How to turn your mountain bike into a road bike

Want to try triathlon, but only have a mountain bike and can't afford a road bike? Nick Cook explains how to make your mountain bike speedier and more road bike-like. Image courtesy of Russ Burton

Only have a mountain bike? Here's how to make it more road bike-like

The first thing to do is to remove those draggy, knobbly tyres and fit some slicks, that’ll make the biggest difference to your overall speed.


If you can, lock-out the forks or even consider fitting some fully rigid ones.  They’ll be significantly lighter and you won’t waste energy bobbing up and down.

You won’t need the massive spread of gears that a mountain bike typically has on the road so fit a smaller range cassette. This will save you a bit of weight but, more significantly, the smaller jumps between gears will allow you to maintain a more even cadence.

Look at how you can make your position on the bike more aerodynamic as an upright mountain biking posture is going to cost you a lot of speed, especially into a headwind. Fit narrower handlebars or even cut down your existing ones. You can go slightly narrower than your shoulder width but this will compromise the off-road capabilities of your bike. A longer stem should also allow you to get a bit lower but can also affect off-road handling.

I’ve seen people fit aerobars to an MTB, but you’ll probably also have to adjust saddle height, saddle fore/aft and stem length to get a decent position. Totting up the financial and potential time costs from all these tweaks, a second-hand road bike could be a better option.


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