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Touring-bike conversion, should I get the fancy shoes or change to drop bars first?

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Touring-bike conversion, should I get the fancy shoes or change to drop bars first?

Old 06-30-15, 03:43 AM
  #1  
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Touring-bike conversion, should I get the fancy shoes or change to drop bars first?

It's a general commuter bike, and I ride just about everywhere. I've just got it set up for touring, and yeah, I have a camping trip in a few days. I'm trying out the toe clips with straps that I picked up for $7, and they're not bad, once I figured out how to get my feet into them. Good for keeping my feet in the best place on the pedal. I'm looking at either getting clipless pedals or changing from flat bars to drop bars...probably both eventually. But which should I do first? I'm looking at what would give me the most gain in efficiency and help with distance.
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Old 06-30-15, 06:47 AM
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Drop bars will take more getting used to and, once you get used to them, will give you much greater efficiency and long-term comfort. I strongly recommend making the switch to drop bars. But changing the handlebar of a bike is a pretty fundamental change, especially if you're going from a flat bar to a drop bar, and I wouldn't do it right before a long cycling trip.

Changing the pedals is a very minor tweak and (best scenario) will not, in my opinion, make much difference. But if you get something wrong, it can go very wrong indeed. I wouldn't commit to new and untried shoes before a long cycling trip, when anything that goes wrong can potentially ruin your trip.
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Old 06-30-15, 07:25 AM
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Shoes, when on sale can be much cheaper. So, if you are patient you might save more money. Have you identified which pedal you want yet?

Handlebars, brake levers, shifters, cables, handlebar tape, stems are on sale less often. Bargains can be had but it requires time consuming searches on the internet. Thus waiting waiting for a sale on these components is less likely to achieve much cost savings.

Before you make a switch to drop bars, do you have access to a bike with drop bars you can ride for some long days? My point is that setting up a bike with drop bars requires that you get the height and reach (distance forward) set so that it is comfortable for you. I used an adjustable stem to try different options for setting up bars to get the position right before I bought the stem that I needed. If you can borrow a bike with drop bars and ride it for some long days, that will help you figure out height and reach and bar width.

Some frames designed for flat bars will have too long of a top tube to make a good touring frame with drop bars. You might find that your bike is not well suited for the conversion.

Many touring bikes in continental Europe have flat bars, don't assume you need drop bars for touring just because that is what everybody else appears to be using. That said, I prefer drop bars for my touring bikes, especially when pushing into a wind.

Lastly, when new to toe clips, keep your straps pretty loose. After you have ridden for quite a while and you come to a stop, it can be easy to forget how to get your foot out and if your straps are too tight, that makes it even worse. Anticipate your stops. I have gotten into the habit of taking my foot off the pedal a few seconds earlier than I normally would need to - primarily so a biker behind me has more warning that I am slowing down and planning to stop, but it also helps remind me if I am on a bike with SPD pedals or toe clips, as I have both and both types of pedals have different methods of disengaging the shoe.

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Old 06-30-15, 08:36 AM
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I like Trekking, figure 8 bend, bars in place of straight bars, but Ergon grips with integrated bar ends are also nice..

a flat to drop bar conversion is more expensive , because the levers, & cables, all have to be replaced ,

the above options the levers stay on the cables, as is.

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Old 06-30-15, 08:58 AM
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Drop bars saved my wrists, not so much the "multiple hand positions" but the hoods position. Note that you can put a set of cross brakes on the bar tops and have an upright position. I use an oversized 31.8 mm (diameter) drop bar and this along with the brake levers makes if feel more like a real hand position to me (vs clutching a skinny bar without brakes). The bar tops are also flat which I very much like the feel of.

I tried clipless, got used to them, but didn't end up liking them. I am most comfortable in skate shoes on platform pedals (no straps).
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Old 06-30-15, 09:02 AM
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I have been looking into a drop bar conversion for my daily rider. The biggest expense is really the shifters as MTB lever/shifter combos on drop bars aren't really a good match. Shifters are also difficult to find used. I would love bar ends but a set for 3x7 gearing are expensive and difficult to find. I can find deals on bars everywhere. But it looks to be between $125-175 for the total conversion. If I decide to go to friction shifters on the stem I can cut my total cost about in half.

I am just posting this so you get an idea of the issues/expense involved if you decide to go to drop bars.
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Old 06-30-15, 09:28 AM
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I tour with flat pedals and a flat bar with bar ends. The bar ends are helpful for different hand positions. I use keen sandals that are comfortable for walking too. No special shoes needed. Don't change your setup right before a trip, you need to get it dialed in first.
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Old 06-30-15, 10:13 AM
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Do you have any pics or details of your bike? As noted by others, converting from a flat to a drop bar can be more involved than simply swapping a handlebar once you factor in geometry and fit, stem, handlebar clamp diameter (can depend upon the bike), shifters and brake levers, checking if new shifters will work with the current derailleurs, verifying that new brake levers are compatible with the current brakes. Might be a simple swap, or might be not so simple. In any case, if you are going on a trip in a few days then maybe hold off until you get back.

You could swap pedals, then take along your current pedals and a pedal wrench on your trip, then it would be easy enough to switch back the pedals if the new setup is causing any issues.
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Old 06-30-15, 10:27 AM
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I've done several tours with toe clips and standard sneakers. I think there are a lot of people who would recommend going clipless over this approach, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. Riding with toe clips and sneakers meant that I didn't have to lug around a second pair of shoes, it also meant that I could simply get off of my bike and do whatever I wanted to do without first having to change shoes. I found that to be a huge advantage.

Honestly, if you get shoes with hard soles and adjust your clips so that they fit snugly over your foot, I can't imagine that the energy efficiency is much less than if you had clipless pedals and shoes. Maybe it is, I don't know. But I can say that for me, personally, I had a fine time going across the United States with good ol' fashioned toe clips. No issues at all.

As for handlebars, you'll also hear a wide range of opinions on this issue as well. Some people ride with only flat bars, others ride with weird mustache bars, etc. Really, it depends on your bike's geometry in relation to your body.

As for what to do first - I'd say handle bars. They have a very profound impact on the comfort you will feel when riding long distance. Much moreso than your choice of clipless vs. traditional pedals.
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Old 06-30-15, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Some frames designed for flat bars will have too long of a top tube to make a good touring frame with drop bars. You might find that your bike is not well suited for the conversion.
This is a good point, one I didn't even think about until I started researching conversions a few weeks ago. Looking at Surly LHT dimensions the ST and TT on the 56cm is very similar to my old Rockhopper. But some MTB's really stretch you out with drop bars when you are in the drops from what I read. So keep that in mind also as you consider this.
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Old 06-30-15, 11:10 AM
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NEITHER
Foot binders on a tour bike??? WTF Wipeouts/ tipovers are almost inevitable.
Sweptback bars are best for me, but may give knee overlap with short TTs. Has more back positions than drops.
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Old 06-30-15, 11:39 AM
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It's probably going to be expensive to change to drop bars, and you're not used to them. Clipless pedals take a little while to get used to, I wouldn't do that right before a tour.

If you've gotten used to the clips and straps, but want something a bit different, look around and see if you can find some good cycling shoes with stiff soles THAT FIT YOUR FEET. The stiffer sole will provide more efficient power transfer to the pedals, and you won't be changing how you stop or start. I'd recommend MTB shoes, because you'll be able to walk instead of skate when you get off the bike. You can add some clipless pedals when you get back, if you're still interested.
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Old 06-30-15, 11:46 AM
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Yeah, I wasn't saying I'm gonna do a big change just before a tour. My bike is just fine for touring, I'm thinking of doing an upgrade later.
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Old 06-30-15, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Coop500 View Post
This is a good point, one I didn't even think about until I started researching conversions a few weeks ago. Looking at Surly LHT dimensions the ST and TT on the 56cm is very similar to my old Rockhopper. But some MTB's really stretch you out with drop bars when you are in the drops from what I read. So keep that in mind also as you consider this.
This is a 1997 TREK 820. Almost done with the conversion (for now).
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Old 06-30-15, 05:46 PM
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I'm going to agree with the "neither" crowd. Pedals won't make any difference in efficiency, and converting flats to drops is a big deal that may or may not give you an end result that you like better.
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Old 06-30-15, 08:57 PM
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I'd vote for getting pedals first. Lots of options for clipless-type shoes suitable for touring. They keep the foot in the exact spot over the pedal axle whereas w/toe clips (w/cleatless shoes) it can be impossible to get perfect setting. Sometimes toe clips aren't high enough to use street shoes comfortably. It can be easier to unsnap from clipless pedals than to pull feet away from toe clips. OTOH I fell over at a stop light recently--I'm pretty sure my shoe quietly/accidentally got snapped back in.
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Old 06-30-15, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
NEITHER
Foot binders on a tour bike??? WTF Wipeouts/ tipovers are almost inevitable.
Sweptback bars are best for me, but may give knee overlap with short TTs. Has more back positions than drops.
The only way you will wipeout or tipover is if it is something you normally do in the course of riding or if you don't go to a nice big open grassy field and practice a little bit or practice the unclipping motion before you get the shoes and pedals. In the relatively short time I have been riding clipless I have fallen ZERO times and almost fallen twice, once was the first night I wore them and unclipped on the opposite side of my lean and the second time was going up a short but very steep hill on my fixed gear with little momentum and things unclipped just fine.

After going clipless finally I really have no interest in going back. It is nice to feel secure in my pedals but be able to get out easily without having to leave things so loose as you would with clips and straps.
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Old 06-30-15, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Kertrek View Post
Yeah, I wasn't saying I'm gonna do a big change just before a tour. My bike is just fine for touring, I'm thinking of doing an upgrade later.
I would get some Ergon grips with bar ends (or go with a trekking/butterfly bar) and switch pedals (A-530s give you a platform on one side and clipless on the other) when you decide to do the upgrade. A drop bar conversion can be rather expensive and it would make more sense to just get a drop bar bike at some point and have both.
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Old 07-01-15, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
The only way you will wipeout or tipover is if it is something you normally do in the course of riding or if you don't go to a nice big open grassy field and practice a little bit or practice the unclipping motion before you get the shoes and pedals. In the relatively short time I have been riding clipless I have fallen ZERO times and almost fallen twice, once was the first night I wore them and unclipped on the opposite side of my lean and the second time was going up a short but very steep hill on my fixed gear with little momentum and things unclipped just fine.

After going clipless finally I really have no interest in going back. It is nice to feel secure in my pedals but be able to get out easily without having to leave things so loose as you would with clips and straps.
My clipless cleats have 1,000's of km on them, undoubtedly it would be smart to replace them. Initially it took a decided effort to snap in but now just placing the foot in correct location lets them snap-in with little force so while approaching a stop I need to make sure to pedal with toe with the disengaged shoe. Today I saw a woman on a group ride take a clipless tumble at a stop-light. Luckily she had ridden over to the grassy area.
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Old 07-02-15, 08:02 AM
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Could you pick up some butterfly bars? They are called trekking bars too and mentioned already in this thread.
All the MTB equipment you already have and are used to will switch into the new bars and you will have a ton of hand angles and positions for comfort.

They don't allow you to get into an aero position like drops, but they are way more diverse than flat bars or flat bars with barends.

$20 from Nashbar. toss the components and some tape on there(wrap from the bottom up) and you are set.
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Old 07-02-15, 01:25 PM
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I'm a big proponent of drop bars on touring bikes, I don't know how guys do it with flat bars. Shoes, meh, doesn't make much of a difference. I've toured with flat pedals just fine, flip-flops when I lost my shoes, running shoes, you name it. After a a couple hundred miles you get used to it.

I originally started out touring on a MTB with Jones H-Bars, which is a nice compromise between flats and multi-position drops. I much prefer drops, but if I had to use MTB levers/shifters, I'd could live with these:

H-BAR

At $125 they are not cheap, but looks like they have a cheaper 'retro' option for $85. There is probably something on the Rivendell site that offers a MTB compatibility and multi hand positions too:

Lugged Steel Bicycles, Wool Clothing, Leather Saddles & Canvas Bike Bags from Rivendell Bicycle Works
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Old 07-02-15, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
My clipless cleats have 1,000's of km on them, undoubtedly it would be smart to replace them. Initially it took a decided effort to snap in but now just placing the foot in correct location lets them snap-in with little force so while approaching a stop I need to make sure to pedal with toe with the disengaged shoe. Today I saw a woman on a group ride take a clipless tumble at a stop-light. Luckily she had ridden over to the grassy area.
Yes replacing cleats is very important. Anything that is going to have a lot of motion on it and wear from that motion should be replaced every so often and inspected more often. Cleaning pedals and lubing them is also a good idea. The more people do regular maintenance the less problems you will have down the line that could cost a lot more.
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Old 07-02-15, 11:05 PM
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Originally Posted by nickw View Post
I'm a big proponent of drop bars on touring bikes, I don't know how guys do it with flat bars. Shoes, meh, doesn't make much of a difference. I've toured with flat pedals just fine, flip-flops when I lost my shoes, running shoes, you name it. After a a couple hundred miles you get used to it.


Some folks ride 'round the world on flat bars but usually they have wider MTB-type tires (& sometimes front suspension) which cuts back on bumps/vibration. But to me drop-bars are 3x more comfortable for road riding esp w/headwinds. Used flip-flops for a while on a tour when bike shoes started to pinch toes. They work OK unless it's a steep climb or it's raining.
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Old 07-06-15, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Some folks ride 'round the world on flat bars but usually they have wider MTB-type tires (& sometimes front suspension) which cuts back on bumps/vibration. But to me drop-bars are 3x more comfortable for road riding esp w/headwinds. Used flip-flops for a while on a tour when bike shoes started to pinch toes. They work OK unless it's a steep climb or it's raining.
Amen brotha, flip flops in the rain suck. I met a German couple in Oregon a few years back, they were riding from Alaska to South America w/Flat bars wearing very non specific cycling gear, there looked to be having a blast. Weren't doing big miles, 30-40 a day, but it worked for them.

N
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Old 07-07-15, 12:02 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by nickw View Post
Amen brotha, flip flops in the rain suck. I met a German couple in Oregon a few years back, they were riding from Alaska to South America w/Flat bars wearing very non specific cycling gear, there looked to be having a blast. Weren't doing big miles, 30-40 a day, but it worked for them.

N
Ironically flip flops sometimes called "shower shoes"--they're often very slippery on wet smooth surfaces, not to mention near-zero wet grip between foot & flip-flop. OTOH river sandals can work OK for biking w/the straps & grippier soles.
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