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I like to put 10-12 hours per week on my road bike (usually at a pretty decent pace, 19-20 mph) and am going to start racing Cat 3 again this year. Due to a recent move, I can ride my mountain bike as well again! I would like to get 2 good rides on the mountain bike per week. Terrain will typically be a decent amount of climbing (probably close to 1000 feet) with some technical obstacles thrown in as well, pace will be fairly brisk, but not ridiculous. Having already done some 2+ hour rides on my mountain bike, I can tell it isn't as aerobically strenuous as time on the road bike. A 3 hour ride I did felt similiar in effort to a typical 2-hour ride on the road bike.

Is there a rule of thumb regarding time in the saddle-how much time in the saddle on the mountain bike is equivalent to how much time on a typical road ride? If my gauge is 10 hours per week on the road bike, how much time is that equivalent to on the mountain bike? I really enjoy both, but in much different ways-they hardly seem like the same sport!
 

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climb
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This is just my opinion, but for me an hour is an hour. If you are riding hard both should be almost equivalent. I find road to be more aerobic, and mtb to be more anaerobic, but both are good.

Now if you want to talk mileage, that is a different topic :)
 

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jl said:
This is just my opinion, but for me an hour is an hour. If you are riding hard both should be almost equivalent. I find road to be more aerobic, and mtb to be more anaerobic, but both are good.

Now if you want to talk mileage, that is a different topic :)
Agree largely. With road cycling you get a more constant power output whether it is just an aerobic base ride or even intervals. Mountain biking, on the other hand, is a much more varied type of power output. You go from low or no power (tight single track, downhill, etc.) to very high power going up hill, often almost instantaneously. Rarely when I mountain bike do I find myself putting out a steady, continous type of effort like you do on the road. That being said, I find myself feeling like I get about the same workout per unit of time on the road vs. mountain bike, the latter just has more variability in effort/power. Road racing on the other hand is much more similar to mountain biking (whether racing or training) because of all the changes in rhythm but still I don't think it's quite as variable.
 

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Depends on where you live and ride

Dwayne Barry said:
Agree largely. With road cycling you get a more constant power output whether it is just an aerobic base ride or even intervals. Mountain biking, on the other hand, is a much more varied type of power output. You go from low or no power (tight single track, downhill, etc.) to very high power going up hill, often almost instantaneously. Rarely when I mountain bike do I find myself putting out a steady, continous type of effort like you do on the road. That being said, I find myself feeling like I get about the same workout per unit of time on the road vs. mountain bike, the latter just has more variability in effort/power. Road racing on the other hand is much more similar to mountain biking (whether racing or training) because of all the changes in rhythm but still I don't think it's quite as variable.

I spent over 10 years riding in the midwest and the road bike and mtb rides were pretty close in time comparisons-2 distinctly different workouts, but time was similar. I've now spent the past 3 years living in Colorado and there's a huge difference! Riding the road is a lot easier-even with similar amount of climbing per mile-it's a lot easier. Now, I am a 200+lb rider-so that doesn't help when hills are present-but in my opinion 1 hour of road would be 30-45 min of mtb-depending on the course. PattD
 

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They're not equivealent.

It's like saying: "how much time in the weight room is equivalent to a road ride" or "how much time digging a ditch is equivalent to a road ride."

Unless you are riding your mountain bike on the road or on really easy interurban paths then the workouts are drastically different.

I race mountain bikes. I only ride off road once per week. Here's the methodology (the same as most top pro mtbers and coaches). The road bike is where you work on your aerobic engine. The road bike is good for consistent training on the the type of terrain you need for each specific work out. Riding off road is totally different. Riding off road can be very inconsistent. Riding off road is good for working on handling skills, nasty anaerobic climbs, short but evil climbs, wicked downhills, constant accellerations to sudden decellerations to sudden accellerations, etc...

Besides all that, some MTB rides are almost exactly the same workouts as road rides. If I want to do hill climbing I have many steep roads around here for my road bike and a ton of steep logging roads I can do with my mountain bike. So, unless you are riding logging roads chances are that the time on the mountain bike is not in any way equivalent to your time on the road bike. It all comes down to what you need to accomplish on your work out. If you planned on a 4 hour zone 2 road ride for tomorrow well there's probably not a good off road substitute for that particular ride.
 

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I have a similar question. I get about 6 hours a week in, on both road and MTB.
But I get nervous that I should be spending more time on the dirt. Problem is
the trails around here are still über muddy. I know 6 hours isn't a ton. But I'm just
working sport-class shmuck training for some endurance races.
 

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titustiguy said:
I have a similar question. I get about 6 hours a week in, on both road and MTB.
But I get nervous that I should be spending more time on the dirt. Problem is
the trails around here are still über muddy. I know 6 hours isn't a ton. But I'm just
working sport-class shmuck training for some endurance races.
Titistiguy, if you just ride as much road as you have time for until the trails are rideable, it would help build your base for when the trails are rideable..
 

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You are exactly right!

[
"The road bike is where you work on your aerobic engine. The road bike is good for consistent training on the the type of terrain you need for each specific work out. Riding off road is totally different. Riding off road can be very inconsistent. Riding off road is good for working on handling skills, nasty anaerobic climbs, short but evil climbs, wicked downhills, constant accellerations to sudden decellerations to sudden accellerations, etc..."

You are right. Each bike has a purpose. I train six days a week. I use the road bike or Mt.bike on the road for my base miles , recovery, zone 1-3 rides. All hard days are spent on the mt.bike, zone 4-5. You have to understand what your goals are for that day, is it consistent h.r or power? I dont always enjoy ridding the road but I know those days are needed for recovery and base workouts.

It is diffuclt to say time is time because of terrain changes , downhils are fun and let you work on handling skills BUT that is not a proper work out . It sometimes gets hard to slow down your H.R on steep climbs oftern you are going harder then you should be going. Or on that gradual down hill you H.R drops.
That is where the road has it's purpose.

Some one told me that a 30 mile mt. bike ride was equal to a 100 mile road ride.
I disagree.
How many mt. bikes can ride a sold 4-5 maybe 6 hour road ride to it a 100 miles ?
How may mt.bikers ride 50 + miles on dirt to build a good base????
I believe that mt. biking is excellent for developing power and speed work but don't forget about the uphills and downhills where the terrain changes. I also believe that mt.bikers can make excellent road racers BUT they have to put in all that extra time four to six hours a day for that endurance.
I have already said it but the power output is VERY differant betweent the two.
Dont forget muscular endurance take time/miles to develop.

You have to think about the other measring factors: H.R, RPE, & POWER
All my hard days are mt.biking, all my climbing days are mt.biking. Road ridding is easier as a result. For years I did not use a computer because I spent my time measuring by RPE, HR, and POWER and TIME . That was it. I know use a computer again for logging miles etc for my road racing but for Mt.racing I use the other factors.

I'm going on and on. Let me shut up and go lube my chain for a ride.
 

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climb
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Seatstay,

I'm going to stand by my original assumption that an hour is an hour, and if you are riding hard it should be ~equivalent. You just mentioned HR, RPE, and POWER. You have chosen to ride hard on your mountain bike, and recover on your road bike. I would suggest changing it up a couple of times and see if it doesn't change your attitude.

How about a 45 minute all-out time trial. It should feel about the same as a 45 minute steep climb--HR, RPE, and POWER should be about the same, it's just on the road bike you should be travelling 20-24 mph :).

As for mileage, it is adifferent topic, but I would say 50 miles mtb is close 100 miles road in overall exertion--both take about 5.5 to 6 hours.
 

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I will say the road training SEEMS to be working so far. But have not been in a race situation yet. Hoping that once the trails are consistently dryer I can get my body used to the jarring and upper body finesse needed during long mountain rides. I have a minor race coming up the end of May, I'll be anxious to see how I am.
 

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like said...it all depends

but one thing i know, is that one hour of mtbing, regardless of pace, technicals, etc. is going to work the upper body and hands much more than a one hour road ride. In addition, mountain biking is usually more mentally draining than simply riding along on a country road (or busy sub-highway road if you don't worry about traffic like i do :) ) Also, changes in elevation, terrain, and gearing is usually much more rapid and thus constantly, and consistently, puts your body into the different zones more often than in a road ride. I read somewhere the distance of one mountain bike mile was something like 2.63 road miles, but i think that's a load of crap. depending on how and where you ride, three hours of mtbing can easily be easier than one hour of road riding, and vice versa. I usually save my anaerboic endurance intervals for the mtb to mimic race starts and brutally steep climbs, while saving my road bike for endurance, muscualar endurance, long hill climbs, and power, and my trainer for speed skills specifically. It all depends, like i said.
 

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It does depend on where you ride. Here in New England Mtb riding consists of your heart rate shooting up and down all the time. The trails are more technical with lots of rocks and roots with short steep climbs and downhills. Where I used to live in the Bay Area of California and Montana most trails I experianced are much smoother, but the climbs are longer. So in Ca. and MT you can get a somewhat consistant training ride off road, but here in CT I need the road bike for those two or three hour endurance rides. Besides the road is a fun sometimes. No driving anywhere, you can leave from your front porch. A Mtb ride is a 2 hour commitment, with the road bike you're gone for an hour and your back and you rode for the full hour. With the Mtb you're gone for an hour and you'd be lucky to ride 20 minutes. So, maybe you should figure the driving part in somehow, unless of course if your backyard happens to have some good trails.
 
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