This is a common question for many mountain bike enthusiasts. Many people want to use their trail bikes while at home to run errands or commute to work, and we all know that road bikes and mountain bikes are designed very differently from each other. So, can you put road wheels on a mountain bike?
Straight to the point
The short answer is yes, you can put road wheels on a mountain bike, but due to the very different design of a mountain bike when compared to a road bike, you also need to make some other adjustments and take the design of the bike into consideration to make this transition work out.
Recommended Road Tires for Your MTB
A great choice for your MTB and still have a wide tire to cushion the ride. If you lock out your suspension to increase your pedal efficiency the bike is going to ride hard. Road bikes have suspension built into the frame and forks by flexing. A mountain bike is designed to be stiff for strength, hence the rider will feel it.
More about the Grifter, it is heavy the side walls and treads are thick. This is great for wear and puncture resistance but not quick like a lighter tire. A perfect choice for a converted mountain bike to daily commuter.
Get the Grifter on AMAZON here’s a link – Maxxis Grifter Urban Assault Tire
The Grifter is not designed to go tubeless. So if your a tubeless guy or gal think about an extra wheel set. I have an older MTB that I converted to an comfortable road bike. Find more tips for making your MTB more comfortable on the road in this Article. 11 Ways to Make Your MTB More Road Friendly
The Slick 2.2 is light, fast and with the smooth center has a low rolling resistance. The side walls and main tread is thinner so flats might be an issue. I don’t recommend going off road with these tires. The qualities that make them fast will make them slide in the dirt.
If I were riding a long way on my commute this would be an option. Find this tire at AMAZON with this link – WTB Slick 2.2 Comp Tire
The tire is constructed of DNA rubber and is a proprietary 60A rubber compound, Giving the tire the perfect blend of smooth road riding characteristics and good cross-country and trail riding performance. DNA rubber is well known for its versatility and long-lasting performance.
Will a Road Tire Make My MTB Go Faster?
Pedaling harder and faster (I know slap me for the obvious) will make your bike go faster. But all things equal road tires will play a significant roll in making your MTB faster “on the road”. Higher pressure, smaller contact patch and less rolling resistance with the lighter weight.
Think about how hard it is to pedal a mountain bike as the tire pressure decreases, this is a perfect example of how a road bike tire will increase your speed.
Getting More Speed Out of Your MTB
Look at locking out your suspension to get more speed. Fully suspension is great for absorbing drops and rocks, but the same movement absorbs some of your pedal stroke power. Another trick is to infalte your tire pressure a bit higher. I can safely put 50 psi in my heavy tread mountain bike tires. This is going to reduce traction off road so be careful.
Things to Consider Before Installing Road Tires
- Ride Quality – Road tires are inflated to a higher pressure 50 psi and up versus below 35 psi for trail tires. This will result in a “harsh” ride.
- Traction – Typically a road tire will have small knobs with smooth center for reduced rolling resistance. This combined with higher pressure in a road tire makes the contact patch much smaller resulting in less traction.
- Smaller Width – Road tires are smaller width making them lighter and faster.
Read more about MTB Tire Pressure in this article – What’s the Best Tire Pressure to Run on My Mountain Bike
What Size Road Tire Will Work on My MTB?
The key tire characteristic is the “size” of the tire. Three common sizes to look for: 26, 27.5 and 29 inch tires. The width of a road tire is usually less than a mountain bike tire. As an example my bike is a 29 in with 2.3 inch width.
Most “road” tires for an MTB are going to have a smaller width. Maxxis makes what I believe is the prefect road tire for a mountain bike. It’s called the Grifter, it comes in two tire widths (2.0 and 2.5).
Look for 1.75 inch and bigger for your mountain bike, they are fairly common compared to past years, and with the popularity of gravel riding have become more prevalent.
A Second Set of Wheels to Go with Your Road Tires
The easiest course of action to take if you can afford it is to buy an extra set of wheels and tires, allowing you to swap from your treaded off-road tires to road tires whenever you need to. Please double check your derailleur and brakes.
If you decide to go the spare tire set route, be sure to update your tools or emergency tire kits with tubes to accommodate the new tires as well.
Something to think about when doing this is if you are sticking to smooth roads, you could select a light weight wheel as well. This is a delicate balance because light wheels might be more fragile, so stick to smooth roads only.
Changing the Gears for a Faster Road Mountain Bike
The gear setups of a mountain bike and a road bike are considerably different. Road bikes have more gears set at closer ranges from each other to allow for small incremental changes. These smaller changes are great for adjusting between various inclines that you encounter to allow for smooth and easy pedaling.
On the flipside, mountain bikes have gears to accommodate steep terrain and slower speeds with higher gear ratios. These higher ratios mean that to get to an optimum speed, which is easy on a road bike, you will have to most likely pedal faster with mountain bike gears.
If you do change the rear cassette or the front ring, double check the chain length. “Taller” gears on the front chain ring will quickly require a longer chain or the addition of a master link.
Thanks to modern engineering switching out your rear gear cassette with one tailored towards road riding are fairly straightforward. Many mountain bikes have single chain rings that can be swapped out with larger ones or even an entirely different crankset.
More Tips for Making Your MTB Road Worthy
Something you may want to consider if you are going to be doing a substantial amount of road cycling on your mountain bike is to lower your handlebars. Lowering your handlebars helps keep the wind resistance more minimal, and as you are probably already aware, is a critical design feature of road bikes, in contrast to higher bar settings to aid in control and handling when off-road riding.
This change can be made in minutes, allowing you to adjust the bars lower or higher whenever you need to.
Your seat height will most likely need adjustment as well. In most cases, you will have to raise your seat for optimum comfort and performance. Do this by making short increments until you’re satisfied; just be sure not to go too high, or your hips will rock.
Add a rearview mirror to help see the oncoming rear traffic. This may seem cringy to off-road mountain bike people, but if your commuting with your bike daily, you should be considering safety and making it a top priority.
Mud flaps and fenders may be a great idea to combat adverse weather conditions, especially if you’re going somewhere and want to remain somewhat presentable. Otherwise, you might arrive at your destination with a strip of mud on your back. There are plenty of aftermarket mudflaps and fenders out there that you can easily add or remove when needed.
Read this article: 11 Ways to Make Your MTB More Road Friendly
A Perfect Street and Trail MTB Tire?
If you think you’d like to balance street and trail in one tire consider understand you’ll have some trade-offs. Heavy treads give great traction but higher rolling resistance. Trail tires use low pressure for increased traction, but alternately this creates higher rolling resistance.
If I had to pick a single tire for street and trail it would be the Continental ProTection Cross King.
More Things to Consider on an MTB Tire
When switching your tires and adjusting your suspension, you will notice that your bike ride is much stiffer than when set up for off-road riding. This is normal and is actually beneficial.
Road tires have significantly less traction than off-road tires, keep this in mind if you are in areas that aren’t flat or made of concrete or asphalt.
Road tires are also typically smaller in width with less ground pressure. Narrow tires are going to increase your speed on roads, as well as make your bike lighter overall.
Let’s abbreviate what we discussed above on things to do when changing over from treaded mountain bike tires to road bike tires, along with other tips to consider not covered above.
- Adjusting air pressure
- Saddle and seat positioning
- Lockout suspension
- Handlebar height adjustment
- Addition of a mirror
- Pedal changes (clipless pedals)
- Lights and reflectors to make traffic aware of your presence
Cranking it Up For MTB on the Road
The transition from changing your off-road tires to road tires isn’t necessarily hard, and when you carry out the changes mentioned in this article it can be done quickly and smoothly. This can be a great option if you don’t want to spend money on a road bike, and still want to commute in your city or town, and when it comes time to hit the trails you can easily switch out your components and get in some off-road riding.
Looking for MORE Road Worthy Articles?
- Urban Mountain Biking – Learn the tips and tricks for getting out in the city
- 11 Ways to Make Your MTB More Comfortable on the Road – Find out how to stay in the saddle longer and enjoy the ride.
- Sunglasses and Mountain Biking – How to Select Sunglasses for Mountain Biking and Mountain Biking Sunglasses Tips and Tricks
David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involve riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or casting a fly on a small mountain stream. Read more about David HERE.