One of my goals for this year is to try out some different types of cycling. Triathlon and road cycling are my tried-and-tested favourites, but there are many other adventures to be had on two wheels. A few years ago, I hired a mountain bike and explored Epping Forest- it was such a fun and exhilarating experience, I’m really keen to get back out on the trails.
Switching things up and changing disciplines within a sport can actually have a lot of benefits. Several pro triathletes actually use mountain biking during the off-season to add variety to their training and improve their riding skills. Here are some of the ways that mountain biking benefits triathletes:
Improve bike-handling skills
Navigating off-road terrain helps you to develop bike-handling skills, which translate for use on the roads. Learning to manoeuvre your bike around tight bends, avoiding tree roots and rocks and keeping your balance on loose dirt, all help to increase confidence in your riding abilities.
Develop explosive power
Mountain biking requires explosive bursts of power to accelerate out of corners and push up steep, sharp hills without losing momentum. These short bursts of maximal effort also come in handy in a triathlon race when accelerating to overtake.
Improve core strength
Mountain biking is excellent for conditioning the core muscles. Maintaining balance on slippery terrain and obstacles really activates the abdominal and back muscles, making you a stronger all-round rider.
Increase your awareness
Unlike a monotonous road surface, the trails can be very unpredictable. The terrain can twist, turn and quickly transition from a descent into an incline which requires you to focus and react quickly. Biking off-road increases your awareness and tests your ability to adapt to obstacles in your path.
Develop pedalling technique
Mountain biking helps to refine your pedalling technique. It requires smooth, efficient pedalling to maintain traction on loose surfaces- you should aim to achieve a circular, churning motion on the pedals.
Embrace the outdoors
A change of scenery can really help to reinvigorate your love of riding. Escape the traffic on the roads and embrace the great outdoors. Mountain biking can take you to some beautiful places- forests, woodlands and mountains which a road bike could never handle.
Improve confidence on descents
Descending at speed can be a challenge even for the most seasoned triathletes (especially me)! Downhill mountain biking is a real test of nerves and bike control, however once you’ve mastered it on the trails, then road descents will become much less intimidating.
There’s plenty of great reasons for triathletes to swap skinny tyres for chunky wheels every now and then. If like me, you are a complete newcomer to mountain biking, Halfords have put together a helpful guide to help beginners prepare for the trails. They’ve listed the gear you will need to get started, plus the best locations to ride around the UK. I particularly like the look of the trail centres in Wales. Halfords stock a huge range of mountain bikes from entry level models, up to higher-spec bikes.
Post written in collaboration with Halfords.
Are you a triathlete who dabbles in mountain biking? What benefits have you discovered?