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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:05 pm 
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This is a thread for all the MTBers out there, noob or not, to share our views on specific XC MTB training, its physiological requirements, its difference VS the road and all your training ideas and methodologies.

As a starter, I am quite a noob when it comes to MTB. I am a road racer with 3-5 years of road racing experience and 1 year or more serious racing. I like TTs and had my racing focus on them, but did a lot of road races too. I trained a lot on the road in the past few seasons and managed to extend my training with MTB when the weather became cold close to winter. I've been riding MTB during november-december of each year for 3 years now. Last year, I started earlier, in october, and became totally addicted after riding a world cuo circuit here in Canada. So addicted that I have decided to switch my racing focus to XCO and XCM events for the current season.

My training is focused on having a huge FTP, I do everything to get a good FTP and 5 min power. Did lots of intensity during the winter and I am now doing long rides on the road bike. I have a decent FTP, 20min and 5 min power. Not bad at repeated hard efforts but my anaerobic top end power is not the best out there.

FYI, the riding conditions here are quite various: mud, roots, roots and roots, dry hard ground, rocks. Did I mention roots?

I am AMAZED at the difference of riding MTB vs road. Upper body taking a toll on technical descents. Legs being smashed when riding rooty single track by constantly getting slightly out of the saddle, then sit down, then repeat. Higher peak power to meet the terrain's demand. Overall, I feel the physiological and metabolical cost of riding the MTB is generally higher then riding the road bike.

here's what I'd like to discuss

1-For the MTB racers among us: what % of training time do you spend on the road bike and MTB?

2-Do you guys do intervals on the MTB on technical terrain to remains as specific as possible?

3-I dont have any power meter on my MTB, but I feel I go quite often over 120% FTP. I fear it could bring accumulated fatigue or have other consequences.

4-Your perception of road racing vs XC MTB racing.

5-any racing tips would be great too.

let the discussion roll!


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Posted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:05 pm 


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:29 am 
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1: On the MTB almost all the time. I have a mid-level MTB that is set up for trainer/road riding (slicks & bigger gears). Race elite in US/Canada and the odd world cup on a good year. Road bike is pretty much reserved for training camps/group rides that are road only and the few road races per year I do.

2: Yes, absolutely. What's the point of having all that fitness if you can't put it to good use on technical trails? Too many strong people I know that can't truly put the power down once it gets tech. Funny enough they tend to be the ones that say they do all their intervals on their road bike.

3: Yeah it can be harder, but another important thing to learn is to have the ability to ride smooth and without those massive spikes, sometimes that means going reallllyyyyy slow on short uphills and loosing all your speed. Not good for racing, but okay for training if doing focused intervals. I've ridden with a power meter a couple times on the trails... For me I didn't find it as beneficial so I keep it for the trainer/road wheelset

4: Road racing is easy for the first part, then gets harder. MTB is hard all the time.

5: Know your limits. Going a little slower is faster than crashing.

Find 'fast' people to ride with. I am fortunate to live within riding distance to many trail systems and close to many elite mtbers that are all good technically. Going for a hammerfest on the trails with them can be some of the best in-season training, both technically and fitness wise. Plus you get to know your opponents and at the same time build bridges that can come in handy when racing. You're more self supported in mtb, having friends is a good thing, especially marathons. XCO's are becoming more supported for sure.

I know some successful mtbers that only ride their mtbs on the trails if they are going full out, race pace type stuff, but also ride their mtb's 100% of the time on the road for training.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 12:12 pm 
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1-For the MTB racers among us: what % of training time do you spend on the road bike and MTB?
As I train for 40-100mile mtb marathon events/races most of my training is either road SST/tempo/Z2 (on the mtb) or indoors SST/2x20's ect. on the trainer, usually aim for at least one long 5-7hr xc mtb ride per wk up to a max of 15hrs per wk.

2-Do you guys do intervals on the MTB on technical terrain to remains as specific as possible?
Yes, the intervals are a natural part of riding xc with constant power and hr spikes, I don't set out to ride a set number of focused intervals but I will increase the effort of short sharp climbs just to spike my HR. I have a number of intervals that I can do during build periods on the trainer/road which I focus on which I think match the demands of racing xc. I'm not a great technical rider, so I concentrate on being able to ride and maintain a fast pace on the non tech sections.

3-I dont have any power meter on my MTB, but I feel I go quite often over 120% FTP. I fear it could bring accumulated fatigue or have other consequences.
I train with HR and RPE and yes riding xc I can quite often go over my LTHR, It is hard to control your HR sometimes but I focus a lot on my rest & recovery so I don't over train.

4-Your perception of road racing vs XC MTB racing.

"Road racing is easy for the first part, then gets harder. MTB is hard all the time."

Pretty much sums it up, especially for short xc races, marathon racing is essentially an individual TT unless you can stay with a small group.

5-any racing tips would be great too.
Learn to pace yourself and know your limits, I try to aim for a negative split. At the start of a 100mile xc race there will be people who will blast off, let them go, they will either be:

a)fitter & faster than you, so no point in trying to keep up

or

b)they will blow up later on in the race and you will catch them later on :thumbup:

Great idea for a thread


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 12:45 pm 
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In a typical XCO race you spend more than 80% of the time at or above lactate threshold, because of the fast start, short duration and repeated climbing. Since your FTP is already good, i think you should focus on doing repeated anaerobic efforts (short climbs or sprints). As anyone who've raced XCO knows, the climbs are usually where races are won.
Technical ability is also really important, since power doesn't mean anything if you can't turn it into speed on the trails. Fortunately the recipe for improving mtb technique is really simple: Ride technical trails - FAST! :)
Like afalts says, riding with guys that are better/faster than yourself on the trails is the best way to improve - you have get out of your "comfort zone".

1: I generally only use the road-bike for recovery rides and home-trainer sessions.

2: Yes, i do a lot of race-pace intervals on technical trails; focusing on efficiency and "reading" the fastest lines.

3: I don't think you should fear going over certain "limits". Mtb'ing involves a lot of anaerobic efforts - and going into the red in training is necessary if you want to improve.

4: A major difference is, that XCO races are only 90-105 minutes, whereas road races are often 5 hours. This should of course affect your training plan --> higher intensity, less volume!

5: I think, that it's generally hard to use race-tactics in mtb, just go as hard as your body will let you :) The best pacing-strategy is very individual, but try to leave some juice for a fast last lap.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:16 pm 
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sweetttt replies guys! :thumbup:

I need to do more tech trails, I am not bad at them but not good either.

here are two things I'd need to improve:

1-There is one thing that I struggle to stay smooth and keep as much momentum as possible when I go through: 15-20 cm high roots/logs.

When I encounter this with other small roots, I loose all my speed. Not going fast enough to bunny hop it (and im not super good at bunny hoping). What it the right technique to go over such big roots at medium to low speed? I lift my front wheel but the rear wheel touches the root even if I try to lift it up. Should the rear wheel touch the top of the root/log? Should both wheels clear the obstacle completely?

2- Theres another thing that makes me loose a lot of speed: sharp 180ish turns. What the right way to enter these? Weight over the bars? Weight centered? Someone once told me to brake with the rear brake only when going through such turn to keep traction... :noidea:

I ride a 26 HT BTW


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:26 pm 
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Try not to be shocked in your first race as to how fast the better guys ride the technical stuff.

15 years ago I was a pretty good junior, had 10 years off racing mtb and when I came back having done some mtb training on my own I thought id still be able to hold my own technically. I couldn't believe how fast it was and completely lost my head in my first race. On the other hand if you find yourself at the back dont get too frustrated at getting stuck behind people.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:49 pm 
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devinci wrote:
sweetttt replies guys! :thumbup:

I need to do more tech trails, I am not bad at them but not good either.

here are two things I'd need to improve:

1-There is one thing that I struggle to stay smooth and keep as much momentum as possible when I go through: 15-20 cm high roots/logs.

When I encounter this with other small roots, I loose all my speed. Not going fast enough to bunny hop it (and im not super good at bunny hoping). What it the right technique to go over such big roots at medium to low speed? I lift my front wheel but the rear wheel touches the root even if I try to lift it up. Should the rear wheel touch the top of the root/log? Should both wheels clear the obstacle completely?

Sounds like you need to learn how to manual, weight back, lift front wheel, then weight forward/back to roll the back over, it's a combination of weight transfer and momentum, easier said than done though.

2- Theres another thing that makes me loose a lot of speed: sharp 180ish turns. What the right way to enter these? Weight over the bars? Weight centered? Someone once told me to brake with the rear brake only when going through such turn to keep traction... :noidea:

What kind of turns, are they flat or raised. Sort your speed before you enter the turn if you have to brake use the rear only, enter the turn high (wide)and come out tight, although this depends on the turn to a degree, Get your outside foot and press it down on the pedal as you make the turn, drop your outside shoulder and keep your head up and look where you want to go out of the turn.

What I like to do when I am on a nice wide quiet flat fire road is practice pressing down on the outside pedal and shifting my weight from one side to the other on the bike whilst making slow turns from one side of the track to the other. You are trying to carve a large 'S' along the track "slowly". It talks a while to get used too but if you trust your tyres you will be amazed how much grip you can get out of them if you load them up in this way, but you have to get used to really pressing down on the pedal as you turn and shift your weight and lean the bike otherwise the tyres wont hook up and you'll slide out. If you stop after a while, you should be able to see the line you have been carving along the track as you make the turns.


I ride a 26 HT BTW


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:50 pm 
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Thanks ACDC

this is what I do for the high obstacles, though my rear wheel often touches the log/root. I guess its a timing question.

The turns are flat and relatively tight, kind of hairpin turns between tree on a singletrack at low speed. Im always questionning myself as to how I should split my weight, too much weight foward and the steering becomes sketchy, too much backward and it doesnt feel efficient/fast.

I think I will get beaten up big time in my first race, even though I will be starting in sport class. I dont think my relatively good FTP and endurance will get me out of trouble that much...


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:15 pm 
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I'll throw in my 2 cents worth...which is worth about 1/2 that. :wink:

1-For the MTB racers among us: what % of training time do you spend on the road bike and MTB?
This is mostly seasonal/weather dependent for me. Short of steep hill repeats, I haven't found much on the road that really prepares me for MTB race pace. As MTB race season approaches, I will start to mix in more road climbing...steeper the better.

2-Do you guys do intervals on the MTB on technical terrain to remains as specific as possible?
Yes, but nothing timed. More like "hammer this loop, back off on the next one, hammer the 3rd, etc."

3-I dont have any power meter on my MTB, but I feel I go quite often over 120% FTP. I fear it could bring accumulated fatigue or have other consequences.
I don't do any analysis or calculating anymore...even gave up on the HRM after the last battery died.

4-Your perception of road racing vs XC MTB racing.

The big differences in my mind are the technical handling required and lack of any potential (in most races) for drafting in MTB races.

5-any racing tips would be great too.
One pattern I have noticed... road racers new to MTB racing tend to fall behind on descents and catch up on the flats and climbs. I've nipped guys who would have crushed me on the road. Your technical skills will develop with experience, but you can compensate in the mean time by pushing even harder, especially on the climbs. Basically, use your fitness to bury the MTB'ers.

Also, a big +1 on afalts comment "Going for a hammerfest on the trails with [fast riders] can be some of the best in-season training, both technically and fitness wise."


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 11:06 pm 
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thewatchtech wrote:

5-any racing tips would be great too.
One pattern I have noticed... road racers new to MTB racing tend to fall behind on descents and catch up on the flats and climbs. I've nipped guys who would have crushed me on the road. Your technical skills will develop with experience, but you can compensate in the mean time by pushing even harder, especially on the climbs. Basically, use your fitness to bury the MTB'ers.

Also, a big +1 on afalts comment "Going for a hammerfest on the trails with [fast riders] can be some of the best in-season training, both technically and fitness wise."


thanks for your contribution

it makes it sound like MTB'ers are less fit then road racers, Though, from what I've read, MTB'ers generally have higher VO2max value and very high LT too. They have the best climbing power to weight ratio as well. Good MTB'ers also are apparently pretty strong in iTT.

That is, among other thing, what I meant by the perception of MTB vs road racing. Like others said, I can have a pimping 5 min power or whatever, but if I cant put it down on the trail, its worthless.

One big question I ask myself is if training on the MTB on technical stuff will be as effective at rising my FTP then training on the road with steady power efforts.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:08 am 
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Use road bike for recovery- also do some interval training on road bike. Especially flat tempo. Many mtb racers are actually bad on the flats. Long steady climbs can be good on road bike too. I feel like I need to stay focused more and stay on the pedals more on long road climbs.
On the mtb work at what you are bad at. If it is technical skills train on single track.
If you need work on technical climbing, do that too.
There are enough days in the week to mix it up.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:02 pm 
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devinci wrote:
One big question I ask myself is if training on the MTB on technical stuff will be as effective at rising my FTP then training on the road with steady power efforts.


No, technical mtb-riding will probably not be as effective at raising your FTP as steady-power road intervals. But doing steady-power road intervals will probably not be as effective at raising your trail-speed as technical mtb-riding :wink: So you should really just ask yourself what your goal is, getting a high FTP or getting faster on your mtb?

If you want to become faster/better at riding your mtb - just ride your mtb. XCO racing is full of short anaerobic efforts, and in my opinion you should therefore focus on repeated sprint ability and VO2max instead of FTP.

FTP training will not affect your VO2max and anaerobic capacity, but VO2max + sprint training will raise your FTP as well as your "high-end" power..


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:17 pm 
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xcforme wrote:
devinci wrote:
One big question I ask myself is if training on the MTB on technical stuff will be as effective at rising my FTP then training on the road with steady power efforts.


No, technical mtb-riding will probably not be as effective at raising your FTP as steady-power road intervals. But doing steady-power road intervals will probably not be as effective at raising your trail-speed as technical mtb-riding :wink: So you should really just ask yourself what your goal is, getting a high FTP or getting faster on your mtb?

If you want to become faster/better at riding your mtb - just ride your mtb. XCO racing is full of short anaerobic efforts, and in my opinion you should therefore focus on repeated sprint ability and VO2max instead of FTP.

FTP training will not affect your VO2max and anaerobic capacity, but VO2max + sprint training will raise your FTP as well as your "high-end" power..


Quite interesting.

BUT, ftp training will improve your uppper threshold limit, therefore, marking a line between WHEN (at what power) you will go anaerobic and when you wont. Bigger aerobic engine = going less often anaerobic and recovering faster from hard efforts.

I'll have to balance the road and mtb training well.


boots2000 wrote:
Use road bike for recovery- also do some interval training on road bike. Especially flat tempo. Many mtb racers are actually bad on the flats. Long steady climbs can be good on road bike too. I feel like I need to stay focused more and stay on the pedals more on long road climbs.
On the mtb work at what you are bad at. If it is technical skills train on single track.
If you need work on technical climbing, do that too.
There are enough days in the week to mix it up.


MTB'ers being slow on the flats. My main hypothesis on that particular observation is this one: AEPF (quadrant analysis) being pretty different from MTB vs steady effort. MTB falls in quadrant 2 IIRC (low cadence high force) while steady riding fall in the high cadence low force quadrant. I think training on the MTB in trails primarily helps developping power in that particular quadrant, wich is a requirement in MTB racing.

interresting guys...


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:54 am 
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XCO has undergone quite a change over the last few years, long gone are the days of 2-3hr races with long draggy fire road climbs. In an effort to make to sport more spectator friendly and make for better televised viewing the races are now much shorter, on avg. elite races tend to be about 90mins. The laps are shorter, more compact, more technical with short hard climbs and as such demand that they be ridden at an alarming pace throughout the entire race. Elite level riders now need to be much more powerful to compete in events like these being able to spend the entire race duration at threshold and above whilst still being able to ride smooth technical sections :shock:

Thankfully I only race XCM, I think the demands for this type of racing are slightly different and although I believe for my age I possess quite a high standard of fitness I know I would get spanked at a true xc race.


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Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:54 am 


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:57 am 
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Wouldnt it be another reason to focus on threshold work and higher efforts? I think a good plan would be to use the road bike for long efforts and use the mtb to hammer the technical trails while doing long rides.

Riding smoothly while on the rivet is quite a task at the moment :lol:


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