I'm an occasional biker. I bought a mountain bike (nothing fancy) with the idea that I might use it off-road or on mountain trails (of which there are many here in Calgary). However, since I've bought it I've done nothing but bike in the city on streets and paved bike trails.

Is there anything worth doing to my bike to convert it to something more suited to urban biking? In particular, the tires have me wondering; they have large rubber off-roading lugs that surely aren't doing me any favors on pavement. I'm not looking to spend a tons of money on a retrofit, but will do so if its worthwhile.

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    You're going to want those big tires when the snow hits and the roads get graveled. I keep mine on year round but my commute in Calgary is less than 15 minutes.
    – Patrick
    Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 17:07
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    I don't bike in the snow :-P But that's a good general point, and the gravel can persist well after the snow is gone. Commented Sep 8, 2010 at 0:34

7 Answers 7


You can get a set of slicks or semi-slick tires that will reduce your rolling resistance. If you're using it to commute lots as well then fenders are awesome to keep the rain off. I have a snap on rear fender that goes on any bike I'm riding if it's raining (outside of races). I hate having a wet butt.

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    +1 for getting slicks. Also if the mountain bike has suspension parts that you can disable, then disable them. They are of no value in an urban environment.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 19:14
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    Good call on suspension. Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 0:29
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    Can't entirely agree about the suspension - yes it may absorb some energy (depends a bit on the suspension) but the general condition of the roads (and cycle paths) is such in many places that if you have suspension you may well benefit from it to some degree (yes you probably wouldn't want the weight on a bike specifically intended for road use but if you've already got the weight you its not black and white). (I say "probably" 'cos I rather like the no-squat suspension on my SpeedMachine recumbent!)
    – Murph
    Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 17:26
  • Great call on the fenders. One of the most worthwhile additions to an urban commuting bike.
    – deemar
    Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 21:59

I am in the same situation and I was much happier after I picked up some more appropriate tires. I went with a set of Serfas Drifters, which actually have an inverted tread so that you don't have to worry about going off road if you want. I even use them quite a bit for light trail riding. As long as you can avoid mud, loose uphills, etc you are fine.

It was like night and day after switching to thinner and less knobby tires. And it isn't just the nobs, you want a thinner tire also for even less rolling resistance. I went with a 1.5" width.

Also, make sure you pick up some tubes that are the right size for the tire! The first time I tried mounting these, I used my MTB tubes and I swear I broke a tire iron trying to get it on the rim.


Another thing you could consider would be getting a larger large-chainring if you find yourself hitting top speed often on the streets.

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    Ha! My gear ratio is totally wrong on my mountain bike when I have slicks on it. Commented Sep 15, 2010 at 2:10

for urban riding you can use lighting if you often ride at dark, and don't forget to get some lock to your bike. better safe than sorry

  • It should go without saying that you never bike at night without proper lights. But I guess, some people do need this reminder anyway... Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 13:42

Depending on where you're riding and what you're taking, a rear rack might be worth the investment.


I'm a Calgary rider, too (15km each way). The best thing I can recommend is to get a set of Armadillo Crossroads - they've got some traction, and I use them year round (until the ice builds up and I get out the studded tires). And they have kevlar threads so are pretty rugged and puncture resistant. They're slick enough to not provide much rolling resisitance. Makes a HUGE difference while riding.


Almost 9 years have passed since this question has been asked. Technology have evolved quite a bit now and somethings you may want to get:

1) Action Cam

Largely for safety reasons. In case of any accidents, you can have evidence to strengthen your defence or to claim damages against the other party.

These are pretty reasonably priced .. can get a very decent one for less than US$100.

Just remember to buy the mount when buying one. Bike mount is good but if like me, a food delivery rider .. a helmet mount may be more practical

2) Lights - Super bright lights with USB charging

Again for safety reasons. And USB charging cos the prices have come down quite a bit and the battery life have improved too. My battery operated ones are costing a hell of a lot over time ..

I find them very useful for getting attentions at junctions where cars turn out into your lane. Or on pavements, it acts as a "silent bell" to notify the pedestrians in front of you.

3) Rear Mirrors

Low tech and really cheap. No need to keep looking back for oncoming vehicles. May also double up as a reflector ..

Just note that will most be mounted onto (or near) the ends of your handlebars .. you have a slightly wider profile .. so be careful when manoeuvring tight spaces

4) Anti-puncture tyres

In urban riding .. there tend to be more debris like broken glasses .. tiny metal bits .. etc ..

I got sick and tired of fixing punctures .. after I started using my Schwalbe Marathon .. had a peaceful 4 years without any .. and the one I got recently .. I'll attribute it to the thinning rubber after all the wear.

  • Unfortunately, action cams are not allowed in all jurisdictions. So, check your local laws first. The last thing that you want to happen when you bring forth your evidence is that it's turned against you. (Illegally obtained evidence may be void in the accident case, while calling for a lawsuit against you in itself.) Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 13:46
  • Concerning point 2: Doesn't need to be USB charged. Dynamo powered lights won't fail you even when you decide to tour the entire night. And proper dynamo powered LED lights can provide a lot of light. --- Point 4 is gold, though. I always use Marathon Plus tires, and I've come to expect them to last more than 10000km without a single puncture. Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 13:53

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