Road Riding Improves Your Mountain Biking
I thought it was about time that I just came out and said it. Road riding has improved my mountain biking.
This past weekend, I got to see how much my recent road riding has really improved my mountain biking. Over the past couple of road rides, I have really concentrated on smooth circular pedal strokes under load. During these constant spins…I make sure that I am using as much upward pulling strokes as I am downward hammers. The result is a much more efficient spin that produces forward propulsion like I have never felt. The overall goal was to create more power by exerting less energy.
While I am on the mountain bike, it is harder to concentrate on pedal strokes as I am negotiating the trail. The road bike provides the perfect outlet to practice these skills and transfer them to my mountain biking. I started to notice that my road rides were less tiring than before, and I was able to pull/lead much easier than in the past.
So what were the trail results?
This weekend a group of eager riders headed up to Rich Mountain for the third time in 6 weeks. Rich Mountain…Stanley Gap, Flat Creek and Green Mountain…is known for technical climbing and descending. Even the best riders come to Rich knowing they are going to walk some climbing sections. This brutal epic in north Georgia really taxes every ounce of your body as you attempt to conquer the beast.
For this weekends ride, I brought up the Niner Jet 9 for a good thrashing in the mountains. My goal was to have my best ride to date at Rich and really test my training on the road bike. From the start of the ride, I concentrated on pedals strokes and form as we started the several mile, out of the gate ascent. By the top of the first long climb, all seemed well and my heart rate was more controlled than previous attempts. We continued down the first blazing downhill and I was able to really let the Jet 9 loose. To my surprise, this 80mm travel frame really rails on long, technical downhills. It rides like a longer travel bike.
The cross country setup of the Jet 9 allowed me to really get into a technical spin groove. The rest of the day went pretty much the same…great technical downhills followed by long climbs. Even with the group’s season high amount of flats, the day was going along flawlessly.
The last climb back over Rich Mountain is the worst. This technical climb is where you find most of the walking around Rich Mountain. From the start of this final climb, I made a mental goal for myself. I was not going to dab or walk at all through the first summit. This is something that I have only accomplished once in the past, and it came at the expense of my fitness for the last downhill. This time around, I wanted to have a dab free ride, but still be fresh for the final descent to the cars.
Incredibly…everything went very well…and by the end…I accomplished my goal. There was still a little bit of walking during the final section of climbing (there always is for everyone that rides this place) but I made it through all of the first hike-a-bike sections with ease. For the first time at Rich Mountain, I still had plenty of juice left for the final descent.
What did road biking do?
Road biking increased my cross country efficiency and endurance. By concentrating on form and miles on the road bike, I was able to have the best trip to Rich Mountain to date. I could actually feel the mountain bike pulling forward faster with each pedal stroke. This increased efficiency allowed me to keep more in the reserve tank for the rest of the ride without having to slow the pace down to a crawl. Road biking has also increased my awareness of pacing the ride to make sure I do not blow up before the end.
This trip to Rich Mountain solidified that road biking can increase your mountain biking skills if done correctly. However, your mountain biking skills do not…at this point…transfer to the road bike. About the only thing you can really transfer back over is some endurance and overall comfortable feeling on the bike.
I am going to continue to use these road miles to up my endurance and awareness on the mountain bike. Hopefully, over time…these same skills will continue to grow and my mountain biking will excel in this areas. Stay tuned to find out…
Pictures by Laurie