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  1. #1
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    How do I change a road bike over to flat bars?

    My sister bought a used road bike from Backroads and does not like the curved bars. She wants to change over to flat bars. The rear derailleur is a Deore and the front is 105. What model shifters and brake levers does she need? Her LBS wants to charge $500 to make the change with parts. That sounds about $200 to high to me. Any advise? I was hoping to pick up some used parts online to cut the cost.

  2. #2
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fjohnj View Post
    My sister bought a used road bike from Backroads and does not like the curved bars. She wants to change over to flat bars. The rear derailleur is a Deore and the front is 105. What model shifters and brake levers does she need? Her LBS wants to charge $500 to make the change with parts. That sounds about $200 to high to me. Any advise? I was hoping to pick up some used parts online to cut the cost.
    Shift levers: anything Shimano-compatible (Shimano, SRAM, Sunrace, friction) will work for the rear derailleur. For the front, only SRAM (Grip Shift) or friction will work with the 105 front derailleur. If you want Shimano "trigger" shifters, you'll need to change the derailleur to a FD-R453 (assuming it's a triple crank).

    For brake levers, you'll need standard pull levers (assuming it's dual pivot calipers). V-brake levers pull more cable with less leverage and may make stopping unpleasant.

    Also note that straight or upright handlebars usually have a different clamp diameter than road handlebars. You'll probably want to trade the stem for a longer one anyway- straight bars in the usual road stem end up being too close for many people.

    There's a lot of assumptions and weasel words in the above. This sort of conversion is fairly straightforward mechanically, but can create odd sizing issues. Figuring them out takes work and a bucket of parts, which is probably what the bike shop was going to charge for.
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    $500 still sounds a little steep... but lets work it out:

    I would guess that job should cost (Assuming full suggested retail price paid for parts of similar quality to the components being removed):
    $50 (new stem)
    $50 (new bars)
    $50 (new brake levers)
    $150 (new shifters)
    $50 (new front derailleir)
    $15 (new grips)
    $10 (new cables and housing)
    $100 to assemble.
    Total: $475
    You get to keep the parts removed, or if they are in good condition and the shop wants to keep them you could offer to let them keep them for a couple $$

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    you could try something like mustache bars, although I am not sure how ergonomically pleasant shifting brifters on those is. it would certainly be cheaper than converting everything, and would give the more upright position your sister is after.

    Or you could sell the bike and just buy a flat bar road bike/hybrid/whatever. Get the bike she really wants, not some hack job conversion. when we are talking $500 parts and labour you have a way better chance of coming out ahead going this route.

    Also, how old is the bike and what make/ model is it? deore/105 could be '89 or '09, and quite a few of the years in between. also, clear up how it shifts: STI Brifters, bar end, or down tube. at the price point suggested for conversion I think most people here are assuming late model with STI, but we don't know that for sure.
    Last edited by kludgefudge; 09-01-10 at 10:27 PM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    On a budget, assuming she won't mind friction shifting:

    Falcon Friction Shifters $11
    Tektro MT 2.1 Eclipse Brake Levers $20
    Cables and housing $12
    Bar $15
    Stem $15
    Oury Grips $8

    Total $81, maybe $95 or so shipped.

    Then there are a lot of options in between this budget swap and Lardasse's fancy swap.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Olde Western Auto Cruiser.

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    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    There is a bike shop here that specializes in used and re-built bikes.
    They have bins of used parts off stripped bikes.
    They also have specific expertise in this type of conversion.

    Maybe you have a similar shop in your city.

    I suggest you get written estimates from a couple of shops, and don't overlook the option of selling the bike, putting in the $500 a conversion would cost, and purchasing a new bike. You can look at new bikes while you are getting estimates.

    I hesitate to suggest you do it yourself because you don't sound like a hobby mechanic. While figuring out the idiosyncracies would intrigue a hobbyist, it would probably frustrate you.

    I hope something works out for you.

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    Senior Member 02Pilot's Avatar
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    I just did this a few months ago as a budget project. Total cost was less than $100 in parts. I kept the downtube index shifters, got a set of Shimano flat-bar road brake levers, reused the stem, got a steeply discounted bar from Jenson, some grips and done. Depends a bit on what the current shifter setup is and whether it has to be changed, but it can definitely be done for cheap.


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    Quote Originally Posted by 02Pilot View Post
    I just did this a few months ago as a budget project. Total cost was less than $100 in parts. I kept the downtube index shifters, got a set of Shimano flat-bar road brake levers, reused the stem, got a steeply discounted bar from Jenson, some grips and done. Depends a bit on what the current shifter setup is and whether it has to be changed, but it can definitely be done for cheap.

    This is a very different conversion. Since you were content to retain the downtube shifters already on the bike you avoided changing the most expensive part, the shifters and you also kept the front derailleur.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Velo Orange has some nice handlebars to use in addition to straight bars, I happen to prefer angles larger than 3 to 5 degree for my hands ..

    Mustache bars being curved allow a variety of hand positions, they are also a bigger tube [15/16], at least the Nitto ones, so MTB brake levers (7/8") don't work well.
    old fashioned cable out the top road levers and bar end shifters are what I use on my M bars..

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Years ago, before Shimano produced "flat bar road components," tandem and hybrid manufacturers would combine Rapid Fire shifters with a road crankset and front derailleur. I know that's true because my wife owns a Specialized Crossroads Pro from about 2,000 that came from the factory with LX shifters and brake lever and a Tiagra triple front derailleur. And yes, it indexes just fine thank you. My daughter also owns a Burley tandem, from about the same era, that has similar components but I don't have it available to reference the exact components.

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    Senior Member 02Pilot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    This is a very different conversion. Since you were content to retain the downtube shifters already on the bike you avoided changing the most expensive part, the shifters and you also kept the front derailleur.
    Understood. Not knowing what sort of shifters are on the bike now and what the cost/benefit calculations of the end-user look like, I just wanted to show that it can be done far less expensively if you're willing to accept some compromises.

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    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. It seems like your options are to do it right, but at a cost, or accept some compromises, like going with friction shifters.

    If it were me, I would probably just sell the road bike and buy a hybrid or flat bar roadbike.

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    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fjohnj View Post
    My sister bought a used road bike from Backroads and does not like the curved bars. She wants to change over to flat bars. The rear derailleur is a Deore and the front is 105. What model shifters and brake levers does she need?
    To determine this for an indexed replacement, the cassette/freewheel cog count, make (and sometimes model) is important information to know. Current shifter make/model would be nice to know as well.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Olde Western Auto Cruiser.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    non index friction and ratchet shifting makes all sorts of combinations work,..,cheap ratchet thumbshifters Perhaps?

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    How many seeds is the bike? Aebike.com usually has 7 and 8 speed flatbar brifters for cheap, like 30 bucks cheap. You will then need a front deraileur change as previously mentioned. If she has 9 or 10 speeds you have to buy separate shifters and brake levers and then it starts getting more expensive , like well over 100 for those parts. Whoever told you a stem and bars are $50 each is on crack, it should be no more than 50 total. Lastly, pm me if the bike is 8 speeds, one of your best options would be swapping with someone and I want to convert.my giant rapid to a drop bar bike. It has 8 speed trigger brifters and I have the compatible front deraileur as well. Lastly, do NOT pay 500 for a shop to do it, a brand new giant rapid 3 is $550 and bikes direct has flat bar options for cheaper still.

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    Thanks for the feedback. I am attaching a few pictures but I am leaning towards just telling her to get a new bike in the $700 - $800 range and sell this one on craigs. She bought this without asking and paid a lot of money for a very used bike. She is a Mountain Biker and bought this bike without a proper fitting or test riding a Road bike. So now she is trying to salvage what she spent because as a MTBiker she can not get used to Road bars. I feel she should just start from scratch rather then throw good money to a bad investment.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Maybe she just needs more time with it. It took me a while to get used to drops, too. Now, 20 years later, I hate being on flats for any ride over 3 miles or so. I can handle flatbars with barends a little better, but when I'm out on the ends I've no instant brake access, so it leaves me a little wary.

    I have no knowledge of the Backroads brand, but I do like a lot of the parts on that bike (gigantic saddle pad not included), could be a pretty good one.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Olde Western Auto Cruiser.

  18. #18
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. It seems like your options are to do it right, but at a cost, or accept some compromises, like going with friction shifters.

    If it were me, I would probably just sell the road bike and buy a hybrid or flat bar roadbike.

    +1 Flat bar bikes used are plentiful and cheap.

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    because as a MTBiker she can not get used to Road bars.
    How you figure? I know plenty of hardcore MTB'ers who are also roadies, and they don't swap bars. If she doesn't want drop bars, thats fine (although it's not like she is required to use the drops), but saying she can't adjust because she is a MTB'er just ain't true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deep_sky View Post
    How you figure? I know plenty of hardcore MTB'ers who are also roadies, and they don't swap bars. If she doesn't want drop bars, thats fine (although it's not like she is required to use the drops), but saying she can't adjust because she is a MTB'er just ain't true.
    Sorry about that no flame intended..... the optimum word in that sentence was "She" not "Mtbiker". When my sister makes up her mind there ain't nobody changing it. LOL I believe the problem is not in the type bars but the overall fit and geometry of the bike. However she is not the type to spend a few hundred bucks on a fitting. Its easier and cheaper to call her brother. If I can find the right parts on the cheap I could probably do the swap for her. That way she can decide if it is the bars or the bike.

  21. #21
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Fit could be the problem. That saddle seems like its quite a ways behind the bottom bracket and that bar has quite a bit of reach to it. Might be tough for any but the longest-torso'd ladies to be comfortable on that bike.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Olde Western Auto Cruiser.

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    Oh ok, so it's "refuses" to get used to dropbars. Sounds like someone who is going to end up as nothing but a headache to get set up if she is that rigid. Seeing as she leapt without looking and bought a bike without having properly researched it, she should just sell what she has on craigslist and go to the LBS to get what she wants instead. Otherwise you will be spending a lot of time fidgeting with something for someone who apparently does not know what she wants and isn't willing to do the legwork to get the right bike.

  23. #23
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    If time isn't of.the essence then you should take.off.the brifters.and.bar and fd and.sell them.first. take that money and you should easily.have t
    Enough to get the proper flat bar parts. In my opinion there is much less difference between low end and high end flat.bar shifters vs road bike brifters . Bike looms nice and coming.from mtb, it has more of a.touring geometry than speed from the looks of it but.if she was truly.interested in going.fast.she would.learn.to.get comfortable with the drop bars.

  24. #24
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    Adjust the stem to put the bars higher than the seat.

    edit: I noticed a few other things that seem peculiar about the setup of that bike... She could look at a few fitting options before deciding it is no good. If you buy any used bike, there is probably a 1-in-a-million chance that it will fit properly without any adjustments.
    Last edited by LarDasse74; 09-04-10 at 12:07 PM.

  25. #25
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    You can do this for $0.

    Remove the bars, cut the drops off, replace them upside-down. STIs will work okay from a bullhorn.

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