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Can a Road Bike Be Converted Into a Mountain Bike? How?

Off road biking on a rocky trail.

Yes, a road bike can be converted into a mountain bike. If you don’t want to go for the expense of buying a true mountain bike, you can take your current bike and convert it into a mountain bike. If you are a true mountain biker like me, you will want to convert your road bike into one that has the suspension, tires, and handlebars a mountain bike has so that you can ensure your safety on rougher terrain.

Learn how to convert a road bike into a mountain bike here.

Road Bike-to-Mountain Bike Essentials

Continental Race King ShieldWall Mountain Bike Tire - 26 x 2.0 Folding MTB Tire, Black

When you are converting a road bike to a mountain bike, there are a few key basics that you need to have. The tires will be the first thing that any expert would say, and they are not that easy to find. I have found that finding mountain bike tires are not as tricky as it may seem.

You will also need to alter the style and position of the handlebars. Mountain biking requires a different kind of grip on the bike because of the speed and terrain used for that kind of cycling. The thrill of mountain biking comes in its aerodynamic nature, and the placement of your handlebars is critical to accomplishing this aerodynamic feat.

You have to work with your own personal comfort level. Here is what I found, which I also preferred.

Handlebars that are accessible to an upright sitting position are typical for mountain bikes and are generally a requirement. This is to provide both comfort and ease of riding, along with longer rides.

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Gold plated handlebar and a cyclist.

The frame of your mountain bike also needs to be lightweight for the same reason. Mountain biking is about speed and resilience in different climates and terrains. A light frame helps you bike in those conditions.

Wheels and handlebars are the most important features to keep in mind when you are making conversions between road bikes and mountain bikes. I think you can have a very effective bike by doing just that, but you can take the features and their changes further.

Tire Specifications for Mountain Bikes

Tire of a mountain bike and pedal with cleats.

Tire specifications are the first thing you will hear about when you are converting your road bike to a mountain bike. That is because the terrain is much different. Road bikes can afford a smaller tire for smoother terrain. Mountain bikes need thick treads and wider tires to keep you safe on the trails.

The average recommended size for a mountain bike tire is 26 inches to 29 inches. Look for tires with a rubber casing for a safer fit. You want a good tire with a nice tread on it as well. Road bikes have good tires for roads and are thinner. When you take these out on rough terrain, you will experience flats and punctures all the time.  It is easy to simply replace the tires on your road bike.

About Handlebars and Gears on Mountain Bikes

A person with gloves cycling during sunset.

Handlebars matter in mountain biking because of the speed that you are taking when you hit the trails. The most common kinds of handlebars for mountain bikes are riser bars, drop bars, and straight bars. When you replace your handlebars, you may have to replace your gears and shifters.

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The handlebars on a converted bike are typically one straight bar or drop bars with a slight dip in the center. This is for aerodynamics. If you’ve ever compared the difference between a road bike ride and a mountain bike ride you know why. That may be why you are considering making this switch.

A converted mountain bike is often referred to as a hybrid mountain bike. The right handlebar for a hybrid will have you riding upright so that you can enjoy the views that inspire mountain bike enthusiasts every day.

Gears on mountain bikes can be complicated because you need to have the right chainrings and the correct number of teeth on them. You don’t have to change the gearshifts on your road bike if you are happy with them, but if you have a tougher fitness level you may be able to do it.

If you really want to work with your gears, changing your brake calipers to smaller V-brakes can help give you an exciting grip on the road.

To add multi-speeds to your bike, you will need to loosen the lockrings on your axles and rework the crank arms and spindles. Adding a new axle to your new front wheel, with a chain long enough between the front and the rear will give your new bike the look you are going for.

However, a single-speed mountain bike is not that uncommon either, particularly for the amateur enthusiasts. This is something that is easily changed later if you don’t want to focus on your gear-shifting mechanical work right now.

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I started with a single-speed when I converted my bike and had it reworked to a three-speed one year later. The difference is noticeable, but I am out biking a lot and that is what called for the change.

Build Your New Mountain Bike

A person customizing a road bike.

When you are converting a road bike to a mountain bike to save costs, you will find you don’t need to spend a lot. Thicker and larger tires are an important expense, and the handlebar will also make the transformation complete. Anything else such as lights, pedals, bells, and whistles are just that, extras. Gears can always be changed down the road.

This is an exciting project that will be as rewarding as your mountain bike adventures are today. Start building your new mountain bike and add another thrilling skill to your resume.