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  1. #1
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    Putting drop bars on hybrid, cheap commuter

    Here goes. I have a mid-90's era Giant basic hybrid with 700c wheels and flat bars. I am going to be commuting on it far enough (9 miles each way) to chafe at using flat bars. So I want to do a super-cheap conversion to drop bars. Seems easy to me, what am I missing? A couple of notes. I don't mind friction shifting! I raced on using this technology until 1988. So I'm willing to buy non-indexed bar ends or clamp-on downtube levers off of ebay to retrofit. I don't anticipate any problems with rear shifting, but any guesses as to whether I'd have a problem with front lever ratio shifting front derailleur through all three chainrings? Second - the bike has cantilevers on it, not the newer v-brakes. Any problems I should anticipate using cheap Shimano road bike levers, aero or even external cable routing? Is there a ratio problem lurking in the wings?

    I've read a lot of posts warning people away from this retrofit stuff, but I tend to assume that they come from well-intentioned people who simply want neophites to buy a more appropriate bike. Assume, for the record, that I am an average wrench who is willing to ask advice in advance (I did grow up working in bike shops). Since I'll only be using this bike for a few months of commuting and I already have 3 other bikes, my goal is to make this one work on the cheap, and I don't mind tinkering. I just mind overspending. Goal is to use an old quill stem, handlebar, and brake levers that I already own, and then buy friction shift levers, either bar end or downtube...

  2. #2
    Senior Member sydney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcrocker
    Here goes. I have a mid-90's era Giant basic hybrid with 700c wheels and flat bars. I am going to be commuting on it far enough (9 miles each way) to chafe at using flat bars. So I want to do a super-cheap conversion to drop bars. Seems easy to me, what am I missing? A couple of notes. I don't mind friction shifting! I raced on using this technology until 1988. So I'm willing to buy non-indexed bar ends or clamp-on downtube levers off of ebay to retrofit. I don't anticipate any problems with rear shifting, but any guesses as to whether I'd have a problem with front lever ratio shifting front derailleur through all three chainrings? Second - the bike has cantilevers on it, not the newer v-brakes. Any problems I should anticipate using cheap Shimano road bike levers, aero or even external cable routing? Is there a ratio problem lurking in the wings?

    I've read a lot of posts warning people away from this retrofit stuff, but I tend to assume that they come from well-intentioned people who simply want neophites to buy a more appropriate bike. Assume, for the record, that I am an average wrench who is willing to ask advice in advance (I did grow up working in bike shops). Since I'll only be using this bike for a few months of commuting and I already have 3 other bikes, my goal is to make this one work on the cheap, and I don't mind tinkering. I just mind overspending. Goal is to use an old quill stem, handlebar, and brake levers that I already own, and then buy friction shift levers, either bar end or downtube...
    It all works. Any shimano index shifter also has a friction mode. You will have trouble finding clampons that fit an oversize downtube.

  3. #3
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    sounds like you've got it covered. If you end up with an index rear shifter, an in-line cable adjuster makes it easier, but even this is not mandatory.

    The geometry sometimes gets a little wierd, but nothing that someone with your experience can't handle.

    good riding

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    Drops will extend your reach by a few inches compared to flats. That is about the only issue for you. Few hybrids have dt lever bosses so you will probably route the bar ends cabling through the existing cable stops.

  5. #5
    Senior Member mtbikerinpa's Avatar
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    If I recal, standard road levers are of the same leverage/pull of cantilevered brakes. The only different ones are the MTB V-brakes. Is it threaded or threadless headset? If its threaded you could use stem shifters too(if barends or STI aren't available.
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  6. #6
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sydney
    It all works. Any shimano index shifter also has a friction mode. You will have trouble finding clampons that fit an oversize downtube.
    Here's an option to mounting friction shifters on the down tube. I like this setup. It's a Shimano Z401. Unfortunately, I don't know where you would get one Maybe someone else knows a source for this stem clamped setup.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Ebbtide's Avatar
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    So I want to do a super-cheap conversion to drop bars. Seems easy to me, what am I missing?
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  8. #8
    Senior Member mtbikerinpa's Avatar
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    Shimano or SunTour, take your pick I have a few in the box.
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  9. #9
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    All right, thanks folks - will relay any problems I have. No downtube stop for clamp on, but assume that Giant's typical thick tube overbuilding won't raise any crimping problems. Sydney raises good point on downtube diameter - I've already written off those cool old Suntour top-mount shift levers that supposedly trimmed front der automatically, even though they are selling for $10 on ebay right now - clamp for them wouldn't allow me to use longer bolt. My sister had them on a Lotus, and they actually seemed to work pretty well.

    It's amazing how many problems writing off indexing solves. Wasn't Campy's credo "any chain, any freewheel" at one point?
    Roadie since 1982, former Cat 1 and still racing but much slower. Dean El Diente, Ritchey Breakaway, Litespeed Xicon, Bianchi Milano, Motobecane Fly mountain bike, Lamborghini Viaggio tandem for riding with my kids. And the best job I ever had was as a 16 year old kid prepping frames and building wheels at Performance for Richard Snook (now at Wabi Cycles).

  10. #10
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ehenz
    Those look cool. Add some bar tape and maybe some gel pads and it could work better, quicker, and easier then doing a full on conversion.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  11. #11
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascade168
    Here's an option to mounting friction shifters on the down tube. I like this setup. ...
    Sorry, I have never cared for stem-mounted shifters. I would vote for barcons if downtube levers proved impractical.

    Yes, friction shifting eliminates MANY compatibility problems, and I always recommend it highly.
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  12. #12
    Klaatu barada nikto cascade168's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    Sorry, I have never cared for stem-mounted shifters. I would vote for barcons if downtube levers proved impractical.
    I have had several bikes with down tube shifters and I like the stem mounts much better - but that's just me. So, as they say, your mileage may vary. I just wanted to show an easy alternative to the "oversized" downtube problem. I am curious if someone knows of a clamp-on solution for an oversized downtube (???).
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  13. #13
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Kelly make a kit to attatch your friction downtube shifters to drop handlebars near the brake levers. Sorry I can't find a pic for them, I have seen them in a wholesaler's catalouge.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  14. #14
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    A lot of webtailers sell the Sunrace downtube shifters with a clamp. Default is probably 1 1/8" diameter, but I did see reference to a "44mm" clamp option on sunrace's balky site. 44mm? Unfortunately I don't have this Giant in front of me, but my Ritchey is 31.8mm or 1 1/4" diameter...I'd be surprised if the Giant's downtube isn't larger than 1 1/8".

    If the 44mm option is a reality, then it could probably be special ordered and installed with a shim underneath or something on the downtube.

    Bar ends are starting to sound better, although I really like the crispness of short cable travel on the downtube. Momobikes has universal bar end pods that accept any downtube lever for $25...surprising that bar ends end up being a cheaper option than downtube shifters.
    Roadie since 1982, former Cat 1 and still racing but much slower. Dean El Diente, Ritchey Breakaway, Litespeed Xicon, Bianchi Milano, Motobecane Fly mountain bike, Lamborghini Viaggio tandem for riding with my kids. And the best job I ever had was as a 16 year old kid prepping frames and building wheels at Performance for Richard Snook (now at Wabi Cycles).

  15. #15
    Senior Member nick burns's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    Sorry, I have never cared for stem-mounted shifters. I would vote for barcons if downtube levers proved impractical.
    My boys & I agree with you completely on that.

  16. #16
    Perineal Pressurized dobber's Avatar
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    Rather than Dropbars, how about a Moustache bar? I think from a commuter aspect, the Moustache would be much more comfortable and still allow multiple hand positions. Barcons and some aero brake levers and you'd be all set.

  17. #17
    Perineal Pressurized dobber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DieselDan
    Kelly make a kit to attatch your friction downtube shifters to drop handlebars near the brake levers. Sorry I can't find a pic for them, I have seen them in a wholesaler's catalouge.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member nick burns's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobber
    That's pretty cool. I used to have a set of Suntour Command shifters that mounted just inboard of the brake hoods. They were a little unusual looking, but worked nicely. You might be able to find a set on ebay. They indexed to seven speeds or switched to friction mode.

  19. #19
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    Ok, took the plunge and ordered $40 Ultegra bar ends from Nashbar. Other solutions seem a bit awkward, and I can always resell the bar ends on ebay after a few months of use. I'll only use them in friction mode, won't even try to go down the compatability road of indexing.

    On mustache bars - just my opinion, but I think these are oversold. I had a pair that I used on my Bianchi Milano at one point for commuting, but just never liked them that much. I'm just too used to drops for anything over a 3-mile ride. And this may sound cheesy, but I honestly don't think they look elegant if you have brake levers on them. Maybe the old ones that took mtb levers and shifters would be attractive. I imagine that unadorned ones would look cool on a fixie with no brakes, maybe with a Cyclart-applied leather wrap...but for me, since I already own a set of drop bars, quill stem, and aero bars, all I needed to do was pin down shifter options.

    There are some new Suntour ratchet shifters on ebay right now for sale, if anyone's interested. At $40 buy-it-now, not exactly an amazing price, but fair considering they include that cool old-timey exposed steel cable housing, cables, and cable stops...
    Roadie since 1982, former Cat 1 and still racing but much slower. Dean El Diente, Ritchey Breakaway, Litespeed Xicon, Bianchi Milano, Motobecane Fly mountain bike, Lamborghini Viaggio tandem for riding with my kids. And the best job I ever had was as a 16 year old kid prepping frames and building wheels at Performance for Richard Snook (now at Wabi Cycles).

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