Cross training by biking during the off-season is a great way to keep up your level of fitness, and it will ensure you're ready to snowboard at the highest level when the snow falls.
Why is Biking Such a Great Cross-Training Tool?Riding a bike offers several benefits that translate directly to snowboarding: It works the quads, calves, and core muscles; it's a great cardio workout, which increases your aerobic capacity (a godsend when riding at altitude); and it keeps your reflexes sharp by reinforcing concepts like picking a line, flowing with the fall-line, and anticipating your next move.
Mountain Biking vs. Road BikingBoth mountain biking and road cycling can offer snowboarders benefits from a cross training standpoint. While both disciplines will strengthen muscles and provide an aerobic workout, mountain biking is the better bet for riders looking to improve their skills in gnarly or sketchy terrain (steeps, bumps, trees, etc.). Road biking, on the other hand, is great for gate training - run gates on your board as if you were descending a twisty paved road on your bike, and you'll almost immediately see your times improve.
Gearing Up (Pun Intended!)Before you get started with your off-season cross training plans, you're going to need some gear. Snowboarders are nearly as bad as golfers when it comes to acquiring multiple pieces of gear, which means one thing - this is going to be fun!
Just like buying snowboard gear, you get what you pay for - but that's not to say you should go drop thousands on the thing. There are many great bikes to be had in the $500 - $1,000 range; in the end, the amount you spend is going to depend on how serious you are about riding the bike in the off-season. Be sure to check out our Bicycling Guide's informative piece on buying the right bike before you head to the store. Another great resource is the Bicycling Magazine Buyer's Guide.
As with snowboarding, wearing the right clothing will go a long way towards making your biking experience an enjoyable one. Padded bike shorts (either the traditional skin-tight "Tour de France" style, or the new-school baggy shorts) will keep your sensitive parts intact and comfortable, while a jersey made from synthetic materials will wick moisture away from your skin. The same thing goes for socks - synthetic materials only. Depending on the climate where you live, you may also want to invest in full length tights and a long sleeve jersey or light jacket.
First and foremost, you'll need a helmet. Helmets are not only a good idea, in some states they're required by law. Do your noggin a favor and strap on a skid-lid before hitting the road or the trails.
Biking gloves are a good idea, as they'll prevent blisters and generally provide a better grip on the handlebars. Sunglasses will protect your eyes from bugs, road debris and branches, as well as prevent tearing. Finally, a good pair of cycling shoes will provide a solid, stable platform for power transfer, all while saving your sneakers for hangin' in the club!
Check out our Bicycling Guide's Clothing and Accessories Guide for more information on gearing up to ride (a bike, that is!).
Where to Ride Your BikeThe ability to ride your bike just about anywhere for free is what makes biking such a great cross training activity for snowboarding.
Road rides can be tailored for specific goals; intervals (30-60 second bursts of intense activity followed by a 3-5 minute cool down, repeated several times) simulate the bursts of activity followed by a long chairlift ride common to snowboarding; long hill climbs will build aerobic capacity for riding at altitude or hiking in the backcountry; long, high-speed descents are great for honing the ability to pick the fastest line through a racecourse.
Mountain biking trails can be found in most towns. Check out the trail reviews (broken down state by state) over at MTBR.com. Many ski and snowboard resorts offer mountain biking in the summer months, including Killington and Mount Snow in the east and Vail and Beaver Creek in the Western U.S. All the resorts mentioned offer access to their trail systems for a fee, with lift-served access and rentals available as well.
- Stay Hydrated: Riding a bike is similar to snowboarding in that you're going to expel a lot of moisture, which leads to dehydration. Pack a bottle with water or a sports drink, and drink early and often.
- Pack Dog Bones:Seriously...Dogs are like snowboarders with ADHD - They'll chase anything that moves. Even Cujo can't resist a solid Milkbone...they've saved my skin more than once for sure.
- Dress the part: You wouldn't go snowboarding in jeans and a t-shirt. Don't go for a strenuous bike ride in gym shorts and a cotton t-shirt, either. Proper clothing goes a long way towards ensuring an enjoyable ride.
- Diversify Your Training:Cross training for snowboarding is all about variety. Two to three bike rides a week, combined with a weight training or board-sport (surfing, skating) regimen will do wonders for your riding next season, and it'll be noticeable from day one.