How to Convert a Road Bike to a Gravel Bike

How to Convert a Road Bike to a Gravel Bike

November 03, 2022

Road bikes are ideal for traveling along the pavement, where the lightweight frame allows you to achieve high speeds. But what if you wanted to take on rougher terrain? In these circumstances, a road bike can be converted into a gravel bike. Let’s look at some of the modifications that you will need to make.

Upgrading the Tires

Gravel Bike and cyclist

Photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium on Unsplash

One of the first things that you need to do is upgrade the tires. Typically, road bikes are known for their thin tires. These are a great option on the pavement, reducing friction to build speed. But on the gravel, you won’t have enough traction. Plus, you will feel every bump in the road.

The solution is to use larger gravel tires. These will have more tread and will be more resistant to punctures. When you are looking for a replacement tire, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s important to consider the amount of clearance you have inside the rim. Don’t forget to factor in the amount of clearance between the brake calipers. In most cases, you will be looking at between 24 to 28mm.

When you are looking for new tires, it’s recommended that you choose a tubeless variety. This doesn’t require an inner tube. As a result, there is less chance that it will be damaged by a puncture. Plus, they will allow you to have more grip, so you can maintain a higher speed. Once you have the right type of tire, you will need to put it onto your bike. This video talks you through the process.

Changing the Wheels

It’s also worth upgrading the wheels to a more durable option. This means choosing something that is made from aluminum or carbon fiber. As a result, you don’t need to worry about the rough terrain damaging them. Some people opt to choose a smaller wheel, which allows them to get a larger tire.

Adding a Mudguard

If you plan on going on rougher tracks, you will need to consider using a mudguard. There are a few reasons for this. First, they can stop dirt and water from getting flung over you. This will ensure that you remain comfortable as you are riding. It will also keep gunk out of the moving parts, which can make cleaning your bike a lot easier. Depending on where you are riding, you might be required to use a mudguard.

In most cases, it will be relatively easy to attach a mudguard to a road bike. The holes required should already be drilled. At other times, though, you will need to consider an alternative way of attaching it. For example, you might want to consider securing it to the seat stay.

Adjusting the Gears

Road bikes and gravel bikes will use two different gearing systems. Road bikes are designed to allow you to create a pleasant cadence on paved surfaces. But gravel bikes tend to have a wider range of lower gears. This is essential if you are going to be dealing with tricky terrain.

Because of this, you will often need to change the gearing system. This should be as simple as switching out the cassette and replacing it with a bigger one that has the lower gears needed for gravel riding. But you will need to look closely at the specifications to make sure that it will fit on your bike. This article tells you how to replace the cassette on your bike.

Changing the Accessories

Gravel Bike Photo by Alessio Soggetti on Unsplash

By now you should have constructed a bike that will be fairly good on gravel roads. But you might want to consider a few more minor changes to take the design to the next level.

First, you might want to swap out the handlebars. Road bikes tend to use flatter bars, while gravel bikes will feature curved bars. This will give you more control and will be easier to grip as you are driving along a bumpy track surface. You might also want to add some additional tape to the handlebars. This will provide more padding, so you won’t jar your hand as you get knocked around on a rough road.

Another common option is adding a new seat post. This is especially important if your bike doesn’t have any suspension. This will give you a smoother ride, even when you are getting knocked around by the bumps on the track.

Thirdly, it’s a good idea to consider switching the pedals. Often, road pedals, cleats and shoes aren’t practical for riding off-road, getting clogged with mud very quickly. As a result, your expensive road bike shoes will quickly get ruined. On the other hand, gravel bike shoes have been designed for these harsh conditions.

If you are going on a longer journey, you might want to consider adding a luggage rack, to hold your bags. If you can’t put this onto the back of the bike, you can add it to the handlebar pillar at the front. Make sure that this compartment is covered, so you don’t need to worry about water and mud getting over your gear. You might also need to add a water bottle holder.


If you make these modifications, you shouldn’t have any problems going over gravel roads with your road bike. But getting everything in place can take a lot of work, especially if you are making all the modifications yourself. There is an alternative, though, you can buy a gravel bike. This will be built specifically to take on rougher roads. If you want to know what to look for, check out this list of top gravel bikes.

Regardless of whether you buy or modify your bike, you should take it a little slower when you first make the transition from road biking to gravel riding. This gives you some time to get used to the new type of terrain. It can take a while to learn how to control the bike. But, before long, you’ll be having fun racing around gravel tracks.

Submitted By Erin Keegan

Follow more of Erins work at Bike the Sites.

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