Five Lessons For Mountain Bikers, From Roadies

by
September 20, 2016

By Antony ‘I ride a road bike too’ De H.

Cats and dogs. Mods and rockers. Directioners and Beliebers. And mountain bikers and roadies. For some people, the type of bike they ride is part of their identity, and trying to convince them to try something new is a non-starter. Which is a shame, because if you ignore what the other people are doing, you miss out on useful wisdom. Last week we highlighted some ways that roadies could learn from mountain bikers – now it’s road cycling’s turn to ‘educate’ the mountain bikers.

You don’t need so much stuff

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A backpack can be your friend!

Mountain bikers tend to be chronic over-packers, stuffing their Camelbaks to bursting point for every eventuality from a blizzard to a zombie apocalypse. Dragging all that extra stuff around Cannock Chase might get you fitter, but it doesn’t add much to the enjoyment, and having a big wobbling lump strapped to your back, like a conjoined twin made of sweaty polyester, is up there with wasps as one of the worst things about riding in summer.

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zipties
If you carry nothing else take some of these!

There’s also an unwritten law which states that if a potentially ride-ending mechanical does happen, you won’t have the right part or tool to sort it. No matter what you might have read on the forum, you cannot fix a dead freehub with duct tape and zip ties. Or you’ll have so much clutter in the bottom of your bag, finding that missing second half of that Powerlink becomes a protracted fiddly nightmare. When you do find the link, and it turns out to be for a 9-speed chain, you’ll inevitably be riding your 10-speed bike. So take a tip from your roadie fam, and go minimalist. If an inner tube, a water bottle, a mobile phone, a multi-tool and a debit card can’t solve it, it probably wasn’t meant to be.

You don’t have to get covered in crap

mud
Muddy boots aren’t as great as you would think.

In some countries, mountain biking is as seasonal as asparagus, restricted to the sunny months before the ski lifts start running. Here in the UK, that clearly doesn’t work, but it doesn’t mean the only alternative is to keep ploughing grimly through slop all year round. Mountain biking on soggy trails involves all sorts of extra hassle, whether it’s filling up your tiny portable jet washer, or filling up your washing machine with alluvial deposits. Over time it grinds down your enthusiasm as well as your drivetrain. And riding pristine woodsy singletrack all year round quickly turns it into a succession of boggy hollows. Swallow your pride, fit some mudguards, and head out for a road ride instead. Your bike, washing machine and carpets – not to mention the trails – will thank you for it.

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Plastic bikes are good

carbon
More carbon please!

A few short years ago, carbon fibre was regarded as a completely unsuitable material for mountain bikes, and strictly for weight weenies who used aluminium disc rotors or drilled holes in their cranks. A mate of mine even stopped riding his carbon frame after dropping a small adjustable spanner on it, convinced he had compromised its structural integrity to the point where it would explode under him in a puff of glue dust and smashed-up pencil leads. Educated, intelligent folk who should have known better were calling carbon frames deathtraps, while happily endorsing aluminium – which, guess what, can fail suddenly and catastrophically, just like carbon – or gushing about the “lively” ride of fragile steel frames with tube profiles like coke cans.

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Road riders, meanwhile, have been rolling on placcy for years, and doing a lot of our R&D for us in the process. It may have taken a few early-adopting mountain bike companies to get us hooked, but without the manufacturing finesse and real-world testing that years of carbon road bikes brought to the table, mountain bikes would still be stuck in the metal age.

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It’s OK to join a club

A cycling club or a brass band. Whichever works for you
A cycling club or a brass band. Whichever works for you. (Pic: Northern Grip)

Road cycling clubs seem to have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, while many mountain biking clubs have quietly withered away. Whether it’s because mountain bikers prefer arranging rides with mates via the internet, or because they take a Groucho Marx attitude to such things, it’s their loss. You could argue that there are more road clubs because there are more road cyclists, but it’s a chicken and egg situation. A large club network means that new road cyclists have no trouble finding rides to join or events to take part in, which in turns makes road clubs bigger, which… you get the idea. Mountain biking, on the other hand, seems to have gone underground, and getting invited on your first ride probably involves learning a password and a secret handshake. But’s it’s OK – if you join a road club, there’s a better than average chance that some of them will be into mountain biking too.

Less driving = more riding

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We don’t drive to our rides!

Perhaps you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where a winding dirt road behind your house takes you off into magical wonderland of wooded singletrack or rocky moorland. Great. But for most of us, mountain biking usually involves cramming one’s dandy-horse into a boot or strapping it on to an expensive rack, chucking all your kit in, realising you’ve forgotten your shoes and/or helmet, going back for them, sitting in a traffic jam, and finally, a good chunk of the waking day later, pulling into a car park. It’s not that uncommon for the journey to and from a ride to take longer than the actual ride itself, and it’s a shame to think that your bike could spend more of its life being a hat for your car than schralping the gnar. Ride on the road, though, and unless you live in an off-grid log cabin, you’ll be able to start at your garden gate. You’ll go further, see more, and get fitter. It’s a win all round.