Road Bike Vs Mountain Bike: Which Is Harder?

– There’s a little bit of friendly rivalry between ourselves and
our mates over at GMBN. Basically we realised that they are absolutely
amazing at riding bikes. So we have to make ourselves
feel a little bit better with the knowledge that
what we do is tougher. – Yeah, well roadies are just basically fitter, aren’t they? Can you imagine a mountain
biker winning something like the Tour de France for example. – There was Cadel Evans actually in 2011. (camera clicks) – Yeah, that is a good point. Well that’s an exception. But can you imagine if a road rider turned up at a mountain bike race, they’d absolutely smash it. – Peter Sagan, he just only finished 35th at the Olympic mountain
bike race last year. – He did puncture three times though, Si. Come on, give him a chance. – Yeah, he did, he punctured three times. We figured then that we’d
probably actually better try and put this one to the test. – But what a place to do it. Here in the beautiful Dolomites
in the Alta Badia region. We’ve got two rides planned, both of which are uploaded
to our Wahoo ELEMNT. We’re starting here on the
climb of the Passo Campolongo just outside Arabba having
had a nice cappuccino. – Yeah, naturally. – Now I’ve got a
35-kilometer route planned. It’s not too long. But it does take in
the climb of the Pordoi and also the Fedaia finishing
by the beautiful lake. – [Si] That’s right. Now I am doing less
than half that distance. However I’m going straight
over that mountain. Probably not to the top. It looks a little inhospitable up there. But I do of course gonna have a belter of descent on the other side. – [Matt] You can’t really
measure difficulty in kilometres. – [Si] No.
– [Matt] Maybe time. – [Si] Yeah.
– So it’s all gonna be about power and heartrate which we’re gonna measure on
our power2max powermeters and also our Wahoo TICKRs. What is harder? Off-road or whatever he
happens to be on right now or Tarmac? And while I’m at it, Si, you’re on a mountain bike wearing Lycra. What is all that about? – It’s allowed. I get special dispensation. – Are you sure? – Yeah. (brakes flick) (rock music) – Come on, Si, keep up! (rock music) – Now you might be wondering
what any of this has got to do with GCN other than
potential bragging rights. The fact is road and off-road are getting close together again. Admittedly most of the
stuff that the GMBN guys do is as far removed from Tarmac
as it’s possible to get. But don’t forget that many,
many modern road bikes are becoming increasingly
versatile with their disc brakes and clearance for big, wide tyres. Actually a lot of adventure bikes use just straight up mountain
bike wheels and tyres anyway to give proper off-road ability. We thought you would genuinely wanna know just how hard is riding off-road. Admittedly we’re putting this to the test on a 29er mountain bike. As we found out recently over
the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix that doesn’t make too much difference. Tell you what, I just feel like we’re making
some slow progress here. I better check actually
to see where Matt is. (funky techno music) – Now the funny thing about
saying which is harder will obviously depend on
how hard you actually try which on a road bike, at
least is where the beauty lies because you can go as easy or
as hard as you like. (pants) But don’t worry. I realise that road
rider’s honour is at stake so I am gonna go hard. (pants) (funky techno music) – [Si] Oh my days. This is one tough climb. Pretty much just standing on the bike. It’s got me at the limit. You can see that the ELEMNT is showing me that I gotta go up there
which looks even harder. Quite frankly you can see how
hard actually at a glance. (pants) Those lights on the side there are linked up to my power zones. Green is threshold. But this being off-road, I’m
quite often having to kick up and see yellow and even red. That is red at sea level of course. This isn’t at sea level. We’re at 2,409 metres. (pants) Ah. (exhales) Defeat. 100 metres from the summit. Stupid artificial snow cannons. – Well I’m nearly at the top of one climb with one climb to go. I can tell you that the
air is pretty thin up here especially to someone like me who’s pretty unaccustomed to the altitude. Just looking on here the
elevation so far 2,058 metres meaning I’ve got about another
160 metres of elevation gain to the top of the Pordoi. I’m nearly there. (funky techno music) (breathes heavily) Okay onto the second and
final climb of the day, the Passo Fedaia. Now I’ve not ridden this one before so I’m not too sure what to expect. But what I do know is that it’s about 7 1/2
kilometres in length, average gradient of 7% which is pretty tough
by anyone’s standards. I’m just gonna keep it in the blue, a nice controlled and steady effort, try to enjoy it as much
as I can. (exhales) Certainly looks beautiful. – (pants) Ah. Leaving aside toughness
for a minute. (pants) That is amazing. Can we see where we’re going? Oh yeah, oh yeah! That’s where we’re going. (triumphant music) (wheels crunch) – Finally at the top of the Passo Fedaia. Time for a coffee. (exhales) – Now I’ll admit at the start of today, I had pretty much assumed that given that we were doing
less than half the distance that I would probably
get to the finish first. But unfortunately I can
see from my live track that Matt is actually already there. On the positive side, though,
hopefully that’ll mean that he has actually got the round in. There is now gonna be a problem though with our whole experiment
because in a few metres I’m probably not gonna pedal again until I get to the finish line. Therefore we’re not
gonna get any power data. But I am still gonna be working hard because although I
don’t have many muscles, what I do have are gonna be
hanging on for dear life. Because riding off-road and
riding down bumpy descents really takes it out of you. I know this is very much mountain biking. You could definitely get
a groad bike down here. But the principal remains
the same even on gravel. That is that vibrations
really, really wear you out which is why riding off-road can definitely be tougher than riding on. The harder the trail, the harder you work. (pyschedelic music) – Si, your cappuccino is nearly cold. It’s just about but– – I had hoped that you’d get me one in. Thanks, mate. – Look, you do look a bit
worn actually, a bit worn out. – Yeah, that was quite hard. – Well let’s cut to the chase. – Yeah. – Let’s see what data you’ve got. – Alright. – I’m interested in what you got there. – Okay, so I’ve been out
for a little over two hours. My average power is just 152 watts which on paper for me
is not very much at all. But I feel like I’ve worked
an awful lot harder than that if I’m completely honest. As you say I look a bit tired. But it has to be said, I’ve
got a big grin on my face. That was good fun. – You look like you’ve had a good time. My stats are very similar to yours. Power is quite low. But when you drill down a bit further, I had two sustained blocks of climbing. Obviously both of the climbs there. I was nudging zones four and
five for about 30 minutes each. Then of course I got the descents as well. – What’s interesting actually is when you look at those graphs of your power data on climbs, it’s quite a smooth effort, isn’t it? Whereas when you contrast it
with what I was having to do, making loads of repeated
efforts well above thresholds. So even though my average
power isn’t that much at all, in order to maintain momentum on that really steep gravel track and dare I say through
a couple of snow drifts, I’m having to work really quite hard. But then I still don’t
think that that power is telling the whole story. It’s my upper body dare I say
that’s probably the most sore. There’s a lot of vibrations
to absorb on that. – Yeah but ultimately, Si, what is harder? I think in terms of kilometres, it has to be riding off-road. You got that additional rolling resistance so consequently you don’t
go quite as fast or as far. But in terms of how hard it is per hour, I’m gonna go back to my original point. I think it’s as hard as you wanna go. – I think you might be right actually. I do think it is as hard as you wanna go. However, I will say that riding off-road does work your body in a different way. – [Matt] I would like to agree with that. – I think perhaps maybe I
need to go to the gym, Matt. – Well we’ve had our say,
but what do you think? What’s harder? Off-road or road? – Yeah, get involved in the
comment section down below. Before getting truly stuck in there, do make sure you have subscribed to GCN. It’s very quick. Just click on the globe. And if you want some more
content, well why not see just how Matt managed
to show the GMBN boys just how to ride a mountain bike using all six months of
your pro-career experience. That one is just down there. – You didn’t have to tell them all that. Or you can click just down here for how to ride a road bike on gravel. – Yeah.
– That was an experience, wasn’t it? – Riding road, off-road. – Oh yeah. Don’t forget to like and share.

About the Author: Michael Flood

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