There are millions of reasons for why mountain cycling is better than road cycling:
Safety considering: The obvious one-No Cars.
Health considering: Mountain biking is better for your health. Not sharing your ride with CO2-emitting vehicles is a lot better for your lungs, particularly when you’re in a traffic jam, and surrounded by...
Trees: There’s nothing quite like the feeling of flying down a trail through the woods with trees whooshing by, and hitting a tree hurts a lot less than getting hit by a car.
Quiet and Solitude: Mountain bike trails often take you to remote, peaceful places, where you can commune with nature, meditate, and enjoy the great outdoors. Unless you happen to live in an area with rarely-used paved roads(which are pretty rare nowadays), you rarely get such opportunities on a road bike.
Lots of Riding Styles to Choose From: Cross-Country. All-Mountain. Freeride. Enduro. Downhill. Lift-assisted. There’s a type of mountain biking to suit your personality no matter who you are.
Wipeouts on dirt hurt a lot less than wipeouts on pavement.
Mountain Biking Gives you a Better Workout: Riding on the road improves your cardiovascular fitness for spinning at high cadence for a long time. From quick bursts to sustained cardio output, mountain biking requires much more dynamic fitness, and incorporates many more muscle groups.
But believe it or not, there are plenty of things that mountain cyclists can learn from road cyclists:
Be proud to wear Lycra, it’s actually pretty comfortable.
You might think they all look ridiculous, and some of us do sometimes, but generally lycra can look good and it always feels great. Over long rides performance clothing is the best for wicking sweat away from the body, and definitely the most comfortable where it counts most.
Everyone should try clipping in.
A number of MTBers do use cleats and clipless pedals, particularly those doing XC (cross-country), but they aren’t the norm on a mountain bike in the way they are on a road machine. There’s debate over which gives the better control of the bike, but power transfer through the pedals is far more efficient when you’re clipped in – something you’ll appreciate when riding up a steep gradient. What’s more, a clipped in foot is unlikely to slip off a wet pedal, so no more pedal-in-back-of-knee situations.
You can get everything you need in your pockets.
Almost every cycling jersey or jacket comes with ample pocket room for everything you could need, and if it doesn’t all go in there then a saddle bag comes in handy too. What we don’t need, although you will see some people still sweating away wearing one on a sportive, is a backpack. Freedom of movement and field of vision are more important on the road than the trail, of course, but stuff everything in your jacket next time you go riding and leave the backpack at home to feel the benefits.
Riding in a line/group
This is principally done on the road to take turns in dealing with wind-resistance, which is pretty much irrelevant off-road where the speeds are slower and the gaps between riders need to be larger. But there are more relevant group riding techniques that can help when riding off-road. One nice advantage in “taking your turn on the front” is that you can deal with opening gates in a fairer way. Alternating who’s up front can also help slower riders (uphill and downhill) to alternate between leading and following.
This follows on from the above point, if you get your gang working as a unit it can unlock one of the main experiences of road riding--getting in a rhythm. Rhythm can be all too elusive when riding off-road, even some MTBers will have never experienced it. Keep riding. Stop less. Stop for less time when you are stopped. Work as a group to keep the momentum. If you’re very lucky you too will find the magic of rhythm.
Using goals to motivate
The hardest bit about riding can often be putting your kit on. Roadies use event goals to motivate them off the couch, and on to the bike. Whether it’s a sportive or a trip to Morzine, having a goal will help encourage you mentally on days when your sofa looks more inviting than the rain lashing down outside or the turbo-trainer.
Roadies love to digest every ride down to excruciating detail--but do so after the ride. Stopping after every trail section to hold court takes up valuable riding time. Yes to a swift high five, but save the detailed breakdown for later.
Work on your weaknesses...secretly
We all love ragging it downhill, but solely sticking to one thing can often stifle skills and abilities. Roadies train their weaknesses, such as climbing and endurance, by riding more hills and more miles, or hit the gym to work on muscle imbalance. They keep it secret, too, so no-one can attack their Achilles heel in a race, and before long they’ve overcome the problem. Including one session of ‘weakness training’, a week will soon pay off, making you king of the trails.
In road racing, it’s common knowledge that fresh bar tape and a clean bike are worth 50 watts on a start line. Most importantly, though, being shiny prevents mechanicals and unwanted repair bills. Washing your bike after every ride allows you to check all of your equipment for wear and tear--a new chain is a lot cheaper than a whole drivetrain.
Riding with data
Every road rider dreams of being faster, fitter, and riding further. That’s why most roadies are geeks. Whether it’s power, distance, speed or heart rate, they use data to be specific with training and recovery, with the aim of finding improvements and helping them become efficient with their riding opportunities. Even a basic heart-rate monitor can stop you slacking off, or trying too hard and blowing too soon.