Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Drop bar set-up and STI on Karate Monkey

I have been experimenting with the positioning of my brakes on my Salsa Woodchipper handlebar. Although I really like the bar I feel it can be difficult to set up, especially for people like myself with smallish hands.

Old DA 9 speed shifters (left), much closer to bar than "aero" levers (right).

If you are serious about off-road riding then you will likely want the brakes more forward on the bar so you can access them when on the drops.

If you are more inclined to be gravel grinding or bike-packing then you are likely to want them to be higher on the bar, so you can make use of the different positions available. This was one of the main reasons I didn't use my Karate Monkey on the Kiwi Brevet, with my smaller digits its a real reach for the brakes while on the drops, and it causes me a pressure point after about 3 hours riding. This pressure point is in the very same spot on my hands when I rest my hands on the hoods.

A couple of views on how you could set up your drop bars.
I have just scored some old Durace 9 speed STI levers which have been a revelation. Not only is the reach about 1cm shorter than my existing brakes, but they are lighter than my bar-end and brake lever combo, and I now have snappy gear changing at my finger tips. Check out the photo above to see the difference in reach.

Obviously I had to swap my MTB-pull Avid BB7's with the Road-pull version. My next move will be to bring them further down the bar to see where the best position of compromise is. (I did - see below). 

I have just discovered the pitfalls of trying to use STI road levers on an MTB. Its a bit of a mess.

The rear derailleur is sweet. On the front, unfortunately STI levers only pull 69% of the cable that an MTB lever pulls, so STI levers and MTB derailleur on the front is not really compatible.

  • MTB's all use top-pull derailleurs. 
  • Road bikes all use bottom pull derailleurs. Suck.

What are the alternatives? Surprisingly few.

1. A pulley device for changing the direction your cable comes from Problem solvers.
2. Another device to change the direction from the speen.de guys, (good luck trying to understand it). A better description here.
3. A special top-pull road-style derailleur made for CX application.
4. I just tried this one, and its 99% successful. Clamp the derailleur cable on the other side (back-side) of the bolt. It effectively shortens the lever, giving more pull. Not all derailleurs can be tweaked this way.

A very good link to derailleur stuff.

 See here my drop-bar set-up with the bars rotated forward so I get a much more comfy position for my hands and wrists while on the drops. The more horizontal the drop is, the better my OOS afflicted wrists like it.

Also note how the drops themselves are less than 2 inches below the flats on my standard XC bike (Santa Cruz Superlight), and that is with the stem in the positive position on the Superlight. If the stem was flipped they would be identical. Not at all aggressive.


Okay. My top-pull CX-70 Cyclo-cross front derailleur has arrived!  It really works a treat. See below.