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  1. #1
    mm9
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    Mountain biking vs. road biking - physiological differences etc.

    What are the physiological differences between mostly riding a road bike vs. mostly riding a mountain bike?

    What is your perceived difference in the group demeanor between mountain bike groups vs. road bike groups?

    Do you ride both mountain bikes and road bikes. What is your % split between the two?

  2. #2
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    The physiological for me San Diego CA is that mtb rides tend to put me in anaerobic on climbs more so than road riding. Where I can choose whether to go anaerobic or not by pace on the road in order to simply clear some steep climbs on mtb I have no choice. Technical skills are far more important with mtb. The ability to take it right under the red line and hold it for long periods is more important on the road. I find that the two definitely for me are cross beneficial

    I do not see much difference between groups as I ride with some of the same folks mtb and road. I think for the most part ie folks I do not ride with and come across the mtb crowd is a bit more laid back.

    Right now I think I am about 30 percent road 70 percent mtb but that can flip flop any given week or month. It seems I am rarely even on rides

  3. #3
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    60% road 40% mountain. Mountain bikers are generally friendly in my experience. I ride road more out of convenience. Just jump on my bike after work and go

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    I think it's easier to run yourself totally empty on a road bike with lower risk of getting hurt. If you go 110% on a mountain bike, eventually you're going to crash. Whereas with a road bike, you just have to stay upright and keep pedaling.

    This is part of the reason world cup level mountain bikers train on road bikes. If they go HARD on the technical DH courses, fatigue makes a crash more likely after a few runs.

    I do about 75% road riding... driving an hour each way to good trails makes it harder to MTB as often. With road, I can just go out the front door. It's not as fun, but it's better than nothing.

  5. #5
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    I find my cadence is much lower on the mountain bike (I have a cadence meter on it as well as my road bike). Puts more stress on my knees. Can't really shift any lower. That bouncing around take a toll too. It's a lot easier on the body to road bike. It's hard to do an easy mountain bike ride. That's why a lot of mountain bike pros train a lot on the road.

  6. #6
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    MTB Is One of The Healthiest Sports Ever Created by Man

    MTB forces you to do high-intensity intervals(HIIT), due to the varied terrain. Road can almost be all flat and you must induce yourself to sprint. I like road, but the monotony of "road hypnosis" is real, unless you really change things up. In MTB - every synapse in my brain is firing at full throttle, from start to finish. Every major muscle group also gets attention, including lungs, heart and nervous system. I'm hooked....

    Had both XC race bike and TdF-light road racer. I naturally gravitated to the MTB by a split of 80%(MTB) and 20%(Road). I found myself using the road bike for fast recovery rides, just to stay conditioned. Once money got tight - the road bike was the first to go. I may buy another one soon. However, I see disc brakes and fatter axle standards appearing on all road bikes in the next 3-5 years, including the TdF racers. I predict the ideal future road bike will be a Cyclocross-ready, knobby-tired machine with hydraulic discs and 10mm thick front axle and 142x12 rear. Watch for it - it's gonna be everywhere. Caliper braked bikes will go the way of the 26er and prices will drop to nearly free.
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    When I was on the road it was mostly for commuting, and fitness. Output was pretty steady. You could think about other things while you ride so it's not as good a stress release as mountain. Mountain biking has those anaerobic climbs, focused concentration, and huge doses of adrenaline.

    The few road bikers I know are great people, but they are also mountain bikers.

    My split these days is 99-1 mountain to road. I retired, and moved to a mountain bike town. We have some long logging road climbs so I feel I get enough sustained effort I can forgo road riding. I'm sure more road biking would help my mountain biking but I find it boring in comparison.
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  9. #9
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    I moved away from having trails within riding distance. I mostly pound out country roads and gravel, on a flat bar karate monkey with 32c marathon supremes, or a Drop Bar Salsa Colossal on 28c Schwalbe Ones.

    The views can be just as nice on the road.

    It really is all about the ride. The beauty is the great percentage of folks can ride a bike right out their door. Just go hard, get out of the saddle, clear your mind and live in a dream.

    The mtbr community is still my favorite <3

  10. #10
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    I ride @ 75% mountain these days, it was 100% for the last 30 years. As has been stated, the terrain dictates the workload far more in mtb. Paved roads just aren't that steep for the most part, so you can decide just how hard you want to go.

    That being said, a group road ride is a completely different experience than a group mtb ride. On a mtb ride, it's essentially everyone for themselves and you regroup at either the bottom or the top of a climb. A group road ride often forces you to ride at or beyond your limits, since being dropped and riding solo ramps up your workload.

    I find that road riding makes me far stronger in the mid to upper range, the incentive is to go med hard for a long time on a road bike. MTB is all about intense efforts, long grinds and DH fun. Bringing mtb handling and line choice to road riding is a big advantage, you are far more comfortable when surfaces or the speeds get dodgy.

    Good people and asshats in both camps.

  11. #11
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    When our group does a trail ride, I don't remember what exactly our stats are, but it'll be something like three hours, but 1 hour in motion. I exaggerate, but we spend a lot of time sitting around and jawjacking at reststops talking about all kinds of weird stuff.
    When we do an afterwork road quickie its like an hour half ride, hour fifteen in motion.
    See other riders on the road, its usually a nod or hello and never see them again.
    On trail we'll often see people at reststops and chat. Talk to hikers too. And we'll often see the same people again at other locations on the trail. Come to know some of their names.

  12. #12
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    Mountain biking vs. road biking - physiological differences etc.

    I find long road rides can be a little harder on my body because my position is so static.

    Not including commuting, i do about 30/70 road/mtb. I really don't care for the "roadie" scene or that general approach to riding. Thus, pretty much all my road rides are solo. I've done a few group rides, and while they were all very nice people, I thought everyone took it all a little too seriously. It felt like all work no play.

    A few years ago I sold my carbon fiber 18 lb race bike with 23c tires for a 23 lb steel light tourer with 32c tires, and I could not be happier. Few other serious road riders around here that get this. Most just look at a bike like this and think "slow", or they think the wide tires mean that I am racing cyclocross.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mm9 View Post
    What is your perceived difference in the group demeanor between mountain bike groups vs. road bike groups?

    I think the difference between the two groups is more about individual interests and goals than it is about how wide their tires are or how smooth the terrain is. Fast riders who get off on speed and racing are apt to be a little more serious on both the road & trail, and conversely I've met hundreds of laid back, stop and smell the roses types riding drop bars and skinny tires.

  14. #14
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    I only ride my road bike when the trails are wet and muddy. In SoCal its not
    good to ride muddy trails.

  15. #15
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    It's about consequence. While road riding, if I am injured, I am liable to be injured by the actions of another. While riding trails I am likely to be injured because of my own actions.

    I have actually been run over multiple times while on the road. My experience causes a little anxiety while road biking; anxiety I never feel while riding on the dirt.

    I injure myself all the time on my mountain bike, but I am quick to forgive myself for it.

    Snow and mud keep me off the dirt a few months a year. I ride the roads instead. And I love epic road rides any time of year, rides over 50 miles with lots of climbing, so I overcome my anxiety and ride the road anyway. But my first love and most of my riding is on the trails.
    Consciousness, that annoying time between bike rides.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mm9 View Post
    What are the physiological differences between mostly riding a road bike vs. mostly riding a mountain bike?
    For me, it's really hard to maintain a really steady effort off-road. That gives me a small conflict because I do try to do some structured training. I say small because while competition matters to me, when I think about what I want from my riding practice, it's to ride trails a lot. So that almost always wins out. There's supposed to be a "magic" of long, steady-state intervals in Zone 2 and 3, which aren't something I find I can do off-road. I always have little spikes in my effort. Honestly, I don't think that it's enough to mess with my recovery, which is the argument for not doing higher-effort intervals. And I have enough control over how hard I work to go out for a Zone whatever ride and mostly do that. So, meh.

    I think those little efforts keep me from losing as much power during parts of the year when I'm not going racing or doing structured workouts. Kind of cool, IMO.

    If I'm on a trainer, though, for this year, I was doing TrainerRoad. I thought that was pretty cool.

    Do you ride both mountain bikes and road bikes. What is your % split between the two?
    Yup. Mountain, road, track, 'cross. I was curious enough, since you asked, to get my log to spit out some percentages. Starting in mid-November, for this year I've done 4% road, 79% mountain, 7% mixed-surface on my 'cross bike, and 10% trainer. Trainer rides were on a road bike; count them how you like.

    If you'd asked me when I was living in Seattle, it would have been mostly road. I really like the access I have now.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lopaka View Post
    I have actually been run over multiple times while on the road. My experience causes a little anxiety while road biking; anxiety I never feel while riding on the dirt.
    I would love to try road riding but this is the one reason I have not bought a road bike yet.

    I don't like the feeling of 5000 pound steel monsters controlled by distracted drivers zooming by.
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  18. #18
    All bike, all the time
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    Upper body strength.
    All bike, all the time

  19. #19
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    As a test, I did a half season of nothing but MTBing. I rode really hard, and kept pushing bigger gears whenever I could. Near me, there are no MTB trails with sustained climbs of more than a few minutes.
    When I went somewhere that did have sustained climbs, I was left to spin my granny gear. It was all I could do after the first few minutes.

    In the remainder of the season I mixed in road miles where I could either get a sustained climb, or I could at least make a sustained effort in a big gear. When I went to the off-road sustained climbs again I managed a lot better.

    All the short, punchy efforts on our local MTB trails develop a lot of strength and short power, and you learn to recover quickly from those short efforts, but I need some road or path miles to develop the ability to maintain sustained efforts. When I was able to balance out both types of power, I was able to generate a lot of momentum off-road where a lot of other people could not. I could sprint right in the middle of a sustained climb and recover fast enough that it wouldn't hurt me. It also helped me a lot off-road when conditions required that I go over the redline if I wanted to stay on the bike and not walk. I could do it, and I knew I could do it. Knowing that your body will do exactly what you tell it is a HUGE mental advantage (and not exclusive to any one sport).

    The roadies that I have ridden with can really stand on the gas for a long time. Often their bike handling skills leave much to be desired, though.

    Also, for me, there is no cross-training required if I am MTBing. I am getting a full body workout.

    Riding a road bike is distracting to me. I cannot relax on it. We have bad roads and our share of bad drivers, so it is rare that a road ride results in complete relaxation as I'm trying to preserve those skinny wheels and looking over my shoulder for inattentive motorists. On the trail I can be completely relaxed even at mach 2 with my hair on fire.

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    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  20. #20
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    Was 100% road for years. My cycling teetered off.
    Now I'm 90%mtb, 10% road as of March.

    So much here already said is true.

    The roadies that I have ridden with can really stand on the gas for a long time. Often their bike handling skills leave much to be desired, though.
    This, I still suck.

    We have bad roads and our share of bad drivers, so it is rare that a road ride results in complete relaxation as I'm trying to preserve those skinny wheels and looking over my shoulder for inattentive motorists. On the trail I can be completely relaxed even at mach 2 with my hair on fire.
    This, I think I was burned out from dealing with angry drivers on my commute, then angry drivers when going for what is supposed to be a fun hobby.

    I think it's easier to run yourself totally empty on a road bike with lower risk of getting hurt. If you go 110% on a mountain bike, eventually you're going to crash. Whereas with a road bike, you just have to stay upright and keep pedaling.
    This is the biggest con
    I have bitten off more than I can chew. Once I take one tumble, several other minor mishaps, and sloppiness are to follow due to fatique.
    I'm only upto about 1.5hr serious trail time. So my sat/sun morning I want to go really spend some time pedalling... I wanna go out for a 4hr jaunt.... my legs have more spin, but my arms and core are beat in 1.5.

  21. #21
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    Besides the obvious differences below the neck:

    Full body use on MTB vs mostly legs on road
    HIIT workout on MTB vs continuous strain on road
    Jarring ride on MTB (even with high quality FS) vs smooth ride on road
    and many more

    Mentally MTB is far more stimulating. There are many more points of focus on the MTB from choosing the proper line, keeping the wheel straight, looking both down the trail and right below me and at the surrounding scenery, thinking through the pain of keeping a tighter grip on the bars, etc. Considering exactly how much processing the brain has to do, it can be quite taxing. The brain requires a lot of energy and calories and just hypothetically speaking, could be another reason we can't ride 50 miles off road as easily as we can on it. I can understand why some people wouldn't dig it as much. While some may find pushing themselves through all the strain of overcoming obstacles and pain motivating, others may find road riding more relaxing.
    Live like there's no tomorrow. But pay your bills just in case there is.

  22. #22
    mm9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeIntelligencer View Post
    Upper body strength.
    Let's talk about this for a bit, if you don't mind. I've been riding a road bike almost exclusively for the past several months. Quit working out with weights very much. Getting weak/soft in the upper. Went for a mountain bike ride on the street (old rigid with street tires) with some good short hills. Felt like I got more of a full body workout on the mtb.

    I also enjoyed making kind of a mtb. ride out of a street ride. Jumpin a few curbs, cutting through the grass in a park etc, dropping off a small wall, etc. Plus felt less threatened by crazy drivers, because I could more easily maneuver to the off road.

    Any thoughts on the upper body exercise and safety aspects?

  23. #23
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    On actual trails, I have to stabilize both myself and my bike constantly. It's pretty easy to lose tone on a road ride, including on a mountain bike. I don't think the piece of equipment is that important.

    On the other hand, if I climb like I mean it, and pay attention to good form out of the saddle, and maybe mix in some sprinting drills, I can actually get some decent upper body involvement on the road.

    I've read comments in different places that plenty of rec. road riders have good endurance at piddling around intensities. It's higher intensity efforts that separate out the people who train per se. You don't see those efforts outside of competition much, but it shows up on hills just because they don't always provide a choice or because riders who train may not feel like slowing down as much. Knowing that sustained effort is available is part of it.

    Mountain bikers sometimes fall apart on endurance aspects because they stop and start so much during rides. Bit everyone, of course. It's actually pretty easy to get good endurance training out of a MTB ride: just don't stop.
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  24. #24
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    Probably 60/40 split betwixt road/mtnbike.

    I've found that the road training has noticeably improved my mtb racing. There's more control of training variables on the road (ex. aerobic, anaerobic, HIIT). Group riding is a good kick in the azz if one wants to develop the skills to improve speed and endurance.

    However, more effort is required of a mtb on and off road for that matter simply because of the dynamics of the bike and the varied terrain.

    In general, most will tell you that the roadie scene is much more stuffy than the mtb scene. I find that to be true, but good peeps are anywhere you want to find them.
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  25. #25
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    This year I am mixed about 50/50 miles between road and mtn. However that means probalby 70% mtn and 30% road by time as road speeds are higher.

    I mountain bike when I can, but during the week I often have a short time to ride so that I when I hop on the road bike. Right out of house I can do nice 1hr to 90 min ride with maybe 1 or 2 stops for lights. The rest is all upper level intensity steady state and the end of my loop has some nice short interval hills. Ride the entire thing nonstop solo. Most of my mtn bike ride are solo as well so most of those rides have very little stop time. I did 4 solo rides over the weekend and had 40 min of stop time over the 9hrs 15 of total time. That includes the last couple min to start and stop strava on each ride and the last ride I stopped few times, once take a couple photos, once to tighten a pedal bolt, and once for a "nature break". Group rides are different. 50 min stopped time in 3hrs of riding is pretty common.

    Road riding is about long efforts, but Mtn biking even when don't stop much is more about peaks and valleys. Road riding even down hill you pedal so 3hr road ride will see you pedalling for probably 2:45 min. a 3 hr mtn bike ride even a high intensity non-stop on will see you pedaling for maybe 2 hrs. Coasting is probably 1 hour or more. Of course coasting is not "resting" persay, but it does mean different effort level.

    Road riding will give you a strong base endurance that will allow you to grind out mile after mile, but Mtn biking will force you to doing some really high intensity stuff depending on the trail profile and features. I think that ever mtn biker that can add road miles ridden at a high average pace will be stronger. That said I have started to use Single Speed riding as a way to further increase my abilities. The effort needed to stand and push over a big gear on climb is something I need to work on to get stronger as geared rider.
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  26. #26
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    My miles are about 85% road bike, but my heart is on the mtb. Commuting and the ease of a 60-90 minute road ride find me on my road bike a lot more than the mtb.

    But the great thing about the road bike miles is when I get a chance to pedal on dirt, it is a lot more fun because my legs are ready to go. Riding the mtb once a week or so wasn't cutting it before I bought my road bike and started commuting.

    I never notice any upper body soreness or tiredness when I mtb, but I am pretty good about working out with weights, and my upper body muscles are usually reasonably toned (even if hidden under a decent layer of padding!). I do notice different leg muscles get tired, though -- a long climb on the mtb will show some soreness on the inner thighs and hamstrings, where I never feel that on the road bike. Probably just a difference in seating position or something.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeIntelligencer View Post
    Upper body strength.
    and core.

  28. #28
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    I have never done both at the same time. I've been 100% mountain bike, 100% road bike (triathlon phase for a few years) and now back to 100% mountain. I don't think I'll ever go back to road unless I move. The north Atlanta suburbs have great trails and we're within a couple of hours of world class trails (N. GA, WNC, etc.). More importantly, Atlanta roads are the least conducive to road biking that I've seen in the 12 or so states I've lived in.

    That said, I'll echo some of the things above and add some of my own.

    - Mountain biking has a higher minimum effort. My easiest mountain bike ride is always going to be harder than my easiest road ride.

    - Full body workout. After the temperature finally warmed up enough to wear short sleeves, a woman at work asked me when I started lifting weights. Lifting weights? I just ride a bike! When I first got back into mountain biking after a long hiatus a few years ago, my triceps and lower back often got fatigued before my legs did.

    - Mountain biking is constant interval training for me. Not by choice. My local trails force me into a hard effort for 1-10 minutes and then a recovery for a few minutes...for hours. Road biking, for me, was more about constant effort.

    - SS mountain biking magnifies all of the above.

  29. #29
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    100% mountain biking. I find it more fun and mountain bikers are friendly.

  30. #30
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    Mountain bikers who don't ride road have no legs. Road bikers who don't ride mountain have no soul.
    I'm a mountain bike guide in southwest Utah

  31. #31
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    where I live/ride we have 40-60min sustained climbs ^^ my legs are a lot stronger than they used to be - and I'm ex-rugby/bball-er... upper back/and forearms get a great work out too - on my mtb...

    But, the deciding factor is 'huckin'... no where on the road to do that ^^

    100% mtb

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  32. #32
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    For a couple weekends our usual trail ride got rained out, so I did 20 mile road ride to get to about 1 mile of DH trail. I swear the road ride was gnarlier and freakier than the DH! Driver who couldn't wait the 10 seconds for me to get through and clear the intersection and instead darted in front of me from side street. Errant long board skate board came shooting out from sidewalk headon toward me, rider profusely apologizing. On climb up road, driver coming within inches of handlebar, the kind where the hairs on your neck prick up from sensing the proximity. Road grit in teeth from when it started raining on my way home. Crazy homeless talking to himself on street corner. And yes, I'm glad I was ridDing my AM on the road, I hurt my wrist last week riding my full ridgid steelie with road tires and hitting by a nasty pothole on the DH of our after work road climb.

  33. #33
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    90% road boredom...10% MTB blast! Just so far to the nearest trail for me, that I end up riding the road rig just to stay in good enough shape to ride the trails, well, not good enough, but some sort of shape.

    The only way to stay in MTB shape is to ride a lot of trails miles, which I don't have the time for OR money in gas for anymore. With that said, my old body can't take the miles on trails anymore anyways, as it just can't repair and recover fast enough without sustaining injury. THE toils of getting old/er!

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