It is very possible to put drop bars on your mountain bike. Many mountain bikers do exactly this, for a number of reasons (which I’ll go into in a moment).
To put drop bars on a mountain bike, you will first need to select the ideal drop bars for you. You will then need to detach the current handlebars from your mountain bike and apply the new drop bars.
Sounds easy on paper!
But hopefully, after reading this article you’ll have all the knowledge and skills required to pull this job off. I’ll tell you all the advantages of using drop bars on a mountain bike, which ones to pick, and exactly how to put them on your mountain bike. Let’s go!
What are Drop Bars?
Drop handlebars are one of the two options that are available for bike handlebars; the other option is flat handlebars. Drop handlebars were first introduced in the 1880s for bike racers.
The main purpose was to get the rider in a low position that would help avoid wind obstacles and resistance (Source).
Drop handlebars have a sophisticated design that is ideal for high-speed riding on both off and on-road. It also provides various positions for hands to relieve pressure, whereas flat handlebars only allow one position.
What are the Advantages of Drop Bars?
Drop bars are a popular choice among bikers due to their ability to provide both comfort and aesthetics.
They have a flat center section that is connected to a stem. The two ends bend towards the rider’s direction at a low position.
Here are some of the advantages of having drop bars on a mountain bike:
1. Various Hand Positions
Drop bars allow hands three distinct positions including on the bars, on the hoods, and in the drops. While riding on a long commute, it is better to have multiple positions and options for gripping the bars.
This not only helps relieve the pressure on the hands but also provides a comfortable ride. Moreover, riding on the bars or hoods position allows a natural hand position.
2. Aerodynamic Position
The concept of aerodynamics is very important in biking or cycling. It plays an important role in determining your speed and energy usage.
The faster the speed of a bike, the more aerodynamics will act.
Drop bars help the rider to crouch down to reduce resistance and drag. This allows an increase and improvement in efficiency and speed. This position is also best for going downhill or on any other dirt trail.
3. Ideal for Climbing Hills
If you are a frequent rider, you must be aware that riding up steep hills requires shifting your body weight forward. This makes climbing comfortable and easier.
The brake hoods in these bars provide a firm space to grip your bike.
Moreover, an added benefit of leaning forward is that you can get additional leverage for pedaling. This allows you to exert more power on the pedals with each stroke.
4. Best for Narrow Paths and Spots
While the width size of a standard drop bar is around 40 to 46cm, flats bars are typically 58 to 60 cm wide. This means flat bars are 20 cm wider than drop bars.
This difference is important because if you face a lot of traffic on your daily commute, you can safely fit through narrow gaps with a drop bar. This can save you a lot of time which is not possible with flat bars.
5. Better Efficiency
Having a mountain bike with drop bars allows you to crouch down while riding downhill, through the headwind, or at a high speed.
This ensures a better aerodynamic position that is more energy-efficient. This also means that no energy is wasted in fighting against air resistance.
However, if your bike has a flat bar that only allows an upright position, your speed will be much slower.
Things to Consider While Choosing a Drop Bar
Changing your bike’s flat bars to drop bars can change your bike and riding experience significantly.
There are a variety of drop bars available in the market. However, before changing flat bars to drop bars on your mountain bike, you should consider certain things.
Here are some of the details that will help you in choosing the right drop bar for your mountain bike:
Typically, handlebars are made from carbon, alloy, or titanium.
In mountain bikes, they are usually made from either carbon or alloy.
While all manufacturers have distinct approaches, handlebars differ based on their damping characteristics depending on the material they are made of. For instance, aluminum handlebars have different damping characteristics than carbon handlebars.
Moreover, carbon handlebars are said to be less durable than aluminum bars. But on the other hand, they are also lighter in weight than aluminum bars (Source).
Hence, each material has its pros and cons that you need to consider before making a decision.
If you’re not a professional biker then all drop bars may look similar to you.
However, there is a huge difference when it comes to their shapes and sizes. The different shapes of drop bars depend on their drop, width, and reach.
3. Drop and Reach
Drop and reach go hand-in-hand as they both require proper and similar bike fit.
If a bar has a reach that is too long then the rider will have to stretch forward and out of the saddle. This adds to the weight on your shoulders, arms, and hands.
Similarly, if a bar has a drop that is too deep then the rider will have to lean over to reach it and will compromise the seating position, preventing an optimal and comfortable position. Moreover, a lower position can also put extra strain and pressure on your neck.
Drop Bar Conversion on a Mountain Bike
Converting a flat handlebar of a mountain bike to a drop bar is a little more complex than it sounds.
If you’re thinking of doing it yourself then you will need a wide drop bar as it will provide better steering leverage.
Next, you will need a stem to place the bar in a position that is comfortable, and also high enough to control. Mountain bikes usually come with stems that are suitable for flat bars with smaller diameters.
Drop bars come in various sizes. The most common sizes are 25.4mm, 26mm, 26.4mm, 31.8 mm, and 35mm (Source).
While selecting a drop bar for your mountain bike, it is important to remember that the bar diameter is the same as the stem clamp diameter.
This video by Park Tool serves as a great tutorial for changing your bike’s handle:
The tools that you’ll need for this conversion include a ruler, angle gauge, scissors, knife, torque driver, wrench, grease, and assembly compound.
To remove the flat handlebar, start by detaching the bar, plugs, grips, brakes, and shifters.
Once you have separated the controls, you can now loosen the stem bolts.
Next, remove the faceplate and bar. If your bike has an electronic shifting system and internal routing, don’t forget to disconnect the wire from the handlebars.
To install the drop bar, start by applying a thread locker or grease to the faceplate bolt threads.
If you have a carbon drop bar then it is advised that you apply an assembly compound where your bar will meet the stem. This will create the required friction between the stem and the bar and prevent rotation.
If the stem has removable faceplates, make sure the gaps on the top and bottom are equal so that there’s no added stress on bolt heads.
Next, slide on the levers and make sure your bar is centered by placing it on the ground. You also need to ensure that your lever positioning is equal on each side.
Tune the rotation, lever position, and bar rolls according to your liking.
Tighten and torque the faceplate bolts. To distribute the pressure equally, tighten the bolts in a cross pattern.
Before you wrap the drop bars, you should secure any wires to the bars with strapping tape. You can also fit the wires to any channels that may be provided on your bar. This prevents any bulks on the bars and adds to the aesthetics of the bike. Lastly, wrap your drop handlebars.
Mountain bikes are ideal for different terrains as well as long commutes. But generally, they come with flat handlebars which can lower the speed and efficiency of the bike.
You can solve this problem by installing drop bars on your mountain bike. The process can be a bit complicated but it’s not impossible.
I am pretty sure I have provided all the necessary details that you will need to install a new handlebar in this article. A quick read-through can help you with the drop bar conversion on your mountain bike. Good luck!