Fitness and Mountain Biking: It's Not as Simple as it Seems

Posted January 20, 2014 by Evelyn in MTB

Cycling, whether in its road or off-road format, is enjoyed by people the world over. People enjoy the sense of unity that comes from their body being in perfect sync with their bike, with keen cyclists spending great deals of time and money into personalizing their ride to offer the perfect experience. This is all well and good, but there is one glaring issue that impacts the quality of people's rides: they lack a good level of fitness. It is true that mountain biking uses less energy than, for example, running a trail, but by no means does that mean it is easy. It is still exhausting work, especially if the harder trails are being tackled. This article is going to look at how you can boost the quality of your rides through improving your fitness. The suggestions are easy to implement, and will help to finally dispel the commonly believed myth that 'it is the bike doing all the hard work'!

Good cardio workouts are essential

Obviously, the workout plan for someone who is committed to mountain biking is going to differ to other average workouts, but there are lots of things that can be done in a standard gym that will help you shave seconds off your times, or grant you the extra endurance to attempt more challenging trails. Incorporating jogging into your workout is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to boost your cardio, however this comes with downsides. Jogging can result in impact injuries to knees, but this can be avoided by keeping workouts confined to the treadmill, which will actually absorb some of the impact. It is not necessary to go overboard with jogging sessions either, 2 medium intensity sessions a week should be enough to notice improvements, especially when used in conjunction with other workouts. Many fitness resources exist on the internet that will help you pick out exercises that will help to improve your weak areas. One of the most obvious areas that cyclists should target is the legs. Squats offer a great full leg workout, and there are also many machines that enable exercises such as leg extensions to be carried out with ease. Remember though, to increase fitness, keep the weights low and the repetitions high. Mountain biking, generally requires the same repetitive movements to occur lots of times, that is why fitness is key. Strength is still necessary, but much less vital than endurance.

If you are unfit, your performance on the bike will suffer

Your body needs to work incredibly hard to offer your bike the drive to get through forest and mountain trails. Therefore, it is inevitable that it requires a high level of fitness. This is inescapable, unless downhill routes are all that is practiced, where gravity will a larger share of the work. On routes that have many terrain changes, it is even more important to be able to dig deep and drive with the legs. Imagine the scenario: your route abruptly changes from a predominantly hard ground, to wet, sticky, thick mud. The only you can get through the contrasting terrain is having legs that are fit enough for the job. The same also applies to slopes, dips and hills often found on trails. It is a dream when a trail is mostly downhill and you can lock in with your bike and fully focus on the ride, but in most cases, trickier times lie ahead. Changing inclines are another aspect of mountain biking that demand the best performance out of your leg muscles.

With any workout routine, it is absolutely key to keep up the good work. You lose fitness three time faster than you acquire it. That is not to say you shouldn't rest, of course you should. Resting is important, but if possible, try to include very low intensity sessions on the days you are taking it easy. If you have just completed a long, hard session on a trail, then take the next day or two off, but make sure to recapture the same intensity after your rest.

So, if your performances on your bike have plateaued or decline, then fitness should be one of the first things you look into. It can dramatically help you overcome difficulties, and allows you to keep pushing for longer. Similarly, if you are looking into trying mountain biking - to stand the best chance of succeeding, consider addressing your fitness first.