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  1. #1
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    Drop bar conversion shifter options?

    I am building a touring rig for my wife and am converting the bars to drops. The bike is an early 90ís Giant Boulder steel frame with standard shimano 3x7 setup. I donít have ANY experience with road bike type stuff as my touring bike has trekking bars. I have the set up pretty well figured out with two exceptions, the width of the bars and the shifters.
    My wife is about 5 foot 10 and is not what I would call petite. I would guess that a 40cm bar width would be about right? Anyone have any ideas or experiences with this?
    I am trying to keep the cost of the project down a bit since I am going to have to buy racks, fenders, panniers, bags, tires etc etc.
    I am thinking that I will go with friction shifters of some kind. I think I like the idea of bar ends, though I donít really know having never had a pair on a bike. My second option is a stem shifter setup that seems to be pretty affordable, though I worry about my wife taking her hands of the bars to shift. A third option would be mounting a pod, thumb, trigger, or maybe even some twist shifters low on bar? I know the size of most road bars is different than most mountain bar so I would have to work around all of that. Anyone ideas?
    I have a garage full of old chromoly mountain and hybrid bikes of various makes that I am constantly buying, selling, repairing, and generally wasting my time on. I canít help it; I got a thing for old steel 21 speed mountain bikes. GTís in particular. I am no bike mechanic though I can definitely handle this conversion.
    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    I'm 5'9" and I generally use 42cm bars. I have a set of 40s I will probably try on a bike soon, and I'll see how those feel. On a touring bike I'd probably want the wider 42-44cm bars. Just a guess.

    IMO bar end shifters are your best bet. Unfortunately, you will likely not be able to mount any sort of MTB shifters on drop bars unless you get a really crappy set of old steel drops that have the smaller MTB diameter. Almost all decent road shifters are expensive (compared to MTB trigger shifters) and I haven't figured out why.

    Another possible option is to take some old clamp-on MTB thumb shifters and fit them somewhere on the drop bars. The older cheaper ones often had flexible clamps that you can make work on drop bars. I wouldn't recommend it, but it can work.
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

  3. #3
    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    friction shifters are a pain in the a-- with 8 or more gears in back, way too fidgety. I wouldn't even think of trying to use them with a 9 or 10 speed system.

    you can't use mountain derailleurs with road index shifters, either, at least not in 9 or 10 speed, maybe 7/8 speed is OK but noone MAKES index road shifters in 7/8 anymore.

    the hand positions are all wrong for using mountain thumb shifters.

    oh yeah, road brake levers are strictly short pull, so if this bike has V-brakes or mechanical disk brakes, you're hosed. at least v-brakes could be swapped for CX style cantilever brakes. with disks, ugh. and if you have hydraulic disks? double ugh. maybe you can put a CX disk brake system on there, I dunno.

    really, I think you'd be better off buying a suitable road bike, maybe a CX, or maybe something like one of the Surly touring bikes.
    Last edited by pierce; 12-28-12 at 11:13 PM.

  4. #4
    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pierce View Post
    friction shifters are a pain in the a-- with 8 or more gears in back, way too fidgety. I wouldn't even think of trying to use them with a 9 or 10 speed system.

    you can't use mountain derailleurs with road index shifters, either, at least not in 9 or 10 speed, maybe 7/8 speed is OK but noone MAKES index road shifters in 7/8 anymore.

    the hand positions are all wrong for using mountain thumb shifters.

    oh yeah, road brake levers are strictly short pull, so if this bike has V-brakes or mechanical disk brakes, you're hosed. at least v-brakes could be swapped for CX style cantilever brakes. with disks, ugh. and if you have hydraulic disks? double ugh. maybe you can put a CX disk brake system on there, I dunno.
    Did you even read the OP? An early 90s Giant Boulder definitely does not have disc brakes, or even V-brakes unless they were added later.

    Drivetrain is specified as 3x7. Unfortunately, shifter choices are limited there.

    Also, Shimano MTB RDs do work with road index shifters, all the way up to 10 speed. The cable pull is the same (the exception being the new Dyna-Sys MTB RDs.)
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by pierce View Post
    friction shifters are a pain in the a-- with 8 or more gears in back, way too fidgety.
    the sprocket spacing for 8- and 7-speeds (with Shimano, at least) is virtually the same, and I've been using friction shifting with a 7-speed cassette on my current main bike for a while. The same bike also had an 8-speed one for a while. I never had any problem shifting either setup....

  6. #6
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    Remember that drop bars will stretch out her reach a lot further than the flat bars. If she`s comfortable with the reach as is, it`ll probably be too long with drop bars. Does she object to the current bars for some reason? Maybe her hands would feel better just by adding bar ends? Maybe trekking bars on that bike too? Any rate, if you go swapping bars and cockpit stuff on it, I suggest locking it into a low-ish gear with the derailler stop screws (temporary SS mode) and just hooking up the front brake so she can test ride it with the different possibilities before you get too far into any conversions. No sense getting it all set up just to find out it needs a shorter stem or totally different bars or hates the shifters, or whatever, right?

  7. #7
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    RebelLT, Welcome to the forum.

    Handlebar width can be determined by measuring the distance between the boney protusions on the shoulders; just a guideline, of course. Depending on how one fits the mountain bike and which style of drop bar is used, the stem will often be shorter with drops than with flats and drop bar touring bike conversions of mountain bikes often use bar end shifters.

    You can see some conversions in the touring forum for ideas.

    Brad

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    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Airburst View Post
    the sprocket spacing for 8- and 7-speeds (with Shimano, at least) is virtually the same, and I've been using friction shifting with a 7-speed cassette on my current main bike for a while. The same bike also had an 8-speed one for a while. I never had any problem shifting either setup....
    my last hybrid had friction thumb shifters with a newer shimano or sram 7-speed cassette... maybe it was the hyperglide ramps or something, but I found the gears very fidget-prone. i have used similar thumb shifters for /years/ with older bikes, and downtube shifters before that with straight teeth without a problem. I'm pretty sure I've had all these combinations: 2x5, 3x5, 3x7, 1x5, 1x7 on various bikes...

    my new hybrid has SiS 3x8 shifting with trigger shifters, and I'm loving it. gear selection is crisp and positive, once I got the SiS dialed in, shifting is nearly instantaneous, even under moderate load.

  9. #9
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    Hi RebelLT

    Drop bar conversions on old mountain bikes are AWESOME! See this thread for some inspiration: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ar-Conversions

    One thing about conversions, they do require a bit of work to get everything working together. As you're experiencing, shifter placement is one of the trickier things that must be sorted out.

    The diameter of road handlebars are 24.2mm, while mountain bike bars are 22.2mm. This means you can't always use the same shifters and brake levers on both bars. You will need to get road type brakes. Your bike is from the early 90s so I'm guessing it's got cantilever brakes. If so, most road levers will work fine. If you have v-brakes, you will need to get v-brake specific road levers. Tekro makes a pair.

    As far as your shifter options, they are:
    In general order of cheapest to most expensive

    * Stem shifters
    * Mounting downtube shifters
    * Cheap thumb shifters with steel bands
    * Bar end shifters
    * Paul Thumbies
    * Kelly Take-offs
    * STI / Ergo / Brifters

    You can use an old set of stem shifters from any old low end road bike. You may also be able to find clamp on downtube shifters with a band that fits your frame.

    Many thumb shifters that have steel clamp bands can be installed on either MTB or road bars. You may need to get a longer bolt, but it's not hard to do. If you don't have any thumbies laying aroud, you can buy Falcon thumb shifters brand new for about $10/pair, and they are advertised to fit on either mtb or road bars. Another option are the Shimano A050 shifters which mount right next to the stem.

    Bar end shifters are one of the most common solutions for drops. You can use friction or find an appropriate indexed one if you like. I use friction shifting on my bikes with 7 speeds in the rear without problems.

    Paul Thumbies and Kelly Take Offs allow you to mount downtube shifters on road bars. You can use friction or indexed DT levers with either. The Thumbies mount on the tops like thumb shifters, while the Take Offs mount near the brake levers.

    Modern STI/Ergo/"Brifter" type road levers are also an option.


    Good luck with your conversion and be sure to post some pics in that thread when you're done!
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  10. #10
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    Note that road front shifters are not compatible with MTB front mechs.
    You need an inline barrel adjuster for cable tension.
    Pauls widgets are quite expensive for the conversion.
    It is probably easier to put trekking bars and stick to MTB style controls. This will also make braking easier. Im my experience, short pull road shifters don't work very well with long pull touring brakes. You can get some long pull road levers that work with cantis (but not V brakes).

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Note that road front shifters are not compatible with MTB front mechs.
    You need an inline barrel adjuster for cable tension.
    in the early 90s most road and mtb front derailleurs were pretty much the same...? If he's running friction then a barrel adjuster won't be needed
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by pierce View Post
    friction shifters are a pain in the a-- with 8 or more gears in back, way too fidgety. I wouldn't even think of trying to use them with a 9 or 10 speed system.

    you can't use mountain derailleurs with road index shifters, either, at least not in 9 or 10 speed, maybe 7/8 speed is OK but noone MAKES index road shifters in 7/8 anymore.

    the hand positions are all wrong for using mountain thumb shifters.

    oh yeah, road brake levers are strictly short pull, so if this bike has V-brakes or mechanical disk brakes, you're hosed. at least v-brakes could be swapped for CX style cantilever brakes. with disks, ugh. and if you have hydraulic disks? double ugh. maybe you can put a CX disk brake system on there, I dunno.

    really, I think you'd be better off buying a suitable road bike, maybe a CX, or maybe something like one of the Surly touring bikes.
    Uh, what? I use friction on 9 speed every day, and its no problem at all. Just let up a smidge on the pedals and the shift works well. The gears are so close together that you'll hit something :-). Of course, I ride a trike, with the shifter right at my fingertip at all times, so that does make it easier.

    Cable pull on mountain and road dťrailleurs are the same. There are only problems with SRAM 1:1 and Campy mechs, both of which have different pull ratios than standard Shimano mechs. I've set up brifters with old MTB mechs, and road mechs with MTB shifters in both 8 and 9 speed. Brakes are a different matter, of course.

    Sunrace makes an 8-speed brifter. They're reasonably priced, and seem to work ok.

    Drop bar conversion works best when the rider has a long torso, as the top-tube is proportionately longer for a flat bar bike than a drop bar.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Note that INDEXED road front shifters are not compatible with MTB front mechs.
    Fixed it for you.

    If it was my project I'd look for a pair of Suntour friction barcons. You could also use a pair of any-speed Shimanos in friction mode. I have a pair of Suntours on my 9-speed retro grouch bike and don't find them to be difficult or touchy to use in any way. I operate them with my pinky fingers so I never have to take my hands off of the bars or sit up and change my weight distribution.

    One thing that I always wonder about in threads like this is how much (if any) input the projected user is providing. What does your wife think about this project?
    Last edited by Retro Grouch; 12-29-12 at 09:03 AM.

  14. #14
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    WOW! I didn’t expect this much of a response. Thanks all for the warm welcome. I can clarify a little. The bike currently has a set of v brakes. I mistakenly ID’ed it as an early 90’s model whereas I believe it to be from about 2004ish. It’s a pretty good setup for touring. Rigid fork, long chainstay, steel frame, four eyelets. Another plus is that it is new enough to have a 1 1/8 head tube. The wheels were gone when I salvage it fromthe curb, though I had a good pair of 36 spoke araya wheels that I had hanging on the wall. The rear hub is a seven speed freewheel, I have boxes of derailleurs and freewheels and shifters etc etc around.
    Of course I have been trying to get my wife to ride with me for some time and she used to ride road bikes years ago. I took her on a few twenty something mile rides on an old Schwinn crisscross that I built for her and she doesn’t dig ridding upright. She didn’t like the trekking bars and asked if I could build her a bike with drop bars. I had two good frames around that I could have used, the Giant and a Trek 930 with the seatpost frozen in the frame (Pain in the rear to get out so I went with the giant)
    So this is all my wifes doing, plus it doesn’t bother me much since I like to rescue and old bike and mess with it a while. I think I will stick with the v brakes for this bike though I prefer cantis on my own bikes. The reason being is that they are easier to adjust and make it easier for her to get the wheels off to change a tire. I figured I would go with a set of long pull road levers to solve that.
    I also have a couple of stem risers and adjustable stems laying around and I suspect that I should be able to find a magic spot somewhere with all that adjustment.
    As for shifters I had always assumed that any friction shifter would work with any derailleur as long as the cable pull is long enough? I’m thinking about using a megarange freewheel I have so having some extra travel might be oK? I know that the newer cassettes with more gears are more compact with tighter spacing, though there probably not much difference in the actual distance of the width of the cassette versus the freewheel? Even if there was a significant difference I would guess that the newer cassettes would have more cable pull so they should work with and older freewheel?

    So I see my two options as either a stem friction (cheaper) or a bar end friction shifter (probably better setup). It all comes down to what I want to spend I suppose. I guess it’s time to watch ebay for some comparison shopping.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by rebelLT View Post
    As for shifters I had always assumed that any friction shifter would work with any derailleur as long as the cable pull is long enough? I’m thinking about using a megarange freewheel I have so having some extra travel might be oK? I know that the newer cassettes with more gears are more compact with tighter spacing, though there probably not much difference in the actual distance of the width of the cassette versus the freewheel? Even if there was a significant difference I would guess that the newer cassettes would have more cable pull so they should work with and older freewheel?

    So I see my two options as either a stem friction (cheaper) or a bar end friction shifter (probably better setup). It all comes down to what I want to spend I suppose. I guess it’s time to watch ebay for some comparison shopping.
    Any friction shifter will operate any derailleur, with the exception of some of the current SRAM derailleurs which use a very low actuation ratio (the distance moved by the derailleur cage compared to the distance the cable is pulled).

    8-speed cassettes are the widest you'll see (they're the same width as 9- and 10-speeds ones, and one sprocket and spacer wider than 7-speed ones), and as I said above, I've run one on a friction shifter that was originally shifting a 6-speed system. A megarange freewheel is no wider than any other 7-speed freewheel or cassette, so you should be fine. Depending on the exact actuation ratio of your derailleur, and the amount of cable pulled by the shifter, you might conceivably run out of travel if you were using an 8/9/10-speed setup, but that's very unlikely with a 7-speed.

    Regarding shifter fitting, there is also the possibility of using the retroshift brake levers. You may have an issue fitting stem shifters to that bike, as they're designed to clamp to the 7/8" diameter stem quill used with a 1" steerer, but you've got a 1 1/8" steerer, which, assuming it isn't a threadless one, will take a 1" diameter quill. I'm sure you can get around that issue, but stem shifters can be nasty in a crash anyway - they're in a pretty good position to stick in the rider, depending on the lever position at the time.
    Last edited by Airburst; 12-29-12 at 11:27 AM. Reason: Stem shifters

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by rebelLT View Post
    So I see my two options as either a stem friction (cheaper) or a bar end friction shifter (probably better setup). It all comes down to what I want to spend I suppose.
    as I mentioned, Falcon thumb shifters are also an option, or those Shimano A050 which are kinda like thumbies an kinda like stem shifters. Both options are pretty cheap.

    Maybe ask your wife which she would prefer?
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  17. #17
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Choices are stem shifters, thumb shifters, or bar cons. Myself, I prefer bar ends. Plenty of 7 speed thumb shifters out there. Bar ends are your most expensive option.

    If I ever convince my wife to go to drops on the Trek 950 I converted for her, I would go with thumb or trigger shifters, no way I could get her to go bar end.

    I'd be pulling that Trek 930 back out. Its really not that bad to cut out a post if the other techniques fail.

    Just put a seven speed cassette on my last build. I guess I'm too old school.
    Last edited by wrk101; 12-29-12 at 11:49 AM.

  18. #18
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Have a pair of 30 year old sun tour ratchet friction shifters still in service, on 3 x7 drivetrains..

    standard freewheel hubs, because the right bearing is an inch inboard of the dropout,
    has enough leverage to flex the 10mm axle in them,
    , the cassette moved the bearing out to the right end of the axle.. but 7 speed cassettes are last century..

    still can get parts, but may not be in every shop all the time.


    I use a Phil Wood Hub,and freewheel , much stronger axle, so the bending to breaking never happens.
    used the wheels on several international bike tours , camping.

  19. #19
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    +1 on the Shimano A050 shifters. If you're willing to stick with 7-speed (I think it's great ), they work really well -- FAAARRR better than the friction stem shifters of old:

    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
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  20. #20
    Senior Member mprelaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 400trix View Post
    Sunrace makes an 8-speed brifter. They're reasonably priced, and seem to work ok.
    I'm sure there's plenty of 8 speed Microshift stuff floating around, too. They were still making 8 speed shifters up to 2012.

    I have a set, and they are flawless, and much easier to use than 2300 brifters. I like a nice, tight 8 speed cassette for where I live. I don't want more gears than I need.

    There are also plenty of road bikes out there with Deore RDs to run a 34t granny gear.

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