It is possible to put drop bars on a hybrid bike. Ideally, the process is straightforward and requires just a few handy tools.
I am going to go through the whole process, and also this article has you covered for any incompatibility-related hiccups that you may experience along the way. There are many benefits associated with putting drop bars on a hybrid bike and it might be worthwhile for you!
Why Choose Drop Bars?
Drop bars are extremely popular among bikers because they combine excellent aesthetics with flexibility.
Like bullhorns, they enable the rider to sit in a vastly more aerodynamic position while tucking their upper body in. This also lowers your center of gravity as you ride the bike. If your primary focus will be track racing, it’s worth the money and work to get a decent set of drop bars.
The tucked position will also help you apply more pedaling power with lower exertion. (Source).
Invented in the 1920s by Percy Stenton in Ardwick, Manchester, they have been the primary choice of racers since. (Source)
Many bike riders incorporate a brake hood into their drop bars, which serves as an additional bullhorn bar and provides additional hand positions to hold onto.
Brake hoods are more comfortable for the wrists than flat bars for many individuals because they keep the hand in a neutral posture. This is effective for climbs, where the ‘bullhorn’ design really comes into its own.
Finally, they look very cool.
They are versatile as they function well for cruising around the city on flat roads but also for any endeavors on the track.
So regardless of what you choose to do, Drop Bars work effectively. This is especially so for long-distance riding, which is where they are fully utilized.
The primary complaint people often have with Flat Bars is that they are hard on your wrists for longer journeys, but this problem is effectively eliminated through multiple hand positions which are offered by the drop bar.
It is worth pointing out though that they become less effective if you have to navigate tight corners because of the way you have to position your hands.
Choosing your Drop bar
Material of Choice
Because of its low cost and capacity to be both lightweight and robust, aluminum is more preferred than carbon.
Aluminum is favored by mountain cyclists because it is thought to be more impact-resistant. Because aggressive mountain bikers are more prone to falls, this material is particularly common.
Furthermore, It is easier to tell If an aluminum component has been damaged after a collision, as compared to a carbon component.
Carbon handlebars are prominent in certain racing categories, particularly road cycling and cross-country mountain biking. A lighter bike is useful to an athlete’s performance in these types of races and biking scenarios.
As a result, carbon is an excellent choice since it weighs lighter than aluminum. It can be stiffened, allowing the rider to better convert energy into motion.
Carbon may also help with riding with comfort. It’s great at dampening vibrations, which is typical while riding on a city street with inadequate maintenance.
The Width of the Handlebar
Measure your width across your shoulders and add 2cm if you’re looking for drop bars on a road bike. This extra breadth is to accommodate for the position that you will be holding the handle in.
The handle width is measured from the center of one bar’s end to the other bar. It is worth noting that bars longer than 46cm are very difficult to find. (Source)
Equipment and Instructions
How to Change Your Handlebars
This video by the Global Cycling Network (GCN) serves as a pretty stellar guide on how to go about installing drop bars on a hybrid bike.
I will mostly be referring to the instructions given in the referred video while going through the process.
You will need fitting equipment which includes a set of Allen Keys, a torque wrench, a tape measure, an electrical type, and some new bar tape.
Cut off your old bar tape carefully if you want to reuse it. At this stage, it would benefit you to take out the tape measure and measure the exact position of your levers, to ensure that they are equidistant, especially if they are of different heights.
Removing the Levers
To remove the levers, you would need to remove the brake-head cover to access the bolting layer on your shifter.
Hybrid bikes come with a variety of different shifters so follow the instructions for the exact type of shifter you have. Most of the time, you will be using a 5mm Allen Key to loosen your stem bolts and remove your handlebars.
If you are using carbon handlebars instead of aluminum ones, you would want to consider using a fiber grip to avoid the possibility of slipping.
You can carefully remove the handlebar and check the stem for any sign of wear or tear. It would also be a good idea to clean the stem before the application of a new handlebar.
Application of the New Handlebar
When applying new handlebars over the stem, make sure to not over tighten either of the two sides, as that can get quite uncomfortable in the long run.
Slowly and steadily place in the new bolts, while making sure that they remain straight. While most handlebars have markings on their backside to help you perfectly align them to the center of the bike, don’t fret if yours do not.
Simply use your previous tape measure readings and align manually. At this point, take out your torque wrench and set the stem bolts to their lowest torque setting.
It is okay to go slightly lower than the advised number. However, do not overtighten the shifter’s bolts because this is important to give you some leeway in case of a crash and to prevent any damage done to them.
The angle at which you would like your drop bar’s handles is a personal preference, but just make sure to use your previous lever measurements to ensure that they are just right.
Taping the Brake Wires
Once the handle is placed, you have the choice to either tape both of the wires on the back end of the handle or to have one of them on the outside.
Ensure that the taping is firm because loose taping will lead to dampened braking.
Apply multiple layers of tape to make sure they stay in place.
How to Tape Your Handlebars
Application of the Bar Tape
Now all that’s left to do is to apply your bar tape. The video above by Global Cycling Network serves as a good all-around guide for taping your drop bars on a hybrid bike.
Firstly, pull back your brake hoods so you can tape them around that region.
Whether you go top to bottom or the other way around is entirely a personal preference in this regard.
However, you must make sure that you are taping firmly and the tape is evenly distributed across the entire handle. You can choose to overlap by wrapping a third of the tape’s width as you make the rotations.
Incompatibilities and How to Fix Them
If your brake shifters are not compatible with drop bars, it might be worthwhile to invest in a separate, more compatible shifter.
This can either be a Road Bike shifter or a Mountain Bike shifter with the insides of the clamp carefully filled.
Alternatively, any bar-end shifters or handlebar shifters with larger clamps would fit the bill. This might hinder your performance with mechanical disk brakes or V-brakes.
However, it can be easily avoided through cantilever brakes on your bike’s V-brake mount, or through using a mini V-brake. (Source).
This conversion can get pricey so it is worthwhile to research the exact specifications of your bike. You can either get new shifters compatible with your derailleurs or choose to put your present shifters in an accessory mount, which while adding an extra component achieves the same result.