Saturday, January 18, 2014

Journey of the Boardwalk: Part 36 - FSA Drop Bar, Fnhon Handlepost and 31.8mm Stem

In Part 18 of the Journey of the Boardwalk, I changed my bike controls from a bullhorn bar to a drop bar. I only just realised that it has been 2 years since I first used drop bars on my Boardwalk! It didn't seem so long that I first used drop bars.

The position of the drop bar has been quite comfortable all these while, but after a recent change of the handlepost, the handlepost height was reduced. In Part 30, I changed from a Dahon Mu Uno handlepost to a Fnhon handlepost, and the height was reduced by 5 cm. Although the lower sportier position is good for speed, it is not as comfortable as a higher handlepost as I need to bend lower to reach the handlebar.

I also found that the position of the drops was too low for me. It was not comfortable for me to be in the drops, after the handlepost was lowered by 5 cm. I ended up not using the drops at all.

After doing some research, I learnt that there was much more to drop bars than I thought. To a beginner, all drop bars look quite similar. However, there are actually many different types of drop bars and dimensions, and they cater to different needs. For more detailed info, you can refer to this excellent article.

Road Drop Bar Geometry

To summarise the info, besides the width of the drop bar, there are 3 other important characteristics of a drop bar. First is the type of drop bar. Is it a traditional reach type, an anatomic type, or a compact type? This refers to the shape of the drops.

Next would be the reach distance and the drop distance of the drop bar. The reach determines how far the shifters will be positioned in front of the stem, while the drop distance determines how low the drop is.

Different curves, reach and drop of different drop bars. Which one is yours?

After learning all these, I knew that I needed a compact drop bar, with a short reach and short drop. This will move the shifters closer to the handlepost, and not stick out so far in front. The reach will be shorter and should be more comfortable for me to reach.

With a shorter drop, the drops will be more accessible without me needed to reach down so far. Again, more comfort will enable me to use it more often.

The problem with installing a drop bar on a Dahon handlepost is that very few drop bars come in 25.4mm or 26mm center diameter these days. Dahon handlepost clamps or LitePro stems can only accept a 25.4mm or at most a 26mm handlebar. Most modern drop bars are built with an oversized center diameter, with a center clamp diameter of 31.8mm. Good 25.4mm or 26mm drop bars are getting quite rare. If I want to install a 31.8mm drop bar, then I will need to find a suitable way to fix it to the handlepost.

To do that, a combination of new parts is required! In this part of the upgrade, I will only be listing down the new components that I got. The installation part will only be described in the next part of the upgrade story. See how I managed to fix an oversized (31.8mm) drop bar to my Dahon Boardwalk!

The shape and dimensions of the new drop bar is very important. In order to reduce reach and make it more comfortable, I opted to get a compact drop bar, with a short reach and short drop. The FSA Vero aluminium drop bar is good and cheap, and satisfies my requirements.

FSA Vero aluminium compact drop bar.

What I like is that the dimensions are clearly printed on the center of the drop bar for easy reference. The reach of 80mm and drop of 125mm is likely to be one of the shortest that can be found out there.

Not lightweight at all, at 305 grams. For comparison, my ABR drop bar is only 220 grams! 

As the drop bar center clamp diameter is now larger at 31.8mm, I found that I will also need a new set of cyclocross brake levers, with a larger clamp size. I decided to get this Cane Creek levers, which only cost a few dollars more than a similar set of Tektro brake levers.

Cane Creek Crosstop levers, with aluminium levers and 31.8mm clamp diameter.

Comes with a set screw on the lever axle to reduce lever play, and a reach adjust bolt for lever reach adjustment. Similar to the Tektro design.

Looking good!

The most important component for this upgrade is the stem. As I am using a 31.8mm drop bar, I will need the stem to convert the clamp size from 25.4mm on the handlepost to 31.8mm of the drop bar. Not coincidentally, the most important part is also the hardest to find. I tried many sources on Taobao and they were mostly out of stock of this special stem. It was only after I searched and tried many sellers that I managed to find this stem.

This stem is similar in concept to the LitePro stem, with the difference being the clamp diameter. The LitePro stem has a clamp diameter of 25.4mm on both sides, which is mainly used to extend the reach of the handlebar.

As for this new stem, it has a clamp diameter of 25.4mm on one side to fix to the handlepost, and a clamp diameter of 31.8mm on the other end to install the oversized handlebar. I wonder why this stem is so hard to find as I am sure there is demand for it.

To try to keep to the colour scheme of my Dahon Boardwalk, I found and ordered a gold coloured stem. This stem can be used with a T-shaped handlepost or a normal clamp type handlepost.

New gold coloured stem! Large 31.8mm clamp on one end allows the use of oversized handlebars.

Made of 7075 T6 aluminium for strength.

Similar construction to the LitePro stem. The logo is of the brand Parasol Tree.

Side view of the stem.

The centre-to-centre distance between the clamps is about 48mm.

This stem weighs about 113 grams. For comparison, the LitePro 25.4mm stem weighs about 100 grams.

At the same time, I also ordered alternative stem designs. As many of the sources are actually out of stock, I decided to order from many sources at one time, and see which ones actually have the stock and manage to deliver. Trying one by one will only waste a lot of time as they take quite a while to tell you that the item that you want is out of stock.

This alternative stem design is also from Parasol Tree. This other design is quite interesting, and can only be used with a clamp type handlepost and not T-shaped handlepost.

The alternative stem design with 31.8mm clamp diameter.

This clamp is designed such that the 25.4mm bar is machined out as one piece with the stem. It does not have a separate 25.4mm bar as seen on the other stem or LitePro stems.

The 2 face plates on the 31.8mm clamp side is completely removable, making it easy to put on the handlebar. This is useful as it can be tricky trying to thread the stem over a curvy drop bar or bullhorn bar.

Centre-to-centre distance is about 47mm.

This stem is lighter than the other design, due to the one piece construction. It is quite lightweight at only 72 grams.

Comparing the two stems side by side

Not quite the same, but function wise they do the same thing.

So, now I have two stems to choose from. Which one would be more suitable? Each stem has its pros and cons, and I have to decide which one to use.

The gold coloured stem has a colour that matches the colour scheme of my bike. However, the separate construction means that it is probably a little bit less stiff than the one piece design. It also weighs a little bit more.

On the other hand, the silver stem's colour is different from my colour scheme. The main advantage here is the one piece construction, which is stiffer and lighter than the gold coloured stem. The open clamp design is also useful.

Before we go on to see which stem I eventually used, we need to take a look at the last key component, which is the handlepost. The current handlepost is the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost, which has an open clamp design with 2 clamp bolts. The drop bar mounts directly to the clamp on top of the handlepost. However, if I am using an additional stem, mounting the stem and drop bar on top of the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost will make the drop bar too high up. I will already be reducing the reach by using a compact drop bar, so there is no need to further raise up the height of the drop bar mounting point.

In this case, to compensate for the additional height given by the new stem, I will need to get a shorter handlepost instead. Fnhon does have a shorter handlepost, at only 27cm. Check it out below.

Fnhon 27cm handlepost. The 27cm is measured from the centre of the clamp on top, to the clamping line at the bottom of the handlepost.

Unique top clamp design! 4 bolt design for a super stiff and secure mounting of the handlebar. No need to worry about the stem or handlebar rotating or slipping within the clamp.

Top part of the clamp can be easily separated to fit on the handlebar.

Weighs 511 grams, not much lighter than the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost which I got previously. It is about 4.5 cm shorter than the previous handlepost, but the larger clamp and 2 additional bolts do add a bit to the weight.

Now that all the parts have been gathered, I can change out the whole handlepost and drop bar assembly. The new parts are the FSA Drop bar, the new 31.8mm stem, and the new shorter Fnhon handlepost.

In the next part, I will show which stem I eventually used, and why I chose that. Also, I will go through the installation process, and compare the old handlepost/drop bar setup with the new handlepost/drop bar setup.


  1. hi steve;

    good stuff you seem to have there. the 31.8 stem particularly is a gem. do share the taobao link if you can.

    I'm a little curious why you had to replace the 31.5 fnhon handlepost with another shorter one though, because you mentioned you don't use the drops.

    *ordered a fnhon 31.5 one piece handlepost for further zhnging on my own bike

    1. Although the handlepost is shorter, with the use of an additional stem, the clamping height is the same as with a 31.5cm handlepost.

      4.5 cm stem + 27cm handlepost = 31.5cm handlepost. All these will be explained in detail in the next post.

      At the same time, the drop bar was changed to a compact drop bar. The drops are now not so low and are more accessible. Again, this will be shown in the next part.

  2. Hi steve;

    all is revealed. The stem sits on top of the handlepost!

    good one there.

  3. Hi steve,

    thanks for your reviews. its very usefull to up grade my tern. anyway i really want to buy the stem like silver one you have, could you tell me where could i find/buy it.

    1. You can find this on Search for 双把立.

  4. Hi steve

    really interest with silver one of the stem you have, could you tell me where could i find/buy it? your review very helpfull for up grade my tern.

  5. Hi Steve, Great blog - I'm learning loads here being new to folding bikes. I have a question about handlepost compatibility. I'm looking to mod my Vitesse with either a bullhorn or some drops. I currently have what I think is the stock 25.4 clamping stem from Dahon on the bike. Having read your blog I'm wary of attaching a stem extender to anything other than the t-bar type stem. I've seen one from a P18 here in the UK relatively cheap - I wondered if you have any idea about compatibility between different models and their respective handle posts. Would a P18 fit a Vitesse? or is there something fundamentally different with the attachment to the top of the steerer tube with different models? I'm assuming they're all standard 1 1/8" diameter no? Any ideas? Thanks.

    1. What P18 are you referring to?

      The attachment of the handlepost to the steerer tube are the same for almost all Dahon bikes, except for the entry level models.

  6. Hi there those parasol tree stem extenders are just what i'm looking for, do you have a link by any chance as i've had no luck searching for them

    1. Try these 2 links.

  7. May i know how to measure fsa vero width? My shoulder width is 38cm. What handlebar width should i get?

    1. To measure the handlebar width, measure from center to center of both ends of the drop bar. I'm not sure how you measured your shoulder width. You can check online to see how to check the correct handlebar size.

  8. Hi Steve, thanks for the posts they are excellent! I have a customer built folder (fnhon frame and components of various brands). It's 20 inch, 9 speed, shimano sora RD (shimano 3500), flat bar shifters (shimano m4000). No FD, single 56T chain ring. 11 - 28 T cassette (sram PG950). If I want to upgrade to compact drop bar, what components are needed (keep as many current components as possible)? Thanks.

    1. The only components you can keep are the Sora rd and the cassette.
      you will need Sora drop bar shifters, Fd, and double crankset. You might be able to keep the chain.

    2. Thanks for the reply. If I just want to keep 9 speed instead to upgrade to 18 or more speed do I still have to get FD and double crankset?

    3. If you just want 9 speed then you don't need the FD and double crankset. However, the left shifter will only operate as a brake.

  9. Hello Steve, may I know where did you get your FSA Vero compact dropbar from? Thank you!