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giff77: The wheels on my hybrid aren't bad. Already have an upgraded chainset and cranks Smile.

Bikestation isn't a bad suggestion. I've even got another, old hybrid, that's slightly broken that I might be able to donate. I'll have a look, thanks!

posted by Paul J [358 posts]
3rd October 2012 - 9:49

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