Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Portland OR
Bikes: 1990ish MTB converted to 'cross, custom Vulture 29"er, Swift 2-speed Automatix folder, Madsen cargo bike
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You can do it, but it's not necessarily simple or cheap.
Dia-Compe, Tektro and Cane Creek make road levers that are compatible with V brakes and standard cable-operated disc brakes. You WILL need to make this swap, because standard road levers do not pull enough cable. They will bottom out against the bars without fully activating the brakes.
You'll need to figure out what to do about shifting. No one makes integrated road shifter/brake levers that are compatible with mountain brakes. You will NOT be able to use Shimano STI road levers (the ones with built-in shifters) due to the brake compatibility issue, unless you switch to cantilever brakes (if you currently have V-brakes) or Avid Road Discs (if you have discs). Cantilever brakes are a pretty significant step down in performance from Vs, however. Avid Road Discs are designed specifically to work with road levers and work great, but will cost you about $180.
Most folks who run drop bars with mountain brakes use simple brake levers as I described above in the first paragraph along with bar-end shifters. This is what I myself do on my mountain bike, which has drop bars and discs. Paul and Interloc Racing Design both make adapters that allow you to clamp your bar-end shifters onto the top of the bar, which is more convenient. Even if you do that there is STILL one compatibility issue: road shifters work perfectly with mountain rear derailers, but not mountain front derailers, where they theoretically don't pull quite enough cable to shift across all 3 chainrings. Many folks who do this setup run single or double chainrings anyway, and avoid this problem; I was able to JUST BARELY get it to work on my mountain bike (with Shimano 8-speed bar-ends and a SRAM x.gen derailer), so it may depend on your exact setup.