How to Change a Bike Tire From Mountain to Road

How to Change a Bike Tire From Mountain to Road
Changing a mountain bike over to a road bike is an inexpensive way to expand the use of your bike and make it significantly easier to pedal. Mountain bike tires are designed with knobs and ridges for riding trails of loose dirt, gravel and mud -- things that few who live in the city ever have to deal with. For those who stick to the roads or only occasionally head down the gravel, slick road tires take care of their needs.


Difficulty: Easy

Swapping the Tires

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tire irons (plastic levers for pulling tires off)
  • Road bike tires
  • Bike Pump
  • Allen wrenches
  • Pressure Gauge
  • Spanner Wrench (optional)
  • Pliers (optional)
Step 1
Remove the front wheel of the bike. First, disconnect the brakes. Most brakes have a piece of cable with a stopper that slips off to release the brakes, or at least a micro adjustment that will loosen the brakes.
Step 2
Disconnect the wheel hub. Most bikes have quick releases which slides the wheel out with the flip of a lever and probably a little unscrewing. If your bike does not have one of these, you will need a spanning wrench and pliers, or a spanner and socket wrench, to loosen the nuts.
Step 3
Next, remove the rear wheel in the same manner, but there is also the chain to worry about. With one hand, push the derailleur forward and try to wiggle the chain off the gears on the wheel. It can be helpful to have a buddy help at this point, but is not necessary. With the slack in the chain, pull the rear wheel out.
Step 4
With your bike wheels in tow, head to a bike shop, and ask for a set of road tires that will fit the rims you have. All rims have a set of numbers that go with them, as do the tires. An example is 26 x 2 -- this means that the approximate wheel diameter, when the tube is fully inflated, will be 26 inches, and the width of the tire should be about 2 inches. There will be some variance. Rim and tire manufacturers often don't agree on the sizes of their products, just like with shoes -- you may be a 9 with one brand and a 10 in another.
Step 5
Use a small Allen wrench or similar tool to deflate both tires. If the tubes have Schraeder valves -- the same as a car -- there will be a small nipple in the center of the valve. Use the wrench to depress this and release the air. There will be a loud hissing sound that accompanies this. If the tires are not fully deflated, it will be near-impossible to remove the tire -- and even dangerous, if one of the tubes becomes punctured.
Step 6
Using the tire irons, put the end of one tire iron under the edge of the tire so that it pulls up over the rim. Place another alongside the first (and if you have another, on the other side). With the tire irons, work your way around the tire, until the tire is half hanging off of the rim. Now, move the tire irons under the tire, to the half that is still clinging to the rim. In the same manner as before, work around the rim until the tire pops off.
Step 7
Now you should have two rims with tubes, but no tires. Take the brand new tires, reversing Step 5, and use the tire irons to lever the tire onto the bike, one half at a time.
Step 8
Inflate the tube a little with the bike pump, checking to see that the tube is staying under the tire as it should. If the tube is poking out in any one place, push it back into place and inflate to the proper inflation as indicated on the new tires. This can be found by looking on the outer walls of the tire and then testing the tire pressure with a pressure gauge. This will only work if you have Schraeder valves -- the same kind as a car.
Step 9
Reattach the wheels, reversing Steps 3 and 4.
Step 10
Crank the pedals slowly with the rear wheel freely spinning so it can revert to the gear it was taken off in. Go for a short ride around the neighborhood to make sure all things are in order.

Tips & Warnings

Bikes are extremely dynamic machines with any number of interchangeable parts -- differing brake systems, rim and tube sizes/types -- which can all make this different than described. When you go to the bike shop, ask if you can return the tires you buy if they don't fit the bike. They may offer to just put the tires on for you, sometimes for free.
Your hands will probably get greasy from the chain -- there are a number of citrus-based cleaners that help remove this.

Article Written By Alex Steiner

Alex Steiner graduated from Northland College with a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies, emphasis in human engagement. His educational training includes, sociology, psychology, interpersonal communication, adventure education, and environmental law. Steiner continues his work as an environmental education professional in Southern California.

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