Since the old but wise saying is true, “there is nothing new under the sun”, its doubtful anyone riding below the professional level is going to discover some new and amazing training technique that has eluded the best XC mountain bike riders.
That being said, in order to ride like the XC mountain bike pro’s we need to cross train like they do.
Here is one of their secrets that you may already be doing.
They put in a lot of road biking miles cross training for their XC mountain bike races.
Here is why you should cross train on a road bicycle:
- You can work on carrying faster pedaling cadence on the road. This pays dividends when you return to the dirt.
- Practicing handling on very skinny road bike tires and rims provides more confidence back on the dirt with your wider XC mountain bike tires.
- You have better control over the focus of your workout. For example if you just want to work hills climbing, you can probably climb a street road to the top of a mountain and get the workout of your life. Flying downhill will improve your handling skills as mentioned above.
- Riding on skinny tires in mud and rain is an art that makes your XC mountain bike seem like cheating.
- You can put in long days and cover many miles.
- Sprinting and other interval workouts are easier on the road.
- Sometimes getting on the road is much more convenient than getting to the dirt.
- If you mountain bike is down for repairs your not out of the game.
- Put the road bike on a trainer, if you prefer to get the best of both worlds.
- Finally it’s a lot of fun!
What to look for in a road bike purchase for XC mountain bike cross training:
Carbon Road Bikes vs. Aluminum Road Bikes
Aluminum is cheaper for sure, and there are some great entry level machines with excellent components at a fabulous price point. This could be a great option on a budget.
I prefer the carbon option myself and think it’s worth it to spend a little more going this route. Carbon tends absorb more of the road vibrations much better and on long rides you’ll thank me for the advice. Plus it is probably about a pound lighter, and that does add up over a couple hundred mile day, or going steep.
I found the carbon to be remarkably strong to. I had a head on collision with a clueless cyclist who came into my bike lane at the last second and hit me head on with her heavy weight POS department store steel bike.
No frame damage occurred, it just jacked my front rim up. I have to admit I was quite impressed.
Carbon has also come down in price a lot.
Road bike Wheels
Just like with XC mountain bikes, if you want higher quality wheels on your road bike you are going to pay for it. I upgraded mine later after the crash I mentioned above. I was able to fix the old set and saved them for a backup.
It was such an amazing upgrade, truthfully I wish I would have just paid a little more upfront and got a carbon road bike with better wheels to start.
When it comes to road biking vs. XC mountain biking, a good wheelset is even more noticeable I think on the street. I think some of it is simply a case that most XC mountain bike manufacturers these days are giving us better wheels at lower prices.
Even GT bicycles stopped using so much of their in house brand that really isn’t that great.
Get the best wheels you can on your carbon road bike, you’ll love it.
Road Bicycle Components
Like XC mountain bikes, based on the price point of the road bike’s model level, the better the components are included. It is typical you see some level of Shimano package, which improves with price.
As you are well aware, most Shimano products work very well they just get more reliable and lighter with price.
Road Bicycle Upgrades
I find a cassette swop on lower – mid level road bicycles will usually reduce substantial weight. If your seatpost, stem and handlebars arent’ carbon, those might be some good future upgrades.
As you get more into the sport, you may want bump to up your crankset and rear derailleur.
Also find a seat that is comfortable for you, I think this goes without saying.
XC Rider’s Endurance Cross Training with a Road Bicycle Conclusion
Once I went big on the road biking, my speed and endurance on my XC mountain bike improved dramatically. There is simply no way to get to your true peak of performance for XC mountain bike racing without putting in some road miles, or at least on your trainer.