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enter image description hereI've been getting more into taking my bike out on longer rides and am finding that I would really benefit from having a drop bar. My bike is an old Giant Rapid 2, it's almost entirely stock (I upgraded the pedals to SPD clippy ones) -- the brakes and gear switchers are integrated into the same unit which lies flat on the top of the bar. The bar is flat and has little horns at the end (taken off in the photo attached) which I am thinking of swapping out with drop bar ends.

My question is what is the best way to integrate these with the brakes that I have? Is it acceptable to use the flat brakes with drop handles rather than the trigger-style brakes I see more often? It seems like this would be a bit less safe, but I am not sure how feasible it is to change the brakes to the trigger-style ones (as in, can I keep my gear switching mechanism, buy trigger brakes and rewire just those?). I'm not looking to spend too much, maybe $50 maximum for the ends and whatnot, is it a better idea at that point to upgrade to a new drop bar or would that complicate things too much with having to buy new shifters as well? Or should I gut the whole project and save up for a better bike to begin with?

Edit: Thanks to all who replied. Believe it or not, I went to the store and spent way more than I expected I would on a new road bike and I'm pretty satisfied with it so far :).

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Fifty dollars will perhaps get you a used, unwrapped drop bar, after which the budget will be gone. The biggest expense of a drop bar conversion is in the brifters (brakes + shifter in one unit such as Shimano STI's). These are different from your current combo brake/shifter unit in that they are designed to sit vertical on drop bars and the brake levers have different cable pull length (which is not compatible with your current, V-brake system). One can expect to spend $200 or more on the integrated brake/shifter for drop bars alone, even if it's for a 3x7 drive train.

Because of the expense of conversion as well as the incompatibility of the brake systems of drop bar vs. flat bar STI's, the common advice to a question of a conversion--especially flat bar to drop bar--is that the cost and incompatibility of conversion favors getting a new or used road or gravel bike that already comes with drop bars and the proper components that go with it. In your case, the best solution would be to put the curved bar end handles back on which will open up several additional hand positions for longer riding times.

In the meantime, as your bicycle fitness and knowledge improve, you can use that time to explore the various drop bar options out there (road, gravel, cyclocross, touring) while your budget for one grows as well. Another negative aspect of conversion that is worth mentioning is the (hopefully temporary) lack of parts on the market and the rising prices of those that are available. Complete bikes, especially ones that can be categorized as high entry-level--priced generally higher than normal entry level bikes by virtue of having better, mid-level components still seem to have good volume. The price doesn't appeal to the beginner and the selection of components doesn't appeal to the veteran, who knows what he wants whether the cost is in the stratosphere or not. Thus, the best advice, which will keep you happier and riding, is to wait and save and shop, and when it feels right, buy a complete drop bar bike ready to ride as is.

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A drop bar bicycle offers four hand positions, with very quick access to brakes in three of them:

  • You can sprint or go fast on the drops. Brakes are directly accessible, well unless someone has decided it's a good idea to angle the brake lever hoods upwards so that it's hard to access the brake levers on the drops.
  • You can climb standing or do regular riding on the hoods. Brakes are directly accessible too.
  • You can do more comfortable regular riding using an alternative position on the corners. It's a very quick motion to move one or both hands from corners to hoods, allowing very quick access to brakes.
  • You also can climb seated on the tops. Since this position is mostly used for climbing seated, quickly accessing the brake levers is an issue.

A flat bar offers none of the convenience. It has only one hand position where you can access the brakes. Put "drop bar ends" and the system becomes outright dangerous, not giving you any option to access the brakes on the new hand positions.

My advice?

  • A cheap drop bar costs ~30 dollars/euros/pounds/whatever
  • Drop bar V brake levers without integrated shifters are available for ~20 dollars/euros/pounds/whatever
  • Bar tape is available for ~10 dollars/euros/pounds/whatever
  • If your system has 8 or 9 speed cassette, you may still be able to find used (or if you're very lucky new-old-stock) bar-end shifters. This is by far the most expensive purchase of the four -- you may need to pay 50-150 dollars/euros/pounds/whatever since these are getting rare. The 10-11 speed MTB/hybrid/trekking components use a different cable pull ratio on the derailleur so 10/11-speed bar-end shifters are not compatible with these. Actually 9-speed bar-end shifters are available as new from Microshift, they are Shimano-compatible. 10-speed bar-end shifters are compatible with "road" derailleurs up to 10 speeds (excluding Tiagra 4700) and "MTB" derailleurs up to 9 speed (with a 10-speed cassette).

I think a drop bar conversion might make sense. You need 110-210 dollars/euros/pounds/whatever for the major components and also perhaps 10-20 additional dollars/euros/pounds/whatever for cabling. Also you'll need to somehow handle the cable adjustment of V brakes. My advice is to find V brake noodles with barrel adjuster, put a Jagwire Mickey adjuster for more range on top of the noodles, and put one Shimano SM-CB90 adjuster too somewhere in the brake housing. V brakes have high mechanical advantage so they need lots of millimeters of adjustment. No manufacturer seems to make a single adjuster that would have enough range for whole range of adjustment needed by V brakes.

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