When I first started telling people about drop bar mountain bikes, so many people said, don’t you mean a gravel bike. When actually, there is such a thing as a drop bar mountain bike, and although there are not a vast amount on the market now, they will be huge in the future, and you will see these everywhere.
They are some of the most fantastic adventure bikes you can buy and will make an amazing addition to your collection. They will be bikepacking masters and ready to go anywhere on any adventure literally.
In this article, we’re going to tell you all about drop bar mountain bikes and why you need one in your life.
What is a Drop Bar Mountain Bike designed to do?
Drop bar mountain bikes are an amazing tool, especially for adventure. They are designed to be able to take on seriously challenging terrain and take you far out into the wilderness quickly.
They’re great for bikepacking as they have loads of mounts and are designed to be able to carry lots of luggage.
What makes up a Drop Bar Mountain Bike?
In this next section, we’re going to speak about what makes up a drop bar mountain bike, and the best way to do that is to break them down into separate parts and show you what makes them so unique.
Frame and Fork
When it comes to drop bar mountain bikes, you are typically seeing all three primary materials being used, Carbon, Steel, and Aluminum. Generally, many of them are Steel though, and that’s the perfect material for a bike like this. Steel has amazing qualities in that it is super strong and soaks up the bumps and vibrations from the road.
When it comes to the geometry, you will be looking at mountain bike geometry but with less reach to compensate for the drop bars. Although many people think you can just chuck drop bars on an Mtb, it’s not that simple when it comes to these bikes.
They can sometimes give a road bike-style frame with a high bottom bracket and a longer wheelbase. Companies get very creative when it comes to drop bar mountain bikes.
The Forks come in all materials such as Carbon Fiber, Steel, and aluminum. They are made to fit massive tires and to be able to handle some really rough terrain. You might even see some of these bikes with light suspension on the trails.
Another excellent quality of a drop bar mountain bike is it will be full of mounts to carry luggage and water bottles.
Wheels and Tires
On drop bar mountain bikes, you see 29” wheelsets generally. There are some 27.5” drop bar mountain bikes, but it’s pretty rare to see this. Why a 29”? This is so you have great ability to get over obstacles and also can use a wide variety of different tires.
Typically, most bikes will come with aluminum wheels, and they won’t necessarily be made to be fast, but they will be made to be strong and take a hit and be able to carry a good load of luggage.
When it comes to tires, the minimum size you should expect to see on a drop bar mountain bike is 2.1”. This is a giant tire, and what you will typically see on many MTB. You will also see tires that are much larger all the way up to 3”.
Groupset and Brakes
When it comes to gearing, drop bar mountain bikes vary. You will see a lot of gravel groupsets and even some road groupsets. An excellent example of a groupset for a drop bar mountain bike and the way many companies go is by using a 1X system where you have a single chainring at the front and a large cassette on the rear. The one thing all drop bar mountain bike groupsets have is they have very low ratios making them climbing machines.
You will also see that your gearing will not be on trigger shifters like a typical mountain bike, but they will be on drop bar shifters like a road bike. Of course, you should be on disc brakes when it comes to any mountain bike.
They have so much more power than rim brakes and work much better in all conditions. All drop bar mountain bikes will have disc brakes, and they will be able to stop you fast.
Finish kit and accessories
When it comes to the finishing kit and final touches, a drop bar mountain bike will have wide flared handlebars as a must. Unlike road drop bars, you will have wide bars to help you keep control of the bike when descending. You will also see many drop bar mountain bikes with racks to carry luggage.
A great example of a drop bar mountain bike is the Salsa Fargo Apex 1. If you don’t know Salsa, they are an incredible brand who have been making off-road bikes for years.
The quality they produce is of the highest, and they have made one of the best drop bar mountain bikes ever with the Fargo.
The Fargo is a steel frame with a carbon fiber fork and has huge clearance to fit massive tires in. The short-reach geometry is perfect for winding trails and lonely gravel roads.
The bike has a 29” wheelset, and as standard, it comes with 2.4” tires, and there’s space to equip it further, all the way up to 3.0” tires.
It has a SRAM 1X Groupset which gives you excellent low ratios, and also has some big flare drop bars. The brakes are SRAM, and they will stop you on a pin, and for those long descents, you can rely on them, keeping efficient the whole way down. The bike is also full of mounts ready for you to go straight on an adventure.
What is a drop bar mountain bike? It basically is an oversized gravel bike with the capabilities of a mountain bike. It’s perfect for off-road adventures and rugged bikepacking trips.
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.
John Tomac used to race a Yeti mountain bike with drop bars. I always wanted to put them on my old Trek 930. I still have that bike so I may still do it. It would make a great gravel bike.