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What Triathletes Can Learn From Mountain Bikers

What Triathletes Can Learn From Mountain Bikers
April 10, 2019 Nick Seitz
4 things triathletes can learn from mountain bikers

Four triathlon skills you can gain from mountain biking

Mountain biking and triathlon may seem like two very separate disciplines. However, it is often in training different or complimentary skills that we build a strong skill set for one activity. Coach Lucas made this entertaining and informative video last summer, and we wanted to go over some of the key points. What skills can a triathlete develop by mountain biking?

Cornering & Bike Handling

It should come as no surprise that mountain biking requires significantly higher bike handling skills than triathlon. Imagine if we were to poll which discipline has the highest need for bike handling skills and which has the lowest. Mountain biking and triathlon would probably be at both ends of the results.

For this reason, it’s so helpful for a triathlete to get out at least a few times a month on some mountain biking trails. The bike skills needed to navigate a rooty, rocky trail will help you stay upright and find good lines through any triathlon course. With some time spent mountain biking, your next triathlon bike leg should be a breeze.

Obstacle Avoidance

Triathlon is very much a “go fast in a straight line” event. Whether swimming, biking, or running, we often set our sight on the next turn, put our heads down, and grind it out. There’s nothing wrong with this, except for when things don’t quite go as planned. If someone loses a water bottle, there’s debris or a pothole on the road, or any other number of obstacles occur, it can be scary on the bike.

What better way to train this than to practice in a cycling discipline that’s almost nothing but obstacles?

By practicing line choice and reacting quickly to sudden changes in trail surface, mountain biking will prepare you well for your triathlon event. Again, you will find by training in the environment of excessive obstacles to avoid, the triathlon course will seem like smooth sailing in comparison.

Core Strength

The most aerodynamic body position for a triathlon is not the most intuitive position to place yourself in. What is needed in order to maintain this position is significant core strength (and, we should mention, a good bike fit). Nothing beats a good core strength workout. As coach Erin has said, there’s no replacement for a targeted core session several times a week.

However, mountain biking recruits our core muscles in a much different and more dynamic way than triathlon. Whereas the muscles of our back, hips, and abdominals must remain engaged for long periods of time to remain in aero, while mountain biking, we must react quickly to changing and dynamics.

Your core will get a great workout keeping you in the ideal mountain biking position, with a rigid, alert posture. You will often have to maneuver your bike and body in ways you’re not used to to have maximum mountain bike skill. This is great for your core and carries over well when you’re holding aero.


Finally, mountain biking allows us to intuitively enjoy a more interval-heavy workout. High intensity intervals on your tri bike (either on the trainer or the road) should definitely be a part of your routine already. However, you will find when you get out on the trails that sudden dips and climbs, as well as speeding out of turns will boost your heart rate and give you a great interval workout.

Mountain biking is no replacement for a well written plan from one of our coaches, but it will help stretch you as a rider and get a different type of workout in. Don’t feel bad about going out for a mountain bike ride one day for training!

We want to hear from you!

Are you a triathlete and/or mountain biker? How else has mountain biking helped your triathlon racing? Has triathlon been helpful for your mountain biking? Leave a comment below! Or, if you want to talk to me directly, shoot me a message below 🙂

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