The mountain biking, road biking debate

For my birthday, back in June, my sister and her boyfriend offered to take me on a “Mountain Biking Experience”. As someone who’s got quite into road cycling, but who also loves the great outdoors, mountain biking really appeals, however, you have to have a decent mountain bike before you can even start, and my cheap hybrid really isn’t up to the job.

So the idea was that they’d borrow a decent bike from someone, kit me up, and take me out onto some proper off-road terrain.

This weekend, the moment came for the experience! And I had a wail of a time. The weather was great, and Sarah, Guy and another friend called Dave, took me out and around a hilly forest near Bracknell. Photos here.

Now, as I’ve got into cycling on my cheap bike, I’ve been thinking that I might spend some decent money (if Sally will let me) and buy myself a decent machine at some point. Which raises the question – what sort of bike would I buy?

At one end of the spectrum is a road bike. The narrow, slick tyres, aerodynamic riding position, and high gearing, all making it easy to travel long and fast. At the other end is a mountain bike. I’ve been recommended against full suspension (looks like more trouble than it’s worth), so I’d get front-shocks, a wide range of gearing, an upright riding position, and some big chunky tyres.

Of course, there are points along that spectrum. Cyclocross bikes are racing bikes with a small amount of off-roadness built in – carbon forks to absorb vibration and less-skinny, and slightly chunky tyres. Hybrids are basically mountain bike frames with large, narrow wheels. Or you could do your own customisations, or have two sets of wheels?

A big dilemma. Of course, the best solution is two decent bikes – one road, one off-road. But I don’t really see this happening. So what do I do?

The mountain biking experience has helped move this decision along somewhat. Much as I enjoyed it, it’s a fun, occasional leisure activity. Road biking is something I can easily do around here during the week, and I can do a longer ride at weekends without having to go anywhere. It’s my day-to-day fitness training activity, rather than an occasional fun day out. I think I’d get much more mileage out of a road bike and would use it much more often. And I can always hire a mountain bike should I want to.

So…now it’s just a case of saving the money and finding the right machine!