Putting road tires on a mountain bike – a good idea?


For many cyclists riding your mountain bike on the street seems out of place, but commonly found. The MTB is less expensive, offering a stable yet safer ride than using a road bike.

For this reason, you can convert your MTB to travel on the street, as it’s your only transport available. But, before changing mountain bike tires, it helps to make some changes to the bicycle, making it comfortable.

Things to consider

The Suspension

The MTB has a durable structure to absorb impact from rough terrains, and the majority comes with a suspension for trail cycling. When riding on streets, you do not need the suspension, and if it has, a lockout all you need is an easy adjustment.

Now, if you do not have a lockout available to use, you should increase the suspension’s air pressure to stiffen it. Doing this helps reduce bobbing when pedaling, standing, sprinting, or climbing. However, if you want a permanent or in need have a seasonal change having a rigid fork will make the bicycle stiffer and lighter on the street.

The Wheels

The easiest way to convert your MTB is by pumping up the mountain bike tires to 50-PSI. Check the maximum PSI on the tire sidewall before inflating. You will find the rolling resistance better and quicker when standing up.

Now there is a way to make your tire setup faster? You will find many MTB bikers bringing along slick-tires on long trips for street training. You can mount the tires on a spare set of wheels or install them on the MTB rim.

The recommended slick tire size should be 1.5-inches to fit the wheels. These days with the 29er size finding slick tires to work is not difficult. Alternatively, you get a 2nd set of wheels to reduce the time swapping the tire. But, remember to update your kit with the correct tube and tools to work with the tire size.

The Gearing

Having a different set of MTB wheels allows you to use another rear gear set to help perk up the gearing. The road bikes tend to have more gears so that the cadence can be adjusted with smaller increments in close range.

The MTB is the opposite as it accommodates slower average speeds and steep climbs. For this reason, when on the street, you want to spin fast once reaching your speed for road use.

Further, many MTBs have a single chainring for swapping to a larger one even when you have a different crank-set.

Position Changes

Other considerations before swapping tires are to do some minor change by dropping the handlebars lower if you do street riding without switching too much between road and mountain setups.

The road rider uses lower handlebars to make it aerodynamic while it is higher on MTB bikes. You can lower the steer tube, and takes little time to get the job done.

However, your body needs to adapt to the new position and may leave pressure on the hands. If this is the case, change it out with drop handlebars found on the road cycle.

 These are a couple of things you might do to make your MTB comfortable for road and off-road traveling.

close up of mountain bike with road tires

What Are the Best Road Tires for MTBs?

When it comes to mountain bikes, there are loads of options available to give you speed on smooth surfaces with loads of traction for rough trails.

You can find the tire in regular size categories to provide with different wheel size and tire size. The best all-around MTB tires need to provide you with a mix of traveling smooth to rougher trails. Here are some of the best available:

ISO 5590/1 also the 26-inch tirethe size is standard and one of the best for mountain bikes today. A standout tire is the Continental Ride Tour Bike Tire measuring 26″ x 1.75″ and available in other sizes. The tire offers a hardwearing design with excellent puncture resistance with a smooth center tread section for fast rolling on the streets. The gravel patterns are ideal for gravel paths, while the gnarly knobbles on both sides make it able to move in twisty tracks with confidence.

ISO 622 also the 29-inch tire here, the Schwalbe Marathon Touring Bicycle Tire comes to mind. The wheel size is 29″ x 2.0″ with versatility offering you smooth, fast-rolling on asphalt surfaces and challenging trails.

Do Narrower Sizes Work Ok?

Yes, you can fit narrower tires, but it depends on the purpose which you use your MTB. There are different tire diameters –  26-inches, 27.5-inches, and 29-inches. Typically, the tire width ranges from 1.6-inches to 2.5-inches but can be higher.

While using wider tires offers you added comfort, balance, and grip, the narrow type help you unleash your cycling skills on rough terrain. The tire offers you exceptional performance and reduces contact with more acceleration on the street.

Furthermore, it helps reduce the weight of gaining more balance and control. The essential thing is to choose the right size of tires. Here it helps if you looked at the ISO sized tire. In the International Standards Organization, you get five sizes and should consider the tire/rim sizing.

As you are shopping for a narrow bike tire, make sure to check the sidewall for the ISO sizing description. The first number you see is the tire width (mm) and the second number in mm. The most common size is your 700C or ISO 622 and fits most MTB bikes and excellent for the street.

The best for MTB is the ISO 584 with 27.5-inches to fit rims of 650B, and another sizing is the 27-inch ISO 559, popular for the modern mountain bike. When buying mountain bike tires, the width is not as important as the diameter.

However, the typical size for a mountain bike ranges from 2.0 to 2.4 in inches and works well for trail cyclists and cross-country.

Check out my other post asking, Can I use a mountain bike on the road? 

Final thoughts

As you can see, it is possible to put road, smooth, and narrow tires on a mountain bike. While many cyclists prefer a thin wheel, it all comes down to different things.

Using a wider tire helps increase the air volume and made for cycling on loose terrain, providing comfort. At the same time, narrow wheels give you a great experience on cycling hard surfaces for better balance, lower weight, and performance.

Therefore, choosing a street tire, mountain bike tire, or smooth tire depends on the terrain and if you do a lot of training on the road.

Lastly, check how the tire diameter and tire width helps contribute to better riding experience and look at the tire tread, rim size, tire knobs, and air pressure.

Have a safe cycle!

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