Stylish road bikes are ideal for getting us to destinations faster or for racing. But unfortunately, these bikes are not that effective when riding on uneven roads or rough terrain. And obviously, no one wants to buy two different bikes for different roads.
No worry my dear friend; you can convert your road bike anytime into a gravel bike easily. That’s why here I am today talking about this matter. The process of converting a road bike to a gravel bike is not that difficult. By converting your bike, it will be suitable for all kinds of roads and also get several benefits. You may have to spend some money, but doubtless, it is much less than the cost of buying two different bikes.
In this article, I will discuss this bike conversion process and its pros and cons. If you are a passionate bike lover, then this article is for you.
What Is A Road Bike?
Road bikes are lightweight and stylish bikes built for speed on paved roads. The bike’s carbon fiber aerodynamic frame and drop handlebars help the rider achieve high speeds in a short time. Manufacturers typically use narrow & stiff tires and 24-speed drivetrains on road bikes. And, these make road bikes more efficient and faster.
The incremental improvements have divided road bikes into different categories. Now you can select road bikes based on your needs. Just as there are road bikes for going fast over short distances, there are different road bikes for covering long distances. Anyway, road bikes are not primarily designed for comfortable riding, but fast commuting.
What Is A Gravel Bike?
A gravel bike combines a road bike, mountain bike, and cyclocross bike. Confused? Well, typically, companies design these bikes in such a way that allows you to move smoothly on all types of on-road and off-road. Although today’s gravel bikes are often used off-road, the bikes are also useful for fast riding on flat surfaces, including tarmac.
Wider tyres and more upright riding position of the bikes allow you to ride comfortably. As these bikes are versatile, making them ideal for variable terrain and bike-packing, whether the journey is rough trails, sandy beaches, or paved roads, a gravel bike can be your faithful companion.
Now you might wonder since we can use gravel bikes on the road effortlessly, then what are the major differences with road bikes?
Differences Between A Road Bike And A Gravel Bike
There is a huge difference in looks and performance between a road bike and a gravel bike. Both bikes are ideal for practical purposes.
- Road bikes are best when you need to go fast on smooth roads and gravel bikes are best when you need to ride fast on rough roads.
|Parameter||Road bikes||Gravel bikes|
|Purpose Of Use||Generally, a rider uses a road bike to travel fast over short distances.||Those who regularly ride on both smooth and uneven roads use gravel bikes.|
|Frame Geometry||A longer reach & shorter wheelbases help become more aerodynamic and maintain strong power output.||A slacker head and comparatively longer wheelbase improve the handling and stability of the bike.|
|Riding Posture||More aggressive, not comfortable.||Relatively comfortable than road bikes.|
|Tire Width||Narrow tires, about 23 to 28mm wide.||Wider tires, often it is 38 to 45mm wide.|
|Stability||Narrow tires make these bikes less stable, especially on uneven roads.||Wider tires make bikes more stable on any type of road.|
|Gears||Modern road bikes usually have 9, 10, or 11 sprockets with two chainrings.||Gear systems consist of one or two chainrings and 10 or 11 cassettes.|
|Brakes||Rim brakes and disc brakes, you may notice both.||Exclusively uses disc brakes.|
|Handlebar||Less wide, usually 42-44 mm wide.||Relatively wider, can be up to 52 mm wide.|
|Suspension||Typically, road bikes do not come with suspension.||You can notice suspension in both the front and rear of these bikes.|
|Pedals||Most road bike users prefer SPD-SL-style three-bolt pedals.||Riders like to use SPD-style two-bolt pedals and cleats on their gravel bike.|
So, Can You Convert Road Bike To A Gravel Bike?
Yes, you can convert your road bike to a gravel bike, but the process can be expensive. Although this conversion will not completely change the bike, you can get the desired result. Especially, if you need to ride on uneven or rocky roads, then you can effectively use your modified bike on those roads.
Then, How To Convert Road Bike To A Gravel Bike?
Converting a road bike to a gravel bike is not a complicated process. You can do it yourself at home (DIY Job) with a few tools and desires. All you have to do is change the geometry and riding position of the bike by changing the wheels, tires, and gearing.
- Now I am going to describe the entire process step by step below to make your converting journey easier, more comfortable, and doubtless.
Step 1: Change Wheels
You may know that road bikes use 700c wheels and gravel bikes use 650b wheels. The relatively short wheelbase of road bikes helps the rider achieve a more aerodynamic position.
- Since you’d expect a comfortable riding position on a gravel bike, you’ll need to change the bike’s wheels first.
- Companies use high-priced carbon fiber rims on the wheels of road bikes. So you can use this type of rim if you want, or you can also use a relatively inexpensive aluminum rim.
- Also, be careful about the width of the rim, because you may expect to use wide tires on your modified gravel bikes.
- But when deciding on wheel rims or tires, you must pay special attention to the forks of your road bike.
- Since road bikes are designed for narrow tires, make sure the fork has enough tire clearance even when using thick rims or tyres.
Step 2: Upgrade Tires
Upgrading tyres are the most important part of your bike conversion. Maybe you’re converting your bike to ride on uneven or rocky roads, so naturally, you should use tyres as wide as possible. Where a road bike tire is 25-28mm wide, you may want to use a 40mm tyre. Because these types of tyres provide a more comfortable and stable ride on uneven roads.
- But if you ride on forest tracks, or well-groomed gravel paths, a slightly narrower tire than 40mm will suit better.
- Especially if the fork of the bike is not suitable for using a 40 mm tire, then you can use a tire of 32-33 mm Because tires of this width generally fit all bike forks.
- However, if you have to ride on rough gravel, wet or slippery roads, then you need tires that offer maximum grip and control. In that case, plan to use aggressively treaded wide tyres.
Step 3: Changing Gear System
You can use smaller chainrings and larger cassettes on the bike to make the bike conversion more efficient. It can help you steadily when going up or down steep hills.
- Specified wide and low gear sets while riding will help you pedal through challenging terrain and slippery surfaces.
Step 4: Modify Handlebar
Gravel bikes usually use slightly wider handlebars. Because wider handlebars play an important role in a smoother and more stable ride, especially on uneven surfaces.
- Gravel bike’s specific handlebars with a flared drop can increase control and comfort on the bike rather than the traditional drop handlebars of road bikes.
- Also, a shock-absorbing thick bar tape will ensure comfortable riding by preventing vibrations.
So, you should try replacing the handlebars on your road bike with a longer gravel bike’s handlebar.
Step 5: Replace Pedals
Road bikes generally require more power through continuous pedal strokes. That’s why companies make the pedals of these bikes thin and clip-on. But on a gravel bike, the pedals come with a concave design for better grip.
So that when you want to ride your modified bike on different terrains, the bike pedals need to be according to the gravel bike’s pedal as these pedals are going to help you perform well on future rough terrain cycling.
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Step 6: Upgrade Contact Points
Raising the handlebars slightly to bring them closer to the body can make riding more comfortable. For this, you can use a 130mm slammed stem as this will facilitate bike control, especially during descent.
- Road bike seats are not that comfortable. That’s why you can use a carbon fiber seat post. And, this will help you stay comfortable during big impacts.
- Also, as mentioned earlier, bar tape with thicker padding will provide more cushioning.
- Fatty tyres can scratch the bike frame due to stone throwing. To protect the bike frame from these scratches, you can use sticky tape that can be cut to the required shape.
Finally, by performing the above 6 modifications or steps, any enthusiast cyclist or biker can transform his/her road bike into an effective gravel bike.
Advantages Of Converting Road Bike To A Gravel Bike
Road bikes are stylish and the riding experience is exciting. But converting a road bike to a gravel bike can give you several benefits. Such as-
- The bike becomes more versatile and you can ride on smooth roads as well as rough and unpaved roads efficiently.
- Wider tires provide more traction on uneven or slippery surfaces, making riding safer.
- Now you can ride this bike more stably on uneven roads.
- A low gear ratio helps to keep pedaling on rough terrain or steep hills.
- Riding the bike for a long time is not difficult because of the comfortable riding position.
Disadvantages Of Converting Road Bike To A Gravel Bike
There are indeed several advantages we can get by converting a road bike to a gravel bike, but there are also some drawbacks. I’ll describe the disadvantages below.
- Although wider tyres make riding safer by providing more traction on the road, they also make you relatively slower.
- The bike’s weight can rise a bit, which makes moving the bike a bit inconvenient, especially in a place like an apartment.
- The conversion requires you to change several accessories, which can be quite expensive.
- Even after you complete the conversion process, the converted bike will not perform like an actual gravel bike.
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Last Sayings Over Converting Road Bike To A Gravel
There are a few other modifications or processes that you can follow to convert a road bike to a gravel bike. But I have explained the whole thing keeping in mind how you can do it in the easiest and fastest way possible. For example, a fork with suspension will make the bike more comfortable, but it will increase your cost and effort.
However, if you don’t know about some things like wheel change, tire change, etc, then you can read our previous articles. We have explained these processes in detail there. Thank You, Dear Fellow. And, Have A Safe Cycling Every Day.