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How to convert a hybrid bike into a gravel bike

Hybrid bikes and gravel bikes are similar in concept. Hybrid bikes can be converted to gravel with little replacement cost, depending on the component parts.

Modified at: 2023.11.26Posted at: 2023.5.1

Hybrid bikes are similar to gravel bikes in some models.

Gravel bikes have the following characteristics

  1. larger tires (& tire clearance)
  2. disc brakes
  3. numerous dowel holes

In fact, many recent hybrid bike models already meet the requirements for “thick tires” and “disc brakes,” and may be easier to convert to gravel bikes than road bikes.

However, there are some points to note when converting a hybrid bike to a gravel bike, as the components of a hybrid bike may have components designed for MTB.

Select parts to convert your hybrid bike to gravel!

Choose drop handlebars

Hybrid bikes have flat-bar handlebars like MTBs, but gravel bikes, which are derivatives of road bikes, have drop handlebars.

If you want to convert your hybrid bike to gravel, choose drop handlebars first.

The problem here is that the following components used on the hybrid bike cannot be used with drop handlebars.

  1. brake lever
  2. shift levers

This is because drop handlebars require the use of a part that combines the brake lever and shifter, or in Shimano’s case, the STI lever.

Using STI levers also poses another problem. This is because derailleurs and brakes must be compatible with STI levers.

Therefore, simply saying “convert your hybrid bike to drop handlebars” may mean replacing all derailleurs, brakes, and even the corresponding rotors, depending on the components you have installed.

Before purchasing drop handlebars, check component compatibility.

Check Component Compatibility

For component compatibility, Shimano provides a compatibility chart on its official website.

Specifications and Technical Data | Shimano

Check if the following parts currently installed on your hybrid bike are compatible with STI levers.

  1. Derailleur
  2. brakes

If your hybrid bike consists of MTB components, you will basically be replacing them with road or gravel components.

Compatibility around the gearshift can be chosen according to the compatibility chart, but it is the brake area that you need to pay attention to.

Disc brakes must match the following three standards

  1. brake calipers compatible with STI levers
  2. rotors compatible with brake calipers
  3. wheel compatible with the rotor

Particular attention should be paid to the selection of brake calipers. While most disc brake calipers for road use are “flat-mounted”, those for MTB use are “post-mounted”.

If your hybrid bike has a flat mount, you can simply replace it with a compatible brake, but if it has a post-mount frame, there is no adapter to install a flat-mount brake on a post-mount frame, so you cannot install a flat-mount brake Therefore, post-mounted frames for road use are not compatible with flat-mounted brakes.

This means that you will have to come across a rather rare item, a post-mount disc brake caliper for road use.

Let’s choose gravel tires!

Next to the handlebars and components, the most fun part of riding a gravel bike is choosing gravel tires.

When choosing gravel tires, it is important to pay attention to “tire clearance,” which measures the amount of space between the frame and the tire size.

Tire clearance refers to the space between the tire and the frame. If the manufacturer’s spec sheet says “Compatible with tires up to xxC,” measure that size; if not, measure the gap between the currently installed tire and the frame with a tape measure.

For example, if the current hybrid bike’s tire is 700x35C and the gap between the tire and the frame is about 2 cm, we can assume that a gravel tire up to about 700x45C can be installed. Note that the flake clearance should be checked to see how much clearance there is not only in the upper direction of the tire, but also in the lateral direction.

When driving on gravel, it is better to have at least 1 cm of clearance because the tires may be covered with mud and other debris.

After selecting the parts, let’s replace the parts!

Once you have selected the parts, replace them to complete the conversion of your hybrid bike into a gravel bike.

Even an amateur can reassemble the parts of a sports bike if he or she is careful and does his or her research.

The labor cost can be several hundred dollars, but if you are not confident, it is safer to leave it to the professionals, as problems around the brakes can lead to accidents.

The labor charge is high, but if you consider the cost of the tools and other equipment needed to replace the parts, it is more cost-effective to leave it to the professionals if you are only going to do it once. If you want to customize your own parts in the future, this is a good time to get bicycle tools.

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