Cycling is a lot of fun, and typically when many people start, they buy a hybrid. A hybrid bike is an excellent way to get into cycling. The most common type of hybrid is a flat bar road bike.
They are great because you get the comfort and control of mountain bike flat bars but the agility and speed of a road bike style frame and wheels. A common question we are asked is if it is possible to change the flat bars to road bike drop bars. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know.
What are the advantages of drop bars?
Firstly why would you want to change to drop bar? Well, having drop bars does give you a few advantages, such as;
More Hand Positions
With Drop bars, you get the tops, the hoods, and the drops to rest your hands. This can keep you much more comfortable on long rides.
Generally, using drop bars puts you in a much more aerodynamic position than being on flat bars, making you faster.
Road bikes with drop bars typically are worth more than hybrids as they are just more sort after.
Can I change my Hybrid Bars to Road Bars?
The short answer is yes, but it does come with some complications when you do, and also, it will change how the bike works and handles. To start with, you’re going to need to change multiple parts to ensure it works properly.
Here’s everything you will need as far as parts go and also some considerations to make.
You will first need road bike handlebars to swap over to. Normally modern hybrid bikes and road bikes actually use the same stems with the same measurements. Before you buy a set, ensure they are the correct size for you, they normally come in 38cm to 44cm, depending on your shoulder width.
Shifters and Brakes
Road bike bars and hybrid bike bars use completely different shifting and braking systems, so these will all need swapping over. You typically have a similar setup to a mountain bike on a hybrid bike.
You have your brakes on the inside, and next to them separately, you have your shifters which are a different unit, and these are both mounted horizontally.
On a road bike, this is very different. Your shifter and brakes are the same units, and they all mount together vertically on the front of the drop bars. So if you are to go over to drop bars, you will need shifters and brake units to match, and you will need to ensure they are compatible.
To get the right drop bar shifters for your gearing, you will need to look at a few things. Firstly, if you have Shimano gearing, you will want Shimano shifters. Some brands are interchangeable, but typically you want the same as your gearing.
Then you want to look at the number of speeds. You can do this by counting the amount of cog on your rear cassette and chainrings on the front crankset. You might have two chainrings on the front and 8 on the rear. This is a 2×8, or you might have one on the front and 9 on the rear, which is a 1×9.
Then you have brakes. If you have cable brakes, these will be compatible with any cable shifter typically. If you have hydraulics, you will want to check that the caliper is compatible with the brakes.
Cable Inner and Outers
When it comes to changing over to road bike shifters, you will typically need to change your cable inner and outer over as they will have to travel a further distance out the shifter.
You might get lucky and will be able to use the old parts, but it’s good to regularly replace these every time you work on the shifters and brakes to keep your bikes shifting and stopping smoothly.
The stem is what connects the handlebars to the bike. With flat bars, you will find that the bars sit much further back than road bike bars, so you might need to swap over to a shorter stem. These typically are not too expensive, but there’s a limit to how much you can reduce the size.
When you buy a hybrid bike, it is designed for flat bars, so changing to drop bars can completely change the way it rides, and it probably won’t work as well as a ready-made road bike.
The conversion from flat bars to road bars is not cheap. For example, if you have flat bars with 10-speed shifters and hydraulic brakes, you will spend nearly $250 alone on the shifters and be changed by a professional $100 on labor charges.
Is it worth it?
We often see many people that do this conversion find it’s easier to sell your hybrid then, with the money, invest it into a road bike instead.
Converting can come at a high cost, sourcing the parts can take time, and unless you know how to do it yourself, the labor charges can be very costly.
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.
another option is to cut the flat bar to your shoulder width and add drop bar/barends.. and keep the original brakes/shifters on the flat bar.
you gain much of the advantages of the drop bar, but retain the geometry and handling of the original flat bar… i added an aero bar and its makes a very solid tri bike trainer from my trek hybrid ( my hybrid also has a triple crank that many road bikes do not.. helps for maintaining cadence on challenging climbs)