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Will Mountain Biking Make You a Better Cyclist?

Jane Marshall Mountain Biking Photo provided by Jane Marshall
Jane Marshall mountain biking Photo provided by Jane Marshall

Thinking about hitting the trails and wondering if it’ll help you become a better cyclist or triathlete? Specificity for your sport is usually king but here are few reasons to hit the trails.

It’ll make you a better bike handler.

Mountain biking can improve your bike handling skills. Sure, you go slower on a mountain bike, but proper body position and technique is key to cornering in the dirt and getting up over those obstacles.  Once you’ve gotten the hang of riding over or around roots, rocks and around dirt corners the smaller obstacles on the road (potholes, cracks, gravel) will seem easier on skinny tires.

Improved core and upper body strength.

Unlike road cycling and triathlon where you spend most of your time sitting on your saddle, mountain biking is dynamic. You’re constantly moving forward and back, sometimes you're seated, and other times standing. This constant change in body position will work your muscles in new ways. A tip for descending in a stable and strong position, you should always be standing with your feet parallel to the ground, elbows bent and forward and butt off the saddle. It requires balance, core and upper body strength not used in road cycling or triathlon.

Explosive power.

Majority of cyclists spend their time training the aerobic endurance, lactate threshold and max aerobic capacity (VO2max) and leave out anaerobic efforts. Mountain biking requires explosive anaerobic power (anaerobic glycolysis) to get over obstacles, up a steep hill or through a technical section. Mountain biking will force you to go into that anaerobic system or get off and walk. Building this anaerobic capacity on the mountain will transfer over to the road / tri bike and make you a more well-rounded cyclist.

Take a break from cars.

Getting off the road and onto the trail can give you a mental break of dealing with cars and traffic. Spark your sense of adventure by riding a new trail. There are lots of great Apps such as Trailforks, MTB Project and Strava that can help you discover new mountain bike routes. When in doubt ask a fellow rider for help, you may meet a new riding buddy!

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