If you have an old mountain bike lying around, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to throw it away or send it to the scrapyard. One of the most viable options available is learning how to convert a mountain bike to a gravel bike.
Gravel bikes are similar to mountain bikes but can handle various terrains. They’re designed for speed and are significantly faster than a standard mountain bike. However, they don’t have the same off-road capacity as a mountain bike.
What a gravel bike does let you do is manage multi-terrain trips that involve several different types of terrain. Instead of just sticking to the road or sticking to a trail, you can combine both in your route with a gravel bike.
These are just some of the benefits you can expect to receive after turning your Mtb into a gravel bike. Let’s dive into everything you can expect from a gravel bike conversion
What will you need to turn an MTB into a Gravel Bike?
Aside from all the parts you’re going to need to change, all you need to turn an Mtb into a gravel bike is your standard set of bike tools and a stand. The bike tools will include adjustable wrenches and a tire lever. Through the use of these tools, you can easily start learning how to convert a mountain bike to a gravel bike.
Without much further ado, here’s a step-by-step guide on everything you need to learn on how to convert a mountain bike to a gravel bike.
How To Convert a Mountain bike into a Gravel Bike – Step-by-step Guide
One of the easiest ways for a cyclist to learn how to convert a mountain bike into a gravel bike is by following a step-by-step guide. It’s all about
Step 1: Tires
Let’s start with one of the defining characteristics of a hybrid bike. On almost every gravel bike on the market, you’ll notice a set of knobby tires.
The presence of knobby tires will help ensure that you have decent grip on both road and off-road conditions. When you’re buying tires for your gravel bike, one of the most important things to consider is the weight.
Weight is a significant difference between mountain bike tires and gravel bike tires. Mountain bike tires tend to be much heftier and weigh more than the standard gravel bike tire. You should look for the lightest possible knobby tire for your gravel bike.
The lightweight tires will have a significant impact on performance. These tires will be much more capable of reaching and maintaining a higher speed. The lighter the weight, the lower the overall resistance you’ll experience while riding.
Consequently, one of the first steps in converting a mountain bike to a gravel bike is changing the tires. Instead of the heavyweight tires that come standard with a mountain bike, go for lightweight, flexible options for your gravel bike conversion.
Step 2: Adjust the Gearings
Another main defining feature of gravel bikes compared to mountain bikes is their speed. Gravel bikes are much more capable of reaching and maintaining higher speeds.
Consequently, you should look towards increasing the number of gears present on your mountain bike. Ideally, you should look for a cassette that features the number of gears you require and fits properly with your wheel.
When adjusting the gearing, change it up to maintain a constant ratio of 2:1 through every gear. Luckily, mountain bikes already operate in a 2:1!
Step 3: Raise Suspension Height
Mountain bikes are known mainly for their off-road capabilities. Consequently, the positioning of the suspension isn’t conducive to on-road performance. You should look to raise the suspension height a little for a gravel bike.
That’ll help improve the on-road performance significantly. While it comes at the cost of a deterioration in the off-road performance, it’ll help make the bike more versatile and let cyclists enjoy riding on multiple terrains.
It’s also quite common for gravel bikes not to feature any sort of suspension on the market. However, if you’re going to engage in off-road riding as well, along with sticking to the pavement, a suspension makes a lot of sense.
Step 4: Get New Brakes
Another key step in ensuring that you can go for a gravel bike conversion is changing the brake system. Generally, mountain bikes will feature cantilever or V-brakes. These are both essentially rim brakes.
To deal with the higher levels of speed that you’ll achieve on a gravel bike, it’s important to get a decent braking system. If you’re just running standard mountain bike tires on your gravel bike, you’ll struggle to generate enough braking force to stop effectively.
If you’re running out of budget and would rather focus on other parts of the bike, you can also take a few steps to improve your braking. You should clean the brake system properly and change any parts where the quality isn’t good enough.
Step 5: Change the wheels
Mountain bike wheels and gravel bike wheels tend to have some key differences. A mountain bike wheel is typically thicker and doesn’t feature the same amount of spoke tension. Consequently, mountain bike tires that operate at a low business fit better.
On the other hand, gravel bike tires run at a higher pressure than mountain bike tires. As a result, they need a bike wheel to produce the appropriate amount of tension. Additionally, gravel bike wheels tend to be lighter, so they can help improve performance.
The most common wheel size for gravel bikes tends to be 29-inches!
Step 6: Get Handlebars
Perhaps the most easily identifiable feature of a gravel bike is the handlebars. A gravel bike features drop handlebars. On the other hand, your old mountain bike will feature flat handlebars. No gravel bike is complete without the signature drop handlebars.
The signature drop handlebars aren’t just for show either. Their design also helps cyclists achieve higher speeds and make it easier for them to maintain their level. Thanks to the use of drop handlebars, the front of a gravel bike looks very similar to a road bike.
Essentially, the design makes the gravel bike more aerodynamic than a standard mountain bike. Drop bar handlebars allow cyclists to choose between three primary hand positions. They can choose between the hoods, tops, or drops.
Generally, cyclists will spend most of their time with their hands on the hood position. It becomes fairly simple for them to reach the brake or shifter levers from the hood position.
In comparison, the top position takes you further away from the brake levers and shifters. If the cyclists want to bring the bicycle to a stop, they’ll have to adjust the hand position to access the brakes or shifter lever.
The last potential position that gravel bike riders can access is the drops. When holding the handlebar from drops, cyclists will have access to the most secure hand position and simple access to brake levers. The most experienced cyclists tend to use the drop position while going on a descent. Additionally, you naturally take a more aerodynamic and aggressive riding stance by holding the handlebars from the drops.
These are the six main steps that you’ll need to follow to learn how to convert a mountain bike to a gravel bike. You can choose to install all the different parts yourself, or you could hire the help of a local bike mechanic to help you do the job.
Why should you go for a gravel bike conversion?
Now that we’re done explaining how you can go about turning an Mtb into a gravel bike let’s take a look at why you’d go for a gravel bike conversion.
One of the main reasons cyclists learn how to convert a mountain bike to a gravel bike is versatility. Gravel bikes are incredibly versatile and allow cyclists to do several different activities that they couldn’t manage on any other bike.
There’s also no limit to the customizations that you can make to a gravel bike. Thanks to the wide number of accessories that are available on the market, you can very easily put your touch on the bike. Many cyclists think that the number of accessories also adds to the overall appeal of gravel bikes.
Unlike how it is with a mountain bike or a road bike, you aren’t just restricted to one type of terrain. You can enjoy both riding on the pavement and a little off-roading as well.
While you can bring your mountain bike on the road with a few adjustments, it won’t be able to keep up with a road bike. On the other hand, a gravel bike can easily keep up with other road bikes.
Are gravel bikes faster than mountain bikes?
Gravel bikes can significantly outperform mountain bikes on both terrains when it comes to speed on both pavements and off-road.
Thanks to their significantly lighter weight and aerodynamic geometry, gravel bikes are much more capable of reaching higher speeds. It’s safe to say that they’re significantly faster than mountain bikes!
However, one thing to remember when going for a gravel bike build is that they’re a jack-of-all-trades by their nature. While they offer a versatile experience, they won’t offer elite-level performance. A mountain bike will always capably handle more challenging terrains, while a road bike will always outspeed it on pavements.
That doesn’t mean that a gravel bike can’t cut out its niche. It’s the ideal option for people looking to get a bike that lets them enjoy riding on the pavement and off-road conditions.
Can you convert an old 29er into a gravel bike?
Most people are under the misconception that an old 29-inch mountain bike won’t cut it as a gravel bike. They tend to think this way because old mountain bikes often feature a heavy steel frame.
While a heavy steel frame isn’t exactly what you’d want for a gravel bike, it doesn’t mean that the conversion is impossible. You’ll need to focus on making the bike as lightweight as possible, along with introducing better brakes and getting the drop handlebar.
Due to the weight of the steel frame that old 29ers tend to feature, the gravel bike conversion won’t be on the same level as a modern 29er
If you have an old mountain bike lying around, then learning how to convert a mountain bike to a gravel bike is definitely worth your interest.
A gravel bike can effectively perform the role of two bikes and let you enjoy a type of cycling experience that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Not only do gravel bikes provide a unique riding experience, but they’re also visually stunning. With so many different accessories to choose between and the signature drop bar look, you can’t go wrong with a gravel bike conversion!
Q1. Can you convert a gravel bike back into a mountain bike?
Yes, you can convert a gravel bike back into a mountain bike. However, it’s important to know that the bike won’t perform as it once did as a mountain bike. It can be challenging to fit everything together perfectly again.
Q2. Is a bike stand necessary for the conversion?
No, you can definitely still turn your mountain bike into a gravel bike without a bike stand. However, a bike stand will definitely make your life much easier.
Q3. Are drop bars really necessary?
If you want to go for a proper gravel bike conversion then drop bars are a must. The issue with flat bars is that you’ll take up the same riding position as you would on a mountain bike. By installing drop handlebars you’ll be able to take a more aerodynamic riding position.
Q4. What’s the optimal tire pressure for gravel bikes?
When you buy completely new tires, it’s important to ensure that they’re operation at the optimal psi. For gravel bike tires, the optimal psi range lies between 40-80. If you’re going to ride an off-road track, keep the range close to 40. On the other hand, when you’re riding on pavement, keep the psi close to 80!