Friday, April 9, 2010

Why Mountain Bikes Are Betther Than Road Bikes

In light of a mountain bike race I have tomorrow, I've been thinking about all the ways mountain bikes are far superior to road bikes.

Blasphemy, I know. Truth is, there's tons of stuff where road bikes trump mountain bikes. Ability to ride alone (or at least I am willing to, and not willing to ride solo MTB), racing dynamics (maybe not better, just different), convenience. Etc.

But anyway, there's some stuff that the road bike just plain can't match.

1. Training

Most people ride road bikes to train for mountain bike races. But riding mountain bikes can be an excellent training tool for road biking.

This is an easy ride from Case yesterday. The red line is my HR-and it's constantly fluctuating. Easy on an easy ride, mountain biking demands that you push hard at certain times. Race pace rides are even more brutal.

Which leads to the elevation gains. My computer, though not perfectly accurate, stated that I was moving uphill 50% of the time. Which means I'm either leaning back, holding on for dear life, or leaning forward, pushing a big gear.

Which leads to building muscle. Not just the force work you gain from climbing half the time (sometimes in way too low of a cadence to clear rocks). My lower back, triceps, and shoulders all burn the first few MTB rides of the year.

2. The Gear

Oh, the gear. I love gear. Short, medium, long cage rear derailleurs. Double or triple crankset. Flat bars or risers. Pedal choice. Full suspension design. Fork choice. Brake choice. Tubeless. Tubes. Sealant. And most importantly, TIRES.

God I love tires. There's so many. I look at tires for hours. I scrounge for reviews. I check the review boards several times a day to comb for new information. Wet, dry, slick, semi slick, knobby, casings, compounds, blocks, rounded, spacing, angles, size, etc, etc, etc.

My new rear mud tire.

Not the lightest. Not the fastest. But it'll grip like a mother. Dual compound (oh so pretty). 2.0 casing (smaller the better for mud).

Now, obviously this all exists for road bikes. But with road riding, gear is less important. It's just not as key as the rider. But MTB'ing requires you pay careful attention to what you ride, because what you ride dictates how you'll perform. A lighter tire may lead to a flat. A poor tread pattern choice will lead to no grip. Hydraulics are lighter than mechanical disc brakes, but they're harder to maintain. On and on.

I love gear.

3. Bike Handling Skillz

Back in the day, after racing MTB for years, I entered a couple cat 5 races. I raced two or three, plus some collegiate racing, and used my mountain biking as reason to upgrade early. I was petrified of the 5's. They're squirrely. They're not smooth. They're scared of each other.

If anyone wants to become more comfortable in a pack, they should do two things.
1. Ride in packs more
2. Ride mountain bikes

4. The Thrill

Screaming down some sweet downhill on a road bike is awesome. It really is.

Screaming down some sweet downhill on a mountain bike is bliss.

Taking rocks, roots, holes, switchbacks and making them your bitch is the greatest thing you can ever do on two wheels.

Railing corners hard enough that your front wheel begins to wash out is the second greatest thing you can ever do on two wheels.

Something on a road bike may take the third spot. Sprinting for a W is pretty cool. Railing corners (without any front wheel wash) also comes to mind.

5. Wheelies

Actually, I lied. They're just as much fun on road bikes. They're just easier on a MTB.

With that, I have to pack for the race tomorrow.

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