Whether you ride occasionally or every day, Mountain Bike riding certainly contributes to higher fitness levels and increased endorphins. Great for body and mind and you might well feel happy just riding and doing little else in terms of physical training but if you want to perform at your best, there are a few other things that you can do for your body that will help raise your strength and overall fitness levels.
I’m not going to repeat the work of better qualified people so take a look at this link from Red Bull where you will see a few simple (but challenging) exercises that will definitely make a difference to your fitness levels.
Ready To Ride 50KM
I’m currently training for a 50 Kilometer (about 31 miles) race coming up in ten days. The word on the ground is that it’s going to be a tough one with 1443 meters of climb & descent overall and the longest constant climb of over 600 meters, 15 KM from the finish. Shall I quit now while I still have some sanity? Not a chance.
You can view the route here. It’s situated in the south of France not far from the town of Quillan in the Pyrenees. The terrain is generally hard and gritty although there will be a few soggy forest tracks because rain is forecast at the start of the day.
I wouldn’t dream of entering a race like this unless I considered my fitness and ride skills to be at appropriate levels although it’s true that there will be riders out there on the day who are going to struggle.
Training for me means riding four days on, one day off and not always on the same type of route. Some are very easy, others challenging and it works for me.
An Easy Ride feels easy. I can hold a conversation with my partner and while we maintain good pace, we don’t aim to break any records. Typically, these rides are 25 KM and involve about 670 meters of climb and descent. There’s not many hazards on these routes other than a few rock gardens and sharp, flat corners which are great for tuning cornering technique.
Strength and Endurance
S & E is essential if we are going to stay in this race. Selecting a hard gear to climb a steep hill with minimal to no upper body movement definitely helps here. Beginner riders should aim for a cadence of about 70RPM and more advanced riders 60RPM.
A Hard Ride
Blasting along a trail giving it everything I’ve got is beautiful. It feels hard, my heart pounds, sometimes I feel sick, I sweat profusely and often, the odd curse escapes my lips and I wonder what I’m doing. These rides demand intense concentration and mental determination. Gone are the conversations we have on the easy rides and talk is reduced to single words.
During every ride, I practice at least five high revolution efforts for about a minute each time in an easy gear that I can spin at 100 plus rotations a minute to boost the heart and lungs. After each blast, take a one-minute break and do it again. Alternatively, there’s a 4 KM tarmac decent I use in the most difficult gear and pedal as though my life depends on it.
Switching that hill around
Start with a gear that you can comfortably pedal while keeping perfect position. Next time on the same hill, aim for a harder gear and keep repeating that process until you reach the hardest gear or simply can’t progress further.
Not only is this a lot of fun because the results aren’t important, it gives you some clear pointers relating to where you need to improve. I can’t practice on the course that’s coming up next week because that would mean riding some normally closed private land areas never mind an unfair advantage over out of area riders. But there are plenty of similar 50 KM trails I can use.
Apart from a great ride, the idea here is to carry everything I might need during the race: practice and assess warm up, pacing, nutrition, hydration and all the racing processes I can think of to give me an idea of fitness and identify weaknesses that need attention before the big event.
Typically, I take a relaxed ride the day before a race with a few Hard Ride exercises thrown in to get my body ready for the hurt that will inevitably come on race day.
Tell your family and friends about how well you raced, drive them nuts. Share the sublime and gory details. How you nearly had the most epic crash, how long you were in the air on that jump. The organizers of the “Ronde VTT des 3 Quilles” are offering a BBQ and post race beer, I will definitely not be saying, “no thanks”. Whatever place I come in at, I will be celebrating a great achievement. Once home, I will put my feet up, have another beer and reflect on how awesome the whole training and racing journey was and then check the diary for the next event.
There will be a post race report too so watch out for that.
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