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Converting Wife's Drop Bar to Flat

Old 09-22-19, 09:15 PM
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Wilmingtech
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Converting Wife's Drop Bar to Flat

I bought my wife a beautiful road bike last year to ride with me. And ride she did. We put hundreds of miles on it and she rode a century at the beginning of the summer that had over 7k feet of climbing and we finished together in about 8 hours.

Right before the century she started having some back/shoulder soreness (I'm guessing its a pinched nerve under her shoulder blade) and she hasn't really ridden the road bike at all. It bothers her shoulder to reach over and put weight on her hands.

We have done a couple of shorter 10 mile rides on the folders and she is certain if she was more upright she would cycle with me more.

She really loves her road bike and wants to ride it, she just wants flat bars that are higher than her saddle.

Converting to flatbar is no problem, just wondering what the options are to get the bar up higher and closer on her existing bike.

Any ideas? I'm sure I'm not the first to cross this bridge...

PS - Since this pictures was taken I have put a. 100mm +25 degree stem on to get the bars up and she still wants higher flat bars.



Last edited by Wilmingtech; 09-22-19 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 09-22-19, 10:02 PM
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MarcusT
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https://www.amazon.com/Wake-Adjustab...9211211&sr=8-4

The flat bars themselves actually reduce the reach, so should be better. Riser bars can also raise the grips up.
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Old 09-23-19, 03:17 AM
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It might not be the ideal bike.

Whilst notably raising the position will take weight off her hands/arms/shoulders, it'll transfer that weight onto the saddle - so then you're looking at the possibility of a different saddle. And with the added distribution to the rear wheel, you could be looking into tyre choices too.
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Old 09-23-19, 09:04 AM
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Id consider riser type bars and an adjustable angle stem to try to find a good height.

But first, Id consider whether or not you may be chasing a problem that a cruiser type riding position may not actually fix. Consider renting or test riding commuter type flat bar bikes to see if that fixes the problem and does not introduce other issues.

good luck!
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Old 09-23-19, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by MikeyMK View Post
...So then you're looking at the possibility of a different saddle. And with the added distribution to the rear wheel, you could be looking into tyre choices too.
Understood but these are non issues. The bike can fit up to 38c and we run 35c tires in the winter on it. As far as saddles go I have a dozen of them from a "wide berth" leather saddle to a nashbar Comfort Gel saddle to an SMP Avant and everything in between.

My wife is also on the small side at about 120lbs and is very fit. She just wants a higher grab on the bars.

Originally Posted by Sapperc View Post
Id consider riser type bars and an adjustable angle stem to try to find a good height.

But first, Id consider whether or not you may be chasing a problem that a cruiser type riding position may not actually fix. Consider renting or test riding commuter type flat bar bikes to see if that fixes the problem and does not introduce other issues.

good luck!
I am with you. When we first started looking for a bike for her we looked at Hybrid / Commuter style bikes but she wanted something that would go 40-50 miles at a faster pace. She had a Raliegh Hybrid before and loved riding it but was familiar with the pace of that bike as well.

So I strongly suggested a hybrid e-bike as she would be more comfortable and be able to go faster than me. But the sales guys we talked to all went the wrong way in suggesting to her that it's easier, you won't sweat, just push the button and go...

And now she is like "no way... I want a workout when I ride my bike" and I keep telling her it's power assist and she can decide how hard she wants to peddle. But I am her husband and all she hears from me is either she's peddaling a heavy a$$ bike around or driving a motorcycle and doesn't get the power assist thing. Maybe if one of you guys explained it to her she would listen.

Anywho, now she has her bike which she loves (Tiffany Blue) and just wants me to make it a flat bar bike with the bars above the saddle height.

I am assuming a year or 2 from now we will be right back where we started looking at hybrid ebikes for her. Either that or she will ask me to put a motor on her bike next.
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Old 09-23-19, 10:10 AM
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Old 09-23-19, 07:28 PM
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All of my bikes have swept bars, including my "road" bike. I think that folks with neck and shoulder issues can benefit from a shorter cockpit, but it varies from one person to another, and unfortunately, can take some trial and error. There are some downsides to converting the bike:

1. Cost. In addition to a new bar, you will need to find controls for flat bars that work with the road drivetrain and brakes. I've never had to worry about that, as my only bike with derailleurs started out as a flat bar bike that I converted to a swept bar.

2. Aerodynamics and other performance related issues. I've made peace with the fact that the upright posture will slow me down, though the difference might be marginal. I'm not a fast rider on any bike. I'm also not as comfortable making really fast descents in the upright position, but that's a matter of debate and I don't know the correct answer.

Now, a flat bar might not be a panacea. A lot of people experience wrist discomfort with flat bars, including me, which is why I use swept bars. Those place my hands even further back. Even a little bit of sweep is much more comfortable -- for me it's the difference between being in pain within the first half mile, and riding all day in one position with minimal discomfort.

About going electric, there's no convincing someone who's committed to riding a conventional bike. Making a few changes to one's bike setup within a year of getting into cycling is pretty typical. Either your body fits a drop bar bike, or you figure out how to ride something else.

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Old 09-23-19, 07:43 PM
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It seems to me that flat bar bikes have longer top tubes that road bikes. If you just switch handles bars on a road bike the reach will be much, much shorter. Might need a new bike.
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Old 09-23-19, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Gconan View Post
It seems to me that flat bar bikes have longer top tubes that road bikes. If you just switch handles bars on a road bike the reach will be much, much shorter. Might need a new bike.
Not necessarily. There are brands that have nearly the same frames for both flat- and drop-bar bikes. Also, if the intention is to shorten the reach, as it is in my case, then the conversion makes sense. Flat bar bikes intended for "road" use are kind of a specialty item, and ultimately, a bike has to be tailored to the rider.

But as I've learned, the final arbiter for what bikes have what dimensions, is a yardstick.
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Old 09-23-19, 10:26 PM
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Sounds familiar. Last year I was hit by a car, breaking and dislocating my shoulder and aggravating an old neck injury. Couldn't ride my road bike outdoors for months. Mostly I used it on an indoor trainer. I tried the road bike a couple of months after the injury but it was still too uncomfortable. I didn't ride it outdoors again for several months.

Outdoors, I rode my hybrid. I swapped from flat to riser to albatross swept bars to reduce the reach. Helped a lot while I was recovering. I even rode it to physical therapy sessions for a couple of months. It's still one of my favorite bikes.

Rather than modifying a perfectly good road bike that might fit later after her injury heals, try a hybrid with swept bars -- albatross, North Roads or something similar. The geometry will work better anyway. Forcing a road bike into a cruiser will mess up the balance. I've tried various shorter stems on my road bikes and it makes the handling twitchy -- scary on fast curves with rippled or bumpy pavement.

Swept bars are more versatile than I realized until after using one. It has almost as many hand positions and body angle positions as a compact drop bar on an touring type setup. When I want to sit upright for better peripheral vision in traffic I hold the grips conventionally near the brakes. When I want to get a little lower for riding into headwinds or climbing I lean forward into the forward arced part of the bar. Most of the time my hands are over the brake lever pivot/housing where I can operate them with my little fingers, while leaning forward in a position I find comfortable for longer distances.

Standing to pedal for climbs and sprints was a little tricky at first -- very different balance than a drop bar road bike -- but now it feels completely natural.

No need to spend too much for a bike suitable for use with swept bars. Check craigslist for a good ol' steel frame mountain bike -- rigid fork and frame. Those tend to have slightly longer top tubes, relative to seat tube size. That usually means enough clearance for swept bars without knocking against the knees on reasonable turns. Some folks will trim a half inch or so from swept bars, especially if they use bar end shifters. I haven't needed to trim mine, but Nitto albatross bars flare out a bit so there's enough clearance. North Roads and some porteur bars may be narrower with less flare so those may need some modifications.

I've been back on my road bikes most of this year for longer rides -- solo workouts and fairly fast club rides. But it took almost a year to get comfortable again for that.

And encourage her to get some physical therapy. That shoulder pain won't get better on its own. If anything it'll get worse and provoke collateral damage in the surrounding muscles and joints as the body over-compensates for the pain.

It'll take some exercise, full range of motion, stretching resistance bands, then light weight, then body weight. Keep at it because it'll probably feel worse before it gets better. Took me three weeks of 3x a week PT sessions to see any improvement. After two months I felt better than I had in years, although I still had some residual spots of pain.

And massage. I got a long handled percussion massager a few weeks ago and it's terrific. Two heads about the size of golf balls, fits the muscles on either side of the spine, and on either side of the shoulder blades without buzzing against the bones.

I haven't had good luck with chiropractors but some folks do. Personally I'd rather have a good masseuse but my insurance won't cover that, so I tried a couple of chiropractors. Pretty much a waste of time.

I'm still limited in distance by the neck injury, but the shoulder has healed well enough that it's not a problem for my usual rides of 20-50 miles. If I could plug in my percussion massager and fasten it to my neck I could probably finish a century comfortably. I'd serious consider rigging up a battery powered massager with a battery pack on a rear rack.

Last edited by canklecat; 09-23-19 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 09-24-19, 07:36 AM
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It may just be the angle of the photo but it appears that the nose of your wife's saddle is tilted downward significantly. That alone could cause neck and shoulder discomfort. That said, I have also changed out my drop bars on my road bikes for either flat or riser bars and I am now much more comfortable. Wrist and hand pain was eliminated with ergonomic grips adjusted for proper wrist angle.
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Old 09-24-19, 09:40 AM
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Another issue is that the saddle pointed nose-down like on the green bike will put excess pressure on your hands and arms. This is likely not helping with her shoulder or neck issues.
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Old 09-24-19, 04:53 PM
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I think she would be happy with the change to flat or sweptback bars but it's not a simple swapping out of handlebars and levers. I don't think Shimano road and mountain shifters are compatible with each other. So you might also have to replace the rear derailleur unless there is some sort of device that adjust the ratio of the cable pull. Would it be worth all the effort vs. buying a hybrid bike? I love to tinker so I might do it but I also love to buy more bikes. Tough decision. Good luck!
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Old 09-24-19, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Bluechip View Post
I think she would be happy with the change to flat or sweptback bars but it's not a simple swapping out of handlebars and levers. I don't think Shimano road and mountain shifters are compatible with each other. So you might also have to replace the rear derailleur unless there is some sort of device that adjust the ratio of the cable pull. Would it be worth all the effort vs. buying a hybrid bike? I love to tinker so I might do it but I also love to buy more bikes. Tough decision. Good luck!
I love to tinker as well. I'll have to build a parts list and see what the costs would be.

Would be nice if I could throw a set of the Canyon Grail handlebars on there. That might just do the trick

-Sean
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Old 09-24-19, 09:18 PM
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I've converted dozens of bikes from drop bar to upright bar bikes. IMHO neither of the bikes in the OP are candidates for this conversion. They're both purpose built for speed with racing style geometry and, won't make good upright riders. You would be better off either trading the bike for something else or finding another bike to convert. Like this old steel Lotus.
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Old 09-25-19, 05:07 PM
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I did a flat bar conversion for my wife and she loves it. Yes, the geo of the road frame results in shorter reach, but that helps with the upright part I did use a longer stem as well.

It need not be expensive. I got some Shimano flat bar road levers for under $20, and Microshift has a number of road shifters for flatbars in the $60 range.

Keep in mind there are a lot of flat bar options. Different widths and different sweeps. Also you will likely need to play with different stem lengths.
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Old 09-25-19, 05:09 PM
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Wait, are you asking about how to get her drop bars closer and higher?

Shorter and higher stem.

How long is her current stem?
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Old 09-25-19, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
Wait, are you asking about how to get her drop bars closer and higher?

Shorter and higher stem.

How long is her current stem?
She wants a flat bar but a handlebar like what comes on the Canyon Grail with a connection to the bar halfway down the drops would get the bars back and up and wouldnt have to change out the parts and pieces.

Current stem is 100mm @25 degrees. (see 1st post)

-Sean
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Old 09-26-19, 10:30 AM
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https://www.amazon.com/Delta-Cycle-B.../dp/B000FHBED0

This should get her handlebars up high enough. If that isn't going to work, Velo Orange has a couple city bike bars that will work with your existing 23mm brake/shifters. Beware though, that moving the grips behind the stem makes for twichy handling on a frame meant for drops.
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