Slow on Road bike, fast on MTB
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  1. #1

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    Slow on Road bike, fast on MTB

    I bought my first road bike about 2 months ago after riding and racing a mountain bike since 1997. I train alot on the road with the MTB using standard knobby tires and can easily keep a 20mph pace or better. Riding my mountain bike on the road even with knobbies is near effortlesss and I can often keep up or pass strong roadies.

    When I bought a road bike, a Colnago, I thought I would lay waste to anyone and everyone. After all I'm fast on a MTB, a Colnago with 23mm tires ought to be roadie genocide. Wrong.

    Somehow, maybe it's muscle memory or being in a slightly different position I cannot find the "top end" on my road bike. To tell you the truth, I'm actually slower on my road bike than I am on my MTB. Which is discouraging. I know that on certain parts of my training route I should be able to go 23-25 mph and on the road bike I'm only managing 21-22mph. It's easy for me to ride my road bike at slower speeds, it's just the upper end that escapes me.

    I have been professionally fit on the bike too, so I can rule out bike fit.

    Has anyone else experienced this after riding one style of bike for so long....only to switch and be totally lost?

  2. #2

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    Talking Troll

    Your bait isnt good enough for me to bite. Cast and try again.

  3. #3
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    Don't think it's a troll...

    ...because oddly the same thing happened to me.

    I had been riding and racing mtbs for 10 years until I got a road bike 4 years ago. It fit me right but I just couldn't seem to make the damn thing GO! The shop owner suggested I spend a month in the 39T just spinning along, which helped a bit, although it took about 2,000 miles (~1 year) before I really found the sweet spot, where all the power was being transmitted to the rear wheel.

    I had to get used to the narrowness of the bars and tires, not being able to bunny hop over obstructions, and in general not riding like I had a motorless motorcycle. Also, the "elastic" effect of suspension and fat tires won't help you anymore, especially while climbing.

    As for avg. speed, you really don't lose much with a mountain bike on the road. This terrain, no pun intended, has been gone over pretty thoroughly on the board, but given a moderately hilly 15 mile loop, you won't go much faster on a road bike, maybe 2 mph. On my paved downhill kamikaze run, I've seen 55 mph on the road bike but 53 on my full-susp. mtb with knobbies (which weighs about 10 pounds more).

    I do find my road bike much more comfortable, mostly because the bars offer more positions and I have the stem about 2 inches higher (don't have to worry about the front end coming off the ground while climbing).

    Muscle memory is a powerful (and wonderful) thing. Just keep at it and don't be afraid to ask for advice.

    Peter

    Quote Originally Posted by refidnasb
    I bought my first road bike about 2 months ago after riding and racing a mountain bike since 1997. I train alot on the road with the MTB using standard knobby tires and can easily keep a 20mph pace or better. Riding my mountain bike on the road even with knobbies is near effortlesss and I can often keep up or pass strong roadies.

    When I bought a road bike, a Colnago, I thought I would lay waste to anyone and everyone. After all I'm fast on a MTB, a Colnago with 23mm tires ought to be roadie genocide. Wrong.

    Somehow, maybe it's muscle memory or being in a slightly different position I cannot find the "top end" on my road bike. To tell you the truth, I'm actually slower on my road bike than I am on my MTB. Which is discouraging. I know that on certain parts of my training route I should be able to go 23-25 mph and on the road bike I'm only managing 21-22mph. It's easy for me to ride my road bike at slower speeds, it's just the upper end that escapes me.

    I have been professionally fit on the bike too, so I can rule out bike fit.

    Has anyone else experienced this after riding one style of bike for so long....only to switch and be totally lost?

  4. #4

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    First, get your position sorted out. The bike fitter only can give you an initial approximation. You have to do the hard work of getting it perfect by yourself or with help of the fitter over a longer period of time. Next, you have to teach your legs, respiratory system, etc., how to pedal that heavy gear for a long duration at a decent cadence while maintaining your new position...it's true initially a road bike isn't all that much faster....but once you get accustomed to it you'll see considerable improvement, which effects your MTB riding in a very positive way as well. Given some time and effort on the road the guys on the trail won't know what hit them when you blast by them

  5. #5

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    Cool

    My apologies to the original poster about doubting your sincerity. I have been riding MTB and road for about 12 years. While I never raced either. I consider myself advanced in both, probably road being my strong suit.

    I find it hard to believe that one can ride a 10 pound heavier bike, with knobbies to boot, faster or almost as fast as they can ride a road bike. Maybe for 15 miles that might be the case. But who does 15 miles on a serious road bike workout/ride? That to me is the major difference between the two disciplines....distance. Unless your name is Tinker, you probably don't ride the distance on an MTB as you do a road. Maybe I am wrong, but if someone could sustain 20 mph or better on an MTB during 40 to 60 mile road ride, I would be very surprized and impressed.

    Maybe I should pump up the tires on my Team NRS and see if its true?

    Quote Originally Posted by peter1
    ...because oddly the same thing happened to me.

    I had been riding and racing mtbs for 10 years until I got a road bike 4 years ago. It fit me right but I just couldn't seem to make the damn thing GO! The shop owner suggested I spend a month in the 39T just spinning along, which helped a bit, although it took about 2,000 miles (~1 year) before I really found the sweet spot, where all the power was being transmitted to the rear wheel.

    I had to get used to the narrowness of the bars and tires, not being able to bunny hop over obstructions, and in general not riding like I had a motorless motorcycle. Also, the "elastic" effect of suspension and fat tires won't help you anymore, especially while climbing.

    As for avg. speed, you really don't lose much with a mountain bike on the road. This terrain, no pun intended, has been gone over pretty thoroughly on the board, but given a moderately hilly 15 mile loop, you won't go much faster on a road bike, maybe 2 mph. On my paved downhill kamikaze run, I've seen 55 mph on the road bike but 53 on my full-susp. mtb with knobbies (which weighs about 10 pounds more).

    I do find my road bike much more comfortable, mostly because the bars offer more positions and I have the stem about 2 inches higher (don't have to worry about the front end coming off the ground while climbing).

    Muscle memory is a powerful (and wonderful) thing. Just keep at it and don't be afraid to ask for advice.

    Peter
    Last edited by kilofox; 03-20-2004 at 06:05 AM. Reason: Speling :)

  6. #6
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    I read somewhere than nothing kills a roadie's spin like MTB riding. Most here may not agree, but I am talking about that effortless 120rpm you see the pros use. Although we are all not pros, that is the target. Train this.

    Learn to be comfortable, supple, and easy spinning on your roadbike. Also, you have to ride with different 'smarts' when on the road, as the wind is so much more important.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by refidnasb
    Somehow, maybe it's muscle memory or being in a slightly different position I cannot find the "top end" on my road bike. To tell you the truth, I'm actually slower on my road bike than I am on my MTB. Which is discouraging. I know that on certain parts of my training route I should be able to go 23-25 mph and on the road bike I'm only managing 21-22mph. It's easy for me to ride my road bike at slower speeds, it's just the upper end that escapes me.
    Are you 100% sure that both your bike computers are set-up accurately to measure speed...

  8. #8
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    I believe it.

    Quote Originally Posted by refidnasb
    I bought my first road bike about 2 months ago after riding and racing a mountain bike since 1997. I train alot on the road with the MTB using standard knobby tires and can easily keep a 20mph pace or better. Riding my mountain bike on the road even with knobbies is near effortlesss and I can often keep up or pass strong roadies.

    When I bought a road bike, a Colnago, I thought I would lay waste to anyone and everyone. After all I'm fast on a MTB, a Colnago with 23mm tires ought to be roadie genocide. Wrong.

    Somehow, maybe it's muscle memory or being in a slightly different position I cannot find the "top end" on my road bike. To tell you the truth, I'm actually slower on my road bike than I am on my MTB. Which is discouraging. I know that on certain parts of my training route I should be able to go 23-25 mph and on the road bike I'm only managing 21-22mph. It's easy for me to ride my road bike at slower speeds, it's just the upper end that escapes me.

    I have been professionally fit on the bike too, so I can rule out bike fit.

    Has anyone else experienced this after riding one style of bike for so long....only to switch and be totally lost?
    My first real roadbike was a Cannodale SR800 that I had bought used. After years of mountainbiking, it felt and was very fast. The only problem with it was that I had to stand on the tips of my toes to straddle the top tube. About 4 years ago and finding myself riding as much on road as off, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a roadbike that fit. Having a soft spot for steel, I bought a Lemond Buenos Aires. I was fitted to a 51cm and when I finally sat on that bike for the first time, it felt perfect. However, I ran into the same situation as you. While the bike felt better, it seemed I had to work considerably harder to maintain speeds over 20mph and could get nowhere near the top end out of it compared to the Cannondale. I figured it had to do with fit and eventually got used to it, but it took about a season of riding.
    In 2000, I road the RAGBRAI for the first time. One guy in our group took his Giant XTC. Between the large frame, Manitou fork and the hydro disk brakes he mounted on it, that thing had to weigh at least 28 pounds. He mounted Conti Town and Countrys on it and except in a pace line where he would run out of top end, it took a very strong roadie to outrun him. He could do that all day, not just 15 or 20 miles.

    Brian

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by peter1
    ...because oddly the same thing happened to me.

    I had been riding and racing mtbs for 10 years until I got a road bike 4 years ago. It fit me right but I just couldn't seem to make the damn thing GO! The shop owner suggested I spend a month in the 39T just spinning along, which helped a bit, although it took about 2,000 miles (~1 year) before I really found the sweet spot, where all the power was being transmitted to the rear wheel.

    I had to get used to the narrowness of the bars and tires, not being able to bunny hop over obstructions, and in general not riding like I had a motorless motorcycle. Also, the "elastic" effect of suspension and fat tires won't help you anymore, especially while climbing.

    As for avg. speed, you really don't lose much with a mountain bike on the road. This terrain, no pun intended, has been gone over pretty thoroughly on the board, but given a moderately hilly 15 mile loop, you won't go much faster on a road bike, maybe 2 mph. On my paved downhill kamikaze run, I've seen 55 mph on the road bike but 53 on my full-susp. mtb with knobbies (which weighs about 10 pounds more).

    I do find my road bike much more comfortable, mostly because the bars offer more positions and I have the stem about 2 inches higher (don't have to worry about the front end coming off the ground while climbing).

    Muscle memory is a powerful (and wonderful) thing. Just keep at it and don't be afraid to ask for advice.

    Peter

    That's it. My problem exactly. I just can't sort out what my problem is. All the problems you describe are exactly what I am facing. The narrow handlebars are really throwing me for a loop, I have a 46 cm ITM handlebar but wish it was around a 48 so I could really throw the bike around and use the leverage on climbs. To try and narrow down the problem over past few weeks I have put my MTB saddle on my road bike and switched my MTB pedals and shoes over to the road bike. That has helped a little, but I still can't find the upper end. What sucks the most is that it's not any fun. It seems like a chore. Unlike riding my MTB which is fun and for the most part an unconscious effort.

    On my MTB I'm used to riding in a big gear on the road. I use a 46t chainring in the front and usually ride in the 11t or 12t in the back with a 175mm crank. Even with a large chainring like that, the 53t on my roadbike finds me lost.

    I will say that riding into a headwind, the road bike is at least 3mph faster or more. It's in the flats with the wind at my back where I can usually haul a$$ on my MTB that I find myself going fairly slow on my road bike.

    I think what it boils down to is that I screwed myself NOT buying a road bike sooner. I'm glad a few of you had similar experiences.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bostonkiwi
    Are you 100% sure that both your bike computers are set-up accurately to measure speed...
    Yep. I use a Cateye Enduro 2 on my MTB and a Cateye Mity 3 on my road bike. They're identical except for the wiring harness and they are both setup correctly with the right #'s. I usually go by overall elapsed time instead of speed anyway. I have certain routes I take where I can run fairly traffic free TT's over 10-15 miles and I'm always slower on the road bike.

  11. #11
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    Same here

    I have experienced similar situations, I commute 12 miles each way on various bikes and much to my surprise I have found my fully rigid Cannondale MTB with 26x1.5 slicks to be faster in avg speed and elapsed time.

    I have come to the conclusion that is has something to do with overall bike feel, that being the stiffer more solid feeling of the MTB allows me to hammer harder on it and not feel out of control compared to a much lighter flexable road bike. Hence I am more comfortable applying more power using both my arms and legs. I do however notice that upon completion of a good hammer fest on the MTB vs Road I feel much more spent and tired after riding the MTB. Just last week I was feeling the same thing riding my cyclocross bike with stiff steel frame and big 700x37 Conti top touring tires. It's just wrong!

    John

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    Defies logic....

    Think about it... do you think that you could ride a 25 to 28 pound bike with wide road tires and wide open chest postion as fast or faster than riding in the drops with 16.5 to 18 pound bike with 23mm tires pumped up to 120 pounds? Sorry, that just seams crazy to me. The weight difference alone makes it unbelievable to me. If you made a Herculean effort on the MTB you probably could, but I doubt you would be able to sustain it over a period 20 plus miles. I know I couldn't nor would I want to!

  13. #13
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    Yes, it does. But, before I bought a road bike, I just put narrow slicks on my MTB and routinely pissed off guys on expensive road bikes by being able to hang with them and, in many cases, outlast them. Staying in a pack was no problem. In fact, it helped to condition me to spinning really fast. One thing I noticed was that when the roads turned up, I was spinning a fast cadence whereas the roadies were all trudging in gears that were probably too tall for them.

    When I finally got my road bike last year, my best times came down a bit. This winter, I used the MTB for training. Took out the road bike last week and did marginally better over the same roads. I guess the scary thing to consider is: weight doesn't make that much difference.

    Paul
    It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.

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    There are many factors that play a role. Weight however is the least of them provided you're not climbing extensively. On the flats it matters very little whether your bike is 25 or 16lbs.

    BTW, I noticed many complaining about their handlebars. This is a clear indication to me that something is wrong with your fit or that you require more time in the saddle to get accustomed to a new position. I'm a mountain biker as well and have a very wide 63cm handle bar on my MTB. On my road bike I have a 44cm outer to outer which fits perfectly.

  15. #15
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    Dude you gotta learn to spin

    Quote Originally Posted by refidnasb
    That's it. My problem exactly. I just can't sort out what my problem is. All the problems you describe are exactly what I am facing. The narrow handlebars are really throwing me for a loop, I have a 46 cm ITM handlebar but wish it was around a 48 so I could really throw the bike around and use the leverage on climbs. To try and narrow down the problem over past few weeks I have put my MTB saddle on my road bike and switched my MTB pedals and shoes over to the road bike. That has helped a little, but I still can't find the upper end. What sucks the most is that it's not any fun. It seems like a chore. Unlike riding my MTB which is fun and for the most part an unconscious effort.

    On my MTB I'm used to riding in a big gear on the road. I use a 46t chainring in the front and usually ride in the 11t or 12t in the back with a 175mm crank. Even with a large chainring like that, the 53t on my roadbike finds me lost.

    I will say that riding into a headwind, the road bike is at least 3mph faster or more. It's in the flats with the wind at my back where I can usually haul a$$ on my MTB that I find myself going fairly slow on my road bike.

    I think what it boils down to is that I screwed myself NOT buying a road bike sooner. I'm glad a few of you had similar experiences.
    Ride LOW gears on the road until you develope a smooth spin. Efficiency on the road is totally different than on a Mt. bike. You should be spinning smoothy at around at least 90 rpm's. 100-110 is usually the optimal range. (Based on the average rpm's of all the hour record holders over the last 30 years.)

    If you are trying to ride your road bike like a Mt. bike you're not going to have optimal results. It takes differently trained muscles to spin a high rpm than to mash a big gear.

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    few other factors...

    Given equal weights, there's little difference. Given a heavier mtb, more downhill momentum, especially in a headwind, will raise your avg. speed. Also, I don't think anyone's claiming they're faster on a mtb, just that they can keep up a lot better than you might assume. Yes, there is a hair more rolling resistance, but just a hair. And if you assume a TT position with you hands in the center of the bars, you can get just as aero.

    Now that I've gotten thoroughly used to my road bike, my mtb just feels too "bouncy" on the road.


    Quote Originally Posted by kilofox
    Think about it... do you think that you could ride a 25 to 28 pound bike with wide road tires and wide open chest postion as fast or faster than riding in the drops with 16.5 to 18 pound bike with 23mm tires pumped up to 120 pounds? Sorry, that just seams crazy to me. The weight difference alone makes it unbelievable to me. If you made a Herculean effort on the MTB you probably could, but I doubt you would be able to sustain it over a period 20 plus miles. I know I couldn't nor would I want to!

  17. #17
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    You can't say that....

    "I guess the scary thing to consider is: weight doesn't make that much difference."

    Whole segments of the cycling industry will go belly up if people find out.

    TF
    "Don't those guys know they're old?!!"
    Me, off the back, at my first 50+ road race.

  18. #18
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    This is a rather interesting discussion. I too am a MTB who has actually started to train on the road bike and I have discovered the exact opposite.

    When I get on the roadie, I feel very happy at home on it, then when I get on my MTB that prior to riding the roadie felt totally perfect now feels horrible. I feel so slow on the MTB, and it feels so clumsy like. Probably two things I noticed when I got back on the MTB (as I am only riding it twice a week) is that I aced technical stuff and that my DH ability was better, so I am trying to convince myself that those differences I am feeling are merely just in the head, and that the function of my MTB should prevail over how I feel about it...

    I guess I am really interested to read that a number of people struggle on the road bike after riding a mountain bike. Around where I live, we have a great number of very talented road riders but a number of us mountain bike riders have started to ride, and to be honest, I have been amazed at how quickly us mountain bikers get comfortable on a road bike, sure it takes us a while to get into that 90-100RPM spinning habit, but once we do, we seem to make for good road riders.. Riding the road bike will make for a better MTB rider hands down, you push gears better and make it through tough sections of pedaling much easier because of the training ones muscles get on the road bike.

    Trevor!

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    Yeah, I get that feeling as well when I switch to the MTB. Even though it's only around 23.3lbs it feels like a tank.

  20. #20
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    easier going from road to MTB?

    I was on a road bike for ten years and finally ventured into the woods with a MTB (and loved it!). Although I wasnt a good technical rider, I had no problem sloging through the dirt, roots, and rocks, albeit at my own pace. My point being, perhaps its easier to get the aerobic base as a roadie first before transitioning to MTBing. Once you have the endurance and lung capacity, technical ability comes with practice. Just my two cents.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TurboTurtle

    Whole segments of the cycling industry will go belly up if people find out.

    TF
    I think I was run off the road today by men in black in a Trek van.

    Looks like it's witness protection for me.
    It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.

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  22. #22
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    Sounds like position differences between the two bikes. Assuming you are using the same saddle on both bikes, measure from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle (lay a straight edge across the saddle, and measure to the same point of both saddles). Account for any differences in shoe/pedal/cleat heights, and get both saddle heights the same.

    Also, drop a plumb line from the tip of the saddle. Measure how far behind the bottom bracket it is on both bikes. Assuming the same saddle, this measurement should be identical on both bikes.

    Your bar reach will be different, as you will more than likely want to be a little more stretched out on the road bike.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spunout
    I read somewhere than nothing kills a roadie's spin like MTB riding. Most here may not agree, but I am talking about that effortless 120rpm you see the pros use. Although we are all not pros, that is the target. Train this.

    Learn to be comfortable, supple, and easy spinning on your roadbike. Also, you have to ride with different 'smarts' when on the road, as the wind is so much more important.
    You wanna hear something really funny? The guys at powertap were doing all kinds of studies in testing--mainly they were being doen by a guy named Alan Lim in Boulder. Anyway, he mentioned one of the funny things he discovered in the testing was that the MTB test riders were SMOOTHER than the road guys. Both groups were pros or top amateurs--Lim went on to say that the only way he could swallow what he'd found was that the MTB guys work hard to keep rear wheel traction and naturally become smoother due to the conditions they ride in.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by refidnasb
    I bought my first road bike about 2 months ago after riding and racing a mountain bike since 1997. I train alot on the road with the MTB using standard knobby tires and can easily keep a 20mph pace or better. Riding my mountain bike on the road even with knobbies is near effortlesss and I can often keep up or pass strong roadies.

    When I bought a road bike, a Colnago, I thought I would lay waste to anyone and everyone. After all I'm fast on a MTB, a Colnago with 23mm tires ought to be roadie genocide. Wrong.

    Somehow, maybe it's muscle memory or being in a slightly different position I cannot find the "top end" on my road bike. To tell you the truth, I'm actually slower on my road bike than I am on my MTB. Which is discouraging. I know that on certain parts of my training route I should be able to go 23-25 mph and on the road bike I'm only managing 21-22mph. It's easy for me to ride my road bike at slower speeds, it's just the upper end that escapes me.

    I have been professionally fit on the bike too, so I can rule out bike fit.

    Has anyone else experienced this after riding one style of bike for so long....only to switch and be totally lost?
    Sage advice from a Euro road pro I know "The only way to learn to go thirty miles an hour is go thirty miles an hour."

    Your body is used to the demands placed on it by the MTB. As a guy started on road bikes in '85, quit, then started MTB racing the 90's I know exactly what you speak of. I raced MTB's and made it the expert ranks but was lacking the extra bit and saw that the guys beating me were on road bikes. I bought one and was strong but untrained. The road boys were able to notch the speed up an pop me.

    I found cat 1 and cat 2 friends that helped me a lot with speed work. We'd do almost what equated to team time trials. They helped me with pulling speed, duration of pulls, etc. If I got tired I'd either sit out a pull, or get popped, but I got faster. I'd raced MTB's so long that it took a bit to retrain but now I can hop on either bike. For all the naysayers it is easy to manage the 18-21 mode on a mtb, but my output on the road bike using the same effort is more around 25. Being good at something seldom ever comes without work and practice--good luck.

  25. #25
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    I fully understand and I'm finding the same thing.

    My background is different though. I've been a road biker for over 40 years - racing & training - and a mountain biker for twenty of those years also. But over the last ten years mountain bike riding has been my main form of riding.

    As I ride my mtb mostly on fast dirt roads and good trails, my mtb is very light and built for speed. It's a Ti Seven with rigid fork, much Ti goodies and light Conti Twister tires. I have no problem dragging it out for a 30-50 mile road ride. In fact as I can nip down trails and dirt roads while out on a road ride, I have prefered to take the mtb over the road bike for those last ten years. It must be close to a 20lb bike - barely heavier than my CF roadbike. BTW - I just use 40psi for all my (mtb) rides - road or full dirt.

    I have a "standard" 28 mile paved road ride that I do fairly regularly to gauge my fitness. I log my times and average speed. I've done this ride many more times on the mtb as I have the road bike. It's tough to generalize but I've been faster on the mtb. I know it's tough to compare times on different dates but I feel there is more variation in my levels of fitness at different times of year than there is difference between my two bikes.

    Oh yes the road bike "feels" faster (more zippy) but this doesn't show up in time taken or average speed. It's not a clunker either as it's a new Argon c/f with DuraAce and 23mm tires at 100psi.

    As I've been a road racer and road trainer since my early teens it has nothing to do with some of the things that others here have written like "can't spin". I know the results are down to the fact that I have a fast mbt and that personal conditioning varies. I plan, this summer, to assault my record for this ride on my road bike more. I'm sure if I do the ride equally on both bikes, the road bike times will consistently be faster - but not exclusively.

    You problem might be due to unfamiliarity with the bike itself. We had a club mtb racer who was faster than I (and much younger too) and he bought a roadbike to come training with us. We dropped him 3x during a 10 mile "easy" (for us) warmup. He just couldn't handle the steady rhythm of the road. This happened on two rides and we never saw him on the road again.

    I'd suggest you drop back to sub-max road bike rides where the emphasis is on relentless, neat, quick circles with your feet. Forget the "time" aspect of the ride. In fact ditch the computer. I think you'll get faster as you get used to the road bike and use aerobic fitness instead of brute power.

    Edit to add this bit - I fully agree with the last poster just above me. We ARE what we train. In the last ten years that I've been almost exclusively a mtb rider I feel that I have lost a ton of the old Zip. I used to sprint over the tops of all the hills on my road bike and sprint for signs and other pace-changing stuff.

    With the mtb, even though it's quite light and zippy (compared to many mtbs) I tend to ride it more like a diesel. This, I feel, has hurt my road riding big-time. I'm doing all road bike rides at the moment (trails are muddy & icy) and all the old zipp has gone. I plan to reverse that if my old age will allow.

    Good observation and interesting subject!
    Last edited by Mike T.; 03-21-2004 at 07:54 AM.
    .

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