24.11.11

Rohloff Shifter for Drop Bars

I wanted drop bars on my touring bike as this is how I am used to riding, yet the Rohloff shifter was only made to fit on straight handlebars. The image below shows my initial handlebar arrangement with the Rohloff shifter fitted on the straight, together with ergonomic grips and touring Origin8 drop bar ends. This setup, although clever in design, ended up being painful to ride with and already got damaged on my first flight with the bike. Below are the reasons & solutions.

First of all, this setup was extremely wide, which was great for handling & balancing the bike, however, it just wasn’t in any way comfortable to ride long hours with. My palms & fingers suffered with numbness and my shoulders from sharp pains. 

Secondly, the Origin8 brake levers had a hard, inverted-‘V’ shaped rubber grip, which was excruciatingly painful to ride with – especially when having to apply the brakes for long rides down steep tracks. As a solution to this SJS suggested I add some high density foam padding under the rubber grip; yet this wasn’t easy, so I taped it around the top (as seen in the image above.) This only worked for about 500km before the foam became completely flattened. The soft parts between my thumb & forefinger were always red & numb after short 50km rides with this grip.

Thirdly, the drop ends were added at a right angle to the straight handlebar, (rather than the usual smooth curve on normal drop bars) and this hurt my wrists whilst riding in that position, no matter how far I rotated the drop ends forward.
Fourthly, the brake levers, chosen specifically for touring, were too far to reach when in the dropped position as well as when in the straight-handlebar position (see image above); so I wasn’t able to reach them in time when I needed to brake immediately. Hence, why I installed an additional brake lever on the straight handlebar after a few rides, which was helpful.

And finally, having a straight handlebar prevented the brake cables from being installed under the handlebar tape, so the brake cables needed to extend out the front of the brake levers! These were obviously quite delicate, and got bent on my first flight with the bicycle.

Below is an image of my current set up, which was a combined solution, suggested by SJS Cycles, the Bicycle Workshop in London & my own research.

In December 2011 SJS Cycles informed me about the new Rohloff shifter from Gilles Berhoud for drop handlebars, which meant that I could finally use a normal, narrower drop handlebar on my bike.

Whilst having this installed by the Bicycle Workshop, they then introduced me to some shorter/reachable & mega-comfortable touring brake levers by Cane Creek – which consequently required the installation of QBP 'Travel Agents' to each brake – allowing for an extra brake extension, (image below). This means that the cable leaving the Travel Agent can be pulled twice as far but only half as hard from where it enters.

I also then discovered Specialized bar gel which I installed under my handlebar tape. This promised to reduce finger numbness by 50%.

I have ridden over 4000km with this set up; the GB shifter is great; despite its larger size it is easy to grip (even in wet weather) and feels fine when resting your hands over it whilst riding upright. My only concern is that the gear cables are exposed to dirt and saltwater (when travelling by boat), so need to be rinsed over with clean water occasionally. The new Cane Creek brake lever grips are super comfortable, as is the Specialised handlebar gel. I don’t get numb fingers or palms at all anymore, even after 150km day cycles; I also wear thicker padded gloves for extra comfort. The brake levers are now within reach, and the cables have been installed under the handlebar tape so are out of the way. The brake travel agents are also very easy to adjust/tighten, as they come with a tightening screw.

Sertx just chose the easy option (see below photo) & is still happy riding with a straight handlebar after 6000km. This handlebar setup is also obviously much better when cycling off-road; my drop handlebar was not really made for such trecks as the Ho Chi Minh trail, which we cycled on recently - but on roads I love it & the gel bars are super comfortable.

Any comments or suggestions please share below!

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