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Converting MTB to drop-bar touring

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Converting MTB to drop-bar touring

Old 02-01-17, 09:01 AM
  #1  
dannwilliams
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Converting MTB to drop-bar touring

I sold my touring bike last year, and this year I want to convert my old mtb to a drop-bar touring bike. Who has done it, and what are the challenges I can look forward to? Mine is a 1989 GT Timberline, with the funky brakes on the underside of the chain stay/bottom bracket area. I currently use it as a grocery getter, around town bike. I find it comfortable but want the drop bars for personal reasons. I am also thinking an OMM front rack to ditch that handlebar bag.
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Old 02-01-17, 09:13 AM
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There's a whole thread here, with tons of great examples, pics, and info.

http://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vi...nversions.html

My '88 Schwinn KOM has the same U-brakes on the chainstay. They're a pain to get at, but they work pretty well with new cables and Kool-stop MTN pads.



U-brakes use the same cable pull as cantilever and sidepull brakes, so they're already compatible with drop-bar brake levers.

Otherwise, the biggest issue is top tube length. Many vintage MTBs have very long top tubes, which can make the reach too long with drop bars (unless you're very flexible). Mine, with 24" (61 cm) top tube, is a stretch. I've since changed it back to Jones Loop bars with MTB controls, but it was a lot of fun to ride in the drops.

If the MTB is your size, you may have an issue. If it's a size too small, then it works ok with drops.
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Old 02-01-17, 09:21 AM
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IME...unless you have a **** ton of spare parts laying around, you are going to find that this is a difficult and expensive endeavor. Best bet is to find some used friction bar end shifters. Obviously, you will also need some new brake levers, as well as new cables.
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Old 02-01-17, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Tim_Iowa View Post
There's a whole thread here, with tons of great examples, pics, and info.

http://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vi...nversions.html

My '88 Schwinn KOM has the same U-brakes on the chainstay. They're a pain to get at, but they work pretty well with new cables and Kool-stop MTN pads.



U-brakes use the same cable pull as cantilever and sidepull brakes, so they're already compatible with drop-bar brake levers.

Otherwise, the biggest issue is top tube length. Many vintage MTBs have very long top tubes, which can make the reach too long with drop bars (unless you're very flexible). Mine, with 24" (61 cm) top tube, is a stretch. I've since changed it back to Jones Loop bars with MTB controls, but it was a lot of fun to ride in the drops.

If the MTB is your size, you may have an issue. If it's a size too small, then it works ok with drops.
Thanks for the link.
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Old 02-01-17, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by dannwilliams View Post
I sold my touring bike last year, and this year I want to convert my old mtb to a drop-bar touring bike. Who has done it, and what are the challenges I can look forward to? Mine is a 1989 GT Timberline, with the funky brakes on the underside of the chain stay/bottom bracket area. I currently use it as a grocery getter, around town bike. I find it comfortable but want the drop bars for personal reasons. I am also thinking an OMM front rack to ditch that handlebar bag.
Like somebody else pointed out, cockpit length is one of the biggest issues. Road bars / levers put your hands 2-3" in front of stem centerline. Assuming you bike fits correct now, you'd need to shorten your stem to account for this extra length.

Brakes shouldn't be a problem.
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Old 02-01-17, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by nickw View Post
Like somebody else pointed out, cockpit length is one of the biggest issues. Road bars / levers put your hands 2-3" in front of stem centerline. Assuming you bike fits correct now, you'd need to shorten your stem to account for this extra length.

Brakes shouldn't be a problem.
Thanks, I hadn't considered the longer reach. A little bit to look into before I continue.
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Old 02-01-17, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by dannwilliams View Post
Thanks, I hadn't considered the longer reach. A little bit to look into before I continue.
Have a look what Tim Iowa did on his conversion, that is somewhere in the 40-50mm range from the looks of it. Typically you'd use a 90-120 stem, he shortened up reach by the 2-3" (50-75mm) to account for the drop bars.
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Old 02-01-17, 12:53 PM
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Mine has a u brake and I ride it everywhere with drops. The reach thing was no big deal. The top tube length was the same as my road bike and I used the same length stem as my road bike. That's not quite right in terms of the math since the stem if higher but it's close enough to work very well. This is my 1987 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp:


http://
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Old 02-01-17, 01:09 PM
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Look at Soma Hwy 1 drop bars or something like them where the reach is short. Some bars have a huge reach and others are compact not only to the drops, but also for reach.
Keeping the reach down with something like the hwy 1 bars will help offset the increased resch typically created with these conversions.
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Old 02-01-17, 01:20 PM
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Starting with an older MTB can help minimize the problem of reach. Top tubes on MTBs got longer over time. The earlier ones did not have as long a top tube relative to seatpost length. My 1987 Stumpjumper has a 20 inch seat tube and a 22 inch top tube which is not that different from my road bike (22 inch square).
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Old 02-01-17, 01:33 PM
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The toptube thing is an issue that can be ameliorated to some degree by a shorter reach stem. Also having a frame just a tad small helps. I did this with a trek 930 and it turned out pretty nice. A friend has that bike now and it looks great on very time I see it. One real,advantage is the ability to Put larger tires on it.
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Old 02-01-17, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Starting with an older MTB can help minimize the problem of reach. Top tubes on MTBs got longer over time. The earlier ones did not have as long a top tube relative to seatpost length. My 1987 Stumpjumper has a 20 inch seat tube and a 22 inch top tube which is not that different from my road bike (22 inch square).
Just measured my road bike and the mountain bike, both measure 22.5" from nose of saddle to the front of the bar. So I don't think it should pose a reach problem. Time to tinker!

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Old 02-01-17, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by nickw View Post
Have a look what Tim Iowa did on his conversion, that is somewhere in the 40-50mm range from the looks of it. Typically you'd use a 90-120 stem, he shortened up reach by the 2-3" (50-75mm) to account for the drop bars.
Exactly. I'm using a Nitto Dirt Drop MT-8 stem, which has about an effective horizontal extension of 65 mm. This stem was designed for this exact purpose (drop bars on a vintage MTB) for the '87 Bridgestone MB-1 (one of the first drop bar MTBs). https://www.rivbike.com/collections/...nt=23337069761

The bars I used are Nitto Randonneur B135s. They have pretty short reach (105 mm) for a classically styled bar. Most modern drop bars have even shorter reach, to counter-act the lengthening of STI hoods.
For example, the Salsa Cowbell bar has only 76 mm of reach.
I really like the Salsa Cowchipper (Cowbell with a little more flare), but to use that bar with a vintage MTB (1" threaded steerer), you'd need to use a threadless adapter post and threadless stem, due to the 31.8 mm clamp diameter.

I had fun with this bar setup, but the front end was always a little squirrely when I tried single track. It has more predictable handling since I switched it to Jones Loop bars and MTB controls.

Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Starting with an older MTB can help minimize the problem of reach. Top tubes on MTBs got longer over time. The earlier ones did not have as long a top tube relative to seatpost length. My 1987 Stumpjumper has a 20 inch seat tube and a 22 inch top tube which is not that different from my road bike (22 inch square).
Yeah, my KOM's 24 inch (61 cm) top tube is longer than my usual size, 23 inch or 58-59 cm. If it were a size XL frame (21 x 23.5) instead of XXL (22 x 24), it probably would be a better drop bar conversion for me.
It's still a great ride with Jones bars, especially since I don't use it as much for fast gravel rides, more commuting, touring, and exploring. I bought a plastic (CF) 'cross bike a couple years ago that excels on gravel.
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Old 02-02-17, 12:51 AM
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I encountered two problems in my recent dropbar conversion.

The first was trying to find a stem that was narrow for the old school steerer tube but wide enough for a modern bar. I imagine they exist somewhere online but local sourcing was a bust. I solved that by finding a narrow modern bar at MEC and using the original stem.

The second problem was shifters. Used barends are as rare as hens teeth around here and a new set will cost at least $100. Add 25 for bars, 20 for tape, 40 for brake levers and (in my case) 20 for interupters.. and that makes for an expensive conversion. I resolved that for now by using some Shimano stem shifters (index/friction) for $17 and am keeping my eyes open for barends when they eventually show up.

I like the look of barends on a mtb but stem shifters are a pretty workable compromise when you don't want to spend a lot.
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Old 02-02-17, 01:27 AM
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I got road bars usually made for 'fixies' and these are the same diameter as flat bars and threaded the MTB trigger shifter in.

Its on a two of my mini velos though and not a MTB.


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Old 02-19-17, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by dannwilliams View Post
Just measured my road bike and the mountain bike, both measure 22.5" from nose of saddle to the front of the bar. So I don't think it should pose a reach problem. Time to tinker!
The issue, though, is that with drop bars, your hands will be 3 or 4 inches ahead of that point. The new reach may be roughly 26". As for brake leavers, after a couple thousand miles. I really love the ones that came on my Surly Disc Trucker and they are under $20 at Amazon. They are Tektro RL 520.
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Old 02-20-17, 04:28 PM
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Trekking bars are a lot simpler conversion, as you keep all your levers.

Brakes and gears..

I like them.. I have a few Drop bar bikes, but built from scratch, not conversions,,

...
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