Dropbar Hardtail Thoughts

There’s no point in doing it to run “thin tires” and try to make it a road bike. If you want a road bike get a road bike or a cross bike, if you want a drop-bar MTB with fat tires that can handle anything and feels fast and fun to ride go for it. I think you want to figure out what you’re trying to do before you start. How much gravel do you ride? Or plan to ride? Is it rough? Unless you’re riding very rough gravel or a lot of singletrack a cross bike with 40-45mm tires would probably be more fun and a lot cheaper.

I converted a 2013 Charge 29er hardtail. Used mechanical discs and 9-speed to keep the cost down. Total cost was something like $160-ish but only so low since I got the shifters used and got the rest of the parts on winter-sales or from the UK. If I had to buy new shifters it would be closer to $225, new parts or US parts closer to $300. Here’s what I replaced:

  • Stem ($20)
  • Bars ($20)
  • Brake Calipers ($35)
  • Shifters ($30)
  • Shifter Cables ($3)
  • Shifter Housing (7)
  • Brake Cables ($3)
  • Brake Housing ($14)
  • Rear Cassette ($13)
  • Rear Derailleur ($18)

It’s a total blast to ride, I’ve been riding and racing it since early April and it’s my favorite bike. Works great on everything from smooth gravel to the roughest singletrack. It can be a handful to ride at times as the short stem and relatively narrow bars make the steering very quick. The flip side is that riding a fast, clean run is very rewarding.

I also converted a 26″ hardtail and although that was a better overall ride the 29er is better on singletrack so I kept it and took the 26″ back to flat bars and MTB parts.


Charge Cooker Hi29er Drop Bar

I guess March is new bike month. I really liked riding and racing this bike as a mountain bike but the Raleigh Tekoa I picked up last week is just so much better with more advanced features so I decided to convert this one to my drop bar MTB. I wasn’t really happy with how my drop bar Thunder Comp fit and how the 26″ wheel rode so this is a big improvement.

40mm stem was too short or I didn’t give myself enough time to adapt to it. Either way I went back to 60mm like on my previous drop bar MTB and it felt much better. I’ve got three gravel events coming up where I’ll be racing this bike, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Drop-Bar MTB Fitting Update #2


So I saw this bike from Peter Verdone:


And then spent some time thinking about how my drop-bar MTB is currently fit. I did some measuring and realized I am riding the equivalent of a 160mm stem!

Recognizing this completely changed my riding style.

Link to ride

I really took some time to work my body position back and get some weight off the front wheel and it really shows. My time on descents has been super-fast and the bike feels amazingly stable and fun at speed in the drops. I am so excited to ride this bike during this years gravel races. Even been thinking about running it in some of the chainbuster MTB races – I wonder if it would be a problem to show up with drops?

I was so excited at how well I was riding I took the time to stop and note things in my phone so I wouldn’t forget. Seems like going back and forth between bikes makes it easy to ride the harder bike poorly if I’m not vigilant in paying attention to what I’m doing.


Drop-Bar MTB Fitting Update #1

Right now I’m running a Deda 60mm stem with Deda RHM01 44cm (ctc) handlebars on Size L 2010 Breezer Thunder Comp. I’ve got about 50 hours on the bike, all gravel or single track.

It’s a fun bike to ride but it’s also a hard bike to ride. It takes a while to adapt to the handling every time I ride it. Front wheel wants to collapse into the turn and the steering does not feel stable. It’s easy for the front wheel to get knocked around by roots/rocks and overall confidence on rough sections take a while to develop.

It’s hard to lean the bike, body lean and hip English require a lot of effort.

However! I can ride this bike pretty fast on single track and have had no back, hand or neck issues on rides up to around 2.5 hours. I guess it’s pretty well fit now but there’s always the nagging feeling that something is off?

Maybe it’s due to the frame being too big? TT is 605mm, or maybe it’s just slightly counter intuitive compared to my other bikes. Trail is 71mm, mechanical trail is 67mm and wheel flop is 21mm.

Charge 29er is 586 top tube, 81/77 and 25 and it feels great to ride. Probably due to wide bars and closer position.




Turn in brake levers to test for better reach with gloves

Alternately – add spacers to bring levers closer to handlebars and adjust brake calipers to compensate.

Test lower stem

Test longer stem

Test shorter stem

Buy light 26 tubes from Performance Bike

Raise seat 3-5mm

Potentially move handlebars from Haanjo Comp to this bike

Get good at counter-steering

Determine Front-Center and check

Drop-Bar Mountain Bike Stupidity

You ever want to do something so you read about what other people do and then when you do the thing your experience is way different than what you read about?

That’s me with my drop bar hardtail. If you look anywhere about setting up an MTB you will quickly see two things pop up EVERYWHERE as writ in stone, inflexible rules of the process.

  1. Drops should be the same height as the saddle or same height as your flat bar.
  2. Drops should be shallow and flared.

Both these are wrong and lead to poorly riding bikes that look like shit. I’m not saying my bike looks amazing but it looks a damn sight better than the bikes here, here, or here.

The problem is that all these peeps are trying to get their drop-bar bike to ride like their flat bar bike. This is wrong.

Your drop-bar MTB should ride like a different bike, it requires a different skillset and can make you a better rider when/if you do go back to a flat-bar set-up. To the first point, you hands are in a different spot and in a different orientation, everything you do requires different muscle inputs. Want to pop the front wheel over a rock? Well your hands are rotated 90 degrees from where they usually are and probably 15-20cm closer together. Want to rail a berm? Same thing.

The drop bar MTB riding style has to be learned. Everyone wants to switch bikes and go 100% from the first pedal stroke. This leads to blown lines, unnecessary dabs and an overall much less fun experience. I did this myself but managed to catch myself as I was rotating between a cross bike, dropbar 26er and regular old 29er hardtail so I could see where I was going wrong pretty quickly. After spending some serious time trying to figure out why my experience on the 26er was such shit I went back to fundamentals and realized the riding style was way different than I expected.

Riding my dropbar 26er requires a lot of body english, a commitment to riding smart and trusting the bike a lot more than when it was a flat bar or my 29er.

If I just jump from my 29er to my dropbar 26er I feel awkward and like I’m riding terrible. I have to mentally switch gears and remember the basics and then after a quick warm up getting comfortable with the bike I can shred like crazy. Seriously some of my fastest and best times have been on this dropbar 26er, and these are segements I’ve hit dozens of times.

In closing, I know WHY the two rules above exist. Because early mountain bikes through the late 1990s had such short headtubes that it’s almost impossible to fit them well with a flat bar or a drop bar. Combine this with the geometry they had and you end up with a bike that is cheap (attracts the weirdos) but really kinda sucks (you have to make stupid rules). Modern MTBs are immune to this thanks to their longer headtubes and overall higher riding position. A modern MTB, even with forward geometry, should be able to be fit more akin to a cross bike than a 1990s drop bar conversion.