Power and Speed can be found in abundance beyond the pavement. no I'm not talking about the weight room in your local gym! We are talking about hitting the trails where you can have a lot of fun and build strength for a great platform for early season racing.
This winter you should seriously consider Mountain Biking. In mountain biking, the bikes are heavier, the hills are steeper, you’re at maximum it the entire way, it’s the perfect strength and power training for triathletes.
In mountain biking, you’re using the same effort and energy system you use when time trialing and truct me when I say that your heart rate is never higher than when I’m pedal to the floor on your mountain bike up a climb. And that fills a common fitness gap for triathletes who are used to sustaining a high but manageable heart rate for hours at a time.
As we all know, lower intensity, long course training helps the heart pump more efficiently. Mountain bike rides, on the other hand, tend to max out your heart rate in short bursts, and your heart adapts by increasing how forcefully it pumps blood. The training combo means that your heart can not only pump more blood, but also pump it faster.
Out on the trails, you’re also more likely to breathe in fresh air rather than harmful smog and steer clear of the less than nice 4-wheel friends.
Now the rough part: It isn’t going to be easy. Recall when you first learned to swim—technique is key. You can’t out fitness your way through bad technique. But becoming a solid mountain biker will do more to take minutes off your next tri than anything else. So, Let’s take this off-road.
Ride Like a Pro
Dialling in your rig Work with a local bike shop and be clear about the type of terrain you plan to ride most, so your fitter can set your shocks and tires appropriately. The right tyres can be the difference between enjoying the ride and falling down several times and wanting to sell your bike, remember they are the only contact point between you and the trail.
Start with flats Confidence is the key to quick progress, but clipless pedals may cause you to clam up, holding back your skill development. On a subconscious level, your brain realises your feet are attached there’s mental baggage there that prevents you from trying things and learning. Whereas flat pedals not only give you courage, but also act as a teaching tool. If you try something like a bunny hop and your feet come off pedals, then that’s your bike’s way of letting you know you’re doing it wrong
Ease into it
As a triathlete, you’re probably used to three, four, five hour road rides. You’re not doing that on a mountain bike right away. Per mile you’re putting in way more metabolic activity off-road. Play it smart by capping your initial rides at an hour. Remember, if you overreach and bonk out on the trail, you won’t be able to call someone to come pick you.
Pick up speed When you arrive at the trail, do a quick experiment. Find a bread loaf sized log or rock and try to ride over it as slowly as you possibly can. No easy feat. Now repeat the experiment, this time pushing it a bit faster than your comfort zone. Much easier. Maintaining good speed is the most important thing for getting over obstacles in mountain biking. As you approach a grip tightening impediment, hit it going about 10 percent faster than what you’re comfortable with.
Stand tall When your butt is in the seat, everything the bike hits is transferred to your rear end. You want to stand often, so you’re floating over the bike and letting it absorb the impacts. That is far more comfortable and efficient especially when the terrain gets more aggressive. Stand and pedal, but don’t just mimic the seated pedalling position with your hips lifted. Pedal with your hips forward and chest tall, which helps you generate more power.
As you go over bumps and obstacles, your body should absorb as much of the impact as your shocks do. But if your muscles are tight, each bump is that much more jarring. So, loosen up, using your joints like shock absorbers.
You’ve probably heard that you need to get your “bum back” when descending off-road. But many new riders overdo it, sapping necessary braking and steering traction from their front tire. Stand and keep about 70 percent of your weight on your rear tire.
A good indicator that your weight is well distributed: You should have a little pressure from the handlebars on your palms. To slow, apply pressure to both brakes, favouring the rear brake over the front. Lowering your seat before a big descent will also allow your bike to move freely between your legs.
Look ahead A great way to hit an obstacle is by looking directly at it, that’s because your weight and body positioning shift toward where you look, guiding your bike there. The opposite is also true. Look where you want to go, and your bike will follow. Avoid looking directly ahead of your front tire. Instead, look about 20 feet down trail, which allows you to anticipate obstacles and pick a cleaner line of travel.
Stick the corners
As you approach a corner, lean into it with your head so your weight shifts properly. Your inside foot should be higher than your outside foot. Push into your outside foot, really setting your tires’ edges, almost like you’re skiing, And try not to hit the brakes as you’re going through the turn that pulls you out of angle and can cause you to crash.
Now go out and have some fun! In the next couple of weeks we will cover how to conquer any obstacle when out riding the trail.
Sisu Racing Triathlon Coach