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Cross-training for runners - mountain biking!

by RobertB
Friday 19th February 2016
 
 
What does it cost to get set up?
 
You can spend as much or as little as you want within reason. Don't go for the cheapest bikes as they will be more like ‘mountain bike shaped objects’ rather than something that's capable of taking a few knocks. There are different types of riding and bikes to suit - downhill, XC, Enduro etc. Do a bit of research on the type of riding you’re going to do and choose a bike accordingly. Don't think bikes come in one size and you just adjust the saddle. Find out what size you need to get and don't get drawn into buying flashy expensive full suspension unless your going to need it. You'll be able to pick up a capable 2nd hand bike from about £500 and can keep going up to £8,000+ for the latest piece of space age, full race, pro team spec'd, ultra light weight bike constructed of carbon fibre and titanium.
 
Don't think that by buying a the lightest most expensive model you'll instantly be a trail legend. It’s like running shoes - they can make a personal difference but you’re not going to lap Mo because you have £150 trainers! If you’re just riding for cross training purposes you don't have to spend a fortune. If you’re going to get all competitive and race you'll be looking for those super light weight bits and fractional gains and the cost will go up exponentially.
 
How much preparation is required (equipment, clothing, set-up etc)?
 
Goes without saying you need to keep on top of the bike and make sure it’s fit for purpose before you ride. Must haves are: a good helmet, padded cycling shorts,  glasses (flies / mud in your eyes when you’re going all out downhill can get a little unnerving) and gloves. Depending on the type of riding you’re doing you might end up wanting extra protection. Waterproof and warmer clothing depending on when you’re planning on riding.
 
If you’re going to do longer rides then a hydration pack comes in handy and you can carry a few spare inner tubes with you too.
 
The more serious you get you might want cleated shoes and the obligatory Lycra cladding. If you run I'm betting you have some tech tops, socks and stuff that will work just fine. 
 
How hard is it on a scale of 1 - 10? 
 
As hard or as easy as you like. A short, flat and slow ride can be a 0.1. A 90 mile slog that you’re trying to complete at a pace, full of hard climbs and tricky descents can feel like an 11!
 
Unlike road biking which can feel like a relentless cardio assault, it is more akin to intervals where you go from one extreme to another. 30 mins could be spent grinding slowly up a climb that could be too steep to drive up, followed moments later by descending quicker than you could possibly pedal, dodging roots, trees, while performing a balancing act. As your heart rate settles from the climb it’s soon climbing again as you blast downwards and the adrenaline kicks in! Its a mix of fitness and skill as sometimes staying on the bike is the hardest part while gravity is doing the leg work.
 
How much do you ache the next day on a scale of 1 - 10? 
 
Its directly proportionate to the amount of effort and distance you put in. You'll feel it the day after a hard ride, especially in the legs. After a longer run my ankles/ knees can ache in the joints from the pounding of each stride, whereas the cycling motion seems to have less impact on the joints so any aches are more muscular unless you’re unfortunate enough to come off and impact the ground.... 
 
What muscles does it work?
 
I find the thighs/glutes know about it the day after. Your upper body and core will also notice you were doing something from the all those small twists and turns to keep balance as you pull the bike around. 
 
Could you do it if you were injured and couldn’t run? 
 
Yep, a few people I know have resorted to mountain biking after injury. I had an achilles injury that stopped me from running and needed time to heal. The mountain biking allowed me to maintain my fitness without having to give up exercise completely. Once I got back to running it took a little while to get the running muscles back to where they were but it was far from a standing start. 
 
How good or bad is it for your street cred (with 1 being very bad and 10 being awesome)?
 
Got to be 10 lol! Although my son appears to think street cred can only be gained backflipping a BMX at the local skatepark! It’s a great way to avoid the motorists, get plenty of fresh air and see places from a different perspective. Guess it has the same draw as cross country has for some runners over pounding the streets. And there is something rewarding about not just cycling from A to B but knowing you managed to stay on the thing as it slipped around while you dodged the obstacles and stayed on the trail.
 
 
How likely would you be to go regularly?
 
The bikes are made to handle everything from wet muddy trails to dry dusty tracks and everything in between. It’s down to your resolve if you want to go out in the sun, wind, rain or snow you can. Strava seems to have every inch of everywhere segmented so if you can constantly challenge yourself if that's what pushes you. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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