Gravel tires move slower than road bike tires, but they are far more resilient and capable of handling terrain even on a road bike. The tradeoff is well worth it if you need more versatility, but you don’t want to buy a different bicycle.
Although you can’t safely ride over gravel with road tires, you can use gravel tires on pavement. Can you put gravel tires on a road bike?
You can put gravel tires on a road bike; however, some tires are much easier to convert than others. The difference comes down to how wide set the frame and fork are on your road bike because you need more space for a wider gravel tire. Measure the wide of the tire to make sure it will fit.
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Will Gravel Tires Fit On A Road Bike
Most road bikes can accommodate gravel tires. Since road and gravel bike frames are relatively similar in structure, their tires are also pretty close.
Fortunately, this means you shouldn’t have too much difficulty. Though there are a few frames that can’t adapt, it’s rare.
You can usually find a high-quality set of gravel tires to fit on your road bike if you’re willing to shop around.
Road and gravel tires often come in the same size diameter. However, the tricky measurement is the width.
You need to check carefully to avoid a gravel tire that won’t fit inside the frame or fork. A standard road bike tire is typically twenty-three to thirty millimeters wide, which is relatively narrow.
Alternately, according to Bike The Sites, “Typical (gravel bike tire) widths are 35mm, 40mm, 42mm, or 45mm. Wider tires are best for rougher and rocky terrains since they increase comfort and stability. Having a bigger tire provides enough cushion of air between the rider and the obstacles on the trail.”
Based on the most common sizes, this means the narrowest gravel bike tire is at least five millimeters wider than the broadest road bike tire.
What Is The Difference Between Gravel Tires And Road Tires
Width isn’t the only difference between gravel tires and road tires. For one thing, you usually don’t inflate a gravel tire as much.
Leaving more malleability in the tire allows it to mold to the surface under it, thus trapping gravel and rolling over the top rather than sliding on it.
The other significant difference is the treads. A road bike has a shallow, almost smooth tread that combines with that taut inflated surface to push off the smooth road more easily.
Meanwhile, the gravel tire has a center pattern that is not smooth but rather made up of a semi-shallow design edged by thicker knobs that help protect the sidewalls.
How To Put Gravel Tires On A Road Bike
Putting gravel tires on a road bike isn’t difficult. So long as you have the correct fit, it’s the same as putting new road tires on, except the tire looks different because it does a slightly different job.
Below I’ve listed all the steps to swap out your old road tires for new gravel grinders.
I recommend watching this video from Dave Noakes if you want more insight into the process. He talks about using wider tires on a road bike and shows you what he did.
1 – Consider A Bigger Cassette
Gravel bikes tend to have lower gears than road bikes because they tackle different terrain. If you are having trouble fitting a gravel tire, you may need a bigger cassette. Make this change first.
2 – Measure For Space
Your axles need to hold the gravel tires. However, you also need to ensure that you have enough clearance to fit the broader tire on your frame.
Unfortunately, if you cut it too close, the tire won’t fit at all, or it will rub. Choose a narrower gravel tire.
3 – Ensure The Quality
It may seem obvious, but always check that you get your gravel tires from a reliable manufacturer.
Check to see if anyone has tested them in real-world conditions and look for a limited warranty.
4 – Loosen Your Chain
Set your bicycle on a stand or upside down, then manually shift it to the smallest gear. Doing this will give you the most slack and make it easier to take your wheel off.
5 – Remove The Old Tire
Whether taking the tire off a wide rim or removing the whole wheel, you need to take off the unwanted part next.
Most modern bikes use a quick release for the wheel, which will also disengage the brake cables.
6 – Put On The New Parts
If you are switching the whole wheel, it’s probably a lot faster than levering a new tube and tire onto your existing rim, but either way, it shouldn’t take too long to put your new tires on.
If necessary, stop and add air, and don’t forget to latch your quick release.
Best Gravel Tires For Road Bike
Finding the best gravel tires for your road bike can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, I’ve already done the footwork and found durable, real-world-tested, high-quality tires that come in numerous widths and sizes to fit most frames.
I recommend trying out Gravel King or WTB for all your gravel tires.
1 – GRAVEL KING SK+ Aramid Tire
Gravel King’s SK+ Aramid Tires from Amazon live up to their name. These natural rubber tires are made to tackle gravel and rugged roads, but more than that, Gravel King is a company that has been innovating and improving its tires for seventy years.
GK’s home factory in Japan produces ninety percent of their tires in-house, and they work hard to source materials carefully.
Gravel King is worth checking out as a company that prides itself on quality craftsmanship. You will love these tires on gravel, pavement, and other terrains. Get a set by clicking here.
- The strongest version of GravelKing SK now has even better puncture resistance, with the use of ProTite Shield Plus for withstanding tough conditions.
- Tubeless Compatible (up to 60 PSI).
- ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural Compound.
- AX-a Advanced Extra Alpha Cord.
- Size: 700 x 38c.Sport type: Cycling
2 – WTB Raddler 700c TCS Gravel Tire
The WTB Raddler is the newer ‘radder’ version of the reliable WTB Riddler Gravel Tires from Amazon. These outstanding upgraded gravel tires are available in narrow widths to fit your road bike.
You’ll appreciate the short knob center treads because they cut down on rolling resistance, while the toothy outer lugs keep things on track during descents.
Raddlers are tubeless and incredibly lightweight so that you can ride for longer. Plus, they are incredibly durable. Learn more about these excellent tires by clicking here.
- Short-knob center tread cuts down on rolling resistance while still providing enough bite for out-of-the-saddle traction.
- Center and intermediate knobs on the Raddler are slightly taller than those of the original Riddler, thereby increasing tire lifespan without negatively affecting rolling efficiency.
- Tall, toothy outer lugs ensure your favorite gravel descent doesn't unravel in the final corner.
- Single-ply 60tpi casing provides dependable protection at a minimal weight.
- TCS Casing- tubeless compatible System.
Helpful Tips To Know If You Can Put Gravel Tires On A Road Bike
You can put gravel tires on almost any road bike. However, the selection is limited and more difficult when using a narrow frame and fork.
Here are a few extra helpful tips to know if you can put gravel tires on a road bike.
- Always double-check the width of your new tires. A too-large tire on a narrow frame won’t seal properly. Since many gravel tires are tubeless, this means you risk a flat, and you might even end up bending the rim. Putting gravel tires on a road bike requires patience and the right fit.
- If you put a gravel tire on your road bike and you hear or feel any rubbing, please stop immediately. It doesn’t take much friction before the rubber starts to heat up, which weakens it. It’s better to stop and change your tires out for a better fit than to risk a critical failure that could lead to an accident.
- When your bike frame and fork have limited space but you need more versatile tires, consider cyclocross. This style of tire isn’t as smooth as a road tire or as wide as a gravel tire because they are made for hybrid bikes. You should be able to get a narrower tire if you sacrifice part of the gravel-specific benefits. However, you will also move faster when you’re on the pavement than on a traditional gravel tire, so it’s a fair trade.
Traditional road bike tires aren’t good for handling gravel. Unfortunately, the high pressure and smooth outside that make them ideal for pavement will slip dangerously in ravel.
Switch your road tires out for the best gravel tires, and you’ll have a bike that can take different terrain with no problem.
So long as you ensure you get the right compatible size, changing the tire is the same as changing a road bike tire so you can be riding in minutes.