Can You Put Hybrid Tires on a Mountain Bike?

If you own a mountain bike, then you know how tedious it is to ride it down a normal street or pavement. And if you’ve clicked on this article, you’re probably wondering if putting hybrid tires on your bike can solve this problem, well, the quick answer is yes.

Hybrid bikes are built with the DNA of mountain bikes and road bikes in mind. This means that a lot of the elements are similar, or at least reminiscent of the elements in an MTB.

The tires of a hybrid bike are different, but not by a great degree. They’re built for riding on both smooth and uneven surfaces, so they give you that much-needed versatility that is sometimes missing in a mountain bike.

The Hybrid Tire

Hybrid tires, also known as slick tires, are different from mountain bikes in that they’re tailor-made to suit smooth roads (and a few uneven surfaces). Mountain bike tires, by nature, are made to suit technical terrain and trails with a lot of obstacles.

They’re fitted with front and rear suspension (or sometimes only front suspension) to absorb the shocks that come with cruising through rough trails.

Mountain bikes also have knobby tires for enhanced performance. These are patterns on the tires that help mountain bikers speed through rough trails without much trouble—the width of the tires also helps.

On smooth surfaces and paved roads, however, these knobs work against mountain bikers. Since they grip the rough terrain and dig into the ground, they in turn offer a lot of friction on a normal dirt path or street.

This makes it harder for you to pedal your bike on what might seem like a fairly easy route. It’s not impossible, of course, but your speed won’t be very impressive.

Hybrid tires have the traction to handle gravel roads and similar surfaces. They are thinner than mountain bike tires (but wider than road tires) and have fewer knobs to enable you to speed through roads with ease.

Most hybrids also have rim brakes (though some are fitted with disc brakes). The lack of a disc brake on each tire contributes to the bike’s lighter weight. This is alongside its light frame and drop bars with high gear ratios.

If you find that you need to take a detour through a dirt-filled street, a hybrid tire is more than capable of handling it, as long as you don’t go mountain biking or trail riding on rough terrains and steep hills requiring steep climbs.

What to Consider Before Buying Hybrid Tires

Before splashing your cash, make sure the new tire you buy is compatible with the old tire you want to take out. Do this by confirming that your MTB rim fits the road tire and has a proper road cluster to suit the drive train.

You can just walk into the store and get new hybrid tires, but it’s better to consider a few things first.

1. Riding Terrain

There’s a high probability that you’re looking to switch up your tires because you’re riding on (or are about to ride on) paved roads and smoother surfaces.

That said, you bought your MTB for a reason. It’s always best to cross-check that most of your routes aren’t better suited to the tires you already have.

If you’re sure your daily commute is going to constitute smooth streets and pavements, go ahead and get hybrid tires. Either way, always keep a spare set of mountain bike tires in case you need them sometime down the line.

Some people swap between the two every few years.

2. Tread Size

Your tire tread size depends on where you ride your bicycle the most. If the surfaces you ride on are mostly smooth and without any obstacles, a narrow tread will suit you best for higher speeds.

Tires with narrow treads also offer less rolling resistance on the road, enabling you to accelerate faster whenever you need to.

If you’re riding through dirt paths and gravel roads, though speed is important, balance is the number one priority. A wider tire tread helps provide traction and stability and is also puncture-resistant.

If you’re unsure of the road conditions, go for hybrid tires versatile enough to handle both. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have some difficulties going uphill if you do.

3. Ride Quality

Despite having the DNA of both road bikes and mountain bikes, the ride quality of hybrid tires is different from that of road tires.

Because hybrid bikes have some features that are present in mountain bikes, they’re not as “free-flowing” as road bikes when cycling. Although you can cruise through the main street with greater ease than with a mountain bike, in the speed department, a hybrid is not that great when compared to a road bike.

That said, hybrid tires make up for this by providing more comfort and versatility than a mountain bike. 

Also, because hybrid tires are wider than road tires, they’re more resistant to punctures when road riding. They also use less air pressure.

It’s important to make sure the new tires don’t interfere with the frame or brakes in any way.

Tire Pressure for Hybrid Tires

Mountain bike tires have tire pressure in the psi range of 20–35. For a hybrid bike, the tire pressure is about 40–70, and the recommended tire pressure for a road bike is 80–120.

The reason hybrid tires fall in the middle is that they’re a mix between a road tire and a mountain bike tire. The use of a range in tire pressure is important as sticking to a set value can result in more trouble, depending on the situation.

Weight is a huge factor to consider here. If you weigh more than a specific set average for your bike, your tires need to have more pressure. 

To get specific values for different tires, make sure to consult with the attendant at the shop. You’ll also get to know your desired tire pressure the more you ride your modified mountain bike.

What You Get With Hybrid Tires

There are many advantages to having hybrid tires on your MTB, but these are some of the few you’ll notice right away.

1. More Versatility

Mountain bikes are, on average, superior to hybrid bikes due to the components and features that enhance their performance. The one major weakness of a mountain bike is the inability to tread through paved roads and similar road conditions.

Keep in mind that the bicycle is more than capable of handling a few pavements and gravel roads. The caveat is that it won’t be as easy as with a hybrid bike (and definitely not as easy as a road bike).

With hybrid tires on your mountain bike, this limitation is reduced to almost zero due to a better grip on dirt and similar surfaces.

I say “almost” because you will still have your old mountain bike. If you race against an experienced hybrid bike rider on a smooth surface, he/she is still likely to beat you.

You will, however, have overcome the challenge of riding your bike through normal streets and paved roads.

2. More Speed

Provided you don’t ride your modified bike through technical terrain, installing hybrid tires on your MTB provides enhanced speed. This comes with reduced rolling resistance.

The fact that the wider tires are also resistant to punctures (though not as much as MTB tires) ensures you can accelerate the bicycle with little to no worries.

3. More Durability

Because an MTB exerts more friction on a smooth surface, the tires can wear out quickly if you are mainly cycling on smooth routes. This is not the case if you’ve put hybrid tires on your mountain bike.

Because paved roads are what hybrid tires are built for, you don’t have to worry about reduced tire performance. The better grip on smooth trails and dirt paths ensures reduced cost in terms of maintaining your tires over the years.

Conclusion

So, can you put hybrid tires on a mountain bike? Yes, you can. 

Plus, you can drop your handlebars because hybrids are known for having drop or mustache handlebars for efficient cycling on roads. Raising your seat is also a viable option.

Another alternative is to fit fat road tires. If you do, the most important thing is to choose tires with the same diameter/rim size as your current ones; the width can vary a bit.

Regardless of your reason for doing it, putting hybrid tires on a mountain bike is as simple as switching out your tires and putting in new ones. Whether it’s for more speed or more control on smoother surfaces, hybrid tires will deliver without a doubt.