Mountain and trail biking is a fun way to exercise. Mountain biking requires total body/core strength, explosive power, balance, endurance, and agility to maneuver the bike, build speed, and absorb the rough bumps and terrain. But it also means that certain muscles get overused, causing overcompensation in the body that can lead to musculoskeletal problems and conditions. Strength, cardiovascular, and cross-fit can benefit mountain biking training for improved performance, safer and more confident riding, and injury prevention.
Table of Contents
Mountain Biking Training
A few of the benefits of training are:
- Increasing bone density.
- Improving joint health.
- Correcting imbalances and unhealthy posture.
- Weight loss.
- Aging muscle loss prevention.
Maintaining body posture centered on the bike requires core strength to perform the movements when moving the body backward and forwards, side to side, and pushing up and down when different obstacles pop up. The exercises’ objective is to work various body parts simultaneously and diagonally, like the movements used on the bike.
General Overview of Mountain Biking Training
- Build strength – Target the quads, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles to power pedaling strokes.
- Increase endurance – Avoid getting fatigued early because of weakened legs and aerobic performance.
- Improve mountain bike skills – Ride faster and more efficiently by improving bike handling and technical skills.
Example Training Week
The terrain determines the intensity, but the same basic principles apply to mountain biking training as other endurance sports. Here’s a training example for a beginner that can be adjusted to the rider’s needs:
- Stretching and training the muscles to relax prevent becoming stiff or cramping up during rides.
- Beginner small hills trail ride.
- The hills are equivalent to HIIT training.
- Recover on the flats and downhills.
- Light, short ride.
- Focus on pedaling techniques and/or cornering drills.
- Medium-length trail ride on flat to rolling hills.
- Keep it conversational pace and enjoy the trails.
- Recovery day.
- Stretching, massage, and foam rolling.
- Long trail ride.
- Go at a conversational pace and have fun.
- Don’t let technique fail when the body starts to get tired.
- Medium-length trail ride.
- Go at a conversational pace.
Practicing technical skills will prepare beginning mountain bikers for success. Here are a few basic skills to get started:
- Riding singletrack means making tight turns.
- Cornering is a critical skill that should never stop being practiced and improved.
- Pick a corner on a local trail and ride through it until mastered.
- Focus on riding smoothly through the corner, and speed will generate.
- As confidence builds in the corners, do the same on the opposite side.
- Ride to the furthest outside edge when approaching the turn.
- Initiate the turn just before the sharpest point of the corner.
- Stick to the furthest outside point of the corner when riding out of the corner.
Brake Before The Corner
- Braking in the corner can cause the tires to slide out of control, causing a slip-and-fall accident.
- Look through the turn as the bike follows where the eyes look.
- Don’t stare at the front wheel, which could lead to a falling or flipping accident.
- Eventually, riders can handle this technique, but it’s too advanced for beginners.
Beginners can be amazed at how much terrain bikes can ride over and through. Modern mountain bike suspension and tire systems can handle it. However, using the correct technique is essential to get through or around the obstacles and avoid crashes.
- Stay aware of the surroundings.
- Keep the body loose when approaching obstacles.
- Decide how to overcome the obstacle – ride over, pop/raise the wheels, jump, or ride around.
- Maintain confidence.
- When riding over the obstacle, maintain an even balance on the pedals and keep the buttocks slightly off the saddle.
- Keep arms and legs loose and let the body absorb the shock of the obstacle.
- Trust the suspension and tires.
- Ensure enough speed is generated to go over it and that it won’t stop the bike and cause a fall.
- Some rough trail areas can require added strength to hold the bike steady.
- There is no need to squeeze the brake handles with extreme force.
- Extreme braking, especially the front, will likely lead to a flip or crash.
- The brakes are made to stop with minimal force.
- Beginners are recommended to learn to use a light touch when braking.
- Improvement will follow with each riding session.
Arriel, Rhaí André, et al. “Current Perspectives of Cross-Country Mountain Biking: Physiological and Mechanical Aspects, Evolution of Bikes, Accidents, and Injuries.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 19,19 12552. 1 Oct. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijerph191912552
Inoue, Allan, et al. “Effects of Sprint versus High-Intensity Aerobic Interval Training on Cross-Country Mountain Biking Performance: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” PloS one vol. 11,1 e0145298. 20 Jan. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0145298
Kronisch, Robert L, and Ronald P Pfeiffer. “Mountain biking injuries: an update.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 32,8 (2002): 523-37. doi:10.2165/00007256-200232080-00004
Muyor, J M, and M Zabala. “Road Cycling and Mountain Biking Produce Adaptations on the Spine and Hamstring Extensibility.” International Journal of sports medicine vol. 37,1 (2016): 43-9. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1555861
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