Mountain Biking: Riding Long Distances On A Mountain Bike


There are many cycling enthusiasts that want to cycle longer distances, this can come in many forms. Perhaps you simply want to cycle longer distances to and from work to save on public transportation costs, or perhaps you want to cycle a local dirt trail on the weekends or even a touring journey of a neighbouring or nearby city

You may be wondering if your mountain bike is capable of cycling a longer distance journey. Here in this article I am going to discuss all of the issues regarding cycling longer distances on your mountain bike so stay tuned! Read below to find out more…

Table Of Contents

  • Can You Ride Long Distances On A Mountain Bike?
  • Are Mountain Bikes Suitable For Long Distances?
  • What Is Considered To Be A “Long Distance” To Cycle On A Mountain Bike?
  • Is Cycling Long Distances On A Mountain Bike Difficult?
  • How Do You Ride Long Distances On A Mountain Bike?
  • How Do You Train For Long Distance Mountain Biking?
  • How Far Can You Ride On A Mountain Bike?
  • Should I Use A Full Suspension or Front (Hardtail) Suspension Mountain Bike When Riding Long Distances?

Can You Ride Long Distances On A Mountain Bike?

Yes, using a mountain bike for long distances is a very good choice. Mountain bikes are strong, sturdy and very reliable making them very suitable for longer distanced cycling journeys. Heavier than a conventional road bike, mountain bikes require more peddling power due to the heavier weight of the frame but are overall very reliable bikes for longer distanced cycling journeys

Long distance cycling journeys are best suited to a conventional road bike, however a mountain bike is a very close second to a conventional road bike. Nowadays mountain bikes come in very aerodynamic and light weighted frames, you also have the option to change the tyres from off road to on road at a whim, so there has never been a better time to use mountain bikes for longer distanced rides 

Are Mountain Bikes Suitable For Long Distances?

Yes, mountain bikes are a great option when cycling longer distances. Nowadays the boundaries between bike classes are being rewritten by some of the major bike brands. Electric battery power is being used on mountain bikes, compact and foldable bikes are now available in a mountain bike class and now mountain bikes are equipped with the best elements of road bikes, making them more suited to longer distance cycling than ever before

The biggest doubts for most cycle enthusiasts about using mountain bikes for longer distanced rides is the frame, more specifically the weight of the bicycle frame. The weight of the frame can have a huge effect on the ride difficulty as the weight can very quickly make the ride twice as difficult when compared to using a very light frame. Essentially, you want to make sure the frame of the mountain bike is a very lightweight, like that of a road bike’s frame

Alternatively cyclocross bikes are a great option, cyclocross bikes are a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike, cyclocross bikes combine the ruggedness of a mountain bike, with the speed and efficiency of a road bike. Fortunately cyclocross bikes do accommodate wider off road tires however they do not have suspension which means going off road is a “no go” place

The real ace of having a mountain bike for longer distanced rides, is that off road is an option, if the cycling route has to go off road or if you fancy taking the scenic route then you can do so. Road bikes will always be the best bike for long distance rides but mountain bikes have a distinct advantage and are a very close second

It’s worth mentioning that the brand of your mountain bike will make a big impact on how comfortable a long distance ride will be. If your a avid long distance cyclist then invest in a good quality mountain bike, having a cheaper alternative can result in a heavier frame and a far more difficult experience when cycling longer distances

If you’re looking to make your mountain bike more suitable for cycling longer distances you can make extra modifications to make it better suited for just that. Changing the handlebars from the flat handlebars to road bike handlebars can allow you to grip your hands in different places over the long cycling route. Often your hands and arms will get very uncomfortable when having them in the same position all of the time with flat handlebars

Changing the tires to road specific tyres like that of a road bike can also help and even upgrading the entire frame of your mountain bike to a new, lighter version will also help if your willing to pay for these modifications and upgrades

What Is Considered To Be A “Long Distance” To Cycle On A Mountain Bike?

The answer to this question will greatly depend on your own personal fitness and cycling level. We all have varying levels of fitness therefore cycling ten miles or fifteen miles may be a very long distanced ride, or a very short cycling ride to you personally 

However, generally speaking to a physically fit and experienced cyclist, ten miles or fifteen miles will typically be a very manable distance to ride on your bike, perhaps those cyclist would be aiming to cycling around a twenty miles distanced ride on their mountain bike to be considered as a long distance to cycle on their bike   

The point here is that it’s all a matter of personal fitness and perspective, you have to work with what your strengths are and not push yourself too quickly when getting into long distance cycling on your mountain bike. Aim to gradually increase your cycling distances over time at a steady and comfortable rate to avoid burnouts and injuries, and most of all enjoy it 

Is Cycling Long Distances On A Mountain Bike Difficult?

Cycling long distances on a mountain bike can be difficult, or manageable, it really just depends on the amount you physically push yourself which is based around the distance and route that you choose to cycle. You certainly don’t need to be a modern day olympian to cycle long distances on your mountain bike 

Fundamentally the difficulty that you experience when cycling long distances is based around your own personal fitness level, we all have a point that our personal fitness level caps, when we hit the fall. That is to say we reach a point that we then start to feel the burn and our body and mind wants to stop and rest. The lactic acid starts to kick in, your leg muscles turn to jelly and your body and brain wants to tap out

However if you choose to cycle a very long distance then it can be very challenging even if you have a very good level of physical fitness. When cycling a very long distance you can’t treat it like a casual after work cycle or your weekend of road cycling ride. Like training for a marathon, cycling very long distances on a mountain bike takes preparation and a willingness to endure discomfort when your fitness hits the wall and you have many kilometers left to cycle to the finishing line 

If you choose to cycle a very long distance then the number one rule to manage the pain barrier is to pace yourself, you have to pace yourself over the entire length of the long distance journey. Pacing yourself, consistently eating and drinking, and taking rest and stops as needed will certainly make cycling longer distances more manageable 

I would always recommend testing your physical limits before going on the planned long distance cycling ride, essentially you want to simulate the ride before you take it. You want to practise pacing yourself, test your physical fitness to the limit and try to recalibrate your mental gauges before enduring your long distance cycling journey. If you have any underlying health conditions I would recommend getting the advice of your doctor before cycling longer distances

How Do You Ride Long Distances On A Mountain Bike?

To start with if you are looking to cycle longer distances or an epic cycling journey on your mountain bike then there are a number of things you want to start doing to make that transition easier. The first thing is that you’ll want to make sure your personal fitness is up to a capable level that will allow you to physically cycle the longer distance that you are looking to cycle

Contrary to popular belief, changing your diet will not make that much of a difference in you cycling longer distances on your mountain bike. However that being said, eating a healthy and natural diet, (non processed foods) will obviously give you greater amounts of natural plant and animal based energies that can fuel your body for the longer distanced cycling. You may naturally be curious about the distance you think you could cycle, you may strive to cycle that longer distance and this is a great incentive to push yourself (gradually) to cycle a longer distance

To start it really comes down to gradually expanding or lengthening your “normal cycling” distance, your body and, especially your mind gets used to cycling your “normal cycling” distance and almost sets a cap on it. By gradually cycling a little longer distances on a steady and comfortable routine then your gradually set a new default distance that your mind and body class as a “normal cycling” distance

Another way to approach cycling longer distances on your mountain bike is to build up your endurance on a weekly basis, this can be done by cycling more frequently on a regular basis. Cycling more frequently on a regular basis can feel like you are not cycling longer distances however you are, cycling shorter and longer distances can build up the mileage and equate to the same distance as cycling one very long distance cycling route, but it may not feel like it

A simple and easy way to implement cycling shorter and more frequently cycling journeys on a regular basis is to cycle rather than taking the car or public transport. An example of this would be that if you take the car, part of the way to your weekend cycling dirt track routine, then try cycling all of the way there vs taking the car the whole way

Another simple and easy way to implement cycling shorter and more frequently cycling journeys on a regular basis is to reduce the use of public transport when cycling/public transporting part of the way to work, if you happen to take the local train or bus then try cycling all of the way to work. Alternatively take one less public transport journey every week and gradually increase the amount of cycling mileage that you do, to and from work

Another simple and easy way to implement cycling shorter and more frequently cycling journeys is to cycle multiple laps of far shorter cycling distances, instead of cycling a 40 mile round trip, why not cycle shorter distances but for many laps to make up the same mileage as a 40 mile round trip. The goal here is to push your body a little more than usual with intensity and duration but in a safe and comfortable manner

Another useful tip to cycling longer distances is to cycle in a lower gear for all of or most of the cycling journey, the goal of this is to keep your heart rate down by cycling with less resistance (lower gear choice) and cycling at a slower rate/speed. It’s all about cycling at a consistent and steady pace to give yourself a greater chance to cycle longer distances. Cycling very fast, slow again, then really fast again is going to kill your endurance for the long distance ride ahead

There is always the option to take a heart rate monitor however a great rule of thumb to gauge if you’re cycling too intensely during your long distance mountain bike ride is to remember the moderate and vigorous exercise categories, they are the following:

  • Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing
  • Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you’re working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath

Basically you’re cycling too fast if you can’t say a sentence without taking a breath, you want to stay in the moderate rate of exercise to cycle a longer distance. You can tell your cycling at a moderate rate if you can say a sentence without needing to take a breath. This way you dont need a heart rate monitor which can be a little bit of a pain to set up in the first place and constantly checking while your riding along   

How Do You Train For Long Distance Mountain Biking?

Training for long distance mountain biking is very similar to training for a marathon, you slowly and steadily increase your endurance level by gradually increasing the distance you cycle over time, each time pushing yourself to a new distance

Start by gradually expanding or lengthening your “normal cycling” distance, by gradually cycling a little longer distances on a steady and comfortable routine, then your gradually set a new default distance that your mind and body class as a “normal cycling” distance

Training yourself to cycle longer distances is essentially the repeat of the process above, over an extended period of time, many weeks or months to mentally and physically lengthening your “normal cycling” distance. While your training yourself to cycle longer distances it is very helpful to cycle in a lower gear for all of or most of the cycling journey, the goal of this is to keep your heart rate down by cycling with less resistance (lower gear choice) and cycling at a slower rate/speed 

Cycling longer distances is all about endurance, which means it’s all about cycling a consistent and steady pace to give yourself a greater chance to cycle longer distances, cycling very fast, slow then really fast again is going to kill your endurance for the long distance ride ahead

If cycling longer distances is difficult to fit in and around your lifestyle commitments then consider cycling shorter and more frequently. Instead of cycling a 40 mile round trip, try cycling shorter distances in a lap style, essentially cycling shorter distances but 20x or 30x to match the same distance and mileage as a 40 mile round trip

How Far Can You Ride On A Mountain Bike?

This is a very challenging question to answer as it can vary in so many cases, the bottom line is that it really comes down to the fitness of the cyclist riding the bike. The riders level of fitness and the reliability of the mountain bike are the two main factors that determine how far you can cycle a mountain bike, it could be 10 miles all the way up to 50 miles, it varies in many cases

Another factor to how far you can ride a mountain bike is the comfort level experienced by the rider, having a very uncomfortable experience when cycling longer distances can be detrimental to throwing in the towel. Basically you want to make the cycling ride as comfortable as you can, leaving all of the discomfort in your legs as you are peddling

Boosting the handlebars with a stem raiser, increasing the tire pressure for less rolling resistance, swapping out the tires with slicker less knobby ones for road use, locking out the forks, so you don’t lose energy to the suspension and adding a rack and pannier bags, so you don’t have to carry the weight of a backpack on your shoulders can all contribute to a more comfortable riding experience 

Another factor to how far you can ride a mountain bike is the environment that you cycle in, if you cycle in very hot, warm weather conditions then this will affect your performance, making it harder to cycle longer distances than it would normally be in cooler weather conditions. Hotter temperatures can make exercise more challenging, you lose more bodily fluids which need replaced more often and if you don’t replace those hydrating bodily fluids then your performance will dip significantly

If you want to cycle longer distances stick to cycling in cooler weather temperatures, not Antarctica, but weather conditions like that of Scotland or New Zealand. Overcast weather conditions tend to make for a “in the middle” cycling temperatures

Should I Use A Full Suspension or Front (Hardtail) Suspension Mountain Bike When Riding Long Distances? 

There are many different types of mountain bikes to choose from so which one is best for longer distanced cycling journeys?, Well the best type of mountain bike to choose when cycling longer distances is a hardtail mountain bike. A hardtail mountain bike is a very versatile spec of mountain bike, it is suited to all terrains (off road and on road) and newbie cyclists as well. Typically a hardtail mountain bike is lighter and cheaper than a full suspension mountain bike and is equipped with either rigid forks and front suspension which makes for a far more comfortable ride, for longer distance rides

When cycling longer distances you want to really avoid a full suspension mountain bike, a full suspension mountain bike is going to pick up every single little road bump, rock and knock making the entire journey a very bumpy and uncomfortable one. For a more comfortable ride go for a mountain bike with front suspension only or a hardtail mountain bike as they are typically called among the cycling community

I hope you enjoyed this article on “Can You Ride Long Distances On A Mountain Bike? ”, All of the information has been thoroughly researched and I have plenty of real world experience on this issue to add as well. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Recent Content

error: Content is protected !!