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Gravel Bike Conversion - talk me out of it?

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Gravel Bike Conversion - talk me out of it?

Old 09-19-21, 05:32 PM
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Plainsman
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Gravel Bike Conversion - talk me out of it?

I have this flat bar hybrid bike with V-brakes and 38c gravel tires. Lots of parts in the bin (bars, stems, etc.). Instead of buying a drop bar gravel bike, Iím thinking about just swapping out the bars and picking up some used 9 speed shift levers. Horrible idea?
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Old 09-19-21, 05:45 PM
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Why not ride gravel on your flat bar bike? No law against it. Think about your reach to the bars. If the bike fits you now with flat bars, it won't fit with the additional reach of drop bars. That's not to say you can't pursue kludges like skyscraper stem stacks, extensions, other foolishness. If you want a clown bike....
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Old 09-19-21, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Plainsman View Post
I have this flat bar hybrid bike with V-brakes and 38c gravel tires. Lots of parts in the bin (bars, stems, etc.). Instead of buying a drop bar gravel bike, I’m thinking about just swapping out the bars and picking up some used 9 speed shift levers. Horrible idea?
I ride exclusively road, so take this for what it's worth. But if you haven't done much gravel biking, that might be a quick and inexpensive way to see if you liked that type of bike and riding.

If you like it enough to want to continue, you could get a newer, purpose-built gravel bike. If not, you could always restore the bike to it's original flat-bar configuration.

Only caveat is you'd need to make sure the drop-bar shifters are compatible with your existing drivetrain. Shouldn't be a problem for Shimano 9 speed or below, but will be for 10/11/12 speed. Can't speak to SRAM, MicroShift, or others.

Last edited by Hondo6; 09-19-21 at 05:52 PM. Reason: Add last para.
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Old 09-19-21, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
Why not ride gravel on your flat bar bike? No law against it. Think about your reach to the bars. If the bike fits you now with flat bars, it won't fit with the additional reach of drop bars. That's not to say you can't pursue kludges like skyscraper stem stacks, extensions, other foolishness. If you want a clown bike....
True about riding on a flat bar. Sometimes I just come up with projects in search of a need :-). Bike fits like an upright hybrid should, but itís a jumbo frame with a long stem. Figuring I have plenty of stem to play with. But you may be right.
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Old 09-19-21, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Hondo6 View Post
I ride exclusively road, so take this for what it's worth. But if you haven't done much gravel biking, that might be a quick and inexpensive way to see if you liked that type of bike and riding.

If you like it enough to want to continue, you could get a newer, purpose-built gravel bike. If not, you could always restore the bike to it's original flat-bar configuration.

Only caveat is you'd need to make sure the drop-bar shifters are compatible with your existing drivetrain. Shouldn't be a problem for Shimano 9 speed or below, but will be for 10/11/12 speed. Can't speak to SRAM, MicroShift, or others.
Hmmm, rear derailleur is a Deore, FD is Microshift. Wonder if I would run into issues? 9 speed.
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Old 09-19-21, 09:09 PM
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Get Surly corner bars and have drop bar handling without changing out your brakes/shifters/drivetrain. This would probably be the easiest and cheapest way to doing a "gravel" conversion.

https://surlybikes.com/blog/the_surl...bike_handlebar

Last edited by jonathanf2; 09-19-21 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 09-19-21, 09:39 PM
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I don't think it's such a poo poo idea, myself. I really don't care for flat atb/mtb bars on a bike unless it's a genuine trail bike.
On that note, I'd found a Giant FCR-3 hybrid at a thrift store a few years ago ...much like this one...only in red/silver



I swapped it over to a drop bar; FSA Omega compact with a short 80mm of reach and a Giant 90mm stem with about 10 degrees of rise. Swapped the V's for canti's I had and got some 10spd Veloce shifters for it retaining the MTB derailleurs
Like your bike, it has a sloping top tube and tall'ish head tube. So, despite the longer hybrid top tube (56cm), I still managed to make the reach work fine (I'm 5'6 and a half) and the bars are at saddle height with maybe 4-5cm of spacers.
Anyway, the frame will accommodate a full set of touring racks, fenders, two water bottles, and up to 40mm tires. I didn't install racks, though. So, being an aluminum frame/steel fork, it makes for quite a lightweight gravel bikepacking rig.
Oh, and I used a zero offset seat post with the saddle modestly set backwards. IOW's, it's probably only 1cm forward of where I ride on a "normal size" set up

Last edited by thook; 09-19-21 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 09-19-21, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Plainsman View Post
I have this flat bar hybrid bike with V-brakes and 38c gravel tires. Lots of parts in the bin (bars, stems, etc.). Instead of buying a drop bar gravel bike, Iím thinking about just swapping out the bars and picking up some used 9 speed shift levers. Horrible idea?
Some compatibility issues:
  • Road shifters will have a different cable pull for the front derailleur.
  • Road brake levers have a short cable pull, V-brakes use long cable pull. There are multiple solutions: mini V-brakes; Problem Solvers Travel Agents with regular V-brakes; drop bar levers with long pull like Tektro RL520 -- in the latter case you will have to use the bar end shifters; maybe you can use canti brakes instead of the V-brakes as well.
Originally Posted by Hondo6 View Post
I ride exclusively road, so take this for what it's worth. But if you haven't done much gravel biking, that might be a quick and inexpensive way to see if you liked that type of bike and riding.

If you like it enough to want to continue, you could get a newer, purpose-built gravel bike. If not, you could always restore the bike to it's original flat-bar configuration.
This is exactly what I went through. Here is my thread about this kind of conversion:
Yet another drop bar conversion
After some time I restored some of the original components (including the stock wheels) and sold the bike to a friend. I rebuilt the Velomine wheels in the picture with disc hubs, bought the Double Cross frame and now I am happy with it.

Originally Posted by Plainsman View Post
Hmmm, rear derailleur is a Deore, FD is Microshift. Wonder if I would run into issues? 9 speed.
You may need to change the FD to a "road" one, unless you use bar end shifters where the left is in the friction mode. RD should work, personally I have had better experience with Microshift M46 RD and road shifters compared to Deore M591 RD.
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Old 09-19-21, 10:21 PM
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Just keep adjusting your bike for what you want. My Gravel Bike did not start as one and I am very happy with it...
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Old 09-19-21, 10:45 PM
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csport lays out some of the component compatibility issues and possible solutions.

I'd first compare the geometry of your bike to that of a purpose built gravel bike in the correct size for you. Flat bar/hybrid geometry is all over the place, but it's likely that it has a longer top tube in particular than a gravel bike in your size. You can run a shorter stem to account for it, but if things are way off the handling can be far less than ideal.
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Old 09-19-21, 11:30 PM
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Unless you need to have a bike to fit some kind of class regulations, forget what other people might call it and have fun playing around with parts to see if they work for you. In the late 1970s my Carlton Continental ended up being what people today might call a gravel bike but to me was just an experiment in available parts to get the best out of riding on and off road. Today I buy very cheap old bikes to raid for parts and will put up with inconveniently placed levers and gearchangers just to try out some different bars.
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Old 09-20-21, 01:47 AM
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Look at the new Surly Corner bars. They're made for people who want to do a drop bar conversion but don't want to convert to road shifters.

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Old 09-20-21, 03:40 AM
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Originally Posted by csport View Post
You may need to change the FD to a "road" one, unless you use bar end shifters where the left is in the friction mode. RD should work, personally I have had better experience with Microshift M46 RD and road shifters compared to Deore M591 RD.
Thanks for pointing out the other possible issues I didn't.

I've read that about front FDs multiple places, but I've never been able to find actual data on FD actuation ratios. Do you happen to know any source that would give those? I'm quite curious, because I've seen one or two claims regarding mixed configurations that make me think it's not necessary always an issue for indexed road shifters, and I'm considering such a setup as for possible build sometime in the future (SA 3-speed hybrid IGH/cassette rear instead of a front triple). That hub supposedly requires use of a mountain shifter, but I've seen accounts of someone using "brifters" (their term; they didn't identify which make or model) with one with no issues. I'd love to see real data on the actuation ratios before going down that road, though.

Last edited by Hondo6; 09-20-21 at 03:53 AM. Reason: Added phrase and changed wording for clarity.
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Old 09-20-21, 03:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Plainsman View Post
Hmmm, rear derailleur is a Deore, FD is Microshift. Wonder if I would run into issues? 9 speed.
See csport's comment above. It addresses that plus possible brake issues that I'd forgotten about.

Last edited by Hondo6; 09-20-21 at 03:45 AM. Reason: Changed wording for clarity.
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Old 09-20-21, 08:15 PM
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Hmmm, hadnít thought about the brake pull issue. Coupling that with the FD issue and a longer reach, maybe I will just leave it be for now. Eyeore has been amazing as a frankenbike so far - SAVE CAAD aluminum frame, bar ends, shorty aero bars, triple crank with road gearing and mountain low end, carbon fork, V brakes, and 38c tires. I guess itís not AMAZING at any one thing, but does everything okay - 17-18 mph road rides, camping trail rides, neighborhood cruises - and now looking to add okay gravel excursions.
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Old 09-20-21, 11:11 PM
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maybe it's just me, but it seems converting this bike over to a drop bar gravel crusher is being made out to be more problematic than it is. four of my bikes are hybrids converted to drop/gravel rides. i'm just saying if you really wanted to make do with it, it's not that big of a deal. for instance, if you got "brifters" you just reroute the cable on the front derailleur to change the pull actuation so it can shift all three rings. or, just get some used bar end shifters. a pair just sold in the classic and vintage sales section for $50 shipped. the road/v brake tektro levers are >$30 and work nicely. they even have quick release buttons. otoh, by the time you buy the necessary parts on the cheap for $150 (my estimate), i suppose you could find another bike that already works. maybe
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Old 09-21-21, 10:52 AM
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In regards to the road shifter/ mtb front derailer issue, it could work. I have an ultegra 9 speed shifter that shifts an first gen xtr front over a triple and it works fine.
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