Training- Strategies for Establishing a Base

Training- Road or trail?

By Sonya Looney •  in Elevation Outdoors Magazine. January 25, 2011

One of the frequently asked questions at our Ergon Kliniks are, “Do you train on the road or mountain bike?” If you’re a mountain biker, this is a pretty legit question. I normally tell people that they should do what they like to in order to avoid burn-out. However, finding a good balance is important. A lot of us are mountain bikers because we LOVE the trail. Will it hurt you if you never ride your road bike? It depends on what your goals are. For the weekend warrior who rides for the pure joy of mountain biking, road biking probably isn’t necessary unless they really love it too. So, as a mountain biker, why would we also road bike?


  1. 1.It’s easy and simple. You open your garage, get outside and go. The bummer about mountain biking is that most of us are not fortunate enough to live close enough to ride to a trailhead. If we have time, we definitely will put our coffee in a to-go cup and head to the trail. (Skiing is even worse!) However, weekday schedules make mountain biking a little more difficult, especially with family and full time jobs. A quick jaunt on the road bike can preserve or build your cycling fitness so you’re stronger when you hit the trail with your buddies on the weekend.
  2. 2.

It gives you a different kind of workout than the mountain bike. This is the biggest for me. I don’t particularly love road biking, especially out and back on flat roads in the winter. I do like climbing a canyon or big hill on my road bike. I simply don’t get the giddy feeling on my road bike that I do on my mountain bike. If someone gave me the choice between a road bike ride or a mountain bike ride, I will almost always choose the mountain bike. I noticed that the lack of time I spent on flat roads on my road bike was having an effect on my stage racing performance. I was missing something…. sustained power. Mountain biking requires large bursts of power and effort to get up short, steep climbs, or get through a technical section. It’s a lot of pedal pedal, coast, pedal, coast, coast. You get the idea. Road biking… is a lot of pedaling and continuous power output. The road is hopefully nicely paved and there aren’t a lot of obstacles. It’s relatively easy to ride one speed and put out the same effort with minimal coasting. This is very effective for winter training to build a base. From there, you can begin to fine tune the workouts with hills, intervals, etc.



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