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  1. #1
    Master of the Universe Angus37's Avatar
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    drop handlebars for mtb conversion?

    Hi -

    I have an old Univega Alpina mountain bike that I am converting to a tourer. I am interested in adding drop handlebars but want to gather some knowledge before grabbing the first set of drops I find.

    -Is there a difference between drop bars on a road bike and drop bars on a touring bike?
    -Is there a recommendation on width?
    -Anything else I should be looking for?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Senior Member mijome07's Avatar
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    I personally like a shorter reach and shallow drop. So I went with FSA Omega Compact drops. I got them in 40cm, but I could of gone wider. They're so comfortable, I ride in the drops most of the time.


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    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    What type of brakes do you have now? If they are traditional cantilever brakes, then switching to drops is easy. If you have linear pull canti's you will need to make sure you get the right levers. staying with some type of mountain bike bar would allow you to upgrade brakes to linear pull, just a thought.

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    Master of the Universe Angus37's Avatar
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    Center-pull cantilevers.

    Help me out here; why would the levers matter? From my perspective, I pull on the brake lever, which pulls a cable, that the brakes are connected to. I'm sure I've simplified that plenty, but it seems to me that one lever would pull just as well as another and the rest is cable length.

  5. #5
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angus37 View Post
    Center-pull cantilevers.

    Help me out here; why would the levers matter? From my perspective, I pull on the brake lever, which pulls a cable, that the brakes are connected to. I'm sure I've simplified that plenty, but it seems to me that one lever would pull just as well as another and the rest is cable length.
    Different brakes require different levers.

    I'm still not clear which brakes you have, do your center pull brakes have 2 separated brake arms, one attached to each side of the rim, on the forks or are they a center pull caliper brake with a single attachment bolt right in the middle above the tire?

  6. #6
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Is this what your bike looks like?
    Attached Images Attached Images

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angus37 View Post
    Center-pull cantilevers.

    Help me out here; why would the levers matter? From my perspective, I pull on the brake lever, which pulls a cable, that the brakes are connected to. I'm sure I've simplified that plenty, but it seems to me that one lever would pull just as well as another and the rest is cable length.
    Levers can vary in the location of the pivot and the resulting amount of cable that is pulled. Imagine a seesaw with an off center pivot. One side moves more than the other. If you can't pull enough cable you don't get enough braking.

    I don't know your particular bike but it's it's an old 1" or 1 1/8" threaded steerer I'd suggest getting a steerer tube adaptor like one of these to make stem changes convenient:

    http://www.bikeman.com/Stem_Column_Adaptors.html

    I've tried one of those Nitto road stems with long height extension for adapting road bars on mtn frames but they are a lot more flexible than the modern clamp stems.

  8. #8
    Master of the Universe Angus37's Avatar
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    Okay, let me answer some questions:

    My center-pull brakes have one brake arm attached to each side of the fork.
    No, my bike doesn't look like the picture. I think it's a bit newer model (the Univega logo is bigger than normal and the traditional typeface Univega used for their model names is not used either).

    It's a 1" threadless steerer.

  9. #9
    Senior Member CNY James's Avatar
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    center pull cantis you should be able to use the Tektro RL520's, they are a cane creek lever relabled to save you money. I have them on my bike and they suit me well, also a mtb with drop bar conversion.

    do your brakes look like this?



    I went with Profile Design H20 Bars, 31.8mm clamp and 42cm width. They were on sale through nashbar for $14.99... cant beat that. if you arent sure what size to go with, go to your bike shop or measure one of your other bikes.

  10. #10
    deep stuff brucewiley's Avatar
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    RL 520 levers are for V-brakes not cantis. Got 'em on my LHT.

  11. #11
    Master of the Universe Angus37's Avatar
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    So...what do I need to look for in brake levers?

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    Senior Member mijome07's Avatar
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    Cane Creek, Dia-Compe, Tektro, Shimano, etc. makes levers for 'short-pull'.

  13. #13
    Senior Member mijome07's Avatar
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    I like the shape of mine a lot. Of course, they're for long-pull.


  14. #14
    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    If I were unsure of which levers will provide proper pull, I'd error on the levers with less mechanical advantage (more pull), in this case V-brake levers. At least these levers will work and lever action will be crisp, not mushy as if you errored the other way with standard levers.

    I've used road V-brake levers (Diacompe 287-V's) on standard cantis. They actually worked very well.
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  15. #15
    deep stuff brucewiley's Avatar
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    If you have canti brakes any normal type of drop bar road brake lever will work and there are many to choose from, the RL-520 lever is a rare exception that is made for use with "long pull" mountain bike V-brakes on a road bike drop bar.

    Standard mountain bike bars have a 25.4 mm stem clamp, road bikes have either 26 mm or the oversize 31.8 clamp. Keep in mind the handlebar grip areas are a different diameter also. Road- 15/16", Mountain- 7/8 inch so mountain bike brake levers and shifters can't be used on a drop bar.
    Last edited by brucewiley; 02-26-10 at 08:15 PM.

  16. #16
    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    ^^^ But that would ultimately depend on whether the OP uses a mountain or road stem for his conversion.
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  17. #17
    Master of the Universe Angus37's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadfix View Post
    ^^^ But that would ultimately depend on whether the OP uses a mountain or road stem for his conversion.
    And what are the advantages of one stem type over the other? I just want a stem that fits, preferably with a removable face plate.

  18. #18
    deep stuff brucewiley's Avatar
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    You can get drop bars in either clamp size but the shift and brake mounting size remains larger than MTB bars.

  19. #19
    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    Best to keep the cockpit all road specific components, and that includes the stem.

    Posting some photos of your bike (including closeups of brakes) can be helpful.
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  20. #20
    deep stuff brucewiley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angus37 View Post
    And what are the advantages of one stem type over the other? I just want a stem that fits, preferably with a removable face plate.
    No big advantages one way or the other except if you want to use your mountain bike stem you would want to get the correct drop bar to fit the clamp.

  21. #21
    weirdo
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    Sheesh! Too much brake talk!
    I don`t disagree with anything already posted in this thread, but there are a lot of red herrings. In the unlikely event that your brakes and levers aren`t compatible, there are a few cheap and easy fixes that will take care of the problem.

    There are a number of "standard" clamp diameters for bars (where the stem clamps the bar) and , as far as I know, two diameters for where the brake or shift levers clamp. Finding the correct combos shouldn`t be too much trouble, but since there are differences I`d just go to a local shop where you can physically compare everything and make sure it fits together before you buy it and have it shipped. The guys at the shop should also be able to tell you at a glance what "pull" you need for you current brakes.

    The biggest obstacle to putting dropbars on a mountain bike is finding a stem that lets you get your bars in a comfortable position. Since mtbs generally have longer and lower top tubes (after all, they`re designed to be used with flat bars) than "road" bikes, chances are you`ll need a different stem anyway- probably one that`s higher and has a shorter reach. The easiest way to get yourself set up is at a shop with a good stock of stems in stock so you can try as many as it takes to get your bars where you need them. That`s a piece of cake if the stems have removeable front plate as opposed to the single bolt style that require you to strip a shifter and brake lever off your bars for each attempt. As mentioned above, you can use an adaptor to fit a modern stem intended for threadless systems, or you can use a taller quill style- either way will do the trick.

    Dropbars also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you`re comfortable with one of the short reach bars (sometimes labled as "cyclocross" bars or "compact" drops), you`ll have a little easier time finding a stem that works for you. Again, your LBS is the place to look. You can probably test ride bikes that have different bar styles to see which ones you like best and buy a similarly sized and shaped bar. I order a lot of stuff from online vendors, but this is a prime example of a project that will be much easier with the help of a well stocked LBS.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angus37 View Post
    Hi -

    I have an old Univega Alpina mountain bike that I am converting to a tourer. I am interested in adding drop handlebars but want to gather some knowledge before grabbing the first set of drops I find.

    -Is there a difference between drop bars on a road bike and drop bars on a touring bike?
    -Is there a recommendation on width?
    -Anything else I should be looking for?

    Thanks in advance.
    1. no, most shops stock road bars and stems with 31.8mm bar clamp diameter but with some searching you can find 26.0. Whether you pick one over the other is immaterial. My old bars were 26.0 so that's what I looked for in new stems.
    2. roughly shoulder width, personal taste as is bar shape. There's a huge range. I wouldn't bother getting light bars.
    3. I think there's been a recall on one brand of stem but i don't recall what it is. Google away.
    4. just remembered, I've been using smooth cushioned bar tape and just put on SBI cushioned bar tape, I like how it feels.

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...=9331&eid=5097
    Last edited by LeeG; 02-26-10 at 09:52 PM.

  23. #23
    weirdo
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    Oh, yeah- if all that stuff makes you head spin, you should also give some consideration to either keeping your flatbars (can even add bar ends if you want) or going with those pretzel shaped trekking bars, which should accept your current brake and shift levers and most likely simplify the stem issue. Personally, I like high mounted drop bars, but plenty of people prefer other options. Worth some thought, anyway.

  24. #24
    Senior Member CNY James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brucewiley View Post
    RL 520 levers are for V-brakes not cantis. Got 'em on my LHT.

    it hit me in the shower this morning, came here to correct myself. you are correct & I have the RL200A's on my bike.

  25. #25
    Master of the Universe Angus37's Avatar
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    Okay, so roadfix suggested some pics. Here's what I've got.

    The bike:
    100_3731.jpg

    And a close-up of the brakes:
    100_3732.jpg

    As I said before, it is a 1" threadless steerer. I'm planning on switching out the stem when I get the drops.

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