I've got a mountain bike that I occasionally ride on the road, when I do I like to put on slick road tyres but it's a pain changing the tires each time.

If I buy a second set of wheels what is the best approach? Do I need to change cassette, and chain etc each time?

  • What the others have said. If the cassette on the new set is radically different from the original you may need to tweak the derailer when you swap. Most brake setups can tolerate a very minor difference in rim width, but it should be limited to a millimeter or three to avoid the need to adjust the brakes when switching. Also, with the brakes you may encounter centering problems if the two rear wheels aren't identically "dished". The wheels "should be" identical in this regard, but probably many aren't, since millimeter accuracy isn't required in other contexts. Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 2:40
  • Who uses v-brakes? I've got hope hydraulic brakes with DT Swiss rims, I suppose I could go for thinner lighter rims for the road wheels, maybe even larger as I've probably got the clarence.
    – Dog Ears
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 21:26
  • Yep, with hydraulic brakes the rim width (and even diameter) isn't an issue, so long as the rims aren't too big for the frame. You do need to be sure to get reasonably similar hubs, of course, so the brake disks will line up. Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 22:15
  • I use rim brakes, and am very happy with them ;o) Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 13:48

3 Answers 3


If you are running V-brakes then you will need to make sure your second set of wheels have the same rim width as your existing set. Otherwise the brakes may not line up properly.

Your complete shopping list:

  • Wheels
  • Cassette
  • Spoke Protector (highly optional!)
  • Rim tape x 2
  • Tubes x 2
  • Tyres x 2

When swapping the wheels over the gears should not need re-adjusting each time. You can also go for a different range, e.g. smaller closer ratio more suited to the commute. Your existing wide-ratio chain length should work fine. Depending on the level of wear of the chain you may want to get one of those too. You can check how far the chain has 'stretched' by putting it on the outer chainring and then pulling it at the point nearest the front. If this pulls forward 5mm or more then it is worn. This is a rule of thumb, you can get the posh tool for measuring chain wear or measure it with a ruler.

The other main benefit of two wheel sets is that you can service one set properly without being bereft of your bike. Not many people do it for mountain bikes, road bike owners tend to do this more in practice. The crucial thing to get right is the rim width, if your bike is a recent model then you can sometimes get replacement wheels from that bike manufacturer rather than have to get something specifically built up. Obviously if you are running disks then any wheels will do.

  • Said much better and more thoroughly than I did. :) Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 0:31
  • 1
    Agreed. This is a very thorough, and correct answer. +1
    – zenbike
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 1:37
  • Would it be worth having a chain for each set, I've got those SRAM links so breaking and reconnecting would be a breeze.
    – Dog Ears
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 21:30
  • 1
    No point in having different chains, unless you run different sized clusters, and the largest cog is different by more than a couple of teeth. Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 22:17

As long as you have the same sizes of rim and the same size cassette, swapping back and forth shouldn't be any problem. The down side of this is mostly that it costs more money than just swapping tires out.

(Also: I don't know how much experience you have in swapping out tires, but keep in mind before you spring for the extra set of rims that it gets easier and quicker each time you do it.)

  • 1
    I could see one going through a few extra tubes swapping tires all the time. Shouldn't have too many flats from changing them, but definitely more than just having the swap the entire wheel.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 1:28

You should be aware of wearing out one cassette much quicker than the other. If it is the case, the worn chain from the older cassette would increase the wearing of the newer one. This will happen only if you use one of the wheels (say, mountain) more often or on dirtier conditions.

If that is the case, each cassette should have its own matching chain, but this would hardly be more pratical than just changing tires.

By the way, changing tires is my method of choice to "convert" a mountain bike for road use.

Hope it helps.

  • 1
    Or you could just install a new chain when the old one becomes worn. Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 15:28
  • Currently I'm with the 'changing tyres' solution, it's just that my tyres [Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick] & rims[DT Swiss 5.1D] are a right royal PIA to get on and off..! But I am getting better at it..!
    – Dog Ears
    Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 15:49
  • @Daniel: what you suggested would work, but the turnover of cassettes would be much greater if you use a relatively new cassette with an already "stretched" chain. Not to mention that a newer chain might even skip if you put it with an already worn cassette. I am not saying it will happen, just that it might happen (in fact, it is not rare). Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 16:16
  • 1
    @heltonbiker -- If you change the chain when it's only mildly worn, the cogs will never get worn in a way that would become incompatible with the chain. It's only when you let things go too far that you have trouble with a new chain. Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 18:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.