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I've got a Raleigh Olympian road bike I use for commutes and my neck is killing me (congenital problem). So I want to put gull wing cruiser bars on this bike, with mountain bike levers in the center area near the stem, leaving the original brake calipers and tube-mounted shifters in place. I know this sounds ridiculous and I also assume plenty of people will say, "just buy a commuter hybrid", both of which are moot points. Is it possible?

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You can definitely do this. Take a look at something like the Nitto Albastache bar that Rivendell sells – or peruse their handlebars section and see if there is something that looks better to you.

Nitto Albastache bars showing road (dropped bar) style levers

The tricky parts are the size of the center clamp area of the handlebars and the areas where the brake levers clamp to the bars. There are many choices… Older road bikes tend to have a 25.4 mm center area, newer ones may be either 25.4 or 26.0 mm, your stem has to match. Some stems are 26.0 mm with a shim to take them down to 25.4. Brake lever clamp sizes are also different between mountain and road bikes. You'll want to pick your bars and then select brake levers that will fit them.

The other thing you'll need to be aware of is that brake systems have two varieties of "pull" – how much cable movement it takes to actuate the brakes effectively. Caliper brakes like you have, and cantilever brakes (which are common on mountain bikes) use a "short" pull. V-brakes use a "long" pull. It sounds like you need short pull levers. They may also be described as levers for cantilever brakes.

If you like the Albastache bar it has the advantage of being sized to take road levers (23.8 mm diameter where the brake levers clamp on), so you avoid the expense of a new set of levers. It also has the possible downside of a 26.0 mm clamp area, so the money you save on levers may go towards a new stem.

Ditto also makes a bar they call the Albatross which has a similar shape a 25.4 mm stem clamp and takes takes brake levers with a fairly standard, for mountain bikes, 22.2 mm clamp size.

Nitto Albatross bars

It seems really likely that you'll be able to find something that works without having to spend a big pile of time or money.

  • Thanks for the encouragement! I'm looking at a Wald 896 which has a 25.4mm clamp diameter. I guess I'll try installing my original levers on it sideways, then look into the MTB levers later on if I come across some I can size in person. Money is an issue, plus downtime. – Ryan Nov 3 '15 at 9:09
  • On those bars, I think you'll need levers like the Albatross bars in the second photo. Find out if these use 22.2 mm clamp brake levers (mountain bike) or 23.8 mm (road bike). Although I don't think there would be any harm in trying the road levers on the bars to see if you could get a position where they were both accessible and you were able to confidently operate the brakes. – dlu Nov 3 '15 at 12:34
  • You need levers which have the same cable pull as your old ones, i.e. short pull levers need to go with short pull brakes, long pull levers need to go with long pull brakes. So, if you don't have V-brakes, look for levers made for cantilever brakes. Otherwise, you will have unsafe braking. I'd upvote this answer if it was updated for accounting for brake cable pull. – Batman Nov 3 '15 at 13:26
  • Thanks, added that. I was thinking about it and then forgot… – dlu Nov 3 '15 at 15:26
  • Yep, the cantilever/v-brake distinction was something I didn't know how to phrase. Thanks for addressing it. I'll try my current levers on the new bars, and keep an eye out for levers with short pull that look useful for this tight central arrangement I want. Do short-pull levers have any definite features I can spot them by (other than being connected to a bike with cantilever brakes)? I'm going to the thrift store and can try to size some there from the pile of clunkers they keep on hand. – Ryan Nov 3 '15 at 17:01

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