Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Mountain Bike Lessons – pt. 1

I've taken up moutain bike racing over the past couple of years. Though I'm not an expert, I've realized that the lessons I’ve learned from racing have made me more effective in other areas of my life. For those of you who are interested in learning more about bike racing, I’ll list what I’ve learned. For those of you with no interest in racing I’ll use my next post to explain how these lessons can be used to improve effectiveness in other areas so you can reap the rewards without all the physical exertion.


  • Intense Training. I train at an intense race pace at least once a week so my body adapts to high exertion levels and learns how to recover quickly.
  • Moderate Training. I ride at a moderate pace for distances that are further than a normal race at least once per week in order to train my heart, lungs, and legs for endurance.
  • Easy Training. I spin easily at least once a week to improve my recovery time.
  • Supplemental Exercises. I perform squats and lunges at least once a week to build power for rapid acceleration and sprinting. I use no weights, just my body weight and do three sets of each exercise with enough repetitions so that my legs are tired the next day.
  • Measure. I measure my progress over time so I can learn what works well for me and what doesn’t. I simply use a stop watch and an excel spreadsheet to track my time on weekly bike rides. Later I may use a heart monitor and GPS to get more data and more accuracy.


  • Warm up. I warm up for 10 minutes prior to the race. During warm up I ride at 50-60% of my maximum pace to make sure I am thoroughly warmed up. I try not to time it too early or else I will cool down before the race starts. I also try not to time it too late so I don't miss the start. I've found it can be scary to warm up for so long, it feels like I am using up energy that should go toward racing. However, I've learned if I jump into a race cold I put my body into a state of shock and then spend a good portion of time just recovering from the hard start.
  • Get a good start. I ride as fast as I can at the start in order to secure a good position. Passing areas are at a premium and it is bad to get stuck behind someone while the front-runners gain a commanding lead. On the other hand i've learned that I don’t want to get so far ahead that I run out of steam and burn out early.
  • Use psychology. I want the riders behind me to feel I am unbeatable even when I am suffering and pushing myself to the very limit. I try not to let other racers see me suffer. If I am in twisty terrain I give little bursts of speed when the riders behind me can't se me and and then settle back into the saddle again, this makes my pace look faster than it really is.
  • Keep energy up. I consume electrolytes before and during the race to reduce the risk of cramps. Endurolytes from Hammer Nutrition have worked well for me both before and after a race. An energy drink, such as Cytomax, helps keep energy up during the race.
  • Recovery. I eat well, drink lots of water, and stretch after the race so I feel ok the next day.
  • Frequency. I go to as many races as I can, nothing teaches how to race better than getting out there and doing it.


Tami said...

Jason, Great advice. I was never that organized about my training schedule but I did most of the things you mentioned to some degree. I probably rode hard more than once a week because I was riding with other people that were faster than myself. That always made me push myself harder. One other thing that helped me was to arrive at the race site a day early to pre-ride the race course at a slow pace. That way I new when to spend or save energy and where the good places to pass were located.
Happy Trails!

denise said...

I find that just in the middle of a race my quads burn and they do not stop burning. Any suggestions?

Jason said...

That's funny - mine do too. I think its the nature of racing :).

I did notice that diet plays a huge role in recovery. I went for months with constantly tired/burning legs and after upping my vegetable and fruit intake the problem went away. Must have been some nutrients I was missing!

Macie D said...

I also noticed the nonstop burn on my quads no matter how much I adjust myself. Good daily stretches including before and after a race helps. Eating complex carbs like oatmeal before the race can help. To strengthen your quads, do exercises like squats or leg lifts. If you have a treadmill at home or a facility, walk backwards and slowly increase the incline. This will strengthen your quads like no other.