MTB vs Road – Same Same But Different
I’ve always loved my mountain biking and it has traditionally had a good transfer of skills from my motocross riding days. It’s a similar riding position, handling technique and also a similar gauge of limits. But can the mountain biking also hep out with my cycle training for triathlon?
Firstly, I love it. It breaks the monotony of road cycling, especially in the recent winter months. Mountain biking is all year round, and it takes some heavy conditions to put me off hitting the hills, unlike a side wind and rainy day on the asphalt or an afternoon on the turbo trainer. With a couple of mates involved its a good laugh too, where there is no traffic to be aware of so you can chat away at a slower pace.
Its still training!
At the end of the day it is a form of cycling, so there will be similar muscle groups being pulled apart, but in a different workout. An hour on the road bike is not usually as knackering as 20 minutes on the mountain bike. The short sharp climbs mixed with the long slog fire roads are a great mix of anaerobic and aerobic punch that negotiate the roots and rocks that crop up on the MTB.
I’m lucky enough to have reasonable access to Cannock Chase – 2hr on a train – which is a purpose built trail centre. I ride here regularly and can track any progress I’m making, safe in the knowledge of a well maintained course and some familiar sections to test myself against. A 2 lap run of Cannock (about 28 miles) will hurt just as much as a 70 mile road ride I can assure you!
Improved Bike Skills:
The roots and gravel and tree stumps and hills are often not the same each run. The MTB can naturally improve your bike handling skills, with quicker reaction times and the ability to change direction quickly and efficiently. You need to look far enough ahead in MTB to see whats coming up, but keep a short sight of the branches in your face at the same time. Wherever you look, you end up, so in terms of road riding, a pot hole or an absent minded Sunday driver means your reaction times and general bike handling skills can be improved from mountain biking. A quick change of direction or bunny hop up and down a curb aren’t something you may necessarily rehearse, but if it’s already part of the skill set from MTB its nice to have in the locker.
Same Same But Different:
I’m not sure you can completely get the same workout from a day of mountain biking that you can from a road training session. It’s good to break the (no pun intended) cycle every now and again, but whatever sport you are training for, you get better by doing that sport more. I think if you go from MTB to Road you will see a benefits perhaps more so than vice versa. It is a different kind of fitness and to all intents and purposes a different sport. Tactics, body position, equipment is all so specialist now you choose your path.In a recent race I took part in, it was fairly frustrating to have the ‘fitter’ riders crawling away from me on long, slow, arduous climbs and then I’d be all over them coming back down the single track downhill sections. Without blowing my own trumpet, I believe I was technically a better bicycle rider than them. Its more fun to come back down on the edge than it is to see who can climb a hill at 3mph. May as well go sit on the road all day. Having the ability to come down a hill also instills a bit of confidence in my descending on the road bike. I am not scared of speed and can feel when its maybe a bit too much. Again, a spill over from the limits MTB has made me aware of.
This is generally a quick look at the two sports from my own personal point of view, but when I had a quick look for famous MTB/Road riders John Tomac’s name kept cropping up. Turns out he’s a bit of a legend at both.
I wouldn’t incorporate the mountain biking regularly into my training schedule but its nice for a change. There is also the added possibility of injury. Its pretty easy to get pitched off that mudder and there’s always a tree pretty nearby.