In the last post Selecting a Mountain Bike for an Off-Road Triathlon - Part 1 Professional Triathlete Cody Waite covered Suspension, Tire Selection and Wheel Size. Now in Part 2 Cody talks about what you should consider looking at when finalizing your selection of a mountain bike for your XTERRA or Off-Road triathlon. Specifically Gearing and overall Weight of the mountain or cross-country bike. These factors along with the previous three are factors that can help lead to success when choosing your bike.
Gearing: More Advanced Considerations
Having the right gear ratios when mountain biking is essential. Off the floor mountain bikes will provide all the gears (usually more than) you need to train and compete. Up until just a few years ago the standard gearing on a mountain bike was a triple ring crankset and nine speed cassette in the rear providing a massive range of gears that you may or may not even need or use. Over the last several years cross-country racers have began to adopt a 2x9 system that involves using a two-chainring configuration up front.
By using only two chainrings, often slightly smaller (more compact) than the big and middle rings found on a standard triple crankset, you can improve shifting performance, achieve more "useable" gear ratios, and save some weight. With the introduction of 10-speed rear cassettes for mountain biking, with even larger gear ranges, it is more possible than ever for intermediate level and even beginning riders to benefit from the two-chainring set-up on their mountain bikes. Now it is even becoming popular for some advanced riders to use only a single-chainring up front looking to save even more weight and keep things as simple as possible.
Weight: Light but Durable
When selecting a mountain bike for off-road triathlon racing the overall weight of the bike should be a top priority. Mountain biking involves riding up and down hills of all sizes, over obstacles, around tight corners with frequent braking and accelerations. The lighter your bike, the easier all of these techniques will be to perform. This being said, you never want to sacrifice strength and durability for lighter weight. This is especially true the bigger the rider is riding the bike, so be sure to maintain this strength-to-weight balance when making your bike and equipment choices.
With the strength and durability needed to take abuse, along with suspension and bigger tires the weight of mountain bikes can add up quickly. Often the easiest and most effective area to shed extra weight is in the wheels and tires. Lighter wheels equal lower rotating mass which translates into less power required to move them. Other areas that are often "overweight" on mountain bikes are the saddle, the handlebars and stem, seatpost and pedals. For many, simply replacing these items with lighter ones can drop as much as 2-3 pounds from the weight of their bike with little to no loss in strength or durability. As a guideline, for the average-sized rider, a cross-country bike should fall in the 20-25 pound range.
With these tips in mind when selecting a mountain bike for off-road triathlon, be sure to demo and test ride as many bikes and/or parts as possible to find what works for you. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box and to and be willing to experiment a little to get that perfect fit and ride you are looking for. There are a lot of options out there and sometimes you don't know what's best until you find it. Good luck!
Author: Cody Waite, Professional Triathlete & Coach
About Cody Waite:
Cody is the founder of Endurance Performance Coaching and is passionate about endurance sports. He has raced Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races, multiple marathons and half marathons, off-road triathlons along with winter endurance sporting events. He currently races XTERRA triathlons and mountain bike races at the professional level. Cody has been coaching endurance athletes since 2003 and continues to develop his own philosophies on training through his own training as well as those he coaches.
• Selecting a Mountain Bike for an Off-Road Triathlon - Part 1