I purchased my first bike with drop bars when I was 16 after saving every dime I could muster from my summer job. I thought I was the coolest thing on the road when I got into that aerodynamic position.
While some bikes are sold with drop bar handlebars installed, others are sold with alternative handlebar designs. And if you like the idea of riding around with a set of drop bars, then that raises the question:
Can you put drop bars on any bike?
You can convert most bikes to drop bars, even hybrid and mountain bikes, which usually come standard with “flat” handlebars. It’s easiest to install a pair of drop bars that are the same diameter as your current handlebars. However, it’s usually possible to install drop bars of different diameters with more effort.
That just scratches the surface of this topic, which can range from simple to complex depending on the circumstances.
So, let’s dig deeper into the following:
How to Tell If Your Bike is Compatible with Drop Bars
The last thing any rider wants to do is to purchase drop bars for their bike only to find out that they don’t fit properly. The first thing that you need to know to determine whether your bike is compatible with drop bars is the diameter of your current handlebars.
Handlebars come in a number of different sizes that normally range from 25.4mm to around 35mm. The diameter of your handlebars can be easily determined by using a set of calipers.
If your current handlebars are the same diameter as your desired drop bars then your bike is easily compatible with drop bars. However, if your drop bars are a different diameter then your bike may require shims to mount the new drop bars.
Drop bars can be added to almost any bike, but some bikes may take much more time and adjustment in order to make the drop bars fit. Price can also play a role in whether or not to add drop bars to a bike; while nearly all bikes can be made to be compatible with drop bars, many will require modifications which can become costly.
Can You Put Drop Bars on a Mountain Bike?
Technically, you can install drop bars on most mountain bikes. And if you intend to use your mountain bike for commuting or riding on the road, then it could be beneficial. However, there are also downsides to using drop bars on a mountain bike. For example, it could negatively affect how the bike fits your body.
Allow me to elaborate.
While drop bars can be put on a mountain bike, some people argue that they shouldn’t because the fit isn’t as good compared with the standard “flat” handlebars that are typically used on mountain bikes.
The spacing from the seat of the mountain bike to the flat handlebars is generally designed to meet exact specifications; if drop bars are added to mountain bikes which were originally designed for flat bars the reach can be too drastic and lead to an improper fit for the rider.
In addition, mountain bikers who ride on off-road terrain may benefit from flat bars due to the extra stability that they are known for providing. So if you like to ride on a lot of trails or challenging routes, then think twice before slapping a pair of drop bars on your bike.
Can You Put Drop Bars on a Hybrid Bike?
A Hybrid bike is a bike that is a marriage between a mountain bike and a road bike. And although hybrid bikes are normally sold with flat bars installed, you should be able to replace the handlebars with drop bars if you want to.
Often hybrid riders who put drop bars on their hybrid do so in order to make their riding position more aerodynamic. Bike riders in urban areas may also add drop bars so that they can navigate crowded areas easier due to the decreased width of their handlebars with drop bars.
Can You Put Drop Bars on a Flat Bar Road Bike?
Drop bars are often installed on road bikes that were originally designed to have flat bars. This is probably the style of bike that is best suited for a drop bar upgrade, if you want to make the switch.
Below are a few of the benefits of adding drop bars to your road bike. Many of these will also apply to the other bicycle types we covered earlier.
- Drop bars increase road bike speed
- Drop bars on road bikes reduce air resistance
- Drop bars added on a road bike greatly increases efficiency
- Drop bars allow riders to navigate tight spaces more easily
- Drop bars are more ideal for riders who often climb hilly terrain because the rider’s weight is shifted further forward on the bike making climbing easier
If you’ve made up your mind to try drop bars, then you’ll also want to keep a few things in mind before buying them.
How to Choose Drop Bars for Your Bike (A Few Tips)
There are a few factors that should be considered when you choose drop bars for your bike. One rule of thumb is to choose drop bar handlebars that are about the same width as the space between your shoulders.
Also, a good guide is the more narrow the drop bars, the more aerodynamic you will be, and the more space between your handlebars, the more stable you will be.
So, when choosing drop bars, your decision partially rests with whether you are looking for speed or stability or a balance of the two.
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll also want to compare the diameter of your current handlebars with the diameter of the available drop bars. Using handlebars with the same diameter makes conversion easier.
Finally, if you’re new to this process and haven’t bought any drop bars before, then it can be a BIG help to go into a local bike shop and actually touch and examine a few different pairs of handlebars (I know, its so old fashioned).
And while you’re there, bike shops are typically staffed with folks that know a LOT about bikes, so you might be able to get some additional tips on how well (or bad) your favorite pair of drop bars would fit on your bike.
How to Install Drop Bars
Alright, if you’ve made up your mind about installing drop bars, that’s great!
But, before I describe the steps, let me offer a short caveat. If you’re not confident in your mechanical skills, there’s no shame in having a local bike shop do the installation for you. It could save you some trouble, or possibly keep you safer in case you accidentally miss something.
With that said, here are the high level steps for completing the installation of your new drop bars:
- To make things easy, measure the size of your current handlebars and choose drop bars that are the same diameter. (Note: for different handlebar sizes, additional steps will be required)
- Carefully remove any bar tape on your bike’s old handlebars (if applicable)
- Unscrew the mounting bolt and take off your brake levers.
- Remove your handle bars out of the stem of your bike.
- Insert your drop bars into the bike stem and tighten down the bolts to secure your drop bars.
- Reinstall your brake levers
- Add your preferred bar tape.
For a more in-depth look at the process, check out this video from RJ the Bike Guy:
Is Converting to Drop Bars Worth It?
Converting to drop bars is probably worth it for riders looking for more speed, aerodynamics, and efficiency. On the other hand, a drop bar conversion is probably not worth it for riders who want a more stable ride, a more relaxed riding position, or those who want to save some cash.