I just moved from where there wasn't much of a biking system infrastructure. There were lots of trails though, so I bought an OK mountain bike ($350).

Now, I've moved to downtown Seattle and everyone bikes. I'd love to get into it but not sure if a mountain bike is efficient for road-use.

Should I look into a conversion kit? Should I just get a road bike and have one off-road and one on-road?

  • 2
  • Rather than buy twp bikes, I want to have an alternate pair of city wheels to put on a fairly expensive 2X10 29er for some paved rides, then switch back to single track tires for trails. Both sets of wheels would have to have disc brakes, and gears on both rears, for facility, yes? Has any one here done this?
    – user7671
    Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 18:55
  • Welcome to Bicycles SE. This site functions on a Q&A format rather than that of a typical forum. Since this does not attempt to answer the OP's question, it would be better posted as a comment or a question on its own.
    – jimchristie
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 12:59

10 Answers 10


I would at least put road tires on your mountain bike - they really improve your efficiency on pavement.

If your commute is urban w/ lots of stops & traffic navigation, the mountain bike handlebar setup can be more maneuverable for tight situations than a road/touring bike. I do miss the maneuverability of my mountain bike since switching to a road bike. A commuter or hybrid bike may be a very good option, with the handlebar & fork designed for more urban situation vs. being tuned for long-haul riding.

  • My bike is a "hybrid" road bike, so I've got the mountain bike-style handlebars, which is really nice, especially when I'm hauling my bike up the stairs at my work. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 17:02

My advise, buy a suitable commuter bike and keep the mountain bike if you have room.

I was in the same situation living in NYC. I found that conversion was not worth the effort and simply switched to a commuter bike. Converting your mountain bike would help but still leave you with some of the drawbacks, such as a heavier frame and shock absorption, which drains your efficiency. A commuter bike will surly get you out on the road more.

Your local bike shop will help you find the perfect bike.

Things to keep in mind: Frame size is key Can you add a rack/fenders? Do you want a single speed or multiple (i suggest multi-speed)

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    Bump for recommending multispeed. It's no fun to show up for work sweaty from riding up hills.
    – krs1
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 19:01
  • only bike to work if i can shower there. If i didn't want to sweat, i'd drive.
    – gcb
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 4:14

Funny you're in Seattle, I had the same experience when I was out there for a summer. I just got "slicks" for tires and it was fine.


If you are commuting daily for a long distance, I'll switch to a road bike. If not and you like your current bike, keep it!

I own a road bike and a mountain bike, depending where I'm heading. But I do not live in a large city.

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    Depends on the city. Out here we ride our road bikes out on the country roads and ride the mountain bikes in town. A lot easier to hop up/down curbs and bounce through potholes on a mountain bike. Also mountain bike tires seem to be a lot more resistant to punctures from all the debris one finds in the road in an urban setting. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 17:53

I have always ridden mountain bikes, and even now that I commute daily since one year ago, most the time I go with my mountain bike.

For sure, if you ride in the city and not on off-road trails, chosing a thin lightly threaded tire is the best thing to do.

I don't like too thin a tire for 26 inch wheels, though, because the ride becomes very harsh with them.

I now also have a fixie, it is SO MUCH faster and easier to go around, but it seems very obvious to me that a skinny-tire-much-lighter bike without fenders and racks and all should be much easier to ride anyway.


I recommend keeping a commuter bike for road use and a mountain bike for offroad use. You can always ride a mountain bike on the road if you need to (albeit less efficiently than your commuter bike). A nice, durable steel-framed hybrid is what I use for commuting, though that's really just a matter of prefence.

I bought a $350 mountain bike several years ago, and I learned the hard way why cable locks suck. If you're going to lock your bike up in a public place invest in a good u-lock or something better than a cable lock. Also, replace quick-releases with bolt-ons as those same douchebags also like to steal wheels and seats.


I live in NYC (Bronx) and while there are a quite a few bike lanes and paths all there aren't many bike trails that warrant owning a mountain bike. I see a lot of people by me who buy full suspension mountain bikes, but the majority of the time they ride in on the streets, which is such a waste of efficiency and money. yet again I see a lot of people who think they are Lance Armstrong and buy $2K+ road bikes and ride them like idiots. I would get a hybrid or a cyclocross which can handle some potholes and minor off road terrain while still keeping efficiency up. I personally ride a Kestrel RT-1000 flat bar, which is basically a road bike that kestrel uses a flat bar on. This makes it fast, efficient, but with a more upright position that's nimble in stop and go traffic.

  • I’m not sure what you mean by “fast, efficient, but with a more upright position.” A huge amount of the efficiency of a road bike is from the aerodynamic position of the rider, and a more upright position removes most of that benefit. My own experience, for example, is that if I’m doing 20mph in a relaxed position on the hoods, going to the drops will let me do at least 22-23mph at the same perceived effort. Commented May 21, 2018 at 22:41

Start with your current bike, switching to smooth tires.

If you find your current bike comfortable, stick with that.

Only when you find yourself putting in real mileage (let's say 15 miles/day), then get a road bike (or a fixie if that's your bent) to improve the efficiency.


There is nothing you need to do, but you'll probably find that the riding is more pleasant with road/commuter tires – ones with minimal tread. You may also find that a mirror makes life feel saner and safer.

After that, you may find that the gearing for a mountain bike is lower than you'd like. If you do, you can change the cassette (rear gears) to get a higher range without too much cost (maybe US $20-40).

Or, if you'd like to do some trail riding as well, you might do well to get a second set of wheels. That would enable you to switch easily between knobby and slick tires and also have cassettes that are better suited to each style of riding.


I put road rests(padded handle bar extension) on my High Timber, it goes like a road bike but maxis out sooner, 20 mph on a flat road. A lot more agile than a racer style road bike though.

  • Welcome to Bicycles @TPJ54. More detail help us to understand your answer. Not everyone knows what road rests are, and everybody has to guess what you mean by 20ish. Is that 20 mph, or 20 kph? Please edit in such details, and check out the help center, especially How do I write a good answer?.
    – andy256
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 22:39

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