Can You Put 24 Wheels on a 26 Bike?

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Mountain bike with small wheels

In the world of cycling, bigger isn’t always better – sometimes a smaller wheel is a much better fit (and easier to control) than a bigger wheel. Having the ability to switch out your wheel size depending on needs is a game changer.

If you’ve been thinking about downsizing the wheels on your 26 inch bike, dropping it down to a 24 inch wheel, you’re in luck! Not only is it possible to make this sort of switch, but it’s a lot easier to pull off than you’d think – and there are some serious benefits for making the change, too!

In the rest of this detailed guide we run through (almost) everything you need to know about changing your 26 inch wheels out for 24s.  

We’ll cover the big benefits and the drawbacks to be aware of, the steps for making the switch, and a couple of things you might not have considered that can make this project go a lot smoother.

Let’s jump right in!

Can You Put 24 Wheels on a 26 Bike?

Right out of the gate you’ll be happy to know that bike frames (and bike forks, really) designed to run 26 inch tires aren’t going to have any trouble fitting 24 inchers “under the hood”, so to speak.

Going the opposite way – adding 26 inch tires to your 24 inch wheel bike – would require a little more work and some extra changes to get the larger wheels attached.

But those aren’t important considerations when you’re going to a smaller wheel (for the most part, anyway).

Can you put 24 wheels on a 26 bike?

As long as you choose 24 inch wheels that use the same hardware to mount to your bike you’ll be rocking and rolling in no time.

Benefits of 24in Wheels on a 26in Bike

As highlighted a moment ago, there are a couple of big benefits to dropping your bike down a couple of inches.

For starters, 24 inch wheels are a lot more comfortable for junior and shorter riders to control. 

Trying to pop up on a 26 inch wheeled bike can be a challenge for some, let alone trying to steer and maneuver it around. Those larger wheels can be real comfortable for folks that are little taller (and offer a lot more wheel clearance), but shorter folks are going to struggle to make the most of those benefits.

Another big plus for 24 inch wheels is the much improved controllability.

These smaller wheels are easier to move and pivot, easier to adjust on the fly, and generally offer much better steering compliance and efficiency.

You’re not going to feel like you’re steering a boat-cycle when you’ve got 24 inch wheels under you, that’s for sure!

Instead you’ll find the bike much more responsive and much easier to control. The input you send from your handlebars into the wheels will translate almost instantly. There’s no lag at all between your steering commands and the way the bike responds.

This is a big part of why BMX bikes (and street bikes in general) are typically always found with 24 inch wheels instead of the bigger 26 inches. Those kinds of wheels are almost exclusively going to be found on road cruisers and mountain bikes.

Finally, 24 inch wheeled bikes are generally a little easier to store and a little easier to transport.

Two inches might not look like a whole lot on paper, but the difference between a bike running 26 inch wheels and 24 inch wheels from a stowability and transport standpoint is stark.

Can You Put 24 Wheels on a 26 Bike – Drawbacks

Though there are some definite benefits to going with a 24 inch wheel over a 26 inch one, you are going to be giving up a couple of performance benefits that the bigger tires have to offer.

For one thing, bigger tires accelerate much faster than smaller tires.

26 inch wheels spin up in a hurry, helping you to get to top speed much faster (and with much less effort). Not only that, but they maintain those faster speeds for longer without you having to keep pumping your legs like crazy.

These larger wheels can hit top speeds going downhill much faster, too. You won’t have to hit the peddles hardly at all when you’re going downhill with larger tires.

24 inch wheels will accelerate pretty fast downhill as well, but not as quickly as 26 inch wheels.

Larger wheels give you more ground clearance, too.

You’ll be able to navigate across rough, rocky, and uneven terrain without a lot of headache and hassle. The larger wheel diameters can cover this kind of ground with better stability, too. The larger wheels aren’t going to get bumped off track (so to speak) the same way that smaller wheels might.

Can you put 24 wheels on a 26 bike without sacraficing a lot?

At the end of the day, it’s really all about finding the right tire size for the specific riding you’re looking to do – and the kind of rider that’s going to be piloting this bike.

Important Things to Consider Before Swapping Bike Tires

While wheel diameter (and whether or not your new wheels will fit in your bike) is a big priority, you have to consider the width of your wheels, the suspension system on your bike, and the hardware/connections that attach your wheel to your bike frame as well.

It’s not enough for your wheels to be “short” enough to stick under the front forks or attach to the rear of your frame.

You don’t want your wheels to rubbing on the frame because they are too thick, that’s for sure. You’ll loose performance in a big way, but you’ll also run the risk of blowing a tire, too.

It’s important to make sure that the attachment points and mounting hardware for your wheels are compatible with your bike as well.

After all, you could buy the best 24 inch wheels on the planet and still not be able to use them if your front dropout or axle nuts won’t “play nicely” with your new wheels. And forget about it if your brakes won’t work!

Can you put 24 wheels on a 26 bike without a lot of headache?

So long as you make sure the rest of the bike systems – especially brakes! – work with your wheels you should be alright.

Closing Thoughts

Can you put 24 wheels on a 26 bike?

As you can see from the info we shared above, swapping out 26 inch wheels for 24 inch wheels isn’t a big deal on most bikes.

Weigh the pros and cons of making the switch, make sure your new wheels fit – and won’t rub – when “dry fit” to your forks and frame, and then confirm that the connection hardware is good to go.

If you get nothing but greenlights on those checkpoints you’ll be off and running on your new 24 inch bike in no time!

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Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.