One- and two-dimensional carbon nanomaterials are attracting considerable attention because of their extraordinary electrical, mechanical and thermal properties, which could lead to a range of important potential applications. Synthetic processes associated with making these materials can be quite complex and also consume large amounts of energy, so a major challenge is to develop simple and efficient methods to produce them. Here, we present a selflated, catalyst-free strategy for the synthesis of one-dimensional carbon nanorods by morphology-preserved thermal transformation of rod-shaped metal-organic frameworks. The as-synthesized non-hollow (solid) carbon nanorods can be transformed into two- to six-layered graphene nanoribbons through sonochemical treatment followed by chemical activation. The performance of these metal-organic framework-derived carbon nanorods and graphene nanoribbons in supercapacitor electrodes demonstrates that this synthetic approach can produce functionally useful materials. Moreover, this approach is readily scalable and could be used to produce carbon nanorods and graphene nanoribbons on industrial levels.