If I could only ever do one type of exercise again, not sure how that would ever happen but stay with me, it would be mountain biking. It’s my favourite thing to do. The perfect mix of endurance, muscle building, adrenaline and adventure all in one sport. But recently I dusted off and tuned up that decent used road bike for triathlon training. It’s not something I was looking forward to and dealing with that delicate, fussy light road bike really intimidated me. But while I was logging about 500 km on that very different bike I realized there was a lot to learn from the other side. This post is actually the second in a two part series. Wednesday’s post was all about what the roadies can learn from us mountain bikers. As much as I love riding my mountain bike it’s a bit of an ordeal with a lot of moving parts to have the perfect ride. I have to pack up my pack, load the bike into the car, drive to the trailhead and then once I’m there the recent weather has far too much influence on my ride, too wet and it’s over. Once I was determined to push through the ‘puddles’ and get to the dryer sections until a legit canoe passed me, it literally paddled past me wading in a puddle. My road bike has a new spot in my routine for those just want to drive a bike days and I think it’ll mostly be my new go to for active transport since it’s so much faster and less sweaty. I learned a lot along the way and I think you might be able to as well.
How to properly maintain a bike
As mountain bikers we’re a bit spoiled because our bikes are so beefy, heavy and reliable even after being abused after all that’s what they’re built for! True storey both of my bikes spent a good portion of the winter outside. Not my choice and not in my control by the way, it’s since been rectified permanently in an absolutely perfect way. My mountain bike suffered almost no damage save for the fabric cover on the gel seat that was on it’s way out anyway. All I had to do was add some fresh lube, pump up the tiers and the damn thing was back to working perfectly. Truthfully the shape most of us keep our mountain bikes in should make us just a little ashamed and I’m no different. In fact I might be the poster child for bad behaviour. Even on a simple trail ride to the grocery store if there are puddles I’m in them and I often come home more muddy than clean from a weekend ride. once I was even made to strip off out side when honey had spent the day cleaning the house. I’m not above dealing with that by leaving my clothes and bike outside for a couple of rain falls to deal with all that. Not the right choice but it happens. Cleaning my bike while that happens when stuff gets dangerously close to not working and that’s probably only once a year. This is not what you should be doing with your bike and getting my road bike spiffed up opened my eyes to what I should be doing with my bike.
What I suggest: We already know that we should be hosing our bikes off, chipping out the crusted mud from the crevasses and really cleaning the chain rather than just dumping more lube on there right and we should definitely be putting it inside right? Just because we can mostly get away with treating our beastly bikes like the dirt they’re covered in doesn’t mean we should. So get in the habit of cleaning it off, treating it as good as it treats you and generally like you give s s&%t about it. Road bikers keep their steeds in top working order and you can eat off their gears at almost any time. This is not to be mocked but rather applauded then maybe your chain won’t drop 5 times during your triathlon!
Speed and control
Mostly what I was thinking while I was on that road bike is, “wowza I all of a sudden get why these kids end up in piles on top of each other.” Fast on the flat on my mountain bike is somewhere between 25 and 30 km/hr over a sustained period and that’s pushing it. Fast on the flat on my road bike turned out to be closer to 40 km/hr. On my mountain bike a rear brake stop takes about 5 feet at that speed and is leave a skid mark fast. A fast-ish (I never got to legit fast stops) on my road bike is more like 40m maybe more, I’m a terrible estimator. It seams the brakes on road bikes are more old school drum and we’re used to ABS! Plus these kids drive tire to tire in large groups and all of a sudden they have mad respect from me on that one! Sure we’re not short on control over the bumps but we’re not quite in this league for speed, trust me. The combination of high speed and low brakes completely freaked me out at first but as I got slightly more comfortable. I got used to coasting rather than breaking at high speeds and planning way, way further ahead.
What I suggest: Nothing maybe but if you want to get more comfortable at higher speeds get on a road bike. If you commute using a bike in the summer and like to sleep in consider investing in a road bike. Either way give the roadies some respect for what they do because it’s pretty friggin’ intense!
Doing more with less, faster
It doesn’t matter what the problem is mountain bike is the solution, roads have shoulders = mountain bike. Commuter bike year round = mountain bike with fender. Trail = mountain bike going fast. Bumps = mountain bike with suspension. Unexpected survival situation = mountain bike with properly stocked pack. Off trail = mountain bike’s time to shine! See it’s is the answer to every possible biking situation! Here’s list of what you should bring with you; pump, patch kit, tube, litres of water, lighter, foil blanket, first aid kid including needle and thread, food for a day, compass, gloves, toilet paper, hat, bike tool, leatherman tool, power bank and zip ties. If you’re a keener add flare gun. If you’re American a real gun. Do you know what roadies take, a tube, tool and water bottle. Plus they pair their bikes down to only the essentials to save weight. Not every ride requires your backwoods bag it turns out. I know what you’re going to say, “but Allison, any situation could go south, you might have to rescue yourself far from help with no cell service”. I know, I know and I agree, plus it’s part of our culture. Don’t worry I told them earlier this week a little weight won’t hurt and this week I’m saying sometimes you can leave the water treatment tabs at home.
What I suggest: Roadies manage to cover distances that would boggle our minds with almost no gear on the regular with mostly fine effects. Before this that’s what I took with me on every single ride in my pack even to the grocery store. Sure a big day in the woods necessitates a full kit but not every ride needs it. Ditch a lot of that gear some of the time. Some days it’s okay to let the back up plan for disaster to just be I’ll call my mom to come pick me up. Plus you don’t ever have to admit you did that!
If you ever thought a bike is a bike and I could totally win at road biking just look how heavy my bike is a and I go fast, well I was right there with you and you’re probably wrong. You might very well win at it in the future but it’s a different beast. It is still riding a bike but road bikes are different and require you to develop a different skill set. I for example was all set to swap my seat for the same one I use on my mountain bike like that’s MY seat right. Thankfully the BSG (bike shop guy) held me back on that one because the ride position is totally different. Also I now plan NOT to instal seat post suspension, before I was all ‘I like all 4 inches of travel, thanks.’ The speed freaked me out more than anything and that will take the most getting used to for me. It turns out a few hundred km wasn’t quite enough but I’m well on my way to getting started with that. But if you have or ever do ride a road bike in front of roadies make sure not to laugh to hard when they swear all of their gears are different!
If you’ve crossed over to the dark side (sorry I started on a mountain bike so…) what did you learn that helped you on the trail? What tough to master skill surprised you? PS don’t ask me about riding the drops, at least not yet!