If you’ve picked up a hybrid bike to tackle all sorts of terrain, you might not find that flat handlebars are the thing for you. The multiple hand positions and power advantage of drop bars can make them an appealing temptation, especially if you do a lot of riding on roads.
Buying a new gravel bike with drop handlebars can be quite pricey, however, and a road bike won’t let you use your drop handlebars on light trails or gravel.
This means that putting drop handlebars on a hybrid bike can seem like a good option to save money while giving you the riding experience you want. But is it possible? Is it a good idea?
We’ll go over the basic question, why it might be a complex process, and talk about some alternatives that you might want to consider before taking the plunge and sticking a set of new handlebars on your hybrid.
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Can You Put Drop Handlebars On A Hybrid Bike?
Bike handlebars are technically interchangeable, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or cheap to put drop handlebars on a hybrid bike. You’ll need to put in a lot of work to find a set of drop bars that fit your bike and body.
Additionally, your existing shifters and brake levers probably won’t fit on your new bars, and the task of switching out a set of handlebars is fairly complicated.
These factors mean that it’s often more economical to pick up a second bike that comes with drop bars installed already.
What Kind Of Drop Bars Fit On A Hybrid?
Finding bars with the right diameter at the stem usually isn’t too hard, but finding a set of bars that has the right distance from your hybrid’s seat position is often nearly impossible.
Hybrids and mountain bikes are usually designed with long top tubes. This means that your seat is a lot farther from your handlebars than it would be on a road bike.
Before purchasing a set of handlebars, measure the distance between the very front of your seat and your current handlebars. That’s how far the hoods of your drop bars will be when you install them.
If you can, go to a bike shop and measure some of the bikes that they have and see how they feel.
You’ll probably find that bikes that feel comfortable to ride have a much shorter distance between the seat and the hoods than the distance you measured.
To combat this, you can install a shorter stem and look for bars with a small reach, meaning they have a short horizontal distance between the clamp and the farthest part of the bars.
Both of these actions can slightly reduce the distance of your drops from your seat. Neither is a perfect solution. Switching to a short stem means you’ll have to purchase and install your new stem.
If you’ve already swapped to a short stem to increase your comfort, shortening it further might be impossible. If you’re forced to use handlebars with a small reach, you’ll have a fairly narrow selection.
Recommended Product: Vincita Bicycle Drop Bar Convert Ends For Flat Handlebars
Do Hybrid Bike Brakes And Shifters Work On Drop Handlebars?
Even if you can figure out a set of handlebars that work, your new drop bars will usually be much thicker at the ends than your old flat bars. Your hybrid brake levers and shifters won’t be able to just slide back on.
Some cyclists will dremel out the inside of these components so that they fit, but there’s a big difference between a flat bar brake, shifter, or brake shifter combo that’s been dremeled and a similar component that was designed to be used with your new style of handlebars.
The second option is usually much more ergonomic and easier to use while riding. The problem with buying new components is that they might not work with the rest of your bike.
Road bike levers are usually “short pull,” meaning that they won’t physically move the cable enough to actuate the brakes on your hybrid. To fix this, you’ll either need to install an additional component called a “travel agent,” allowing your levers to move the cable farther, or buy new brakes.
Both options cost money and add more things for you to install. If you choose to purchase new shifters, you’ll likely find that you have to purchase new derailleurs and a new cassette as well.
Road bike shifters are set up for a different shift ratio than mountain bike (or hybrid bike) shifters, meaning your new shifters won’t cause your shifters to switch gears the way you want.
Just like with brakes, you can definitely switch out these parts, but doing so will increase the cost and difficulty of your conversion.
This might mean that the ‘free’ old handlebars you have lying around won’t work for your conversion.
What Other Options Exist?
The easiest way to get something resembling drop bars on your hybrid is to purchase a set of bar ends.
Bar ends are components that you attach to the end of your flat handlebars that provide grips in your desired shape, giving you at least one extra set of hand positions without needing to change many components on your bicycle.
Bar ends come in multiple flavors, including straight grips and curved drop bar ends that mimic the drop bar experience. They’re not without downsides, of course. You won’t be able to use your brakes or shifters with your hands on the bar ends.
Bar ends have a very strong upside in allowing you to try out the ergonomics of different handlebar types on your frame without committing to a full handlebar swap.
You’ll get a somewhat different riding position out of real drop bars, of course, but bar ends can give you a general idea of how your riding position might feel if you swap things over.
If you find that it’s a massive stretch, there’s no real harm done. You can take the bar ends off without a lot of work. If you like the position, however, you can think about doing a full conversion to drop bars at a later date.
Converting Hybrid Flat Bar To Drop Bar ( Easy )
The technical process of converting your hybrid’s flat handlebars to a set of drop bars is simple.
You remove the cables to your brakes and derailleurs, remove the old handlebars, put the new handlebars on, and reconnect the cables. Add a bit of bar tape and you’re good to go!
The issues that tend to trip up amateur bike enthusiasts on conversion projects like these involve the parts. Drop handlebars have different geometry and different diameters than flat bars.
This means that even if your old brake levers and shifters fit on your new drop bars, you’ll probably find them difficult to use in normal riding positions. As a result, it’s often prudent to switch out these parts.
Unfortunately, road bike brakes and derailleurs are different enough from their mountain or hybrid bike equivalents that your old hardware might not work with the new controls.
This might mean that you need to change the brakes, derailleurs, or cassette on your bike as well. If you’re looking for a truly easy conversion, two options exist.
First, consider adding drop bar ends to your flat handlebars. These accessories simply clamp onto the end of your handlebars, requiring no hardware changes on the rest of your bike.
You won’t be able to use your brakes or shifters from riding positions on the drops, but you also won’t have to change out four extra components on your bike to accommodate your new handlebars.
Second, consider getting a quote for a drop bar conversion from your friendly local bike shop. The professionals at your local store will be more than happy to assist you with your conversion.
They’ll know exactly what parts work with what and can give you an accurate estimate for the whole project before starting, ensuring that everything stays under budget.
Be warned, buying five or six new parts for your bike can add up fast. A drop bar conversion can easily cost hundreds of dollars, especially if you get it done professionally.
Is A Drop Bar Conversion Worth It?
Generally speaking, the cost of a drop bar conversion makes these projects uneconomical for hobby cyclists. People definitely do switch out the flat handlebars on their bikes for drop bars.
But they don’t do so because it’s a good idea. They do it because it’s a fun project, they have the parts lying around, or because they have an emotional attachment to their bikes.
More often these people tend to be experienced bike mechanics who happen to have many of the parts they need already from other projects.
If this doesn’t describe you and you’re not willing to undertake a complicated and difficult project, ask your local bike shop how much they’d charge to help you with your conversion.
Depending on their answer, you might find that it’s a better option to pick up a set of bar ends or purchase an inexpensive gravel bike with drop handlebars instead.