Let me preface this one by explaining my situation. I love running, for hours and hours and hours. I was doing just that at the San Diego 100 but after about 13 hours my piriformis muscle decided to play the strain game. Two weeks of barely walking, one week of short shuffle hikes and finally it was time to hop on the bike! As I write this I am in my fourth and hopefully final week of bike training before I return to running again. I have biked during the off season in the past, but I have never spent this much in the saddle logging 100+ miles each week. Now that I have (nearly) enough experience to spout off on the topic, it seemed time to list my top six reasons that trail running is better than biking (not that it’s really debatable). You can argue all day about what burns more calories, which is more dangerous, which is more expensive…but these are irrefutable (ish).
1. Double the Maintenance, Not Double the Fun
In any physical activity you do there is maintenance. Stretching, strengthening, cleaning out water bottles, wiping off your yoga mat etc. But biking takes maintenance to a whole new level. It feels like the equivalent of going for a run and then having to wash your car after each outing. Or going on a run and then pulling weeds for 20 minutes. Or going on a run and having to clean and sharpen a chainsaw after every run. Not my cup of tea.
2. Mechanical Ruination
Did you do all that extensive maintenance? Doesn’t matter! When you least expect it some invasive species, improperly disposed of alcoholic container, one of the numerous moving metal parts on your ride malfunctioning or just something pointy can grind your ride to a halt. Goat heads, cacti, glass, nails and even random metal parts still have to get removed from my shoes every so-often but I usually don’t notice until days or weeks or months after I’ve stepped on them. I have had the same number of running mechanicals as the number of times I’ve had a fart that didn’t smell bad. That’s right, zero. Even when you go for a run in those shoes that should have been retired long ago, they won’t go flat or cause you to lose the ability to slow down on a nasty descent. They probably just smell really bad. Here’s everybody’s least favorite biker doing my least favorite biking thing:
3. The Downside of Uphills
You’re cruising down the trail, come around a bend and the trail rears up into a super steep climb. On your feet it’s time to enjoy a little hiking, drink some water and maybe eat a snack. No worries! On a bike it’s a frantic gear mashing, grunting and often losing battle that forces you to either push or carry your hunk of metal up the hill while you try and find ample footing.
4. Tapsaff (Scottish for suns-out-guns-out)
It gets hot out (unless you live in Svalbard) and what’s better than feeling the breeze rush over your body as you crest a ridge while running? Nothing. Nothing feels better than that. Want to do the same thing on your bike? Go for it, but accept the fact that you’ll be near hypothermic on the next descent, and if you crash you are going to have gravel stuck under your skin for the next couple years. Sunscreen exists, use it, and enjoy the freedom.
5. The Yielding Triangle
You’re cruising down the trail, blissed out in a state of flow when you see something coming at you in the other direction. Are you on a bike? Bummer, you have to yield to everyone. Are you a runner? Sweet, bikers should get out of your way and if you can get out of theirs you’re being extra awesome. If it’s a horse coming your way it’s much easier to stop as a runner, ask the rider what they want you to do and then easily navigate around the equestrians as needed. Plus, how often do you encounter horses on the trail anyway?
6. Wild Places
Love getting deep into the backcountry, seeing amazing alpine lakes, canyons and/or peaks? Probably can’t take your bike there since they aren’t allowed in the wilderness. Have fun doing loops down in the foothills sucka!
Well, back to my new favorite way to acquire training stress…mountain biking!
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