Handlebar breakthrough for gravel riders

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These handlebars give you a road bike riding position, and mountain bike controls (Photo: Surly)
These handlebars give you a road bike riding position, and mountain bike controls (Photo: Surly)
  • Handlebars dictate the shifter and brake controls you can use
  • Over the last few years, gravel riding has changed the way off-road cyclists view drop bars
  • More mountain bikers are recognizing that drop handlebars can be comfier for long-distance Karoo-type riding 

Disc brakes were never supposed to be on road bikes. And off-road bikes should never have drop bars.

These were core beliefs for many years, but the trend of gravel riding has changed it all.

Disc brakes are now standard on many new road bikes, and a lot of long-distance off-road riding is being done on drop handlebars.

Shaped to carry your weight more comfortably, when riding in an aero position, the drop handlebar is much less fatiguing than a straight mountain bike handlebar. Especially when you are riding 100km a day.

The Corner Bar can turn your mountain bike, in a touring machine (Photo: Surly)

One set of controls, for all

But there is an issue with drop handlebars. They can’t run normal mountain bike brake levers or shifter controls. The curve of those drops, doesn’t allow your fingers to reach a conventional mountain bike brake lever or shifting trigger.

This is an annoyance, as 29er hardtail mountain bikes make a great touring platform. If you want to swap out your standard handlebar on the mountain bike, for a comfier drop bar, and go bike packing for a weekend, you can’t.

A solution is to purchase a gravel bike shifter system, and brakes, but that’s quite an investment, for only a few weekends a year.

gravel bike
Another clever feature - you can use mountain bike grips, instead of bar tape (Photo: Surly)

Blurring the line between gravel and mountain biking

If you want to swap from a standard flat handlebar, to a drop bar, on your mountain bike, there’s now an option that doesn’t require two sets of brakes or shifters.

Surly is one of the world’s most respected touring and gravel bike brands. The American company knows how important component compatibility is for riders and its latest product, could be a breakthrough for riders who want to use one bike, in a multi-purpose role.

It's called the Corner Bar, and features a design that works with traditional mountain bike shifters and brake levers. That means all you need to do, is loosen some bolts, and you can alternate between a flat handlebar, and the touring comfort of drops.

Although the Corner Bar can use mountain bike brake levers and controls, it might not work with the stem you are using. 

These new drop handlebars have a clamping size of 24.4mm, which is narrower than most mountain bike handlebars, which will require you to use a spacer kit. That should still work out a lot cheaper than buying drop bar specific brake and shifter levers.

gravel ride
The Corner Bar combines powerful mountain bike brakes, with drop bar comfort (Photo: Surly)

Wide and stable off-road 'bars

Surly is offering the Corner Bar in three sizes: 460-, 500- or 540mm wide. As with all drop handlebars, bar ends flare outward. This makes your actual grip width a touch wider than the top measurement, with the Corner Bar’s actual touch ergonomics, being in the width range between 630- to 710mm.

Targeted at those off-road riders who want to have a mountain bike for trails, and the option of a handlebar swap, for bike packing, the Corner Bar makes a lot of sense.

It could also become popular with cyclists who have an old mountain bike, that could become an off-touring platform of sorts, with the addition of a Corner Bar.

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