Forum home Mountain biking forum Health, fitness & training

How much will road riding improve my fitness?

ashleymp777ashleymp777 Posts: 1,212
After years deliberating I've just bought my first road bike and I can't wait to get out on it.

I'm genuinely interested to find out from people on here who've gone down the same path how much riding one has improved their fitness. Clearly there must be some improvement but I wonder how much?
«1

Posts

  • They can be quite beneficial, given that the riding will be more gradial then on a trail. Otherwise it won't do too much (at least in my opinion).

    If you ride steeper, longer and more abusive hills on a road bike than you would on an MTB, the benefits would be quite good. You just have to factor in the fact that your bike will be much lighter, and terrain much smoother and free flowing, so in order to equal the same amount of effort as on a mtb you have to kick the road riding up a notch.
  • ceecee Posts: 4,553
    it will certainly make you fitter for riding a bike on the road.

    Cardio wise, this will be good.

    As far as making your muscles do what they need to do on a trail however...not so much...the power output profile is so very different between road and offroad riding....

    Road is a nice constant, but fairly medium to high output...
    Offroad is from quite low, to full power in a short space of time, then back down to quite low.

    So offroad, you output much more power at the peaks than on the road, but do not sustain it for long.

    There was a good article on here a while back.

    Upshot is...it wont be bad for you. There will be fitness benefits, but it wont necessarily all translate onto the trail. Just ride offroad more for that.
    Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I believe in the future of the human race.

    H.G. Wells.
  • There are some massive fitness benefits to be had from riding a road bike. It all depends on how much you ride it. Both road and off-road compliment each other nicely. If you start to do some steady 2-3 hour rides on the road regularly then you will notice some fitness improvements off-road. Mountain biking is stop-starty (pedaling wise) in nature so a non-stop ride of 3 hours will compliment your off-road riding. I made some big fitness improvements when I started training on a road bike. It's also more accessible and there is less cleaning, great if your pushed for time.
  • StuntmanStuntman Posts: 267
    It's only going to help you improve as much as you want to improve. aka, you get out what you put in.

    Depending on current fitness, road cycling can offer a big leap, or a small one. If you're already beating your trail buddies to the top of a climb then a road bike will help you get there faster or help you sit and tease them by talking on the tough bits.

    The biggest improvement areas are base training, not the super easy stuff that gets boring but the 75-80% heart rate(feels easy but a little tiring, you can manage a sentence but any faster and you'll manage about 4-5 words, that's how I gauge it). And intervals, this is where big gains can be made.

    Plan your own intervals, it's easy, think of a local loop on the mtb... so mine is 1 mile steady before a climb, then it climbs smooth for 1/4 mile and then steepens for 200m, fades for 100 and then 250m steep to the top.

    so my interval on the road might be 1 mile steady, increase speed for 1/4 mile and increase cadence, then 200m seated sprint build up, 100m 1 gear easy but keep same cadence, then drop 2 gears and up speed again for 200m and out of the saddle sprint for the last 50m. REPEAT 2-4 times for the first attempt, with a recovery spin of about 4 minutes.

    That'll replicate the toughness of the hill on my trail and make you more focussed on the mtb.
    Specialized Epic
    Specialized Enduro
    Specialzied Transition
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    A road bike per se will make no difference whatsoever. Riding on the road however offers a far more consistent workout than the MTB, where the terrain tends to define how hard you're trying. It's much more practical too, less cleaning, faffing etc, just get on bike and pedal.

    A good hilly road ride is great fun too, and there are definite fitness gains to be had from regular road riding. IMO whilst intervals are very good for targeted gains you can do a lot worse than just go and ride some hills hard. Stuntman's intervals sound far too confusing for me!
  • Agree with you there njee, riding hills hard is a great interval session, it's also a bit more enjoyable than doing repeated climbs, kind of numbs the mind! I found that an MTB interval loop including a climb and a fun singletrack descent is a lot more fun than just hammering up a climb and repeating, at least you get a bit of fun included.

    Also +1 for you get out what you put in, fitness/strength/speed on a bicycle takes a lot of hard work and commitment but is worth it IMHO (of course).
  • StuntmanStuntman Posts: 267
    Oh yeah, Njee is correct. just goes to show how well that method works because I've not touched the height of my seatpost for about 18 months!
    Specialized Epic
    Specialized Enduro
    Specialzied Transition
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    Oh yeah, Njee is correct. just goes to show how well that method works because I've not touched the height of my seatpost for about 18 months!

    I'm confused? I made no comments on seatpost height?!
  • StuntmanStuntman Posts: 267
    njee20 wrote:
    Oh yeah, Njee is correct. just goes to show how well that method works because I've not touched the height of my seatpost for about 18 months!

    I'm confused? I made no comments on seatpost height?!

    sorry, I dropped my bag and the marbles went everywhere.
    Specialized Epic
    Specialized Enduro
    Specialzied Transition
  • springtide9springtide9 Posts: 1,731
    Think it reasonble difference. At the MTB race events, a lot of guys riding hard at the front are usually road riders crossing over.

    The problem with road riding is that it's easy to slacken off.. you just go slower (which is still reasonably fast). Offroad, you sometimes don't get an option - otherwise you don't get up the hill etc.
    There is nothing stopping you on a road bike, finding those hills (or hilly loop), getting out of the saddle and hammering up those hills.

    But I also think it has the biggest impact to base fitness, rather than the fast/slow twitchy speeds

    As a FYI... last year, did 90% of my training in the gym, with most of my riding on a static gym bike in preparation for the Bristol Bikefest 8hr solo event in October. Not a very competitive event I know, but my gym training got me to 11th place (out of 42). I did the same event in June and was in the bottom 1/3. So the gym training made a huge difference. I only rode for 4 hrs (out of 12 as we were in a relay) in June, but my average lap times were much faster in the October event (and did double the time with no breaks)
    Simon
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    At the MTB race events, a lot of guys riding hard at the front are usually road riders crossing over.

    Not really, most top riders do both, but they're not road riders crossing over, there's far more money in road (there is money in road full stop!) so few come to mtb.

    As has been said though, road riding offers a far more consistent workout and generally better training conditions.
  • PiquetPiquet Posts: 83

    I'm genuinely interested to find out from people on here who've gone down the same path how much riding one has improved their fitness. Clearly there must be some improvement but I wonder how much?

    From my experience an enormous difference.

    The step up from 25 mile" stop/start/chinwag/wait for the last up the hill MTB" rides to Club runs on the road of "25 pacy milles non stop, cuppa and cake and 25 miles back" was initially tough. But the base/endurance fitness it developed complemented the interval style fitness from the MTB.

    One develops efficiency of energy use, the other maximum capacities.

    I found my off road fitness toward the end of longer rides much improved
  • springtide9springtide9 Posts: 1,731
    njee20 wrote:
    At the MTB race events, a lot of guys riding hard at the front are usually road riders crossing over.

    Not really, most top riders do both, but they're not road riders crossing over, there's far more money in road (there is money in road full stop!) so few come to mtb.

    As has been said though, road riding offers a far more consistent workout and generally better training conditions.

    You are probably right - hadn't thought about it that way. But the guys who do both, seem to do very well (pretty much all of the 'Torq' team appeared to ride both disciplines)

    As said above,think MTB is probably a bit more social and less competitive is some respects on an average 'Sunday morning outing', compared to road biking.
    Simon
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    The Torq Performancd team were very MTB focused, although some did dabble in a bit of road racing. I train on the road periodically with one of them though, you're right in that they all ride on the road. Most racers will spend far more time on the road.
  • StuntmanStuntman Posts: 267
    couldn't agree more. a lot of MTB guys race or ride road. TORQ are a good example as I was told that their MTB team ride their sportives which TORQ sponsor and they all do alarmingly well.
    Specialized Epic
    Specialized Enduro
    Specialzied Transition
  • lastwordslastwords Posts: 304
    I think road riding will help your ability to ride at a constant effort for longer, however you definatly use the muscles in your legs in a different way on a road bike and i have found it didnt help that much when riding singletrack etc that requires short burst of speed.

    But on double track and the tarmac i can ride my mtb at a consistant speed for a long time after road riding for 1 1/2 years.

    This winter i did lots of riding on a singlespeed rigid mtb through all sort of weather there was nearly zero maintenance to be done to the bike just oil the chain and it has improved my speed at the trial centre and singletrack riding.

    One other thing have a read up on how to ride a road bike you have to support you upper body with your back, there is a certain method to follow, i did not and was supporting my upper body with my arms which ended up with me getting tennis elbow and sore palms.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    HUGE benefit but it depends on how fit you are now.

    I started as a mountain biker, not regular though, a few times a year I'll head to a trail centre.

    In the last year between mtb trips I cycled 7000 road miles. This translated onto my recent mtb trip massively, I'm now faster in all areas and absolutely smoked my 'mountain biker' mates.
  • suzybsuzyb Posts: 3,449
    iPete wrote:
    HUGE benefit but it depends on how fit you are now.
    How so?
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    suzyb wrote:
    iPete wrote:
    HUGE benefit but it depends on how fit you are now.
    How so?

    If your incredibly fit from XC/mountain biking already, a few road miles isn't going to make a huge difference. I was a very occasional mtb-er with no road miles, when I threw in 7,000 miles between mtb trips, the benefit was huge.
  • bails87bails87 Posts: 13,317
    I don't think I've been road riding long enough to notice any major benefits, plus I don't take my mtbing seriously enough that any 'benefits' would be measured anyway, but I reckon njee20 is right about the ease of road riding.

    My local off road stuff is rubbish, so I don't miss out on any fun by choosing the road bike. But on the road bike I can get on, with a pump on the frame and a multitool and patch in my back pocket, and go. No tweaking of forks, no filling camelbaks, no fitting mudguards or changing tyres. Then when I get back the bike goes back in the garage and I'm clean (if a bit sweaty). Compare that to the horror of midwinter mudplugging, especially when your (my!) 'mountain biking' is just a flat, muddy field! :lol:

    Also, having the roadie has meant I can use the bike to ride to work. If I do that twice a week then that's 60 miles that I wouldn't have otherwise ridden. The way I see it now is I do the road riding to keep fit for when I get to do 'proper' MTBing. If I lived next door to a Welsh mountain then I probably wouldn't use the road bike, but I don't! :wink:
    MTB/CX

    "As I said last time, it won't happen again."
  • john74john74 Posts: 254
    just use the mtb with knobblies on, on the road that will give you a better workout than a road bike as it is heavier with more drag with the tyres.
    2010 Forme Reve
    2010 Giant Talon 1
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    That only really works if you ride by distance, if you do it by time then you'll just go further on the road bike and it'll be better.

    Either way a road bike will be a lot more enjoyable!
  • bails87bails87 Posts: 13,317
    njee20 wrote:
    That only really works if you ride by distance, if you do it by time then you'll just go further on the road bike and it'll be better.

    Either way a road bike will be a lot more enjoyable!

    +1

    Doing 10 miles on a road bike is obviously easier, but in the time it would take me to do that on the MTB I could do 15 miles on the road bike. I tend to ride by 'effort' not time/distance.
    MTB/CX

    "As I said last time, it won't happen again."
  • mudslingermudslinger Posts: 237
    I find with my road bike that I want to ride it as fast as I can. As a result I have found that I can maintain fast speeds on my MTB for much longer.

    Like has been said MTB requires more power in shorter bursts unlike road cycling. I've been riding a single speed MTB for the last 3 months & I feel like I have a lot more power in my legs as a result.

    Bit generic but road is about speed / fitness & MTB is about fun. When I'm with my MTB friends I'm a very fit & strong climber but I struggle to keeps up with roadie friends.

    There is no pleasure to be had in riding a MTB on the road.
    Winter commuter: Planet X London Road
    Winter road bike/commuter: Specialized Langster
    Best road bike: Planet X RTD90
    MTBs: Giant XTC 650B / On-One C456 singlespeed
    TT bike: Planet X Stealth
  • springtide9springtide9 Posts: 1,731
    mudslinger wrote:
    There is no pleasure to be had in riding a MTB on the road.

    That is very true.

    Speed on an MTB is slow in comparison to a road bike, but there is stuff in your path that is there to trip you and and slow you down. That is the excitement as well as a high degree of concentration.

    The road bike is very fast and gives enjoyment when pushing those big gears in a straight line or slogging it up those hills. The fun on the road is from speed (and avoiding potholes/grit etc). If you were not riding fast, it would be dull.

    Which is why riding an MTB on the road (or even fire track/road) is pretty dull. There is nothing on the road (such as potholes, grit etc) that is going to trip you up on an MTB. You are also stuck dragging what feels like a caravan behind the bike. And you are still riding slow.

    I imagine that the only type of cycling that is even more dull than riding an MTB on the road - is a cheap turbo trainer :lol:
    Simon
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    I don't think it's anything to do with things being in the way, I'd far sooner ride perfectly smooth tarmac than have to dodge potholes!
    I imagine that the only type of cycling that is even more dull than riding an MTB on the road - is a cheap turbo trainer

    Or an expensive turbo... They don't get any more fun.

    MTBs are just wrong on the road, the position's all wrong, they don't maintain speed as well, gearing's wrong, there's nothing to like! My winter road bike is about 2lbs heavier than my (FS) MTB, but I'd still never choose the MTB for a road ride!
  • springtide9springtide9 Posts: 1,731
    njee20 wrote:
    MTBs are just wrong on the road, the position's all wrong, they don't maintain speed as well, gearing's wrong, there's nothing to like! My winter road bike is about 2lbs heavier than my (FS) MTB, but I'd still never choose the MTB for a road ride!

    LOL. You have just reminded me of that horrid MTB riding position.

    Talking about turbos. Almost bought one yesterday... but the wife caught me just in time! She said, "tell me you are not thinking about getting one of those...". I explained... she then suggested, "why not spend the money getting decent lights?"
    I have been thinking all day about this; I haven't thought of a decent reason to oppose her argument :)
    Simon
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    Heed her advice. I've got a Tacx I-Magic, which isn't exactly cheap, and it's just censored , I'd far rather go outside in virtually all circumstances! Used it a bit more when I lived in a city centre at uni, as it took 45 minutes to get to nice roads, but still no substitute.
  • I go out on the road, 15miles ish on my MTB.. I dont even put slicks on sometimes as I feel like im cheating and I want to push myself!..,

    I find it really hard to push myself with interval type training because I always just think how long till i have left and how knackerd I will be, I save the intense stuff to the end..

    Am I lazy or just forward thinking?..
  • carbonfiendcarbonfiend Posts: 475
    I find road riding priceless and IMHO if you ride with roadies especially those that race you will gain a whole new understanding of the term 'suffering'. For longer events which I take part in its also invaluble for base miles/fitness in fact I like to nickname it 'cheap miles'. You can just grab the bike and boom off you go and get miles and hours in your legs & lungs.
    '..all the bad cats in the bad hats..'
Sign In or Register to comment.