By Joel Zanatta
As a cyclist who has always ridden both on and off road, I was excited this past summer when I saw more and more traditional road cyclists taking up mountain biking and gravel riding. Historically, road cyclists and mountain bikers have been a little snobby towards each other. I can’t help but find myself dismayed when I hear my fellow cyclists talk trash about other cycling disciplines.
Living on the North Shore of Vancouver, I spend a good deal of time riding the infamous mountain biking trails. When I am off road, I often ride with friends who have little or no understanding of road cycling. They claim that road cycling is not “real riding”. In making these comments, these “hardcore” riders seem to conveniently forget that I do the majority of my riding on a road bike. As I wait for them at the top of every single climb, I wonder why they never explore the benefits of road riding.
The same can be said of road cyclists. I cannot count the number of times that I have invited a “roadie” to trail ride with me only to have them say that mountain biking is too dangerous. Many road riders have a misplaced conception that mountain biking invariably involves horrible crashes and severe injuries. After 25 years of riding off road in some of the harshest trails I can confirm that injuries happen, but they are largely self-inflicted. No matter where you ride you can always choose an easier route if you want to manage the risk.
The benefits of multi-discipline cycling are vast. Mountain biking teaches incredible bike handling and slow speed skills. It also works a different type of cardio that rewards short bursts of high intensity full body movement.
After I spend a few days off road I get back on my road bike and feel invincible. The bike feels like a high end sports car and my confidence is through the roof. On the flip side, when I get back on the mountain bike after riding on road for a few days climbs do not feel as daunting and my legs and lungs feel like they are bulletproof.
If you only ride off road, spend some time in the saddle of a road bike and see how it feels. If you only ride on road, take some time to research a local trail and give it a shot. If you take up the challenge, I can assure you that not only will you enjoy the experience, but you will quickly find that your passion for riding grows.
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