Bike handlebars come in different designs, each with its own pros and cons. Most road bikes typically have drop bars for an aerodynamic advantage; they allow you to ride more efficiently with less resistance.
But you may want to try a different handlebar design, and a drop bar might not always suit your needs. Maybe it’s uncomfortable for you, or perhaps you simply don’t like it – and there’s no shame in that.
Whatever the reason, the good news is that you don’t need to buy another bike, just because you don’t like the handlebars. You can convert your road bike into a flat bar by yourself!
While converting a road bike to a flat bar can be a tricky process, it’s not impossible – as long as you follow the correct method. This guide will teach you everything you need to know.
What’s the Difference Between a Flat Handlebar and a Drop Handlebar?
Drop handlebars are what you typically see on road bikes. They’re narrow, with a curved or ‘curly’ design (the drops) – where the bar curls downward and back. Flat bars are usually found on mountain bikes, and as the name suggests, they’re straight or ‘flat’.
Flat bars allow you to be more upright while cycling, while with a drop bar, you need to lean forward and lower to be able to grab onto the handlebars.
The upright position is more comfortable for most people, especially beginners, while the leaning position lowers your center of gravity and makes you more aerodynamic. This position allows you to move with more speed, using less effort.
Another difference between flat handlebars and drop handlebars is the hand positions they both facilitate. With a drop bar bike, you have three hand positions.
The hoods are like the default hand position, and that’s what many cyclists use most of the time. With your hands on the tops, you can ride in a more upright position which is more comfortable. The last hand position is on the drops, which allows you to get lower.
A flat bar bike only has one hand position but it offers comfort and stability.
Can You Put Flat Bars on Your Road Bike?
Yes, you can switch from road bike drop handlebars to flat handlebars. Some people like drop bar bikes while others like flat bar bikes. If you have drop bars but would like to change them, that’s okay. You can do it. It’s purely a matter of personal preference.
The important thing is that you do it right so you don’t ruin anything and end up with an uncomfortable bicycle.
What You Need to Put Flat Handlebars on a Road Bike
The first step to a seamless process is to have everything you need. You don’t want to realize halfway through that you’re missing a key component.
Installing a flat bar setup onto your road bike isn’t the hardest thing about this process, finding the right parts is. It may take you some time to get all the compatible parts.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Flat bar
- New stem
- Cable cutter
- Hex wrench set
- Flat bar shifters
- Brake levers
- Cables and cable housing
- Handlebars grips
Note: You can get a flat handlebar that’s the same diameter as the drop bar you’re replacing, so you don’t have to buy a new stem.
10 Simple Steps to Convert Your Road Bike to a Flat Bar
The following steps make up a simple sequence for converting your road bike to a flat bar. For specific information on your own bike, it’s always best to consult the manual, and do your research to find information pertaining to your specific model.
Step 1: Remove the cables and housing from the bike. It helps to take a video or make some marks before taking everything out if you’re afraid you won’t remember what goes where.
Step 2: Remove the drop bar and stem, if you’re installing a new stem. To save money and make your work easier, you can use a flat bar that’s the same diameter as the old handlebar.
Step 3: Attach the stem. (Skip this part if you’re using the same old stem).
Step 4: Install the new flat handlebar.
Step 5: Put in the new shifters and brake levers.
Step 6: Put the new handlebars grips. You can use water or alcohol as a lubricant to make them slide in easily.
Step 7: Check to see that the housing is the right length. Hold one end to the cable stop and the other to the braking levers. Steer the handlebar all the way on both sides. The housing should be long enough to not hinder your steering but not too long. Cut off the excess length.
Step 8: Put in the cables.
Step 9: Check to see that everything is properly set up.
Step 10: Take your new handlebar for a test ride.
Here is a detailed video of the entire process.
Why Turn Your Road Bike into a Flat Bar?
The main reason is comfort. When riding a drop bar bike you crouch down, a position that makes you aerodynamic and allows you to cycle faster with less effort. But it requires a degree of flexibility and it can be tiring and uncomfortable.
With flat handlebars, you can keep your back straighter, which is more comfortable. You are also less likely to strain your arms and neck, something that can happen when leaning with drop handlebars.
Another reason why someone may want to switch bars is if they have several bikes, all with drop bars. In that case, it would be better and more affordable to switch to a flat bar setup instead of buying a new flat bar bike.
Lastly, if you have a road bike but just don’t like drops then you can change the bars.
How Much Will It Cost to Convert a Drop Bar to a Flat Bar?
This depends on the parts you will buy and where you will buy them. But you can easily keep the cost well under $200.
Ensure you get parts compatible with each other and your bike. You don’t want to run into any compatibility issues when you’ve already taken everything apart, ready to begin your project.
If you’re in doubt, go to a local shop and ask for help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Change Drop Bars to Flat Bars?
Yes, you can change drop bars to flat bars. You’ll need to buy parts that are compatible with your desired handlebar, like flat handlebars brakes. So it will cost money and time to make the change, but it’s doable.
Are Flat Bar Road Bikes Worth It?
If a flat bar on a road bike is what you need, then it’s worth it.
You’ll miss out on having multiple hand positions and you’ll not be as aerodynamic on a flat bar road bike as you would be on a drop bar road bike.
However, you’ll enjoy comfort while riding in a more upright position. Your arms, neck, and back will thank you.
Which Is Better, Drop Bar or Flat Bar?
It’s hard to say which is better between a drop bar and a flat bar–you’ll get conflicting answers from different riders. But each handlebar design has its pros and cons.
Drop handlebars are great for speed. When you lower your body you reduce your center of gravity and wind resistance. This will allow you to cycle faster using less energy. With drops, your body is also narrower and it’s easier to fit in tighter spots.
Flat handlebars, on the other hand, offer comfort and ease of steering. Besides, you’ll have space on your handlebars to mount accessories such as your phone.
It all comes down to what you prefer.
Converting a road bike to a flat bar is possible. And although it’s not the simplest thing to do, it’s also not a very complicated process.
First, you need to assemble all the parts that you’ll need, including brake levers, grips, and shifters. The ones on your drop bar won’t be compatible with your new flat bar. You’ll also require tools like a screwdriver and hex wrench set–these are probably things you already have somewhere in your home.
Next, remove the cables and drop the handlebar then start installing your new setup. It’s definitely easier said than done but most people can hack it.
Lastly, take your flat bar road bike for a test ride to make sure everything is working properly. And that’s it!