Biking Tips

Can I Put Road Tires on a Mountain Bike?

Many of us can’t afford to have multiple bikes for different types of riding, in terms of storage and money. If you have an MTB, you may not want to spend $600 or something just to try out road biking. It is only natural to ask whether you can use road tires on a mountain bike. Well, yes you can. But you would need to make some adjustments to get it working perfectly. Of course, MTBs are made to use MTB tires. Putting on road tires would require some changes for the tires to fit perfectly. But these changes aren’t difficult at all.

Why you should put on road tires on a mountain bike

Using road tires on an MTB would provide you with the following advantages.

No compatibility issues

If you try to put MTB tires on a road bike, you would have a lot of compatibility issues. MTB tires have a broader profile and road bike frames don’t provide enough clearance. You would find very few bikes that would allow enough clearance to use an MTB tire. But in most cases, you would just be wasting your time.

MTBs are made to use large tires. But road tires are thin. You won’t have any trouble fitting thinner tires in a frame that is made for broad tires. You would have enough clearance that a road bike tire won’t be rubbing anywhere on the frame.

More durability on the road

MTB tires give a more robust impression with their thicker build. While that is true for loose surfaces like dirt or gravel, it is the opposite for paved and hard surfaces. The tread of MTB tires is made of soft rubber to provide a better grip on loose surfaces. But on hard surfaces, the treads wear out faster. While a thicker MTB tire would outlast a road tire, it would cost more in the long term because it is wearing out faster for the money you are paying.

More grip on the road

On road, the grip is generated with the most amount of contact between rubber and tarmac. This is true for bikes even on wet surfaces. On normal rides, bikes don’t output energy fast enough as motor vehicles to experience hydroplaning. The large knobby treads of a mountain bike tire decrease the amount of rubber in contact with the tarmac. As a result, you get less grip when using MTB tires on the road. Slick tires are made to grip the road. Riding with road tires on the road is safer.

Less rolling resistance

Rolling resistance is among the major forces that significantly affect the efficiency of your ride. Road tires are made to roll better on the road. MTB tire treads are made to grip loose surfaces. But these treads cause more rolling resistance on the road. If you use MTB tires on the road, you would be putting in significantly more effort to cover the same distance as road tires.

More comfort on the road

Wider road tires on road provide better comfort than thinner road tires and roll better as well. That is why you see professional racers opting for wider tires. You would be fitting wider road tires on your MTB rims – unless you are using road wheels on your MTB. Tire manufacturer René Herse Cycles claims that the width of the tire from 25mm up to 54mm has no effect on the performance of the tire. Stiff MTB tires don’t absorb vibrations. The vibrations which are coming up the bike cancel some of the energy that is going down the wheel from the rider.

Furthermore, the vibrations are absorbed by the rider causing fatigue. MTB tires have stiff sidewalls to resist damage from rocks and other hard and pointy stuff on the trails. The sidewalls of these tires are not supple causing fatigue and reducing ride efficiency on the road. Road tires provide a more efficient and comfortable ride on the road because they have supple sidewalls made for this exact purpose.

The aggressive sitting posture of a road bike is very uncomfortable. Many riders develop back pain as they lean forward for long periods. But the sitting posture of an MTB is more relaxed than that of a road bike. You sit in a more upright position which increases the comfort of the ride.

Less noise

The knobby treads of a mountain bike make a lot of noise on the road. The constant humming sound becomes a nuisance and further adds to the discomfort caused by the stiff sidewalls of the tire. Road tires are quieter and don’t make enough sound on the road.

Increased maneuverability

MTB tires are heavier. It takes more effort to change their direction quickly decreasing maneuverability. Couple that with the decreased grip mentioned earlier, and you wouldn’t be feeling so confident through sharp corners. The lighter weight of road tires would allow sharp steering which is often important in an urban environment or twisty roads.

Lower price

MTB tires are more expensive than road bike tires with similar performance. Of course, there is more material used in an MTB tire which increases the production cost. Road tires use far less material than MTB tires which keeps the cost low and makes road tires affordable.

Downsides of using road tires on an MTB

There are a couple of downsides when using road tires on MTBs. But they require little changes that you can make to get over them. First, the suspension of the MTB is made to absorb jumps and bumps on uneven terrain. But, on the road, it causes vibrations just like an MTB tire causing the same problems. It causes discomfort and absorbs energy which makes the ride less efficient.

If your MTB has a lockout feature, then you just have to use that. Otherwise, you increase the air pressure of the suspension. It won’t completely solve the problem, but it would make the ride much better. If you are making a more permanent change, get rigid forks for your MTB as well.

Another problem is the riding posture of an MTB bike. MTB handlebars are uncomfortable for long riding on the road. If you can afford it, you should swap the straight handlebars with drop-down handlebars. But that, again, depends on how much you want to use your MTB on the road. For long rides, get the aero handlebars and raise the seat height.

Another downside of using road tires is the time required for swapping the tires from MTB wheels. Most riders use an extra pair of wheels for this purpose. It saves the swapping time. But that does cost money. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about getting the right tire. Old MTBs mostly used the 700C wheels which are known as 29ers for having a 29-inch diameter. Modern MTBs now use 650B wheels with a diameter of 27.5 inches. Finding road tires for both wheels isn’t difficult. At this point, why do you even need road tires? You can just put on low-profile tires on your MTB and you are good to go.

Final Thoughts

Yes, you can use road tires on mountain bikes if you plan to use your MTB on the roads. In fact, you should. The swap is easy to make and there are no clearance issues. The frame of an MTB is made to fit different sizes of wide tires. Road tires being thin cause no clearance issues. Most modern MTBs use 26 or 650B (27.5 inches) wheels. Old MTBs used 29ers, also known as 700C wheels, commonly. Road tires for all of these wheels are easily available. If you are using your MTB for long road rides, try and swap aero handlebars and raise the seat height.