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Putting Road Bike Tires On MTB (compatibility Issues and other things)

Making a mountain bike more road-friendly can be done with the right tires but sometimes what you think you need might be different than what you would need.

the short version of the answer is that

Yes, you can put road bike tires on a mountain bike but whether or not the rim will accept the new tire is something you have to look into which we will discuss later the other thing you could do is buy a set of a different wheelset which would work fine and you wouldn’t need any additional upgrades with those.

There are 3 basic questions that would cross your mind when you are trying to convert your MTB into a road bike

  1. Can you put road bike tires on MTB rims?
  2. Under what conditions would this setup work exactly
  3. Which is more efficient (Tires on existing MTB rims) Or (New Road specific wheelset)

Of course, most people would want this setup (new tire on the same MTB rim if possible) rather than buying a new wheelset just for the road.

Putting Road Tires on Existing MTB rims (Hookless/NON-UST) :

There are 3 basic points for the conversion if you had like to change only tires and not rims (Putting road tires on existing MTB rims)

  • you would need to run a tubeless (hookless) tire on your existing MTB rim
  • you would need the same width tires or whatever standards that tire can accept
  • and since you would need tubeless (hookless) tires you would need to run lower pressure than what normally road bikers do, to put it simply no more than 72 psi.

The reason for these things is that most of the MTB rims are hookless and they run tubeless tires the MTB tires are rated to run under 50 Psi while road bikes’ tubeless tires are rated to be run on no more than 72 psi (by standards) going above this pressure doesn’t mean that the tire would blow out but this is rather the safe zone you can say

It’s important to keep in mind that I am talking about Tubeless-ready tires, not custom UST tubeless which I will explain later on but because most MTB wheels are Hookless (NON-UST) I am going over this first

And the specifications about the width of the tires are there so that the tires are at least acceptable by the rim as I mentioned MTB wheels are mostly hookless and the It’s necessary that they are equipped with the right width especially hookless tires because the bead needs to be as tensioned as it can and it shouldn’t stretch otherwise if the tire bead is loose it might blow out or cause other problems.

It’s also vital to understand that in this kind of setup you would not be able to use any tubes with this setup, hence the 72 psi pressure because you can achieve that 120 psi status with tubes only 

You can pump your road tubeless tires with higher pressure and experiments have been conducted on that but so far very few have been conducted and they were successful but non-the-less it’s not recommended to put higher pressure on them

Putting Road Tires on Existing MTB rims (Hooked/UST) :

If your bike came with UST tires and they had hooked rims then the procedure would be the same but you can use tubeless tires on them with or without tubes

This setup has, of course, the advantage of tubes because you would be able to fill up your tires really high but even on these setups usually, you can fill them with more amount of air overall the results would be the same due to the width of the tires.

The reason for that is that road wheels are really slick and on the existing MTB rims that you should be using tires will be wider and heavier.

Restrictions or disadvantages of using Road tires on MTB rims :

As I have mentioned above as well you can throw some Tires that will work well on the pavements and roads and even a little bit of offroading as well if you had like to put those kinds of tires on your existing rims

Here’s a list of disadvantages

  • width of the tires would have to match with the tires previously on the bike which would make them heavier
  • You may not be able to run these tires on high pressures
  • The rolling resistance of these tires will be high (low compared to knobby Mtb tires)
  • The bike will perform much better but not as much as compared to a road bike
  • the speed of the bike will still be creatively low compared to road bikes.

So these are all the drawbacks that will still come even as you put on tires that are more road-friendly.

Of course, on the plus side, these tires will not be as heavy as mtb tires are because usually, these tires would be single ply and there will be no knobs on them and they will roll faster compared to the Mtb tires as well

The biggest advantage though would be that these tires will not wear out as fast as normally Mtb tires would on the pavements or roads.

Would you need to make any adjustments to your bike :

No, So far all the setups that I have explained above wouldn’t require any kind of adjustment course you would need to find the respective wheel sizes that you would need to use.

Some people do think that the BB height of the bike will drop but that doesn’t matter if you are looking in the context of running these bikes on the road even in reality it wouldn’t drop so much that it would cause problems.

A summary of the whole thing is that everything will remain the same unless you want to make changes your self like locking out suspensions for a little bit more torque savings and running your bike at a higher speed.

Equipping MTB with Road bike wheelset :

Equipping your MTB with road wheels (Rims and tires) is possible as well and that setup will work as well previously as I was discussing more around setting up wheels on existing mtb rims in this case you would need to buy the whole new wheelset setup but in both cases, both will work fine

this setup will, of course, work better because the wheels will be much lighter and the tires will be alot slimmer as well which would give them better rolling resistance and better aerodynamics as well.

And you wouldn’t need any upgrades to the frame as well but there can be complications if the chainstays are far too apart from each other.

In most cases, these problems occur when the bike comes with really wide tires like with fat tires bikes but these can be countered with the help of the spacers to some extent course there are still limitations to as to what extent spacers can hold the tires firmly before they become untrue.

Other than that on normal bikes which usually come equipped with wheels that are 2.4 or 2.5″ inches wide there shouldn’t be any problem but just to be on the safe side make sure that you always double-check with your local mechanic.

The downside of equipping road bike tires on MTB :

The downside of equipping road bike tires on MTB is the hideous form it takes your bike will be recognizable from afar that you have done it to your bike and this is by far the only downside that you would encounter.

Other than that this setup is far more efficient than what I have described before.

If you are only after efficiency only then it shouldn’t matter but in the looks department, the bike will not look very appealing.

Conclusion :

Both of these setups are most commonly and widely used by people and these are the most logical solutions to your problem as well but if you had like to make more adjustments to make your bike more efficient for roads then here are some articles that you can check out as well.

Make your Mountain Bike Faster on Road Quick & Easy ways

What Would it Take To Convert A Mountain Bike Into Road Bike (Explained)