The Vietnam Bike Tours Plans gives you the option to get out on your mountain bike but why should riding off-road be part of your training?
Why should I?
Boost top end strength and power
Off-road cycling gives a much more interval style workout than road cycling. This gives you a great top end hit and sudden steep climbs or slogs through mud are an alternative to gym sessions for building cycling specific strength and power.
Total body workout
Off-road cycling provides a far more total body workout than road cycling. You will be using your upper body to soak up lumps and bumps, lift your front wheel over trail obstacles and to gain extra power on steep climbs. Having to constantly shift your weight and centre of gravity to maintain traction and balance will challenge your trunk muscles in a way you will never experience on the road.
Riding off-road punishes choppy and heavy footed pedal mashing. Try to muscle up a loose or slippery climb and you will soon spin out, be off your bike and walking. To maintain traction you have to develop an even, circular and smooth pedaling style. You can then transfer this pedaling technique to your road cycling where it will result in far smoother, more economical and faster riding.
Hours spent road riding can result in a very static riding style and poor bike handling skills. Off-road cycling forces you to constantly change your riding position, learn cornering and braking skills and to become an all-round better bike rider. This translates into a faster all round riding, especially on more technical roads and a greater ability to deal with unexpected hazards such as potholes.
Escape winter roads
Icy, wet and dark winter conditions can make roads unpleasant and dangerous places to be. Getting off the road keeps you away from cars meaning you can concentrate 100% on your riding without having to worry about traffic and the salt on the road corroding your bike as you ride. It is also a lot more fun than toiling away on the turbo.
It is too easy when you are heading out for another epic training ride on winter roads to take your cycling far too seriously and forget that it is supposed to be fun. Embrace getting filthy, sliding around on mud and snow and probably taking the odd tumble. Get some decent lights and experience the thrill of night-time off-road riding. Even tame trails that you have ridden many times take on a whole new character in the dark.
A mountain bike or cross bike lets you explore all of those back roads and green lanes that you have never dared to venture down on your road bike. Spend some time with a map, plot some routes with some likely looking tracks and you might unearth some hidden gems that you will be able to include in your road rides.
Are there any downsides?
Maintaining constant intensity
Although the stop and start interval nature of off-road biking can be a beneficial training stimulus, being able to maintain a constant intensity when riding is essential for road riding. Some mountain biking is great for the reasons listed above, but you also need to ensure you are putting in the road miles and turbo workouts too. The consistency of intensity you are able to maintain on the road is one of the main reasons why cross country racers spend a lot of their training time on the tarmac.
Off-road biking is extremely hard on your body. The combination of sudden spikes of high power, constant shocks and vibrations and the higher total body demands mean that hard mountain biking will take more out of your body and require more recovery than an equivalent time spent riding on the road. This is another reason why cross country racers do most of their miles on the road. Use these techniques to maximise your recovery.
Risk of injury
Off-road cycling does carry a higher risk of injury than road cycling but, as crashes tend to be at slower speeds and don’t involve traffic, it is usually just a case of a few cuts and bruises. Always try to ride within your own technical ability and fitness and, if you have any doubt about your ability to ride a section of trail, walk it first. When descending, stay relaxed and never ride so fast that you feel as though you are out of control.