Strong vs Skilled Mountain Bikers. I raced some of my much stronger friends to see how I would fair. I vomited from exhaustion. To be fair I was carrying all my camera gear on my back and could have used some water.
We came here to Virginia Key today to answer a question that we already know the answer to. When you’re trying to go fast, is power, or technical ability more important? Well, as you could guess speed and endurance are more important on smooth straight trails, and technical ability reigns supreme on rougher sections. This is widely known, but we wanted to try for ourselves anyway.
Kevin’s a roady with some mountain biking experience, and Domingo rides everything from XC to Road, to Cyclocross. I’m strictly a technical rider, with almost no endurance whatsoever.
Now that I have this YouTube, channel, I film videos every time I ride. Between setting up cameras, repeating shots, and lugging equipment around, I rarely ride for more than a few minutes at a time. The endurance I had a few years ago is totally gone, and I kinda want it back. The problem is that you can’t buy endurance, only rent it.
We started off on this mile long XC trail with almost no features. I passed Kevin and Domingo here, but I was vomiting while they weren’t even breaking a sweat. In fact, they were having a casual conversation.
Once I stopped vomiting we went to this very short section called Highway to Hell. It has a lot of turns, and a few features that would stop a roady dead in their tracks.
Now keep in mind, we’re not even clipped in and Kevin is borrowing one of my very small bikes. So take this experiment for what it’s worth.
Domingo went first. He’s never ridden this section before, so it was no surprise that his time improved as he repeated his run, ending with a respectable 1:30 seconds.
Kevin ended up being a beast, eventually besting Domingo’s time by 8 seconds, at a 1:22. Although Kevin doesn’t mountain bike often, he has some BMX experience, and rides brazenly. Being that he can sprint close to 40mph on a Road Bike, he’s got no shortage of power. I hope I don’t vomit again trying to beat his time.
Here goes. I blew through the turns and made quick work of all the trail features, but it took everything I had. It was worth the effort though, as I beat Kevin’s Time on my first shot with 1:20. On my hardtail, I got down to 1:17. So it seems, a skilled rider can outclass someone much stronger when the terrain gets rough, but what will happen on a longer trail with more varied terrain?
We headed over to Warpigs to find out. For someone coming straight from road biking, Warpigs would be pretty scary, but for an experienced trail rider it’s a blast—just some jumps, staircases, and steep features, all packed into a really fun switchback. Domingo got a respectable 1:56, ringing the bell with energy to spare.
I started off strong, but the longer flat sections really took their toll, as I basically limped through them to recover my energy. In the end I bested Domingo’s time by a mere 4 seconds, at 1:52.
In the end, it was Kevin’s brazen speed and endurance that prevailed, with 1:50. It’s fair to assume that he crushed my times in the flat areas that I limped through. Even though this course was only about 30 seconds longer than Highway to Hell, it was enough to squeeze me for all my energy, so a longer course would likely tip the scale even more in Kevin and Domingo’s favor.
So this experiment was fun, and it got me motivated to improve my endurance. As Kevin said, even one endurance ride per week could result in noticeable gains. So, let’s check back with the same experiment later this year. I’d like to try a slightly longer trail with plenty of variation, and see how I fair against these guys, clipped in and geared up properly. If today was any indicator, I might have my work cut out for me.
For now, enough with this XC stuff. Frenchie gave us the green light to test out this new berm on a closed segment of trail. Stuff like this is a clear reminder that the most important part of mountain biking is enjoying yourself.
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Tags: Strong vs Skilled Mountain Bikers, mtb, mountain biking, xc mountain biking, mtb speed vs skill, how to mtb fast, mtbing, virginia key mountain bike trails, mountain bike trails, mountain bike racing, mountain bike time trials, mountain bike test, mountain bike tutorials, endurance, technical mountain biking, mountain bike techniques