Mountain bikers vs. roadies: Why can't we just get along?

Credit: Allsport
As someone who loves bicycles of all varieties, it has long amazed me how many factions exist within the world of bicycling.

There are BMXing teenagers and gray-haired touring riders; recumbent-riding commuter advocates and one-geared track-bike-riding couriers; regular, weekend-only charity riders and 40-miles-a day would-be Olympic racers, to name a few contrasts.

But perhaps the most enduring split has been between road riders (roadies) and mountain bikers. We commissioned two sharp-tongued commentators to probe the depths of this schism and provide an explanation of why mountain bikers and roadies just cant seem to get along.

The view of the woods from the road

By Seymour Asphalt

Face it: Bikes and trees were not meant to commingle. Wood and metal; natural and artificial; old growth and, well, teenagers. Anyway you size it, its a bad fit.

Besides, biking dirt trails means risking a collision with a horse thats mounted, inevitably, by a trial lawyer on a two-year sabbatical after the Tobacco Settlement. And at the moment you hit him, he just happens to be pondering how much he misses the courtroom. No thanks. Of course, Im an attorney, too. But I do strictly tech contracts.

When it comes to cycling, I prefer the security of pelotons and pace lines, those packs of road riders that afford insulation from wind, nearby motor vehicles and fashion criticism by pedestrian pedestrians. Ride alone, through a mud bog, out of cell phone range? No thanks, dude.

Its a fact, by the way, that mountain bikers are woefully out of shape. Body fat percentage is guaranteed to be well into the double-digits (too much anaerobic time and too much pub time). Cadence for mountain bikers? Meaningless. Except, perhaps, for the tempo of that Techno noise blaring through the headphones of their personal audio device while they hammer down the singletrack, oblivious to nature and every other trail user in sight.

Me, Im a hiker. When I hit the trails, other than the Capital Crescent (which I use for sprint training on weekends), Im looking for serenity. I want to commune with nature, not trample it. You know, take only photos, leave only footprints. Mountain bikers seem to want to take only 5 pounds of soil caked onto their tires, and leave only a wake of traumatized senior citizens and PowerBar wrappers.

Road riders and mountain bikers getting along? I didnt pay $4,500 for my Dura Ace-equipped Litespeed titanium time-trial bike to get along. I bought it so I could drop every other cyclist in sight.

The view of the road from the woods

By Tim Berline

Yawn. I mean, please. The only time road-riding gets genuinely exciting is that instant that prolonged moment when youre about to get hit by the car. I know. Ive been there. And for all the aches, scrapes and potential trauma of mountain biking, Id rather be injured in the woods. Its safer.

Besides, road rash takes so much longer to heal, even if you have the doc pick every pebble and piece of glass out of your thigh.

Share the road? Who are they kidding? Where I live, youre not safe on the road unless youre in a midsize-or-better SUV. (I do, of course, have an SUV, but only to carry all my off-road gear, three spare wheels and the cooler full of Guinness Stout for after the ride.)

I like my cycling to look something like an EKG. If you charted the elevation of my regular Saturday morning ride through the singletrack of Rock Creek Park, it might look something like very like my heart rate on a strip of that graph paper they use in the ER. Lotsa uphill and downhill, lotsa peaks and valleys. Road riding? Totally flatline, dude.

And sometimes, from high atop a rocky trail in Rock Creek Park, through a break in the tree line, I have the opportunity to glimpse, below on Beach Drive, a horde of roadies. With their Technicolor attire, the group is like some big fluorescent amoeba, flowing downhill (somehow, its always downhill theyre headed), occasionally enveloping a stray in-line skater only to spit him out the backside of their imperious peloton.

What? Im not allowed to mountain-bike on trails in Rock Creek Park? Stupid rules. The D.C. government is so screwed up. I dont work 60-hour weeks as a computer-game programmer out in Fairfax just to have my weekend routine ruined by bureaucrats.

And those Gucci road bikes from Europe are more than I can possibly bear. All those silly steel frames and tiny tubes. I have only one word for them: F-L-I-M-S-Y. Are you really gonna trust that frame when you have to bunny-hop a pothole? That is, assuming roadies even know how to bunny-hop.

Get along? Those roadies have their noses so far up in the air it probably triples their drag coefficient. Besides, anyone who would spend more than $3,500 on a bike has some messed-up priorities. Unless, maybe, if it was a tricked out, custom, full-suspension rig from Ibis.

Washingtonian Andy Carruthers has spent much of the past 10 years describing bicycling and mountain biking. He can be reached at

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