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Drop Bar Fat Bike (Conversion) from Specialized

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Drop Bar Fat Bike (Conversion) from Specialized

Old 03-02-19, 08:49 PM
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Drop Bar Fat Bike (Conversion) from Specialized

So I made a thread asking whether this would be a good idea, now this thread will be going into details regarding this new drop bar fat bike from Specialized that I recently picked up!

Ok I'm lying, Specialized didn't make a drop bar fat bike. They did however make a women's specific fat bike (that's relevant) that I took and converted to run drop bars and spoiler alert, it runs really well imo. So in this thread I wanted to talk about my thought process behind converting to drop bars, because I've done this in the past however I didn't have nearly the amount of understanding of bikes and bike geometry that I have now, so this will be quite different from the first time that I tried my hand at a drop bar conversion.

So getting into how I came across this bike, the Specialized Hellga. I was searching for a sub $1000 fat bike, preferably Aluminum, so that I could change the flat bars to Jones Bars for more comfort and hand positions. I personally don't find flat bars comfortable for extended periods of riding and I really like drop bars but have found that drop bar bikes with clearance for mountain bike sized tires came at a much higher premium due to their parts and demand (probably), so for a bike that I only intended for winter riding I wanted to keep the price in line with the amount I intended on using the bike. That said I did still want a bike that looked and felt like a good quality bike so I decided to look for a good used fat bike on eBay, and that's where I found the Hellga.

A few things that I took note of when I saw the bike listing: it was clearly listed as a women's fat bike in size L, and it was listed at $990 OBO. I did my best to research the bike as it pertained to being women's specific before submitting an offer for it, and the key differences came in the form of its geometry and to a lesser extent it's contact points.



For the size L, the horizontal top tube is 594mm, the stack is 604mm, and the HT/ST angles and BB Drop seem pretty normal for most XC mountain bike. When I looked at the HTT and Stack measurements I starting looking at a bike that I have been riding for the past couple of months with great success, my 2018 Giant Toughroad GX.



I have a size L Toughroad and comparing it to the Hellga the HTT is only shorter by 14mm, the stack is higher by only 1mm, and the HT angle is steeper by 0.5 degrees and the ST angle is slacker by 1 degree. One thing I should also note is that the Toughroad comes with a 100mm stem, but I had it OEM swapped for an 80mm stem as it felt less stretched out. The Hellga came with a 70mm stem so it even had a shorter stem. I know I'm leaving a couple of things out but my point is from what I found the "women's specific" geometry basically led to having a shorter reach and stack and a lower stand over. Seeing that the geometry was not too far off of from my gravel bike, I jumped on the offer I received and bought the Hellga.
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Old 03-02-19, 10:13 PM
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Buying the Hellga + Parts:

I submitted an offer for the Hellga for $800 which was $190 less than it's original listing price. I received an offer for $825, and after not finding anything better for the price at time I accepted the offer.

When I looked at parts that would work for a conversion, the only things that I "needed" to replace were the brakes, shifters, and cables, although I would need new bar tape. I had a Specialized Hover Flare bar that was on my Toughroad, and the stock bars that came with the Toughroad I put off to the side. Instead of putting those bars on the Hellga I came up with the crazy idea of keeping this bike with as many specialized parts as possible. So I took the Hover bars off my Toughroad and put the bars that came with it back on so that I was free to use the Hover bars on my Hellga.

As for shifters, the bike came with a 2x10 SRAM X5 front and rear derailleurs and I knew that SRAM's 2x10 road shifters worked with their MTB derailleurs using "exact actuation" (I think). I found a used pair of SRAM Rival 2x10 shifters that I bidded on and won for around $111 after shipping. The brakes I decided to get were ZOOM HB-100 Cable to Hydraulic brakes for $60. They say they're "Suitable for mountain bikes, road bikes and folding bikes" and while I did have to fiddle with them to get the lever pull to not feel spongy it did feel like somewhat of a compromise compared to TRP HY/RD brake calipers. That said they work well enough despite my possibly questionable setup.

Getting the used Rival shifters and the off brand brake calipers gave me more wiggle room for other parts for the build. I went with Jagwire compressionless brake housing and shifter cables and housing, costing $31 and $12 respectively, and I also got in-line barrel adjusters for the shift cable housing for $13. I completely replaced the brake housing but I left the old shift housing since was still in good working order only modifying it by trimming it down to fit the barrel adjusters and then adding the additional housing needed to reach the shifters. I could have stopped here and got bar tape, however I did decide to play around with different stems and ultimately ended up getting a Specialized Comp Multi 75mm long stem with 16 degrees overall rise for $54 after tax. I definitely did not need this which is why I'm mentioning it last. If I suck with the stock 70mm 6 degree stem with the Hover bars with 70mm reach and 15mm rise, I wound have been in a somewhat similar position as my Toughroad with 80mm 8 degree stem and 75mm reach bars with no rise and I would most likely been okay with it. Oh and I got the S-Wrap Roubaix tape for $26 after tax. Had it on my other two bikes and I love it.

(I though way too much about this conversion dammit)

All together I ended up spending ~$307 for the parts. I luckily had the bars on hand so that didn't add additional cost, and again I didn't NEED the new stem and I realistically could have pulled my TRP Spyres from my CX bike that is currently in the closet now for this bike. I guess I just said f**k it and went with what I wanted for the build. Including the bike, I spent $1132 to get a drop bar fat bike. (Side note: I actually thought I spent more in the range of $1200-1250 for the bike + conversion only when I did the math previously so seeing that the total came to under $1150 is actually cool)

Build + Riding the Bike

The parts came in one by one so I put everything to together over the course of a week with some testing of bar positions the week prior. The actually process of putting all the parts together I think is kinda boring, although my two favorite moments were when I got the brakes installed and working, and when I got the shifting to work properly between the Rival shifters and X5 derailleurs. I think I'll let these build shots do the talking though.












(Ok I also bought I QR Seatpost, but I did this as an alternative to a dropper post, but it was $20 sooooooo I guess that brings my build to over $1150 by $2........oh well)

I rode this bike in three stages: brakes installed stuck in single speed (22x11), shift cables connected and working w/o bar tape, and bar tape installed. I rode through fresh snow and ice and I was surprised by just what I was able to throw at this bike. Even with drop bars, I felt super confident on this bike, bordering on overconfident. I had so much fun with this bike with the flat bars, and with drop bars I don't see myself enjoying this bike any less (unless I hit some downhill tracks on it.......)

Overall no regrets, only smiles



(PS: I will handle the freakishly long cables and cap them off once I get those in too)
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Old 03-03-19, 08:54 AM
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Dang, I just got into the cyclo/gravel genre. My bike hasn't even arrived yet. Now I seriously want a drop bar fatty.
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Old 03-03-19, 09:41 AM
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The bike looks awesome and crazy fun. Not surprised that you went with a frame billed with female-specific geo...they seem to counter the biggest problem of most MTB drop bar conversions (frames that are too long and low). “Too low” can be fixed with the right angled stem (in extreme cases, VO’s Cigne stem or Crust’s LD stem) but with “too long” you are basically SOL.

Now that I look again, the frame has a bit of the characteristic semi-“step through” feature of many female-specific bikes, but I think that’s probably a good thing considering on snow you might have to make a few unexpected dismounts

The real question for me is why doesn’t at least *one* company sell a drop bar fatty like this?! I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I have to think enough would buy it that one company (like Framed, BD, or one of the big three, who all poop out tons of fatbikes) could fit one drop bar fatty in their lineup!

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Old 03-03-19, 10:14 AM
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Often read here about index miss matching , with Road STI brifters, and mountain derailleurs, ... I assume you sorted out the shifting while on the repair stand..
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Old 03-03-19, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by wheelsmcgee View Post
The bike looks awesome and crazy fun. Not surprised that you went with a frame billed with female-specific geo...they seem to counter the biggest problem of most MTB drop bar conversions (frames that are too long and low). “Too low” can be fixed with the right angled stem (in extreme cases, VO’s Cigne stem or Crust’s LD stem) but with “too long” you are basically SOL.

Now that I look again, the frame has a bit of the characteristic semi-“step through” feature of many female-specific bikes, but I think that’s probably a good thing considering on snow you might have to make a few unexpected dismounts

The real question for me is why doesn’t at least *one* company sell a drop bar fatty like this?! I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I have to think enough would buy it that one company (like Framed, BD, or one of the big three, who all poop out tons of fatbikes) could fit one drop bar fatty in their lineup!
I love having a lower standover honestly. I usually ride larger frames to get enough reach without a super long stem but the annoying part has usually been having the top tube right up my you know what.

As for the why no one makes a drop bar fatty, I kinda talked about it but fat bikes are still somewhat niche I feel, so going with a drop bar fat bike would be a niche within a niche. If that's what you really want however, you'd definitely would be paying a higher premium for it. This definitely is a lower end build altogether and I was lucky to get this at only around $1150. I'd expect a production drop bar fat bike to be in the ballpark of $2000+ depending on the component choice. But hey if there's enough of a demand someone might do it.

Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Often read here about index miss matching , with Road STI brifters, and mountain derailleurs, ... I assume you sorted out the shifting while on the repair stand..
Yup. Already dealt with that headache when I initially set up and tested the shifting. Took me about 1 1/2 hours of troubleshooting but everything got dialed in. I'm glad I planned ahead and built it up day by day instead of all in one shot so I could focus my efforts.
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Old 03-04-19, 04:57 PM
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You got me thinking of possibly doing the same to my fatty, a 2018 Trek Farley EX 9.8. I certainly don't have the courage right now but possibly down the line.
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Old 03-07-19, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Noctilux.95 View Post

You got me thinking of possibly doing the same to my fatty, a 2018 Trek Farley EX 9.8. I certainly don't have the courage right now but possibly down the line.
What is will say and maybe this will help you decide whether or not you should do it is to ask yourself what your intentions are for the bike. If you just want to do it for fun then go on ahead. Since I primarily ride around in the city and since I was already comfortable with drop bars it made it much easier for me to make the switch.
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Old 03-12-19, 06:35 PM
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Swapped the tires and wheels. I was surprised they actually fit the frame and with how well these rolled on pavement when pumped up. I'd say this bike is trail ready now





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Old 03-12-19, 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Noctilux.95 View Post

You got me thinking of possibly doing the same to my fatty, a 2018 Trek Farley EX 9.8. I certainly don't have the courage right now but possibly down the line.

You must be able to handle some very rough terrain with that beast.
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Old 05-18-19, 06:19 PM
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Just wanted to give an update on my bike since it’s been a while. I actually made a lot of changes like adding a dropper post, higher rise stem, getting a set of 29+ wheels built up, and converting to 1x10.

However, I think it’s time to retire the drop bars, as I want this bike to be more trail oriented (and because I feared for my life after riding this bike with drops at a local trail). I will say that I was easily able to swap back to flat bars; it really only took 20 minutes to put everything back. The one thing I will say is that this bike definitely feels like more of a trail bike even with its XC geometry. I’m thinking the 35 degree stem might play a role in that.

I still don’t prefer traditional flat bars so I ordered a Surly Moloko handlebar which should give me more hand positions for extended riding. The drop bars were fun, so I will miss it a bit...


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Old 05-18-19, 11:29 PM
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Why not get a salsa fargo apex from REI for $1300?
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Old 05-19-19, 12:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Elvo View Post
Why not get a salsa fargo apex from REI for $1300?
1: I’d be getting another bike that I didn’t need.

2: There would have been a HUGE discrepancy in tire clearance. Understand that I wanted a Fat Bike for winter riding. I just so happened to have found a bike that for me converted to drop handlebars pretty well. Oh, and I already had most of the stuff that I needed to make the conversion work anyway.
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