How to Turn Your Road Bike into a Off-Road Machine

Let’s face the truth.

Everyone wants to have a separate bicycle for off-road riding.

But we can’t always afford one.

But don’t worry, your road bike will do just fine, you just need to tweak it a little bit and you are good to go on your outdoor adventures.

In this article, I am going to show you how you can completely transform your road bike into a gravel machine.

It’s not that hard, trust me.

So let’s hope into it!

Put Gravel Tires

Tires are the most important thing you need to consider before going on any trail.

If you think a little bit, tires are the only thing that touches the ground, so you need to pay close attention to what I’m about to say.

You need to buy separate gravel tires.

A decent set of gravel tires will change your experience completely.

They will handle the surface much better than your road tires, they will absorb all the rocks and dirt on trails and make you feel much more comfortable.

Not only that but gravel tires will have much better puncture resistance too.

You don’t want to risk going on trails with your road tires. That’s just a pain in the ass.

First, you need to figure out which size tires can fit your road bike’s frame and fork. Make sure you have enough clearance to put the tire in and pump it up somewhere between 40 and 80 psi.

If you have an average road bike you should be able to squeeze 32mm wide tires without a problem. But if you can’t, 28 mm tires are perfectly fine to tackle some off-road trails.

Change Your Main Wheels

We all know that gravel isn’t just gravel.

There are all sorts of big rocks and holes you need to face when cycling off-road.

Your rims on the wheel are very sensitive to any kind of pressure, especially if you have carbon fiber wheels.

If you didn’t know carbon fiber is very sensitive material, you need to be very careful when going on trails.

If that’s the case you should highly consider investing in a separate pair of wheels. You will have that piece of mind you need to cycle without worrying constantly.

I hate when I have to worry about some mechanical problems on my bike.

When you buy separate wheels and you put gravel tires on them you can go anywhere in the world. 

Except for water. Of course.

Then you can just swap between your setups.

If you want to go back on your road setup just put back your wheels and you are good to go.

Protect Your Frame With a Tape

Now, when you got your wheels and tires done, we can move to the next phase.

To protect your bicycle.

If you have never been off-road before, you don’t know how annoying it is when little rocks are constantly striking your frame.

That sound alone just annoys me. Besides that, it can truly damage your bike frame.

I will show you how and where to protect it, trust me it’s very simple.

Everything you need is the frame tape. It’s not even that expensive. You can buy one from Amazon for a few bucks.

Or you can just use a normal tape, but this frame one is of course a lot better.

Frame tape will not only completely protect your bike from scratches and dents, but it will also reduce the noise of little rocks hurting your frame.

Here are the X key places you must cover with a frame tape.

  1. Down Tube
  2. Inside of Seat Stays
  3. Behind the Seat Tube
  4. Tip of Cranks
  5. Chain Stay

Use Mountain Bike Cleats and Shoes

Switching from road to mountain bike cleats and petals is a huge difference. Even though it seems insignificant, trust me the difference between road and mountain shoes and cleats are totally different. 

With mountain bike shoes you will be able to clip in and out of pedals much quicker which is very important if you are riding off-road.

Also, you can recess the cleat on your mountain bike shoes allowing you to go on a little hike there and there.

Cycling is not just pure riding, you need to spice it up a little bit with some other outdoor activities like hiking for example.

One more thing, mountain bike shoes are more suited for those muddy conditions because if you get off the bike with your road you are done. 

They will clog as soon as you step onto the ground.

That’s why I prefer wearing mountain bike shoes and pedals even if I am riding on a road. 

Get a Suspension Seatpost

Gravel is extremely rough compared to road.

If you’ve never been on gravel before, you will see how uncomfortable it can be especially considering you will be riding a road bike (with no suspension most likely).

If comfort is a big thing to you, you should highly consider getting a suspension seat post.

It will improve your overall comfort by absorbing all the vibration and dumping coming up from trails, and also allow you to spend more time riding your bike.

It can even help with some lower back problems.

The only downside to a suspension seat post is the weight. You would need to carry around 400g more than with your basic seat post.

I hope this article was helpful!

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