Dropbar MTB, pt 1

Long ago the mountain bike evolved from balloon tire bicycles into capable offroad machines. Or perhaps Gary Fisher invented them (but many people don’t believe in Creationism). Anyways, they started out as fat tire bikes that got multiple gears and better brakes. The Creators borrowed brake levers and handlebars from motorcycles so that they had enough braking power on those long descents. And thus mountain bikers had flat bars, whereas those dorky roadies had dropbars. That was the nature of mountainbikes, as God intended.

tycoon 01.jpg

Yet there have been deviants throughout history. Jacquie Phelan dominated early Norba races on a bike with dropbars. And another legend, John Tomac, returned to Norba after racing in the European peloton and used dropbars with some success. Doubtlessly, there have been a number of heathens infected with the northern European disease known as cyclocross who have attempted to bring some road bike items into the sanctity of offroad. But the 1980s explosion of mountainbikes was surely propelled partially by a market perception of the mtb being different from roadbikes, and the obvious visual keys being fat tires and straight bars instead of skinny tires and curvy bars.

Tycoon 02.jpg

The 1990s saw the rise of integrated brake/shifting levers and V-brakes, creating compatibility problems that further drove mountainbikes away from dropbars. Shimano’s integrated road levers don’t pull enough cable to work well with V-brakes, and the various cable-pull adapters always fell well short of perfection.

Since the end of the 20th century, SRAM, a company whose lineage is most firmly rooted in mtb technology, created a roadbike shifter/derailleur system that is totally incompatible with their own mtb derailleurs. And the widespread use of hydraulic disc brakes has seemingly widened the chasm. Ah, but there lies the weakness in God’s perfect plan to keep mountainbikes pure. Since both SRAM and Shimano make cable-actuated disc brakes optimized to work with a dropbar lever’s shorter pull, suddenly all manner of MTB frames are vulnerable to dropbar corruption.

Of course, there have been a plethora of enthusiasts putting disc brakes on roadbikes recently, but who’s gonna taint their mtb with roadie filth? Me, that’s who. I’ll follow up later on my project.

read Pt2


Awesome looking bike.  I love the Bianchi TI.  Very interesting build up.  I was thinking about placeing drop bars on my Breezer Mountain bike.

What bars are you using? Which brifters, f&r derailleurs, brakes are you using? Please elaborate on your drivetrain? I know sometimes the road brifters and mtb front derailleurs don’t play well together

Also worth noting that the 1987 Bridgestone MB-1 (their top of the line model that year) came with drops. Klein also sold MTBs with drops.

Also Sram’s roots are arguably not “most firmly rooted” in MTBs. Worth pointing out that Sram was created in part from Sachs which itself is descended from Huret - both road companies.


check back in a couple days, pt2 will break down the component selection!

Nice looking machine. I’ve been considering something similar for a while, but have grown too attached to my hydraulic brakes. I’ll be watching for more details.

I can’t say I love the look.  I’m a little confused by the bar-end front shifter, 10sp shifter rear shifter mis-match, but the overall look is a little muddled for me.

If it were me - I’d paint the fork celeste to match, get a black saddle, run STI shifters both front/back, and get an 84 degree stem because the 73 looks weird.

But then - I’m an bitch for aesthetic.


That stem is a 67 degree Deda Pista. At your height, you wouldn’t understand, but there is a really good reason why the mismatched shifters.  Check back for pt2.

Gosh this reminds me of the days when John Tomac was riding mountain bikes, I had a poster of John Tomac riding in the 1990 Durango World Mountain Bike Championships on a Yeti C26 with drop handlebars and disc wheel.



It’s hard to say that SRAM today has much to do with Sachs, Sedis, Maillard, Atom, or any of those other companies that lost their identity years ago.  The last Sachs group had shifters made by Campy, brakes by Modolo.  There is no hereditary link between the SRAM road groups of today and the Sachs groupsets.  Sedis never made cassettes.  Most of the SRAM production is in Taiwan (chains I think are made in Portugal), so there’s hardly any real traditions carried over.  Gripshift is a much stronger source of present-day SRAM’s identity.

You forgot to point out Gripshift’s 7 & 8sp dropbar and aerobar twistshifters, though.

Back in those Bridgestone MB1 and John Tomac days I was amongst the many mountain bike racers who experimented with drop bars. We reshaped various handlebars and mounted shifters in every conceivable location. It didn’t take long to learn that bar-ends would be broken the first time the bike hit the ground.

I guess we all came to approximately the same conclusions: For racing the too low and forward braking position and less handy shifting were disadvantages and the advantages were what? For long days in the saddle, just enjoying yourself on varied terrain the drop bars were comfortable and much better for climbing out of the saddle.

What we didn’t have back then were the really wide, low reach/drop bars or secondary brake levers as used on cyclocross bikes. I have both on my touring bike and think that setup would be better than anything we cobbled together back in the day.

But now I’m in Amsterdam where there are no mountains so its a moot point for me.

Reminds me of Deore XT, top-bar mounted click shifters and how well they worked . . .


Check in again for the continuing series on dropbar mtb.  I spent all night experimenting with different shifters and front derailleurs, so I’ve got some good info for anyone who wants to try making their own dropbar mtb.

But speaking about barend shifters: I’m running old Suntour shifters and they seem pretty tough.  I’ve already stacked it a couple times, and that left shifter shrugged it off.  Which ones did you think broke easily?

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