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What Mountain Bike ? magazine 06/05

After the shocking revelation in these very pages that some of us ride road bikes there’s still more ; some of us run, too.

Bet you never knew there was another dark side.

So I’ve got this friend who runs half marathons in winter...oh, alright, look, some years back I got dragged into running the London
marathon and never quite shook the habit.

However, running just doesn’t have the thrills of mountain biking. Thiswinter I decided to mix my enthusiasms. Off-road duathlon, here I come.

With its Run-Bike-Run format, duathlon is triathlon without the swimming. It’s overseen by the British Triathlon Association and
triathletes seem to make up the majority of the entrants. It’s a strange world.

Triathletes race in clothing designed to show how little body fat they have, presumably a result of having to train all day, every day to get three sports in. Even the men wear what look like sports bras. Now, I’ve had the practicality-over-style argument discussing MTB clothing with non-believers but this is something else. My first duathlon was in November, when the temperature was a not atypical 1 degree. Despite this (and the lack of swimming) the pre-race literature advised against - dear God ! - wearing swimming trunks.

Some courses are great, regular MTB race loops. Some really seem like they were designed by a swimmer ; dull by even cyclocross standards. One dank day in December I rode one of the worst adverts for our sport I’ve ever come across ; clay bridlepaths free of any technical challenges whatsoever, gentle downhills, unridably steep climbs. It redefined duathlon as Run-Push-Run.

What’s really struck me, though, is the bikes. I’m used to standing on start lines surrounded by state of the art, mortgage-swallowing, super-beasts. And yet, two laps into a duathlon bike leg I’ll finally catch up with a fearfully fit triathlete in trainers riding what looks just like my 1988 Saracen Traverse. There are apparently duathletes who’ll spend more on running shoes than bike. People who spend hundreds on a glorifiedswimming costume will ignore SPDs, suspension, disc brakes, tyres that
grip ; in short, many of the things mountain bikers love, aspire to or couldn’t live without.

This isn’t snobbery. I mean, right now there’s probably someone writing for a running magazine about the crap things I’ve worn in half marathons. Having glimpsed an alternative world it’s actually gratitude. Gratitude for all those single minded enthusiasts, the rider-manufacturers who push forward the technical advances. Gratitude for the trail riders-cum-trail builders, devotees who understand what makes a great ride, specialist magazines (yep, like this one) that prod and pry and reveal fools gold or genuine innovations. For all those that make modern mountain biking as exciting and enjoyable as it is.

Without the narrow beam cast by these people we’d ride in jack-of-all-trades mediocrity and never know it. And probably race in
swimming trunks in November.

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