Guide to changing handlebars on a hybrid bike

There are lots of different handlebars on the market available. They vary in length, diameter, shape, and type. A hybrid bike comes by default with quite standard flat bars. Whether you are tired of them, feeling uncomfortable with them, or want to improve and tune a bit your bike, you will be looking at changing your handlebars. But is it possible to change handlebars on a hybrid bike?

It is possible to change handlebars on a hybrid bike. However, if you are looking at changing from flat bars to drop bars, this is quite costly and time-consuming as you will have to change also the brakes, stem, shifters… Generally, it’s not worth the money on a hybrid bike.

Let’s see in more detail everything you need to know to change your bars on a hybrid, including how to do it.

Can you change handlebars on a hybrid bike?

Yes, you can change handlebars on a hybrid bike. All bars are interchangeable to some extent – you may require additional equipment to fit them though. The difficulty and cost of changing the bars depend on the type of bars you wish to put on.

Hybrid bikes come fitted with standard flat bars. Let’s see how it impacts your riding, and what other types of handlebars you could use.

Flat bars

Flat bars are perfect for all types of terrains. They allow precise riding while giving back the energy from pedaling, making them very responsive.

Example of flat bar

The drawback of these bars is that there is only one position for the hands and the position can be painful when riding for a long time. It hurts the sides of the wrists easily and not everyone is comfortable with them.

Wrist pain can happen when using a flat bar for a long period of time

Flat bars can also include a curve in the design: these would be riser bars. They allow you to have your hand higher-up but still, you only have one hand position. It’s quite common on mountain bikes to use some kind of riser bars, especially when focusing on descending. You have less weight on the front wheel, this makes it more comfortable on your hand (less painful) because your body is more upright and you get better visibility going down. On flat terrains, the steering is less sharp.

Example of riser bars (different heights)

Bullhorn bars

These types of bars are similar to flat bars but they give an extra position to the hands, more like the standard hand position on road bikes. They are generally used on long-distance riding, touring, and trekking to provide more comfort to the rider.

Example of bullhorn bars

Drop bars

Drop bars are generally used on road bikes and gravel bikes. They are more aerodynamic and allow 3 hand positions on the bar, making them quite comfortable to ride with. This type of handlebar is narrower than flat bars: on uneven terrains, it won’t be as easy to control.

Example of drop bars

Drop bars are perfect to optimize performances. The position is key to giving more effort while avoiding fatigue on the hands and arms. Also, with drop bars, your back is always curved, making it less exposed to road bumps and impacts. It’s less painful cycling for a long period of time.

Can you swap out handlebars on a hybrid bike?

You can swap out handlebars on a hybrid bike if you buy the same bar diameter and use the same type of handlebar. Flat bars, riser bars, and bullhorn bars can be swapped out very easily.

Can you put drop handlebars on a hybrid bike?

It is possible to put drop bars on a hybrid bike but it requires changing a lot of extra components (like cables, brake levers, shifters, stem…) This is quite costly can easily reach half of the price of a hybrid bike.

How to swap out flat bars on a hybrid bike?

If you wish to swap out the flat bars on your hybrid bike with another type or dimension of flat bars, it’s quite straightforward to do so.

I recommend you take a picture of your current bike handlebars before starting the process. This will help you remember the position of the accessories when you put back everything together with the new bar.

Steps to swap out flat bars:

1. Select a new flat bar with the same diameter as the one on your bike

This can be an opportunity to change the width of the bar, get a bit of a riser, or a curve in the bar for a more comfortable position…

2. Remove the grips

Grips generally are slid on top of the bar. But some have a locking mechanism. So first check the type of grip on your bike and then apply the correct method to remove them.

Follow the video below from ParkTool to get some help to remove your grips. Basic grips can easily get stuck on the bar and be tough to remove.

If you wish to reuse your grips on your new bar, be careful not to damage them in the process of removing them.

This could also be an opportunity to change grips. If the reason you are changing your flat bar is for more comfort, you might want to consider going for more ergonomics grips: like the Ergon GP1, Ergon GP3, Ergon GP4 or even Ergon GP5.

3. Remove the accessories on the handlebar (brake levers, shifters, bell…)

To remove the accessories, you need to unscrew them and slide them out of the handlebar. Some like the front light here just need to be unlocked and taken away.

4. Remove the handlebar from the stem

Now you are going to free the handlebar to remove it. The most common system is a piece of metal held by two or four screws that you need to remove to free the bar. Another system exists where the bar is directly slid into the stem.

5. Mount the new flat bar: lock it to stem, add the accessories and then the grips

Exactly in reverse order, you need to first attach the bar to the stem (either with the screws or by sliding it inside the stem depending on the system mounted on your bike). Then you need to attach again the accessories. Be careful to put the brakes closest to the grip location etc..

/!\ If you have to change the shape of the flat bar (for instance to a riser bar), it is possible that the brake cable won’t be long enough for you to attach the brake levers onto the new bar. Same with the shifters. If that’s the case, you will have to change the cables.

Finally, add the grips to the extremity of the bar.

And you are all set!

How to change flat bars to drop bars on a hybrid bike?

If you are interested in swapping your flat bars to drop bars, it will require changing quite a number of components:

  • Handlebar (obviously)
  • Brake levers
  • Shifters
  • Stem
  • Brake cables and gear cables (+ outer casings)
  • Bar tape (if you want something a bit more fancy and comfortable, go for Supacaz bar tape – the brand used by Peter Sagan!)

You should also be prepared to put in a fair amount of research to make sure the shifters are compatible with the derailleur on your bike. You could have to replace the cassette and/or the entire drivetrain if not compatible with any shifters on the market.

Tools you need to do the work:

Steps to change flat bars to drop bars:

1. Remove the grips, accessories and flat bar currently mounted on your bike

Please see a more detailed procedure in the steps to swap out flat bars presented earlier (refer to step 1 to 4).

2. Mount the stem and position the drop bar

For the position of the drop bar and alignment, please refer to the video below proposed by GCN. Do not hesitate to watch the next steps as they are showing how to put the drop bar and attach all the accessories to it correctly.

3. Use the torque wrench to tighten the drop bar

Be careful not to overtighten the bolts.

4. Mount the shifters at the angle desired

5. Change the cables (gear and brake cables, including cable casing)

Cables from your hybrid need to be changed as they are too short to be installed onto the new handlebar. Start by cutting your existing cables and removing them. Now you can start replacing the cables.

You must start passing the housing first and then the cables from the shifters and then run them along with the bike. See how to do it correctly here:

Finally, use electrical tape to align the cables correctly and fit them tightly behind the handlebars.

Check that the shifting works correctly and the gears are indexed correctly.

If you need to change the drivetrain, this is the step to do it.

6. Wrap the handlebars with bar tape

There are different ways to wrap the handlebars with bar tape. See the explanation in the video below to visualize how to do it correctly.

Now you are all set!

Is it worth it to put drop bars on a hybrid bike?

In most cases, it’s not worth it to put drop bars on a hybrid bike: it will cost you a lot of money to get a heavy bike with drop bars. Also, the bike geometry might not be the best for drop bars, and in terms of performance, it’s not going to change much from your original bike.

The reason is that drop bars are not compatible with all drivetrains and what’s on your hybrid bike is likely not to be compatible with shifters for the drop bars. This means you are going to have to buy a new drivetrain and this will cost you at least $250 for the drivetrain.

In my opinion, it is best to buy directly a road bike, you will enjoy the lighter weight and the geometry will be better suited with the drop bars. It will make your rides more efficient and more comfortable.

If you care about a strong bike, a bit versatile, with drop bars that can be used on-road and off-road, maybe consider gravel bikes rather than turning your hybrid into some cheap gravel bike.

How wide should handlebars be on a hybrid bike?

Typically, hybrid bikes’ flat bars vary between 22″ and 27.5″ in width (56cm to 70cm). In comparison, the standard width for mountain bikes bars is 22″-24″ (56-60cm). On a hybrid bike, if you ride a lot in traffic, you don’t want your bars to be too wide.

Wide bars improve the handling of the bicycle and ease standing on the pedals. It’s more stable and easier to ride in this position. Narrow bars help to fit better between cars in traffic. So it depends on how comfortable you are with your bars and how you use your bike.

Too wide: might be painful on the shoulders and not feel very comfortable. Too narrow could feel unsafe and more difficult to control. Start with a bar between 22″-24″ (56-60cm) to see how you feel.

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