Mountain Biking vs. Trail Running

A motion duel.

It’s a rivalry that’s been simmering since cavemen first carved stone into wheels: runner vs. roller. Today, on the trails around Bozeman, this matchup is apparent in the legions of mountain bikers and trail runners enjoying Montana’s singletrack on any given sunny day. And since Outside Bozeman isn’t one to walk away from an argument, we decided to find out which trail sport is best: biking or running.                                                      

Learning Curve
For your first season on a mountain bike, set aside a few hundred bucks for first-aid supplies and Urgent Care visits. Good technical riding takes years to master. As long as you’re relatively coordinated, you’ll be trail running like a pro your first time out.
Edge: Trail Running

While trail runners can cover an awful lot of ground these days (Google Killian Jornet—the man’s a mutant), there’s really no comparison to mountain bikers, who can climb like goats for dozens of miles and then bomb downhill at 40 mph in complete control. A rush of runners’ endorphins pales in comparison to the adrenaline high of a runaway downhiller. And let’s face it, catching air off kickers is WAY more fun than jumping up and down in place.
Edge: Mountain Biking

A good mountain bike costs significantly more than a used Subaru Legacy (but still seems to break every other ride)—not to mention the cost of tires, dropper seatposts, upgraded shocks, and accessories up the ying-yang. A pair of running shoes and a water bottle, however, cost next to nothing—by contrast, biking’s fun-to-dollars ratio seems pretty skewed.
Edge: Trail Running

Sex Appeal
The flowing hydroformed tubes, carbon-fiber mesh, and anodized aluminum of mountain bikes exude a kind of elitist eroticism, but there’s nothing that can out-sex the golden-tanned skin, swaying ponytail, toned muscles, and form-fitting garb of a fit runner effortlessly working up a mountain trail at sunset.
Edge: Trail Running

On the surface, biking is far more dangerous—broken bones, TBIs, road rash, and lacerations are common. You don’t see many runners sporting full-face helmets and spine protectors, after all. But trail runners’ rolled ankles, shin splints, and downhill wipeouts are so common, they make up for the less frequent, but more violent injuries of bikers.
Edge: Tie

Cool Factor
If he eschews spandex, a mountain biker can strut about town pre- and post-ride, oozing outdoorsy coolness to admiring Bozemanites. Trail runners tend to look like they were too lazy to change out of their PJs. And hanging one’s running shoes off the tailgate as you head out of town—it just doesn’t have the same effect.
Edge: Mountain Biking

Score: 3 to 2

Winner: Trail Running
We in the O/B office fought long and hard about this outcome. How could trail running beat mountain biking, hands-down one of our favorite leisure-time activities? But the writing's on the wall: trail running edges out mountain biking this time around on grounds of simplicity and sex appeal. But biking isn’t far behind, with plenty of fun factor and adrenaline. Either way, the important thing is to get out on the trails and go exploring—whether you choose to run or roll.