Can You Put Off-Road Tires On A Road Bike

Going off-road with your road bike may, at first, seem counterintuitive, as if you want to go off-road, why not just get a mountain bike or gravel bike to start with? But, you can undoubtedly take your road racer off-road with a few considerations.

You can put off-road tires on a road bike, but you would need to look at a few elements of the bike frame and wheel rims and consider brake and frame clearance before attempting to do this so that you have traction and steering and braking when riding.

Adding off-road tires to your road bike is not just a question of changing the tires and heading off to the wild, so let’s take a look at what you need to do and how so you can enjoy great off-road on your road bike.

What Type Of Off-Road Riding Will You Be Doing

Before you consider changing your tires, ask yourself what kind of terrain you would be riding on, each would need different tires. For example, if you were riding mainly on the satin groomed gravel tracks like a forest or canal towpaths, that would require a different tire to go hard-core gravel and mountain paths.

You also need to consider your tires if you are only doing off-road or if you would likely be on the road at some point as well as the traction aspect is a consideration from both a control and safety perspective.

Another consideration is the braking and steering control you will need depending on the type of trails you will be taking on, and the type of off-road tires you fit your road bike will affect this significantly.

Road Bike Tire Widths Vs. Off-Road Tire Widths

If your road bike is a real racer, you would have a limited tire width to work with as these users have a maximum width of 25mm-28mm.

Endurance bikes can run to around 35mm, and cyclocross can get up to approximately 40mm, as can gravel bikes, but it is doubtful that you would be able to get close to that on a road bike.

The majority of road bikes can accommodate a 32mm-33mm tire to look at that width for various tire options, and this would be the minimum required for rough gravel tracks to give you reasonable control and comfort while riding.

This would also be an ideal fit for the smoother gravel tracks as you would probably have enough space on the frame and the rim and brake caliper clearance, and you could even go with a slicker tire on the smoother gravel tracks.

Off-Road Tire Options For Your Road Bike

Another consideration around tires is the season you’ll be riding in and the weather conditions that will be at play. For example, you would need to look at different tire options if you are riding summer dry vs. winter wet and muddy, as using the wrong tires would be risky.

Many gravel tires come in various treads, from smooth, low-profile slicks for the dry conditions to the more oversized chunkier treads for the slogging through the winter mud.

Faster rolling design treads would also be a good idea here as you will need more pedal power to push the road bike on the off-road surfaces than you would require on the road, and these will give you an equally good grip on the road and gravel.

There is another option if you find that the space on your bike is limited, and that is to go with cyclocross tires. Most of these are 32mm-33mm and will fit most road bikes without issues.

They also come in various treads, and you can pick and choose which one would be best suited for the type of off-road riding you are looking to do.

Why Having Two Sets Of Wheels Could Be A Better Option

If you can afford the expense, it may be better to have two sets of wheels; one set equipped with road tires and the other with off-road tires. This would be a quick-change exercise to remove one set and fit the other according to your riding conditions that day.

There is another benefit to doing this, and that is if you have carbon-framed wheels, they might not appreciate the off-road impacts, and replacing those due to off-road damage could be expensive.

Remember that your road bike has zero suspension, so impacts while riding will be felt more on your road bike than on an MTB or gravel-specific frame, and excessive impact on your road bike frame can damage your wheels as well as other components.

Investing in a cheaper set of aluminum wheels with off-road tires could be an efficient and cost-effective way of putting off-road tires on your road bike without having to worry about damaging expensive wheels to spend a few hours on gravel.

Another point here is that doing it this way will save you the hassle of removing and then fitting different tires each time you want to ride off-road and then switching back to standard road tires when you want to ride on the road.

Rim Width Is Key When With Off-Road Tires On A Road Bike

It’s critical to leave some space between rubber and frame, and so when looking at putting off-road tires on a road bike, the rim width has to be considered as well. If your off-road tires are wider, you need a wide rim to accommodate this.

You need this to ensure tire stability and prevent ‘tire squirming’ through corners and at the lower tire pressure. In addition, the wider tire will often be wider than the default sidewall measurements, which will affect the braking and control on the bike.


You can undoubtedly put off-road tires on a road bike, and as long as you know the conditions and type of trail you will be riding in and on, there should be no issues finding a tire that will work for you.

With any riding, it’s more important to be safe than fast, so if you are looking to go off-road with your on-road bike, chat to your local bike pro about the best off-road tire options for your bike.

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