As much as mountain bikes are fun and comfortable for mountainous terrain, it does not beat the purpose and the versatility of a gravel bike. So, if you are planning to convert a mountain bike to a gravel bike, you probably have wondered what the benefits and the differences between them are.
Converting a mountain bike to a gravel bike instead of buying a new gravel bike is not only smart but quite simple. You can either do it yourself or ask a professional for help, and it does not cost much. In most cases, it is much cheaper than buying a new gravel bike.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about them and exactly how to do the conversion. But before we go into the modification steps, we’ll go over some things you might need to know to help push you actually to go through with the conversion.
Why Convert your Mountain Bike to a Gravel Grinder?
Here are a few reasons why it’s a great idea to go through with converting your mountain bike to a gravel bike:
True Riding experience
Unlike mountain bikes, gravel bikes give you the purest experience of a bike ride since they were made to withstand unpaved roads since the very beginning.
Nothing is more seasonally versatile, comfortable on all variety of routes, and any terrain than a gravel bike. You can easily take it over from the countryside through dusty or muddy roads to the cities and ride it with ease.
Improve your riding skills
Even though gravel bikes might feel uncomfortable in the beginning, the constant need to sit upright and the bumping vibration will improve awareness of the tracks and the challenges. It can also even out the pedal strokes to improve bike handling anywhere.
What are the overall features of a Gravel Bike?
Most gravel bikes are equipped with racks and mudguards; they are safe and convenient for a variety of off-road adventures as well as events.
It has a more stable frame and fork clearance without the hydraulic disc brakes. It is a bike for all seasons anywhere and much lighter and faster than any mountain bike.
What are the differences between features of a mountain bike vs Gravel Bike?
While mountain bikes have a specific purpose, a gravel bike is more efficient for different riding experiences. The significant differences between a mountain bike and a gravel bike are mostly the geometry in design, the frames, braking system, and the tire size.
A gravel bike is taller and has a sleeker design than a mountain bike, which has a shorter frame. Gravel bikes offer better comfort but are harder to manipulate off-road, whereas mountain bikes are responsive for riding down mountain roads.
Mountain bikes are usually made of light metal, such as aluminum and carbon fiber, so that they are lighter. Their lightweight build allows it to be easily carried over difficult terrains when riding is difficult or too dangerous. On the other hand, gravel bikes are sturdier and stiffer as they are usually convenient for carrying loads.
Gravel bikes use disc brakes that provide stability and prevents falls on slippery or uneven surfaces. In contrast, mountain bikes usually use cantilever brakes, so it depends on the rims and cannot work independently.
Mountain bikes have slim tires, but you can also change them according to your preference. Most mountain bikes have enough room for large tires, but the extra space is usually used for mud clearance, whereas gravel bikes have thicker and a more massive tire for better stability and support.
If you still want to continue with converting the mountain bike into a gravel bike, the features mentioned above are some of the main changes you will have to look into.
To start the transformation, here is a step-by-step guide to turning that bike into an all-purpose bike for the best riding experience.
Steps to Converting a Mountain Bike to a Gravel Grinder
1. Change the Gear System
Since gravel bikes are much faster than mountain bikes, they require more gearing options than the mountain bikes. So, changing the gear system is an integral part of transforming the bike.
Thankfully, both mountain and gravel bikes use the same 2:1 ratio when it comes to the number of gears. With that said, you will have to increase the number of gears in the existing number on the mountain bike while still maintaining the ratio so that it does not lose its responsiveness.
2. Raise the suspension
Once the gears are upgraded, the next step is changing the suspension. The change in suspension is needed for better clearance between the bike and the ground.
And since your mountain bike only has the comfort and the features necessary it navigate over harsh terrains, you need to make it more versatile by raising the suspension.
Changing the suspension along with the gear is a crucial step to convert your bike into a gravel bike because of the number of obstacles that gravel bikes come across on different routes.
3. Opt for smaller tires
The third step is to change the tires of the bike from a thicker to a thinner one. Tires play an integral part in making up the difference between a gravel bike and a mountain bike. Most mountain bikes have larger, thicker, and broader wheels that are designed for rough and winding terrains.
On the contrary, gravel bikes have more agile and thinner wheels to make it light and flexible. So, to convert the mountain bike to a gravel bike, ensure that you install new wheels that are thinner, more lightweight and more flexible over different paths.
4. Change the braking system
The fourth most crucial part about switching to a gravel grinder is to change the brakes. Since gravel bikes are faster and lighter, you will have to ensure that the brakes have a good grip and are highly responsive for safety purposes. You will also have to switch to a disc brake as it lasts longer and can withstand heavy pressure.
Durable disc brakes are essential when converting to a gravel bike because you will surely use the bike more frequently over different terrains.
5. Install a tougher Shock absorber
The next important step is to install a shock absorber that is tougher than the ones on a regular mountain bike.
Most mountain bikes are equipped with robust shock absorber, but while switching to a gravel bike, you will have to make it even tougher as gravel bikes are meant to grind through more challenging surfaces at a higher speed.
Gravel, pebbles, rocks, and dirt come as obstacles where gravel bikes are concerned. So having a high shock absorber is another crucial step in replacing your MTB to a gravel grinder.
6. Altering the handlebars
Another essential feature you need to change to transform the mountain bike into a gravel bike is by changing the handlebars.
Since mountain bikes come with a flat handlebar, they do not perform the same as gravel bikes. To transform it into a gravel grinder, add bar-ends so that you can switch arm and hand position during long rides.
Since you will be riding over different terrains, adding a gel-pad under the bar tape of the handlebars will also reduce vibration over rough bumps and pebbles.
7. Lighten the Weight
Finally, to make your mountain bike resemble the efficiency and performance of a gravel bike, you have to make it as light as possible.
Whatever materials you use for replacing the original parts of the mountain bike, it should be of the lightest build; however, it should still be made from sturdy materials.
So, while changing the frame may not be an option, changing the accessories like the handlebar, tires, suspension, and shock-absorber should be possible.
You can also remove all unnecessary equipment and other accessories that will not be handy.
Frequently asked questions
What do we need for converting mountain bike to gravel bike?
There is a wide range of tools and equipment you need to modify a bike. Some of the essential ones are: Allen wrench, needle-nose pliers, rotor truing tool, denatured alcohol, chain plier, cable cutters, truing stand, spoke wrench, spoke tension gauge, shock pump, metal file, and an adjustable wrench.
How much does converting mountain bike to gravel cost?
Modifying a mountain bike to a fully equipped gravel bike will cost roughly from $60 to $200 depending on where you buy the parts. You can get the parts that you need from a second-hand shop or a sports store depending on your budget. Collecting all the pieces from scratch at a low price might take longer. Therefore, you might want to consider hiring a professional to do it, which will cost from $100 to $250 depending on the locations.
Is there a vast difference between a mountain bike and a gravel bike?
The main differences between a mountain bike and a gravel bike are not much physically, but it is more prominent when you ride it over different terrains. You will find the most noticeable differences in geometry, tires, frames, brakes, handlebar, and gears.
Lastly, I know that converting a mountain bike to a gravel bike is not an easy task, but it can be done. Once you decide to do it, just follow the steps listed above and make sure you change the parts of all the areas mentioned. Make sure you have all the right equipment and simply get started with the conversion.