Can you convert a 26" MTB to a retro drop handlebar tourer?

Greetings from Esslingen, south Germany

We're a cycling family and once again we are running out of bicycles, as the Elder Son is as tall as me and really needs a bike of his own for visiting Girlfriend etc.

Thing is, he would really like a retro styled drop handlebar bike, and we're on a limited budget. we are also not that tall, and I've a fair bit of experience of maintaining our bikes and some part time work in a bike shop. I also have a good selection of tools.

Our idea therefore is would be to get an MTB with a solid frame, and cables running along the bottom bar, and use friction shifters (I did say 'retro'),

We'd use skinny tyres and leave the MTB gears, as we get on with these just fine in our rather hilly region.

As far as I know the main problem here would be the larger diameter of drop handlebars in the headset. Is there a way around this, such as a different headset?

Are there other issues I need to be aware of?
 
U

User32269

Guest
Greetings from Esslingen, south Germany

We're a cycling family and once again we are running out of bicycles, as the Elder Son is as tall as me and really needs a bike of his own for visiting Girlfriend etc.

Thing is, he would really like a retro styled drop handlebar bike, and we're on a limited budget. we are also not that tall, and I've a fair bit of experience of maintaining our bikes and some part time work in a bike shop. I also have a good selection of tools.

Our idea therefore is would be to get an MTB with a solid frame, and cables running along the bottom bar, and use friction shifters (I did say 'retro'),

We'd use skinny tyres and leave the MTB gears, as we get on with these just fine in our rather hilly region.

As far as I know the main problem here would be the larger diameter of drop handlebars in the headset. Is there a way around this, such as a different headset?

Are there other issues I need to be aware of?
I've converted one, which had a quill stem, by using an a head adapter and using bar end shifters. The biggest problem is the frame geometry. The drops will be low compared to the original flat bar. I used a riser stem and compact bars, it can be difficult to obtain a comfortable riding position, but not impossible. Good luck.
 

Threevok

This space available to rent
Location
South Wales
I've seen a lot of GT triple triangle frames converted with great success.

Solid frames too

You may want to have a look at one of those
 
I've converted one, which had a quill stem, by using an a head adapter and using bar end shifters. The biggest problem is the frame geometry. The drops will be low compared to the original flat bar. I used a riser stem and compact bars, it can be difficult to obtain a comfortable riding position, but not impossible. Good luck.
Many thanks for that. Using a Head adapter makes a lot of sense, although a quill would possibly look prettier. I've been wondering if the height problem would be an issue though...

I've seen a lot of GT triple triangle frames converted with great success.

Solid frames too

You may want to have a look at one of those
Thanks. Unfortunately with the current budget we're limited to what we can scrounge on a well known online auction site or the local charity run bike workshops.

Oh, and Elder Son wants it to look 'right' as well. He doesn't mind weight but wants the appearance to be just so. Leather handlebar grips have been mentioned...
 
U

User32269

Guest
Many thanks for that. Using a Head adapter makes a lot of sense, although a quill would possibly look prettier. I've been wondering if the height problem would be an issue though...



Thanks. Unfortunately with the current budget we're limited to what we can scrounge on a well known online auction site or the local charity run bike workshops.

Oh, and Elder Son wants it to look 'right' as well. He doesn't mind weight but wants the appearance to be just so. Leather handlebar grips have been mentioned...
One solution is to use an adjustable quill stem. Not the most elegant looking solution but gives a large amount of adjustment and the best chance of a comfortable fit. Google "mtb drop bar conversion" and it will give you a good idea how it could look.
 
Does it have to be an MBT frame? Can you not buy a cheap older model road bike frame or tourer frame and use that?
Ah, good question. There's a couple of reasons for this, which wouldn't be immediately obvious...

We're not the tallest people in the world: my wife is Japanese and I'm no giant by European standards. I found an 18" MTB frame works just fine. I've ridden bikes with 28" wheels with no trouble, but decided not to change a working formula. Elder Son is a few mm bigger than me, the toerag, but still fits the 18" frame well.

Bikes are our main form of transport and our only private transport, so I try and keep to one size so as many parts as possible are interchangeable. that way I don't have to worry about what size inner tube I need, for example. In an emergency, such as when the Elder Son has an important appointment and finds he has a puncture, we can just drop a wheel out of another bike and swap them. We'll fix the puncture when we have time and it means he's not late.

Also, if and when we go touring together we can swap bikes when we're bored.
 
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hoopdriver

Veteran
Location
East Sussex
Ah, good question. There's a couple of reasons for this, which wouldn't be immediately obvious...

We're not the tallest people in the world: my wife is Japanese and I'm no giant by European standards. I found an 18" MTB frame works just fine. I've ridden bikes with 28" wheels with no trouble, but decided not to change a working formula. Elder Son is a few mm bigger than me, the toerag, but still fits the 18" frame well.

Bikes are our main form of transport and our only private transport, so I try and keep to one size so as many parts as possible are interchangeable. that way I don't have to worry about what size inner tube I need, for example. In an emergency, for example when the Elder Son has an important appointment and finds he has a puncture, we can just drop a wheel out of another bike and swap them. We'll fix the puncture when we have time and it means he's not late.

Also, if and when we go touring together we can swap bikes when we're bored.
Makes sense.
You should be able to find something workable.
 

Gravity Aided

Legendary Member
Location
Land of Lincoln
raleigh-on-trail.jpg

I am currently rebuilding this, with trekking bars, a Raleigh Technium MTB, with Kenda Kwests for tires, 1.5, which you really want for tire size as it maintains the bicycles height with pedals not lower, and closer to the road, with the danger of pedal strike. Thinner tires make the bike look a bit odd, and the thinness of the tires is less important than the pressure and tread design, which is quite flat indeed.
kenda-kwest-tire-2.jpg

Trekking bars allow the use of the current MTB hardware without having to resort to all the changes necessary for the drop bars.
schwinn-impact-on-ridge-from-fore-starboard-quarter_edited-1.jpg

I had also made this, a Schwinn Impact from the 1990's I got in a church sale for 20USD, with brakes from an older Schwinn(long reach, and adjustable) and cantilever brakes, which made it so I didn't need adapters. I am very tall, so with the quill stem it sort of looked like a Thorn 26" tourer. Very fine, and light for a Schwinn MTB from that era.
 
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