|"Drop bar" bike. Purposeful design to accommodate a drop bar here.|
The issues arise for drop bar users for mountain biking, and to some degree gravel riding or other "non-traditional" uses for drop bars, because the frames maybe were not envisioned for use with a drop bar. This causes no end to confusion for those who want to try a drop bar out. The main focus of our attention regarding the understanding of this issue has to be on where we want our hands to be in space.
Imagine that you are on a flat bar mountain bike that fits you well. Your hands are on the grips, and the bar runs perpendicular to your wrists, for the most part. Now imagine that your hands stay in the same plane as before, but the bar runs in a line that is more parallel to the stem. You just "twist" your hands by moving the thumb clockwise a bit, but in the same plane, same height off the ground. This is where you want your drop bar's extensions to be when you finish mounting your drop bars. Well.....ideally, this is true. In practice, that may be difficult, and this is something I want to illustrate in this post.
|My Singular Gryphon. Note the relationship between the saddle height and grip area, denoted by my shaky looking lines.|
Note that I have a typical Bontrager stem with a modest amount of rise in a length that is a pretty common one- 100mm. I could easily find a stem with a shorter, higher rise, a shorter, lower rise, or even the opposite. Choices with which I could make the bike feel and ride just the way I want it to. Singular's Sam Alison did this by shortening the top tube's effective length, lengthening the head tube, and using other subtle geometry tweaks which, as a whole, make using a drop bar on this bike a very natural thing. But what if you have a bicycle which doesn't have these design cues?
|Using a bicycle meant for a flat bar makes fitting a drop bar much more difficult and limiting.|
Note the lines I drew on the grip area and where the saddle height is on my Karate Monkey. Comparing that to the Gryphon, you can see how my saddle to handle bar/grip area drop is greater on the KM than it is one the Singular. This is using the shortest reach, highest rise stem I could find easily. There are other choices, but they are few, rare, and you'd better hope that they get you where you want to be in the end with the drop bars you have chosen. Velo Orange is supposed to be coming out with a better stem for this application, and when they do, I'll get that and this set up should be better then. In the end view, a custom stem is almost your best bet, and you'd better love the bike you want to convert to drops for off roading, because that custom stem will not be cheap.
|The same bike with the same stem and a Gator Bar resulted in a too low extension position.|
In review, a drop bar for off road use should feature sweep in the extensions to a degree, flare to the drop section, enough to clear the wrists and forearms, and then it really needs to have a shallow drop and a short reach. This allows riders to have an easier time of it when retrofitting a drop bar to a flat bar designed bike. Weird, oddly proportioned bars don't make that job easier and sometimes they make it impossible without resorting to rare stems or going custom. Finally, the radius of the drop bar's bend must not be such that it makes it difficult to make the hoods and the drop section usable. Bars like the Gator Bar and the Woodchipper are good examples of what not to design into a drop bar's radius.
Here are the links to this series: