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In effort to transition my mountain bike to a city commuter- can I replace the mountain tires with thinner city tires without changing the bike wheels?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Short answer: Yes, you can.

The rims on most mountain bikes will support a tire as thin as 26 x 1 inch. 26 x 1.25 is virtually guaranteed on any mountain bike at all. (As long as it is a 26" wheel bike.")

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Panaracer T-Serv Protex tires come in 26x1.25" sizes and offer extra puncture protection. I've had a great experience with Panaracer's puncture resistant tires. –  Benzo Apr 30 '12 at 20:01
    
Yep, you can generally fit a 26x1.25 tire on standard mountain bike rims, and that is a good size for a commuter. Look for a tire with minimal to moderate tread (no lugs), and ideally Kevlar belted for puncture resistance. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 30 '12 at 21:51
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