What Roadies Can Learn From Mountain Bikers

If I could design my perfect life I’d spend a lot more of it on my mountain bike but since I don’t do much extreme stuff and like all my bones in one piece I won’t be making a living from that any time soon. Everyone knows, okay all bikers know, that roadies and mountain bikers are very different and well you might say they don’t get along. But training for an olympic distance triathlon meant trying my very hardest to embrace the road bike as much as I could. I put it off as long as possible, it scared me and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. Some of that turned out to be true but … my road bike (with a few modifications) is firmly in my cycling rotation now! Along the way a few of those mountain bike specific skills came in handy and those modifications well I’m going to go ahead and call them necessary at least for me. Don’t worry this goes the other way too so on Sunday stay tuned to hear what mountain bikers can learn from roadies. Let’s put our differences aside, step into the demilitarized zone and try to keep an open mind here bikers. So here it is!

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Mountain bike skills aid a roadie in being a better safer rider

Riding a mountain bike slow over obstacles is a draining, humbling process that keeps you thinking the entire time. However riding a road bike can be a tad more monotonous and you really can zone out a bit more. I’ve also gathered that roadies call out hazards and for good reason. There turned out to be a hell of a call out at that triathlon but sometimes you ride alone. Mountain bikers have a myriad of skills to help you deal with bumps, ruts, objects, holes and washouts you might encounter more safely. Number one we’re constantly looking ahead, assessing the trail, or lack there of, and picking a track and a strategy for getting over/through it. We might avoid, bunny hop, pull up on the front tire, brace for the bump, gear accordingly, make sure our pedals won’t hit or in extreme cases ditch if something is ahead of us. We also have mad skills like dipping behind the seat for hills, avoiding going over the handle bars and we know exactly how much speed is safe/necessary to negotiate almost every thing.

What I suggest: Is renting/borrowing/learning some of these skills on a mountain bike at slower speed and with a great teacher even if that’s just youtube. I rode my road bike on the very well groomed trail, I told you it was kicking and screaming, but there were some hazards along the way in training. I came across trail wide washouts, ATV doughnuts, big bridge bumps, lots loose large gravel and one very slow, very scared racoon and it was my mountain bike skills that got me through and kept me mostly not injured. Those washouts required me to brace with my pedals half way so they wouldn’t hit, that torn up trail on a turn meant ditching as safely as possible which means not letting go of the handle bars no matter what. The bunny hop and pulling up on the bars got me over the biggest of bridge bumps and that racoon well, track where he’s already been. I tend to think all racoons are male by the way. Even though I sacrificed some speed for traction in my tiers most roadies wouldn’t think you could take my road bike where I did but it was no problem for me in fact I could have taken it over a lot more. Even if you never plan to go off-road with your bike having some time in the other sort of saddle will help keep you safe when your unexpectedly racing toward an obstacle. Plus trees are pretty, you could see more trees on your bike.

Weight matters but not every day

There were two things I really missed about my mountain bike, my kick stand and my bell. Realistically I’ll be riding my road bike most often in three scenarios, as much faster active transportation in my small town, when I just want to go faster and with honey on his new 49 cc mountain bike with a gas engine mostly on that trail. I’m also pretty sure there is another olympic triathlon in the works for me and that bike. So I want to have a kickstand for taking pictures, berry picking and going to local business with out racks. One of the rules of the trail is that you must have a bell and usually I’ll be wearing a big bulky backpack while I do it. Next training cycle I can remove all that stuff and cut back on the weight again without much of a fuss. Riding my heavy mountain bike in training only helped build those go fast muscles in training faster for the switch. Veer from the non-weighty crowd and install any features that will make the way you really use your bike more easy and practical. Forget about wind tunnel results, total wight added, aerodynamics, the fanciest bits and bobs and what everyone else is doing and make your bike fit you and your lifestyle for the day to day rides you actually do.

What I suggest: Since it’s only for your regular rides around town add things like a kick stand, bell, fenders or larger pedals if they will make your life easier. Since they’re probably not your favourite thing on your bike and they might not be there a lot of the time go for the basic cheap stuff. And dare to beat your own drum or trumpet you don’t have to do exactly what every one else does.

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Clothes do NOT make the man

Mountain bikers do not have a uniform for riding. Anything goes from jerseys to jean shorts to full face masks. Frankly I don’t know how some of them every land on the seat with big baggy shorts. I’m a huge fan of the traditional padded short and jersey on my mountain bike when the weather is right, it is hella practical. But I’ll also wear a sports bra, tights and a long shirt, a puffy winter jacket, or a sweatshirt if it means I can get a ride in that wouldn’t be possible otherwise and some times it’s very poorly matched. Actually it’s more of a miracle if it does match! And my favourite jersey is from the cannonade kids bin had has lady bugs on it. This idea that you must only wear shorts and a jersey that match no matter how hot or cold is just nuts to me! If I wear my nike weather guard tights, layers and a puffy jacket on top and face protection I can bike into the minuses and pretty much do my favourite thing year round.

What I suggest: Umm, not hard, let go of the jersey and shorts with or without buffs uniform and extend your season doing something you love. Of course if you live in one of those perfect places where the weather is perfect and exactly the same every day then this doesn’t apply to you, also I hate you just a little bit, but can I still come visit? Sure it’s not totally ideal and you might hate change but you can still wear your regular outfit over or under something else I swear! Also stop judging people for what their wearing just because it matters to you does not mean it matters to them!

Be more inclusive and humble (or something like that)

I’m going to choose my words carefully here and mostly focus on what mountain bikers do to noobs. I get that you think you have the best sport in the world, better than all the rest, but a lot of golfers swear that too and we can all agree that aint it! Mountain bikers will let you test out their wicked expensive gear, show you over and over how to clear an obstacle, not make jokes at you sad bike’s expense and tell you whatever they think will get you to stick with it at the time. We love to welcome noobs to the group because well we want new people to take up what we love. It’s also pretty technical and there are a lot of skill necessary right out of the gate. So we help out the new ones as much as we can to try to lower the intimidation level.

What I suggest: Now I gotta say I don’t feel that same warmth from the roadies. For some reason you guys take yourselves more seriously and it seems like there is a hierarchical structure built into the culture of the sport. I know that you all want to get new awesome people inspired to get into road cycling because it is like the best thing ever! I would love to see clubs host and publicize a ride with us day where it doesn’t matter what you wear, what sort of bike you have, what your skills are or are not. Something like this once or twice a season would be sure to draw new members and more importantly insight a passion for cycling in a whole host of new people! Existing members could split up into different speeds of visitors and show them the ropes of road cycling. I think the biggest thing is getting people over their fears of traffic on the road. We all know once you try it’s not that bad!  My partner is really into remote controls and the pinnacle of RC’s is flying, especially jets. Recently the coolest, most respected group with accesses to a decommissioned air force runway hosted an open house and free-fly day. It was amazingly welcoming, all the hierarchies were put aside and there was even a free BBQ! We came away from the experience having had a great day, pleasantly shocked and I’m pretty sure honey has a renewed interest in trying to fly something slow. Think about hosting that sort of event every once and a while it would go a long way to getting cool new people into your sport and club!

Closing thoughts

Like I said this is part of a two part series. Sunday it’s all about what mountain bikers can learn from you roadies and I’m pretty sure I have more material there. Riding my road bike seriously for the first time really opened my eyes up to the other amazing side of cycling. I would have said I was more open minded about ‘the other side’ before this experience but I would have been wrong. I’m beyond thrilled that I did it and now there are so many new possibilities I didn’t have before. It’s little things like having a road bike means I can do more errands without my car since it is SOOO MUCH faster with less effort than my mountain bike. I can feasibly go cycling with honey on his motorized version of a bike and not be exhausted and cranky. I can go on girls rides with my yoga teacher’s Friday group without holding everyone up. Riding a road bike has already taught me crazy new skills and I’m sure I’ll only learn more in the future.

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Have you crossed the line and dabbled mountain biking in as a road cyclist? Do you want to? What have your off-road experiences taught you as a roadie?

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