You only need to place a mountain bike and triathlon road bike side by side to realise that they’re very different animals.
A tri bike is designed to traverse smooth tarmac as rapidly and efficiently as possible, while a mountain bike is designed to get you from A to B across impossibly difficult and rugged terrain – with speed as a secondary consideration.
Given these fundamental differences, you might assume that mountain biking is wasted on triathletes seeking better performance. But a closer look at the evidence tells a different story.
How could the addition of mountain bike training to your weekly routine help your tri performance?
One obvious answer is that, when icy winter conditions on the road make riding downright dangerous, a knobbly-tyred mountain bike can take you safely off-road. And while it’s very different to road riding, there’s a solid argument that some riding is better than none.
Of course, there’s also the a-change-is-as-good-as-a-rest scenario; getting on the trails can bring some much-needed variety should road boredom set in.
But, more importantly, there are some sound physiological reasons, including improved fitness and upper-body strength, and better proprioception (awareness of body position in space), according to recent studies.
With the above in mind, here are our top tips:
– Limit yourself to one or at most two MTB sessions per week and don’t drop road/roller sessions completely. You’re training to become a good triathlete rather than a good mountain biker!
– Find some off-road trails (the hillier, the better) and fit knobbly tyres with good brakes so you can tackle rough terrain. This will give you the kind of workout that brings the benefits discussed above
– Don’t feel you have to spend a lot of money on a new mountain bike. A battered heavyweight machine will bring you just as many training benefits as a £5K super-bike
– Always wear a helmet. You’re more likely to take a tumble when riding off road – especially if you’re new to it – and there are still plenty of hard surfaces in the great outdoors capable of damaging your skull
Fancy taking on some off-road training drills? For five of the best click here