Is mountain biking good cross-training for road biking?
May 2, 2006 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Is mountain biking good cross-training for road biking?

I'm wondering if trading in some of my road rides for mountain rides will actually help my road riding. Now that some of the (Utah) mountains are thawing out, I'm trading some road rides in for mountain rides. It seems that all of the road riding have helped my performance on the trails, especially during the long climbs - Other than the overall fitness increase, can I expect to notice any benefit in my road biking through riding mountains?

If it helps, my mountain rides always begin with 1 - 1/2 hour climbs.
posted by neilkod to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
I would say the road biking influences mountain biking more than vice versa (which you've noticed with your fitness on long climbs). However, if mountain biking does affect your road cycling it would most likely affect your abilities to cross obstacles on the road, reaction times, and dealing comfort on fast downhills (since you've gotten used to dealing with rocks and roots on the mountain bike kicking up your downhill road speed will be no problem).
posted by rlef98 at 10:19 AM on May 2, 2006

i think the generally accepted areas in which it might help road biking are bike handling skills and hill climbing (depending upon how you train on the mountain bike) and these seem about right from my personal experience. The other big advantage is variety. You don't want to get too bored and stop training.
posted by caddis at 10:27 AM on May 2, 2006

What kind of road training are you doing? For instance, the short, steep and intense climbs found in mountain biking can mimic sprints and intervals on the road, cardio-wise. So if you're not doing these things, mountain biking would be a big help with fitness. I bet you've got this covered, tho.

A few facts, along with experience, lead me to believe that cyclists can get a good workout faster on a mountain bike than on a road bike: mountain bikes are heavier, they travel on a rougher surface, and because of suspension, are less efficient. You know this, probably. I need to ride about 50 miles on the road to feel as tired as I do after riding 20 off road. So time might be an advantage.

To piggyback on what caddis said, another advantage of variety is that it puts your body in different positions, which I'm sure it appreciates.

Oh, and doing things like clearing logs and negotiating rocks employs way more of the upper body than road riding does, for what that's worth.
posted by ArcAm at 10:59 AM on May 2, 2006

I used to be a mountain biker, but switched completely to road when I discovered I was much better on the roads than off. If we're talking pure fitness here, I don't think you can get the same quality of workout on a mountain bike as you can on a road bike. So I wouldn't trade the roads for the trails too often, but, on the other hand, it's still a workout, and it won't hurt your road riding.

I agree with caddis that anything that helps you avoid boredome and burnout is a good thing. That's probably the main benefit.

on preview: I agree with ArcAm that mountain biking will work different muscle groups, etc., but the problem with that logic is, of course, if you're training to race on the roads, these are muscles and positions that don't need to be trained. Bottom line is, do it to cross train, but, if you want to race on the roads, focus your training there.
posted by dseaton at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2006

I agree with most of what's been said so far. Moreover, the term cross-training usually refers to taking up a sport in which the main muscles groups excercised are different from those excercised by your primary sport.

The aim isn't really to improve performance, but rather to avoid muscle imbalance that can result in chronic injury. E.g. for cyclists, running and swimming are ideal cross-training sports. Running utilizes the opposite muscle groups in the legs that cycling does, and swimming works your upper body and core. Hence the popularity of triathlon.
posted by randomstriker at 12:27 PM on May 2, 2006

Go underbiking. Ride skinny tires off-road. Take a MTB on group road rides. Have fun.
posted by fixedgear at 2:02 PM on May 2, 2006

Ride skinny tires off-road.

There's a reason road bikers yell out "gravel!" and mountain bikers yell out "tree stump!" Unless you like eating dirt/trees/bushes/other unpleasant things, I think I'd save the thin tires for at least semi-paved/smoother roads.
posted by devilsbrigade at 3:41 PM on May 2, 2006

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