I have one road bike that I use mostly for commuting, sometimes for fast alone rides and infrequently for group rides.

I was thinking that since most of my riding is alone I should put my tri bars back on my bike. I had an extra set of drops in my closet so I chopped them off to make some bull horns. I now have a sweet set of tri bars. I just need to pick up a set of bar end brakes and I will be all set. There is only one kicker:

Since every once and a while I want to do a group ride I would like to be able to swap out my tri bar setup for a drop bar setup. Preferably I would like to keep the brake lines on my bike and just unattach the lines from the break leavers. I had an extra stem lying around so I can just pull out the step from the head set and volla!

Went to my LBS to pick up some bar end brakes but this is what they told me:

  1. With all bar end brakes you have to run the brake line under the tape so you could not switch out the bars without retaping your bars each time. Anyone know of any bar end brakes that the lines run NOT through the bar tape?

  2. Switching between bars frequently (once or twice a month) will cause major wear on your bike and you should pick one thing and stick with it.

Is there any truth to either of these statements? I am somewhat skeptical.

  • I doubt this will cause your bars to wear more quickly than they already do, although Zinn suggests replacing bars every couple years anyway. I do this and haven't regretted it.
    – jrockway
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 15:41

3 Answers 3


Assuming you've got modern brakes, the complex cable run you'd have to set up for this likely makes it not worth it to try for cable splitters. The splitters (daVinci Easy-Split, Bruce Gordon QS2, etc) require a bare cable run, so you'd need a pair of cable stops between the front brake and the front brake lever, not found in most modern setups.

Even if you didn't have the housing running underneath the bar tape, you'd still need to loosen the cable to remove it from the brake, and re-tightening your brakes each time to enable a bar swap would get old quickly. It's not the case that swapping bars and stems frequently would put undue wear on those components, but it certainly increases the chances that you'll over- or under-tension parts at critical moments and cause a failure. Particularly if you're swapping stems you would need to be mindful of headset preload. If you end up unbolting and rebolting cables frequently you would increase the wear on them, as the clamping force deforms them and will cause them to fray.

If your bike has cantilever or centerpull brakes with split cable stops you could set up two complete cable runs that wouldn't require you to disconnect the brake cables, but that's unlikely on a modern-ish road bike.

  • I've seen disconnects that allowed "housed" cables to be separated. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 3:45
  • Any pictures? It seems like they'd be complicated, since the threaded splitter on the cable would need to be able to slide within whatever the splitter mechanism was for the housing.
    – lantius
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 8:22
  • It's been a long time -- I'm thinking it was 2-3 inches long, but I don't recall any details -- probably didn't inspect it that closely. 'Twas on a folding tandem, though. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 22:19

Get another set of calipers too. Then you just unbolt the front caliper, unbolt the rear caliper, unbolt the bar/stem (whichever). Then Bolt on the new bar/stem, front caliper, rear caliper. Since you probably have split cable stops already the cables and housing would all come off in one go. Depending on your stem it could be like 6 bolts total and no cable adjusting.

I do this on my hard tail mountain bike when I switch from geared to single speed. It is more complex because more things change, but this is how I handle the bar and brake and gear cables (and when I run SS I use a wider bar for grunting up the hills).


There is a sort of "quick disconnect" for shift/brake cables, used on some folding bikes. You could use those (if you can find them) so that you could swap without having to undo the cables on the bar.

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