Can you ride mountain bikes on the road? Yes! although mountain bikes are primarily made for off-road riding. With their chunkier tires and comfortable upright riding position. However, you can ride your mountain bike on the road but you’ll find that it’s a lot slower than a road bike.
The 4 hacks to making your mountain bike better for the road are suspension, tires and wheels, gears, and minor position changes. Mountain bikes are made for off-road but tweaks to these 4 areas adapt your bike for road use.
In order to make your bike better for road use, we’re gonna need to reduce what makes your mountain bike good for off-roading.
At the end of the day, I’d only consider buying new parts if you’re going to be riding longer distances on the road. Short distances less than 3 miles or so would be a waste of money unless you’re like me and once you get your mindset on something you have to do it.
Most mountain bikes will be more than suitable for short road journeys. But there are a few free little tweaks that could be worth doing.
Most newer hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes are built for the odd road use.
But if you are wanting to change factors to making your bike perform better on the road. Below are 4 hacks some free and some paid tweaks to improve your road performance.
Tires and Wheels
Changing your tires to slick-tires instead of the chunky tires it’ll probably have on will help make them roll faster. Also, it’s best to pump your tires up to the maximum PSI. You can check this on the sidewall of your tire. Having higher air pressures in your tires will make them roll faster and feel smoother when travelling along flat smooth surfaces.
We’ve found that opting for a thinner tire around 1.5 inches are perfect for road use on mountain bikes.
If you’ve got money to spend then you could buy a second set of wheels. Buying a second set of wheels that we’re primarily designed with road use would be a huge benefit in the long run especially if you plan on riding your mountain bike on the road for a long time.
But remember to make sure your new wheels will fit to your bike. Your best bet is to take it to your local bike shop and get an experts opinion so you know the wheels will fit.
Your local bike shop will also make sure that there installed correctly and inflated to the right pressures for road use.
Mountain bike suspension systems are built to absorb a lot of impacts from roots and rocks that you’ll be riding along on off-road terrains. More expensive bikes will have suspension lockouts for when you’re riding up an incline. Locking out your suspension will help improve performance for road use.
If your mountain bike doesn’t have a lockout suspension system then you can see if you can increase the air pressure to make your suspension harder. Harder suspensions are better for road use as you’ll be riding on smooth surfaces so you don’t want to be bobbing about whilst trying to maintain quick speeds on the roads.
With a budget to spend you may want to look into buying a second set of forks that are rigid forks. This means that they won’t have any front suspension. This will improve the bikes road performance massively. You can then switch forks depending on the type of riding you’re going to be doing.
Minor Position Changes
Mountain bikes tend to have handlebars set to a higher position in order to improve handling on rough terrain. Whereas when you look at road bikes the handlebars are always a lot lower to improve aerodynamics. You should consider dropping your handlebars on your bike to one of the lowest settings. This will make you lean forward more but will help you reach higher speeds on the road without having to pedal as much to maintain that speed.
If you’re considering changing parts on your bike then you could buy a second set of drop handlebars which you’ll find on most road bikes. But be careful because if your body is not used to leaning forwards that far like you see people on road bikes do, you could cause damage to your body. Leaning forward puts more pressure on your hands as all your weight is now pushed to your hands and arms.
Increasing the height of your seat will also help with improving aerodynamics but will make the ride not as comfortable as you transition from an upright riding position to leaning forwards.
There are no free options with this and should probably only be done if you are going to be using your bike for road use far more than off-road.
On-road bikes you’ll find more gears and gears that are closer together so you can build speed up quickly by changing gears in small increments.
Whereas on a mountain bike you’ll more often than not find fewer gears as it’s intended that your average speed will be far lower than that of a road bike.
IMPORTANT TIP: You’ll mostly have to change your wheels if you plan on changing gearsets to a wheel that can accommodate the higher gears.
Once again unless you have a lot of knowledge about bike parts. I’d recommend going to your local bike shop to see your options.
Are these changes necessary?
3 out of the 4 hacks above have free options that I’d definitely consider doing if you’re planning on riding your bike on the road a lot more than off-road terrains.
It will help improve the bike’s performance on the road as well as reducing the amount of stress on your body.
If you’re planning on using your mountain bike primarily for road use then changing the fork to a rigid fork as well as getting some slick fast-rolling tires will help massively.
Do it at home vs local bike shop
As with anything buying the individual parts and doing the changes at home will be a lot cheaper as they’ll be no labour charges involved. And it must be said that bikes aren’t that tricky to build or take apart.
But make sure you’re confident in doing these changes and make sure any changes you do are safe.
Getting a local bike shop to do the work will be a more expensive task but you know that the work will be done right. And they’ll be there for expert advice in choosing the right parts for the job.
An alternative way would be to source the parts from a local bike shop and explain what you want. Although it may be slightly more expensive than buying online. You’ll know the parts will fit. But doing it this way will mean that you’ll still be fitting the parts yourself. So make sure everything is tightened and installed correctly.
Finding cheap parts for your conversion
You don’t want to be spending too much money on parts otherwise you may as well buy a second bike…
Over the last few years, bike parts have come down in price a lot so it’s making converting your mountain bike for road use scenario’s far more viable.
A lot of online retailers will be a lot cheaper than buying the parts in shops.
But one way of getting cheaper parts would be to source sites like eBay and Craiglist. Although a lot of these parts will be second hand. Second-hand bike wheels and forks are considerably cheaper than new parts.