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Mountain Biking

Although riding techniques may differ, the principles of nutrition and exercise physiology as well as specific mileage and cardiovascular training programs are quite similar for mountain biking and road biking.


The biggest difference between mountain biking and road biking is that the off road terrain is quite irregular with considerable variation in rider energy output from minute to minute as one covers repeated up and downhill pitches rather than the more predictable steady grades and level stretches found on most road rides. For that reason, the mountain biker will tend to emphasize interval training (the comments on training mileage are relevant, but with at least one and possibly two interval days per week). Substituting a hill for your "interval" instead of picking up the pace on the flats offers a more realistic simulation of what will happen off road and will help train your legs as well as your cardiovascular system. Using a heart rate monitor to avoid overtraining from underestimating true levels of exertion is also helpful. And if you are trying to determine your principles of nutrition are the same as for road biking, and specific dietary recommendations are outlined in the BASIC TRAINING RIDE, INTERVALS, and COMPETITIVE EVENT sections of the "Nutrition plans for 6 common types of rides".


Experience (and internalizing instincts on conditions) gained from mountain biking will provide skills to boost your ability to handle road biking emergencies - skids, slippery roads, unexpected excursions off the pavement, and even riders who go down in front of you.

Along with balance, you will developing the right instincts on the brakes. When your tires are at risk of losing traction, remember that braking hard in turns or during a skid will only put you on the ground. You can't have control unless your wheels are free to turn. This is a common thread for wet and slippery pavement, dirt, or a light covering of snow.

Good examples are Lance Armstrong in the 2003 Tour De France and less well known, Andy Hampsten in the 1988 Giro d'Italia in 1988. Andy took the overall lead on a mountainous stage struck by a freak snowstorm. He had to climb and descend a major pass in blizzard conditions on a snow-covered dirt road -- on skinny tires. Not only didn't he crash, he gained enough time to become the first North American to wear the leader's jersey.


The remaining sections (myths, training tips and aids, etc.) are equally relevant for mountain and road biking. The only section unique to mountain biking is on infections due to the off trail and forested terrain.

Questions on content or suggestions to improve this page are appreciated.

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