|Singular Gryphon with Woodchipper Bars|
Drop Bar Mountain Bike Tips
1. Probably the biggest misconception out there has to do with the height and reach of drop bar set up. Here is something that will help clear it up for you. Always, always, always ride off road in the drops. Off road drop bars were not meant to be ridden "on the hoods" as so many roadies are doing. The reason for this is control. Off road the bumps and jarring will make riding on the hoods a dangerous proposition. Riding in the drops actually lets you relax your grip, since the bumps force the handle bar into your hands. Plus, the round cross section of the bar is far easier to hang on to than the hoods.
Note: You can use all portions of an off road, mountain biking drop bar set up. However; your primary position for operating the controls will be from the drops, since this will be where you will be most of the time with your hands while actually riding mountain bike trails. Sure, there will be times you can grasp the tops, cruise in the hoods, or put your hands elsewhere on the bars, but these times will be fewer and father between than they would be on a road bike. For the "Why Would You Use Drop Bars Off Road" question, see my next post on the subject coming soon.
2. Taking #1 into consideration, it becomes clear that your off road drop bars are to be at a height where the drop section would be level with the height where your grips would be on a flat bar set up. This generally requires a high rise stem for your drop bar. You also could get a "drop bar specific" frame such as the Salsa Cycles Fargo, or Singular Cycles Gryphon, amongst other choices in custom built bikes.
3. Also taking #1 into consideration for reach, you may run into trouble if you are already running a very short stem, say less than a 90mm reach. Your stem choices will be limited and your reach may be compromised. It might be better to use a slightly shorter top tube on a different frame for a drop bar set up. (Or go custom, or see #2 additional info above)
4. Drop bars good for off road include the WTB Mountain Road Drop Bar, (Out Of Production as of late 2011) , On One Midge bar, the Origin 8 Gary II Bar, Salsa Cycles Woodchipper Bar, and the Ragley Bikes Luxy Bar (Note: All hyper-links updated as of 10/29/11)
5. Stems that have high rise that work with threadless steer tubes are available from Salsa, Dimension, and a host of custom builders. (Clockwork Bikes and Groovy Cycleworks are a couple I am aware of for custom stems.)
6. Drop bars can be used with single speed drivetrains or multi geared. STI shifters work great off road even with flared bars like the Midge, WTB Mountain Road Drop Bar, Woodchipper, Luxy Bar, and Gary Bar. Bar end shifters can also be used, but because of the flared drop ends, they can sometimes be damaged in crashes.
7. Brake lever tips should be easily reached from the drops. This means you will run the levers lower down on the bars than a road set up. Much lower! Mechanical disc brakes can be set up for use with drop bars if you use Avids excellent BB-7 for road levers, and there is a cheaper Tektro road disc brake as well. Currently no hydraulic disc brake set ups are available for off road drop bars.
Note: It won't be long before hydraulic "brifters" become a reality. Hydraulic converters for standard levers already exist. For the best feel in a mechanical disc brake set up, always use top quality housings and pay special attention to your caliper set up.
Okay, that should help, but if there are any questions, let me know. I'll be glad to answer in the comments section.