Gravel Bike With Road Tires – Does This Work?


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One common question among riders with gravel bikes is can they be converted into a road bike by adding road tires?

Road tires can be added to gravel bikes successfully if you want to ride them on the road. A gravel bike with road tires will combine the sturdiness of a gravel bike with some of the speed of a road bike. A pair of road tires could mean you could commute on the same bike that you go off-roading on at the weekend.

In this article, I’ll look at how possible it is to add road tires to a gravel bike, the many benefits of doing so, and also the relative merits of gravel bikes and road bikes.

Gravel bike with road tires

Can Road Tires Be Added to a Gravel Bike?

If you are someone that has a gravel bike but are looking to replace the thick, slow, and heavy tires for something faster, you can add road tires to your bike.

Since the tires of gravel bikes are designed specifically for one purpose: traveling on rough, uneven surfaces, they are made to be sluggish, heavy, and wider than a normal bicycle tire.

These gravel tires can be relatively slow and sluggish on paved pathways and can compromise your speed in a race. 

You have the option to replace your gravel bike tires with two sets of wheels, one catering to the 25mm-28mm width for when you want a road bike experience and one set with 35mm or wider for when you want to take your bike on rough gravel.

The idea of adding road tires to your gravel bike is extremely innovative as it saves you a lot of money and gives you the chance to further test the confines of your gravel bike.

Many riders have already tested the idea of adding road tires to gravel bikes and using them to ride on steeper, paved pathways.

The conclusion to all the experiments has been that it works!

The experience of riding a gravel bike with road tires is pleasantly surprising.

The sturdiness of the heavy gravel bike frame compliments well with the speed of the road tires and prevents the bike from buckling or losing control even when the rider is going fast.

The only drawback to this phenomenon is the limited gear range you are presented with, which can be dangerous to the rider, especially if they are going fast on a smooth surface. 

So if you want to take longer rides or use your bike for the commute but you only have a gravel bike, adding road tires will make it suitable for a smoother, safer, faster, and more enjoyable ride.

Road wheels are the best option to go for because if you choose a tubeless tire, you will have a hard time switching between the two sets and might lose motivation midway.

Not to mention that a decent set of road wheels to attach with your gravel bike will cost you less than a completely new road bike.

6 Benefits Of Adding Road Tires To A Gravel Bike

Here is a list of some of the benefits of adding road wheels to a gravel bike:

1. Economics

Just by investing in a good pair of road wheels, you can have two types of perfectly good bikes at the price of one.

Clearly the price of one bike with two sets of wheels is pretty much half what you would pay for buying both a gravel bike and a road bike.

2. Versatility

The strength and sturdiness of a gravel bike combined with the effortless speed of road tires give you the ultimate riding experience.

3. Speed

Adding road tires to gravel bikes increases the speed of the bike and can make your daily commute easier. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time on flat surfaces, roads, or smooth tracks, then your speed will be greatly increased with road tires.

4. Get The Best Of Both Worlds

You can use the gravel bike with road tires for commuting during the week and hiking, mountain biking, and other adventures during the weekend with a simple change of wheelsets.

5. Transporting Luggage

Gravel bikes with road tires can be used to carry stuff from one place to another. The strong, heavy metal frame of the gravel bike can help you carry heavy loads while the road tires let you move freely on paved pathways.

6. Experiment

You can play around with the width of the road bike tires and create a gravel-road hybrid bike that is perfect for the terrains near you.

The following excellent youtube video gets to grips with how you can adapt your gravel bike to be a road bike:

Gravel bikes can easily be fitted with road tires

What is the Difference Between a Gravel Bike and a Road Bike?

Road bikes are designed especially for racers to ride on surfaces with a tarmac base.

Meanwhile, gravel bikes are more resilient and can be taken on routes that have a rougher, harder, steeper, and more challenging terrain. The difference between the two not only exists in functionality but also in the geometry of the bikes.

While gravel bikes are heavier and sturdier, road bikes are meant to be light and easy to maneuver; where gravel bikes need a wider tire width to travel on rough, uneven surfaces, road bikes need thin, smooth tires to facilitate speed on paved pathways.

Let’s take a deeper look into the differences:

Wheels

The most noticeable difference between the two bikes is the wheels and tires.

Where road bikes have a thinner tire with a maximum tire clearance of about 25mm tires, the gravel bikes will have a clearance of about 33mm tires.

Also the tread pattern on these two tires is completely different because of their different use; gravel bikes have a thicker, more noticeable tread while the road bike has a smooth tread. 

Wheel-Base

The road bikes tend to have a shorter wheelbase and steeper angles to ensure a nimble ride quality along with smooth handling of the bike, whereas, gravel bikes are the complete opposite with a wider wheelbase and slacker head angle.

These slight differences in the geometry of the two bikes are designed regarding their functionality.

Frame

The design of the road bikes also has a longer reach and a comparatively short frame stack which enables the rider to have a lower, more aero pose while riding.

Similarly, gravel bikes are much shorter than road bikes and are designed to make the rider sit upright while riding on rougher pathways.

Brakes

There are many slight differences present in the geometry and design of the road bikes and gravel bikes but most of the components that are present on a gravel bike are compatible with those of a road bike and vice-versa.

However, some elements are confined to gravel bikes that enable them to hold their own on rough, uneven surfaces and uncertain heights.

For example, road bikes tend to not have disc brakes whereas they are a must on gravel bikes.

Having disc brakes on gravel bikes provides more power, modulation, and control to the bike and enables it to move smoothly over difficult terrains and challenging weather conditions.

This added control comes in handy when you are on your way down from steep terrain in the middle of rainfall. 

What is a Gravel Bike?

A gravel bike is technically a mix of a mountain bike, a cyclocross bike, and a road bike.

These bikes are traditionally designed to be ridden off-road on uneven pathways and steep, rough terrains.

Whether it is the idea of moving on soft gravel, riding for the daily commute, or extreme adventures in the wild, the gravel bike does it all for you.

The wide tires, relaxed geometry, and slightly heavy materials used in the making of these bikes ensure a comfortable riding experience for the rider.

Gravel bikes are extremely versatile and can be used for long journeys, difficult trails, rough surfaces, and even for a bike-packing trip alone. 

The materials that are normally used to make gravel bikes are generally heavier than normal. 

This use of heavy material in the body of the bike provides stability on trickier terrains and makes the entire structure more durable.

Different brands design gravel bikes differently; some favoring speed and others strength. 

The materials generally used for a gravel bike are aluminum, carbon, and steel, where aluminum and carbon are light-weight and steel or titanium are comparatively heavier.

The choice of material for the gravel bike depends on the terrain you intend to ride it on.

If you are racing off-road and want your bike to facilitate your speed, you may want to invest in a gravel bike whose frame is made of carbon. 

On the other hand, if you are looking to travel up steep terrains and backpack across the country on your bike, you will need a sturdier bike to hold up all the extra weight of your luggage and soak up the effects of the bumps along the terrain. 

The one important thing about gravel bikes is their geometry that is different from all the other bikes.

The tires of gravel bikes follow the equation: the rougher the terrain, the wider the tire. A thick, wide tire with spikes performs well on challenging surfaces like snow and ice, loose gravel, mud, and steep, rough terrains. 

Road tires on a gravel bike
Road tires can be successfully added to gravel bikes for a range of benefits

Road Bike Design

The name ‘Road bike’ comes from its intended use on the road.

It is a bicycle that has been designed especially to be ridden on smooth surfaces like pavements.

The road bike also takes you as fast as you can manage on a smooth pathway and is an excellent option for daily commute.

The road bike has not changed in its looks over these last few years and only an expert rider will be able to differentiate between a road bike and gravel or a mountain bike. 

The most obvious difference that can be felt while riding a road bike is the smaller, lighter frame made up of carbon, aluminum, steel, and titanium.

Moreover, the wheels of the road bike also differ from that of a gravel bike because road tires do not need to be sturdy and robust. Therefore, the road tires are generally a lot smoother with fewer spokes and lighter rims. 

The special thing about road bike tires is that they are designed to be skinny so that they are more comfortable and faster during races.

The typical range of width for the tires of road bikes ranges from 18mm to somewhere around 30mm, although 25mm is the most common among racers.

The tread on these wheels is made slick so that rolling friction is minimized while the bikes are at incredible speed. 

Some of the things that a road bike is good for are: racing, fitness riding, touring, commuting, event rides, and climbing.

These bikes have an excellent design that enables the rider to gather high speed on smooth terrains and is the perfect bike for beginners. 

The Final Word

Not only is it possible to replace gravel bike tires with road tires, but it is immensely beneficial for you as a biker if you do.

Having a gravel bike with road tires gives you the complete experience of on-road and off-road riding.

The only thing essential to make this experience even better is to keep experimenting with the width of the road tires to find out the perfect width of tires that suit the terrains near you. 

Martin Williams

Martin has been tearing up all sorts of trails on a range of bikes ever since he was young. He once cycled across France, and once fell into a canal on a hybrid. He writes about everything to do with cycling on our site. You can find out more about him at bicycle2work.com/about-martin-williams/

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