The road bike is one of the most popular bikes used for commuting on tarmacked roads. Do you want to explore dirt roads but are hesitant because of your road bike? Can your road bike be used for off-road cycling? If not, can you adjust it for off-road cycling? Read further to find out more about going off-road with road bikes.
Can a Road Bike Go Off-Road?
A road bike is meant to be used on tarmac and paved surfaces. Its design, from the handlebars to the wheels is quite different from other bikes such as mountain bikes.
While a road bike can go off-road, you must exercise caution. If you intend to go off-road with your road bike quite often, you may want to purchase a bike that will suit the off-road conditions.
For off-road conditions, mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and hybrid bikes are your best bet. These are designed for various off-road conditions and the specs are very different from the average road bike.
Before Taking Your Road Bike Off Road (You Need to Do This!)
There are a few adjustments to make before riding your road bike off-road, as detailed here.
1- Change the Tires
One of the key parts to change in a road back are the tires. Get a different set of tires, the most ideal width being between 38mm-45mm. Wider tires provide better control and grip.
2- Change the Wheels
Swap the lightweight wheels for more robust, wider wheels which are designed to handle the bumps and knocks better. You can opt for carbon wheels or cheaper aluminum wheels.
The width of the internal rim should be at least 20mm. Also, ensure you have enough clearance between the frame and the rubber on the wheel.
3- Protect the Frame
Aim to protect your road bike frame from dents and scratches caused by gravel. Use frame tape on the frame and the chain stay. The tape will also protect the paintwork on the bike.
4- Change the Cassette
Change the cassette at the back and get a larger one. Cassettes provide different gear options for your bike. However, the rear derailleur can limit the size of the cassette, so check it before buying a new cassette.
Road bikes typically have 11-32t. A gravel bike with 1 chainring can have an 11-42t cassette. However, the rear derailleur can limit the size of the cassette, so check it before buying a new cassette.
Connect the new cassette to the wheels that are meant for off-road cycling, so with a new set of tires and wheels, you can easily swap them for either tarmac or off-road cycling.
5- Get New Pedals
Double-sided mountain bike pedals can be clipped in, so you can wear mountain bike shoes for off-road cycling.
There are also some items you need to carry for your off-road trip, such as:
1- Water: This is essential to prevent dehydration.
2- Snacks: High-energy snacks are recommended to maintain your energy levels, such as bananas, oatmeal, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
3- Tool kit: In case repairs need to be made, a toolkit would be handy. It should contain tire levers, Allen keys, screwdrivers, a tire inflator, and a puncture repair kit.
4- First-aid kit: This is a necessity as accidents can happen at any time.
5- Riding kit: You must have a helmet and cycling goggles. You can also wear knee pads, gloves, and a jersey.
If you plan to use your road bike for off-road trips quite a few times, you may want to invest in gravel or a hybrid bike. While a road bike can be used, it is more likely to get damaged, and it can jeopardize your safety.
Does a Road Bike Work with Gravel Tires?
Gravel tires can be put on a road bike. Gravel tires are generally 38-45mm wide. These are better for traction and usually have extra tread. Before purchasing gravel tires, check the following in your bike:
- Tire clearance: There should be a minimum of 6mm between the frame and the tire. If there is not enough clearance, debris and gravel will get stuck between the frame and the tire and cause damage.
- Fork: The fork connects the front wheel and the frame. The width of the tire depends on the width of the fork.
- Cassette: You may need a bigger cassette to ensure a wider range of gears.
Fitting Gravel Tires on Your Road Bike (In 6 Steps!)
Once you find tires that fit your bike, do the following:
STEP 1- Remove the Wheels
First, release the brakes. Then pull on the quick-release lever on the wheel to remove it. For the back wheel, shift the chain so it’s in the last cog. This makes it simpler to remove the wheel.
STEP 2- Remove the Old Tires
Deflate the tire first. Push the sides of the tire toward the center to loosen the bead. Then use tire levers to pry off the tires from the wheels.
STEP 3- Install the New Tires
Check the tire for any arrows showing the direction it should rotate in. Place the tire on the wheel and place one bead onto the rim and go around the entire wheel placing the tire onto the wheel. Leave a bit of the bead uninstalled, as this is where you will pour the sealant in this gap.
STEP 4- Sealant
Measure the correct amount of sealant and pour it into the gap. Rotate the wheel slowly and finish installing the bead.
STEP 5- Inflate the Tire
Inflate the tire to the recommended amount and ensure the bead sits properly on the wheel. Spin the wheel to ensure the sealant is evenly distributed. Let the sealant set as per the instructions on the pack.
STEP 6- Install the wheel
Install the wheel on the bike, ensure the tire pressure is correct and take the bike for a spin.
Gravel tires should be tubeless as they have a better grip, offer more comfort, and can also help prevent punctures due to the sealant inside.
To remove and reinstall wheels and tires, go through the bike’s manual for more instructions.
While you can use the road bike for off-road cycling, you must make certain changes first. The tires, wheels, cassettes, and pedals should be changed to suit the off-road terrain. If you need to change the wheels and tires, check your bike for the measurements first, before making any purchases.
If you are cycling through potholes and some rough patches of road on your normal commute, your road bike will be good enough to tackle that route.
However, if you are going to cycle off-road frequently, you may want to invest in a bike suitable for that, such as a gravel or hybrid bike.