The Best Ways to Train for a Mountain Bike Race

Don't forget to make sure your bike is properly tuned before your race.
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Remember those days as a kid when you spent hours chasing your friends around on your bike? Mountain bike racing can feel much the same way, provided you have the fitness and skills to finish the race with confidence. Mountain bike racing takes endurance, strength, speed and technical skill. The best way to make your race day a success is to combine these four elements in training.

Train Endurance Early

Endurance training is the key component of mountain bike training. It helps your body learn to burn fat and fight fatigue, both of which are important for mountain bike racing. It takes time to build endurance, so focus on this type of training first and add in other types of training later. For instance, if you have 16 weeks until your race, spend eight to 10 weeks building endurance before you add in strength and speed training. Endurance training is done at a moderate pace. You should be riding at a pace easy enough to carry on a conversation, which makes endurance training a great time to work out with friends.

Add in Some Strength Training

If you’re someone who dislikes weight training, don’t let the phrase “strength training” scare you off. You don’t necessarily have to get in the weight room to build strength. Strength can be built while riding your bike. Riding uphill or riding in a higher, or hard, gear can build strength for mountain bike racing. Once you’ve spent some weeks training your endurance, add in one or two strength workouts per week. Ride easy for at least 10 minutes. Then alternate some harder efforts (either uphill or in a harder gear) with easier efforts. On your hard efforts, you should feel a burn in your legs and hear your breathing speed up. On your easy efforts, return to a conversational pace for at least a few minutes before starting your next hard effort.

Fine Tune with Speed Workouts

In the last few weeks before your race, replace some of your strength workouts with speed workouts. Instead of focusing your hard efforts on riding uphill or in a higher gear, focus on riding fast for these efforts. This will help your body adapt to the faster pace you will be riding on race day. Keep the hard efforts short for speed workouts and allow yourself to fully recover between each one. For instance, alternate riding fast for one minute with riding easy for four minutes.

Hone Your Technical Skills

Unlike racing a bike on the road, mountain bike racing requires technical skills. You may have to ride over bridges, logs and rocks. Don’t wait until race day to practice these skills. You don’t have to practice these skills separately. You can incorporate them into endurance, strength or speed workouts. Endurance workouts are a great time to practice technical skills. The moderate pace allows you to focus on the skills most challenging to you. If you can, do some riding on the trail where the race will be held so there are no surprises on race day.

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