Roadie versus mountain biker. Who'd win?

Out on Saturday for a two hour spin with AD. Only a few hours free, so why not Caterham and back? Yeah, sure. Hot and dusty, the outward trip is essentially all uphill. On the Orange 5 this was fine, and I cleared all of the steep sections. But coming down the Pilgrim's Way my chain came off at the top and I slowed to pop it back on only to have AD whip past. Hmm, can't have this, ignore the chain, carry on.

Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy all the way down. Just figured it was rutted badness, but if so then why was AD ahead? Got to the bottom, his shock was locked out. Oddness. Carried on for a bit in bewilderment only to notice a few miles down the road that on the Orange 5 the shock had locked itself out somehow. All the little dials and levers were in the right places, but it was locked solid. Really locked, as in no give at all. A little playing got it going, but I'm wary of it now. 6 months old and it's fecked? When I got it home I looked at the settings of both shocks, front and rear, and lo! the front was on a half locked out setting, giving around 50mm of travel. So I'd been out on a 30lb monster hardtail with 50mm front travel? No wonder it felt pants pointing down hills.

So that was a disappointing ride for me.

Sunday AD was going out for a road ride with his old mate MD. I'd intended on taking the Orange out off-road to fettle the suspension, but somewhere in the back of my mind is the worry that expense is called for. So I suggested that I could tag along on the road, even though I only own mountain bikes. AD happy with this, so out came the Tassajara. Hmmm, flat rear tyre, change the tube out. Popped one in that was holding air, pumped it up, pop it went. Turned out the rear tyre had a 1cm gash in it that I'd not spotted. Good this isn't it? That's my fourth tyre in three week's that has suffered torn sidewalls. Bugger if I'm throwing this one away, so stitched it up, repair patch inside and out, job done. But perhaps sub 500g mountain bike tyres and Surrey trails in summer don't mix too well? Ah well, semi-slicks fitted. 50psi in.

Eventually got out and followed AD on a meandering route through country lanes to Box Hill. Now from time to time a mountain biker will smoke a roadie on the road. We've all done it. Got a few km's road work to link some trails together, chase the roadie down and win. We're all big boys. But it's a different story being on the road alone. There you are, all short spurt acceleration but no longevity. Those fat tyres for an efficient spin do not make. 1km, 2km, I can take it big boy! Ooo, but can we slow down a bit now please? On a mountain bike your cruising speed at full chat on the road may be 20km/h. Hard but can be done. For the same effort on a road bike, the cruising speed must be an easy 50% more. 30km/h would seem achievable for long, long periods.

So, AD wanted to cruise at 30km/h or such. Not a fast pace on a road bike, but unsustainable on a mountain bike with knobblies fitted, no matter how small they may be. Fat tyres are fat tyres, end of. I could feel them dragging, and where on similar bikes I'd beat AD, with him on a road bike? No chance, I got dropped. Easily.

Box Hill. Two routes up; one road, one off-road. AD road, me off. Same start, same end, who will win? Within 50m you can't see each other so have no idea what the relative positions are. Is he ahead? Am I ahead? Off-road goes straight up no messing. The road follows the Zig-Zags up a shallow gradient, but does mean way more speed. Off-road the steepness is constant, but just below that point where walking is an option. You can cycle it, so have to.

Who won?

Ha ha! AD cycling up the road to a stop at the cafe, me calling out to him from the cafe.

Who won?

Must have been sub 7 minutes 20 seconds for both of us. Fast off-road, good on. If he'd put the same effort into his climb that I put into not losing face, he'd have smoked me totally. For once I was a sweaty mess. He wanted to ride it again. Sorry? No way. Clearly my effort had been the greater of the two, and I didn't want to repeat it.

At that point I gave up the fight. I'm fitter than AD and carry less weight, but the efficiency gains his road bike gave him meant I stood no chance whatsoever. It was an uneven fight. Perhaps with thinner, slick tyres on I could have kept the game up a little longer, but only because MD wasn't playing. AD looked comfortable on Box Hill with the roadies. Normally he's edgy when we're on the mountain bikes, and doesn't look a happy bunny.

Mountain bike v. road bike on the road? No chance, not over any distance. Distance being more than 2km.

It's also boring this road cycling game. I don't get it at all, where thousands obviously do, so I'm wrong and accept that. No doubt if I'd been on a road bike my experience would have been much, much better but I'm not about to buy a road bike to find out. Doesn't do it for me. There were literally hundreds of roadies at Box Hill, hundreds, but I was the only mountain biker. Heading off road afterwards I had the trails to myself. Saw nobody. Somehow my anti-social self appreciates that. I can't see myself joining the road bike club. Way too mainstream, way too popular, way too fashionable. So what if the bike shops no longer cater for mountain bikers, so what. And do you know what? Off road the bike came alive. It was back to being a fast, happy, responsive machine. 20km/h average on a road is pedestrian. Off-road it's a good speed.

Really, to have been fair AD and MD should have joined me for the final leg. Wonder how far they'd have gotten off-road?