2 ENJOY AN ENDURO
New mountain bikers often focus on going hard uphill, then take the downhills very gingerly. But focusing on executing well on downhills makes you a stronger rider. Enduro rides are good for off-road cyclists (and even gravel riders) to improve technique, and they’re great sessions for days when you’re not feeling particularly strong but still want to do some serious training.
The concept is simple: Ride slower, or even walk, on uphills, and then focus on descending quickly on the downhills. This type of ride keeps your heart rate lower and reduces muscular fatigue from climbing but lets you get in descending practice. It takes discipline to get to the top of hills while staying within your comfort level. In this workout, you should always pass the talk test and keep your heart rate or power at or below endurance pace. It also adds a great level of variety to your off-road rides and for a bigger day, it can be combined nicely with the Fartleks mentioned above and the path rides below.
3 HIT THE PATH
With the popularity of gravel and mixed-terrain riding, road cyclists are venturing off of the pavement. It’s time mountain bikers do the reverse and shift from a trail to a more road-like terrain to improve their fitness. Rather than going out on a road or gravel bike — which is a great idea, too, but may not be possible if you don’t have one of those bikes — you simply take your mountain bike and ride on roads, paths, gravel road or flat double track for some or all of your ride to allow your body to get used to pedaling for extended periods.
Because mountain biking typically involves a lot of ups and downs in terms of effort, it can be tough to get steady riding in, but it’s necessary when it comes to improving your fitness. For mountain bikers, the addition of this steady pedaling can lead to a huge improvement in endurance once you get a few of these rides completed. These rides are a chance to keep your intensity low and let your upper body recover from the demands of off-road rides. Feel free to use these to warm up and cool down after your off-road rides as well to sneak in some extra endurance training.