Mountain biking versus Road biking
The days are long and the sun is shining – but no-one has quite enough time for two cycling passions... so which is it going to be? As bike-mania sweeps across our beautiful region this summer we asked two expert riders and all-round cycle fans: The path less travelled? Or the thrill of the open road? Here, Steve tells us why he heads for forests and freedom, while Liam dreams of smooth tarmac...
WRS Presenter Steve Priestley loves a mountain trail:
Steve is a big fan of the great outdoors – with biking and hiking on the cards this summer. A cycling career highlight? Competing in a South African bush race...
Being honest I have dabbled with road biking over the years, and have had some pretty epic rides - including one from Turin over the Alps to Geneva a few years ago! However, if it came to the crunch and only one cycling discipline could stay on the radar, it would be mountain biking all the way for me. And this is why...
Mountain biking comes with a freedom that roadies simply don't have. Its versatility means that almost anything is ride-able, from forest trails to steep Alpine passes. A good mountain bike will plough through or over anything, whereas on a road bike - unless there's a perfectly smooth ribbon of tarmac ahead of you - the limitations are plain to see. This means that mountain biking gives you the confidence to deviate from the map, to get away from the traffic and ride into some pretty amazing scenery. In my case that includes steep paths and rocky descents in Chamonix and St Moritz plus a race across the bush in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa - an incredible experience.
Some say mountain biking is dangerous, but all the nasty incidents I've had were on a road bike! Skidding out on slick tyres and run-ins with distracted drivers REALLY hurts when you hit the tarmac, especially in Lycra (another serious issue with road biking!) Mountain biking is hardcore kit; padded shorts and kneepads. So usually a softer landing with much less pain.
Mountain biking is also very sociable, and a much more laidback scene than our competitors in the peloton. Stop for a beer with a mate and enjoy the splendour of the Great Outdoors together. Meanwhile those roadies are heads down, Strava-obsessed and straining to ride 200km by lunchtime. Relax people; this is supposed to be fun!
And did anybody ever think a man shaving his legs was a good look? Case closed.
Cycle pro Liam Anderson says road bikes are not just for MAMILs*...
Liam runs bike store Bikes&Buddies, near Ferney Voltaire in France and leads one- and two-day guided trips. (+33 (0)4 50 41 56 08). Starting out as a bike messenger in Dublin, he’s never lost the need for speed - and currently owns seven bikes!
It breaks my heart to even think about choosing, but if I had to live with just one bike? It’d be a road bike.
Personally, I approach biking primarily from a place of challenge. Next, comes practicality and form. Living close to the Alps, with the Jura right behind me and Lake Geneva just minutes away, the road bike gives me an endless open playground - which changes with my mood.
Feeling strong? Head upwards over the Salève, then open up on the smooth flowing, tight-cornered descent into the valley towards Bonneville, then right, to the Haute-Savoie.
Nothing on the planet can transport me with such efficiency, cleanly, quietly, constantly pushing me on to find new limits; both physically and mentally. Breaking through the glass ceiling of the pain barrier takes real inner resolve...
This is for me what sets the road bike apart from all other bikes; and that’s without touching on the smile factor of a fast technical descent, the practicality of being able to make it into Geneva in ten minutes no matter the traffic; or even the social aspect of a chill Sunday group ride with friends through the vineyards towards Aubonne.
Then of course, there’s that whole “form and function” thing.
Basically, the road bike’s shape is the result of 100 years of engineering - being slimmed down, simplified, lightened, and generally minimalised to create an instrument that perfectly marries an efficient speed machine, with what is now a sleek-lined piece of bling!
This is why you don’t see any radically new frame designs. The road bike has matured and settled into itself.
As I said, I adore my mountain bikes, but they’re in their teens developmentally. They’ve come a long way since birth, and with more exciting changes ahead. But forced to choose? Hands down, the road machine takes it every time.
So how to decide?
Let’s look at the calorie burn. No use – experts say that both sports need 700 calories an hour to keep the wheels turning. But Liam’s spin on form and function? That was a definite sprint finish...
*Middle-aged men in Lycra...
Don't forget to enter to win a new top-of-the-range Kona bike by June 6th!
There's plenty more excellent content and tips for exploring Switzerland in our FREE summer 2016 VOICE magazine.