Road cycling is a popular form of exercise that attracts a variety of people who want to get outside and on two-wheels. While it requires certain techniques that can bring you to a more professional racing level, its basic form consists of typical bike handling. Cycling is considered a very different sport to mountain biking, which requires control over rugged terrain and off-road techniques.
To discuss the difference, and how to transfer skills learned from road cycling to mountain biking, George Hincapie, a professional cyclist who has competed in the Tour de France a record 17 times weighed in. Hincapie also enjoys mountain biking when he is not out competing in national and world championships. His tips can help avid cyclists take on the mountains.
Before You Start
Before you begin mountain biking, know that it is a challenge. “ It's not easy,” says Hincapie. “Avid mountain bikers love the sport because of the challenge it provides and the feeling you get when overcoming those challenges. Embrace that aspect of the sport, and you'll never look back.”
Take it Slow.
Begin with the basics. “Take it slow to begin with both up and down. Bike handling is a learned skill, and although the tendency is to go as fast as you can on descents, focus instead on your technique and feel the bike underneath you and how your actions affect it,” adds Hincapie. “If you're tackling a climb, a good exercise is to go as slow as you can while still staying on the bike. It'll prevent you from bonking (running out of energy) too early, but it'll also help with balance and learning when and how you need to use power.”
Get the Gear.
Mountain bikes are an entirely different breed than road bikes. And getting the right gear will affect your ride and performance. “Hardtails (mountain bikes with no rear suspension) allow the rider to feel the terrain and connect you more directly with the rear wheel which supplies your power,” explains Hincapie. “There are many seasoned riders who prefer to ride a hard tail when the terrain allows for it, so don't feel like you need to go all in with a full suspension right away. Master riding a hardtail and your skill level will be better for it.”
Take it to the Next Level.
Focus on what part of a trail is difficult for you. Does it test your fitness level? Do you have to get off your bike at certain parts? ”Each time you ride that trail, when you come to that obstacle, pay particular attention to your line, and how you're tackling it,” continues Hincapie. “Try different lines, different speeds and alter your body position on the bike. Pretty soon, you'll find the key to unlocking it. Those repeated small victories really add up, and in a short time you'll have the necessary skills and/or fitness to tackle most of what you find on the trail.”