How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

From this article, you will learn how to convert road bike to gravel bike - which parts differ and how to change them
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Last updatedLast updated: March 21, 2022
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Riding a bike used to be a simple endeavor but as you get older and invest in new devices, you will quickly find out that not all bikes are created equal. Nor are they meant for the same task. You may start with a particular kind of bike but then find your interests changing, and want to adapt that bike instead of buying a new one. We’re here to talk about how you can convert road bike to gravel bike. We’ll walk you through the steps to take and ensure you follow some basic instruction as well as pay attention to safety practices. We promise you’ll be able to make some easy changes so that your road bike will be ready for the tougher terrain of gravel.

Difference Between Road and Gravel Bikes

When you ride on a road, for the most part it is a very smooth surface. On the other hand, gravel is bumpy terrain. As such, bikes need different components to handle the different experiences.

A gravel bike will allow you to sit further upright on the frame to allow you to handle any bumps. In contrast, riding along a road is all about aerodynamics so your body is often parallel to the frame to avoid wind resistance.

For a gravel bike, you need tires that have large tread and a wider stance so that you aren’t thrown from any larger pieces of rock. A road bike has smaller, smoother tires that allow you to cruise with ease.

Overall, a road bike is about getting somewhere the fastest while a gravel bike is about the thrill of encountering new, tough terrain.

Main parts

Here is an overview of the different parts you can expect to find in both a gravel bike and a road bike.

Gravel bike

Road bike

Chainring

46/30 or smaller

53/39 or 50/34

Pedals

SPD mountain bike pedals or platform pedals

SPD-SL road bike pedals

Tires

700c x 32 – 50mm, 650b x 32 – 50mm

700c x 23 – 32mm

Wheelbase

Long

Short

Cassette

11 – 34, 11 – 40 or larger

11-25, 11-30

Cargo capacity

Large

Limited

Geometry

Upright

Stretched out, aero

Handlebars

Wide with flare

Narrow

How to Turn Road Bike into Gravel Bike

You have a road bike that is still in good condition. But your interest now lies in gravel riding. Bike riding has been an ever-evolving sport and the latest version is gravel riding Trusted Source Is Gravel Biking the New Power Sport? - Worth Gravel biking is attracting financiers, entrepreneurs and C-suite executives with a contrarian streak. The appeal? A chance to explore unconventional terrain, test your mental and physical mettle, and truly unplug. www.worth.com . This not only involves gravel, but any track that is not pavement. Gravel riding allows you to explore nature, have some fun, get a bit dirty, and just let loose a bit.

Instead of merely purchasing a new bike, you might be able to convert your old road bike into a new gravel bike. Here are some major differences between the two types of bikes and how you can convert from one type to the other.

Gear

How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

You may forget about the importance of what you wear while riding a bike but we can assure you, it is very important.

Riding a road bike is all about aerodynamics. You definitely need a helmet but your outfit is going to be as light and form-fitting as possible. Aim for tight bike shorts and a shirt that is also rather tight. Your gear should be able to wick away sweat so you can stay comfortable on long rides.

When you transition to gravel bike riding, you need much more protection. Unlike a road bike helmet that just protects the top and sides of your head, you will need a full-face helmet that protects your jaw.

You will also need long sleeve shirts and pants as they add a necessary layer of protection if you were to fall. Many gravel riders will also wear elbow pads and knee pads, again, in case of falling.

You may also want to consider special clothing that has padding built-in. This is lighter to wear and you don’t have to worry about pads moving around as you travel.

If you have kids that are getting into gravel riding, safety gear is especially important Trusted Source Bike Safety It’s a beautiful day — what could be more perfect than a bike ride? But wait! Before you pull your bike out of the garage, let’s find out how to stay safe on two wheels. kidshealth.org . Kids are known to take more risks so be sure to outfit them with the proper gear. The more you model safety gear, the more natural it will be for kids to wear it, too.

Wheels

How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

Riding on a road should be as lightweight as possible. The more your bike weighs, the harder it is to ride it, especially if you are going uphill or are caught in a wind draft. As a result, road bikes are constructed with wheels that are extremely light. They are often made of carbon fiber material and as a result are quite expensive.

Depending on how you plan on using your new gravel bike, you might knock it around a bit. While this is usually unintentional, it is a side effect of rugged trails and a daredevil attitude. Do you really want to damage your expensive, carbon fiber wheels?

When converting your old road bike to gravel, substitute the lightweight wheels for sturdier aluminum ones. This will be heavier and won’t damage as easily. Furthermore, they are less expensive so if they do dent, you won’t be as preoccupied about the replacement cost.

The good news is that wheels are relatively easy to find. You can look for the exact size and tread you want, such as the Gravel King SK 700 x 32 cm, which has a folding head and is perfect for gravel tread.

Tires

How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

One of the most important ways to turn a road bike into a gravel bike is with the tires. Quite simply, if you don’t change the tires, your bike won’t be able to handle the new terrain.

Road bikes have thin, narrow tires. While there is some grip, there is not nearly as much as gravel tires.

For gravel tires, you want a wider base as well as deeper treads. This will allow you to travel over uneven terrain and not be thrown from your bike. New tires are as much a practical necessity as they are a safety one.

Handlebars

If you’re looking to cut a few corners when changing your road bike to a gravel one, handlebars is a good place to start. This is by no means a necessity so you can save both time and energy. However, if you have both, then changing your handlebars will create a better overall experience.

The handlebars of a road tire are narrower and you may have to hold your body in a different stance. The wideness of gravel handlebars can lead to more stability as well as a more pleasurable experience.

Pedals

How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

One of the easier modifications when it comes to converting a road bike to gravel is simply switching the pedals. The problem with standard road pedals is that they do not have enough openings and this mud and bits of gravel can more easily get stuck in them.

Instead, you will need double sided MTB pedals. These allow mud to go through and if there are any clogs, you can easily get rid of it.

Another benefit of MTB pedals is that they usually have a clip in design. This allows you to move about easily and if they do need more cleaning, you can clip the pedals out and give them a good wash down.

A gravel pedal will also offer you better control. For example, the SHIMANO SPD Pedal provides stability along with comfort so you can hit the trails all day long.

Chainring

How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

Gears and chainrings are incredibly important in a bike. They allow us to choose the right balance between speed and effort pedaling and are especially important for hills. If you have more gear options, you will be more likely to pedal up that long, steep hill, than if you only have a few gear choices.

A road bike has plenty of gears, usually around 27 gears. It will have three chainrings that are paired with a nine-speed cassette.

As for a gravel bike, it usually only has 11 or 12 gears. This means you can maneuver over rough terrain but it is a lot harder to go up hill.

You will likely have to change your gears when converting a road bike to a gravel bike for a better ride.

Improve cargo capacity

Road bikes are about sleekness and versatility. You can have panniers but you don’t want them to be too big. With gravel bikes, there is more room for larger storage. You can have larger panniers that can hold all your gear.

Cargo capacity may not be a big deal for some people but for others, it can mean a much different experience. You can opt to purchase brand new storage to attach to your bike or you can find second-hand bags that sill have plenty of life left in them. This can help you stick to your budget if you need to.

Overall, gravel bikes have a stronger frame and because of this, they are able to carry more weight. This is important as you will be adding quite a few pounds in the form of safety gear, such as an enhanced helmet and body pads.

But the extra weight capacity will also allow you to simply carry more if you are going out on an all-day excursion, or even if you plan on stopping for some camping along the way.

Frame

How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

Changing the frame from a road bike to a gravel bike might be more difficult than other aspects. Unlike the pedals or even the handlebars, the frame of a bike is a large component of the entire bike. You will want to think first about what modifications you can do to your existing frame rather thank try to replace the entire frame altogether.

Generally, the frame of a road bike has a larger reach. The frame is also shorter, allowing you to bend low to the bike and create less wind resistance.

Gravel bikes are all about the power that is behind them so you need to be upright in order to really push down the pedals and navigate the bumpiness.

A final consideration when it comes to the frame is if you are a male or female rider. Everyone is built differently and a short woman will need a vastly different frame than a tall man. It’s always best to start with a bike geared for women, if you are one, not because of the color choices but because of the sizing.

Contact points

When we talk about contact points with bikes, we are referring to the handlebar, stem, pedals, and saddle. Essentially, where your body makes contact with the bike.

A road bike has all the same contact points that a gravel bike has but they are designed differently. The two systems require different posture and thus changing them should be a priority.

When you are on a gravel bike, your body has to adapt to the different bumps you will be going on. As a result, you need a more relaxed posture. A road bike, in contrast requires you to settle into a set position that you rarely move from.

Changing your contact points may take a bit of effort to find a position that is more natural. Try to adjust the seat and the handlebars so that you can move your body in many ways. You may even want to try a few runs and paths to see how your body can adapt to the bumps you will encounter.

Accessories

How to Convert Road Bike to Gravel Bike Easily

Alright, this is not a category you want to think too hard about if you are working within a budget. However, it is a category if you are trying to create the perfect bike that will keep you comfortable all day long.

Riding on a trail all day is quite the workout. Keeping hydrated is an absolute must and you want to have your water bottle in an easily accessibly area. You can even find a set of water bottles, such as with the USHAKE Water Bottle Cages. These can be screwed onto your bike frame and will give you two access areas for all your water needs.

Another accessory to consider is a mount for your phone. You can attach it to your bike and then have it readily available for all your needs. This is also a good consideration if you want to video your cool moves or even your reaction to your accomplishments. The Roam Universal Bike Phone Mount is a great option if you want a mount that is compatible with just about any bike frame.

FAQ

Here are a few more common questions you may have about changing your road bike to a gravel bike.

Are road bikes slower than gravel bikes?

While you might want to blame your speed on your bike, in reality your speed is not wholly dependent on the type of bike you have. Road bikes do have slimmer wheels and are made to be more aerodynamic. If you are an avid road biker, you will naturally adopt a more slim-line posture which can make you travel faster.

However, even though gravel bikes have thicker tires and are more upright construction, they are still powerful bikes. The difference in speed will be there but will really not be a lot between a road bike and a gravel bike.

Is it cheaper to buy a gravel bike than convert road one?

If you’ve finished this article and are suddenly aware of the time and energy it will take to convert a road bike, you’re not alone. Depending on what you decide to change, it can indeed take more money to simply purchase a gravel bike, especially if you can find a used one at a good deal.

There are decent priced gravel bikes available, and this might be a good place to start, in order to see what is exactly available.

You should also factor in the time it will take you to make all the modifications, especially if are not sure what you are doing as this may require plenty of video watching and fixing precious work.

Those that are avid bike riders, however, may love the challenge of converting a road bike to a gravel one. It is fun, informative, and you can feel a real sense in pride in what you are accomplishing.

Final Thoughts

Before you toss out that road bike in favor of a new gravel bike, you may actually be able to simply convert it. While the two bikes are inherently different, they are still both bikes and therefore have a lot of similar components. You can decide to make only the modifications you actually need or you can choose to change everything over for a more in-depth experience. It can take a lot of work to make the changes, especially if you don’t know a lot about bikes but it can also give you a great sense of accomplishment. For those that want to convert road bike to gravel bike, we wish you all the best and will have plenty of adventures ahead of you.

References

1.
Is Gravel Biking the New Power Sport? - Worth
Gravel biking is attracting financiers, entrepreneurs and C-suite executives with a contrarian streak. The appeal? A chance to explore unconventional terrain, test your mental and physical mettle, and truly unplug.
2.
Bike Safety
It’s a beautiful day — what could be more perfect than a bike ride? But wait! Before you pull your bike out of the garage, let’s find out how to stay safe on two wheels.
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