Converting Mountain Bike to Gravel Grinder

As much as mountain bikes are fun offroad through mountainous terrain, it does not beat the versatility of a gravel bike. So, converting your mountain bike to a gravel bike is a great thing to do. Maybe you've also wondered what the benefits and the differences between them are and if it's worth the hassle?


Converting a mountain bike to a gravel bike instead of buying a new gravel bike is smart and 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?

convert mtb to gravel grinder

Here are a few reasons why it's great to convert your mountain bike to a gravel bike:

Experience a Better Ride

Unlike mountain bikes, gravel bikes give you the purest experience of a bike ride since they were made to withstand unpaved roads. Moreover, they offer both speed and performance over any offroad terrain.


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 initially, the constant need to sit upright and the bumping vibration will improve your awareness of the tracks and benefit your riding skills. It can also help you even out your pedal strokes and improve bike handling on gravel or offroad terrain.

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 and events.

It has a more stable frame and fork clearance without the hydraulic disc brakes. Those features make it 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 found with 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 suitable 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.

Tire size

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

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 mountain bike while still maintaining the ratio so that it does not lose its responsiveness.

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 features necessary to navigate 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.

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 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, lightweight, and flexible over different paths.

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 excellent stopping power and are highly responsive. 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 it more frequently over different terrains.

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 more robust 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-quality shock absorber is another crucial step in replacing your MTB to a gravel grinder.

Altering the handlebars

Another essential feature you need to change to transform the mountain bike into a gravel bike is 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 handlebars' bar tape will also reduce vibration over rough bumps and pebbles.

Lighten the Weight

Finally, to make your mountain bike match the efficiency and performance of a gravel bike, you have to make it as light as possible.

Whatever materials you use to replace the original parts of the mountain bike 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, replacing 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.


Lastly, I know that converting a mountain bike to a gravel bike is not easy for everyone, 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.

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 $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.

Can I Use A Hardtail As A Gravel Bike?

Yes, you can use a hardtail mountain bike as a gravel bike with the right modifications. Converting a hardtail mountain bike to a gravel bike involves upgrading the tires to wider, more robust gravel-specific tires, installing disc brakes for improved braking power, and possibly adding suspension to improve comfort and performance on rough terrain. You may also want to consider adjusting the handlebars to a more upright position for a more comfortable ride.

Can You Put Gravel Tyres On A MTB?

Yes, you can put gravel tires on a mountain bike. This can be a good option if you want to convert your mountain bike into a gravel bike but don't want to invest in a new set of wheels. However, keepmber that you may also need to make other modifications, such as installing disc brakes and adjusting the handlebars, to transform your mountain bike into a gravel bike fully.

What Are The Benefits Of Modern Gravel Bikes?

Modern gravel bikes are designed specifically for off-road adventures and have several features that make them well-suited for this type of riding. For example, they have wider, more robust tires for improved stability and support on rough terrain and disc brakes for improved braking power. Many modern gravel bikes also have a more upright riding position and may have suspension to improve comfort and performance.

Are Drop Bars Necessary For Gravel Riding?

Drop bars, which are commonly found on road bikes, are not necessary for gravel riding. Some gravel bikes have drop bars, but they are not required. You can also use flat bars, which are more commonly found on mountain bikes, or on a gravel bike. The type of handlebars you choose will depend on your personal preference and the riding you plan to do.

Can I Use An Old Mountain Bike For Gravel Riding?

Yes, you can use an old mountain bike for gravel riding if it is in good condition. However, you may need to modify it to fully transform it into a gravel bike. This could include upgrading the tires to wider, more robust gravel-specific tires, installing disc brakes, and adjusting the handlebars to a more upright position. You may also want to consider adding suspension or other features to improve the bike's performance and comfort on rough terrain.

Is A Cross Bike The Same As A Gravel Bike?

A cross bike, also known as a cyclocross bike, is similar to a gravel bike in that it is designed for off-road adventures and has features such as wider tires and disc brakes. However, there are some differences between the two. For example, gravel bikes tend to have a more upright riding position and may have additional features such as suspension or racks for carrying gear. On the other hand, cross bikes are typically designed for racing and may have a more aggressive riding position.

Can I Use Mountain Bike Pedals On A Gravel Bike?

Yes, you can use mountain bike pedals on a gravel bike. The type of pedals you choose will depend on your personal preference. Some people prefer clipless pedals, which allow you to clip your cycling shoes into the pedals for a more efficient pedal stroke. Others prefer flat pedals, which allow you to easily get on and off the bike and give you more control when riding off-road.

Can I Use A Mountain Bike With Rim Brakes As A Gravel Bike?

It is possible to use a mountain bike with rim brakes as a gravel bike, but it may not be the best option. Rim brakes tend to be less powerful and less effective on rough terrain compared to disc brakes. Therefore, if you are planning to ride on rough terrain, you may consider upgrading to disc brakes to improve your braking performance.

How Much Tire Clearance Do I Need For Gravel Riding?

The amount of tire clearance you need for gravel riding will depend on the size of the tires you plan to use. Gravel bikes typically have wider, more robust tires than mountain bikes, so you will need more tyre clearance to accommodate them. If you are planning to ride on very rough terrain, you may want to consider a bike with even more tyre clearance to allow for even larger tires.

Will Converting My Mountain Bike To A Gravel Bike Give Me A Smoother Ride?

Converting your mountain bike to a gravel bike may give you a smoother ride, depending on the type of terrain you are riding on and the specific modifications you make. For example, upgrading to wider, more robust gravel-specific tires and adding suspension can help improve ride quality on rough terrain. However, keep in mind that a gravel bike will not necessarily offer a smoother ride on all terrain compared to a mountain bike.

Last Updated on October 14, 2023 by Daniel White