MTB fitness and strength when climbing

MTB fitness and strength when climbing

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Bathroom_Security

Original Poster:

2,007 posts

78 months

Monday 7th September 2020
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Whats best way to improve?

Just practice, rinse and repeat? Repeatedly cycle up hills I struggle with in the surrey hills as that's where I ride?

Worth me introducing weights back into my life?

Was out with a group last weekend and they left me for dead up some of the steeper stuff in surrey around winterfold and even on pitch. Was embarrassed. Its not like I could even match their pace up hills for a a brief moment. Really want to get out with them again as they made me push myself harder than I have for ages but I also don't want to hold them up all the time, they were patient with me though.

MetalMatters

480 posts

10 months

Monday 7th September 2020
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Weight is my issue, far too much chub per foot of climbing.

I’m about 6 stone heavier than when I used to ride a lot, currently struggling on anything resembling a climb..

I’m doing interval sprints to get back in some kind of shape and then I’ll build up to some climbing.

okgo

30,050 posts

159 months

Monday 7th September 2020
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The simple answer is keep going out with them, it will come. You're just less fit than they are/heavier/a combo of the both. Nothing to do with weights, all to do with your cardio vascular fitness, and potentially endurance also, which also will benefit from just doing more of it.

Tall_Paul

1,869 posts

188 months

Monday 7th September 2020
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How long have you been riding?

I've been through this over the past couple of years, having started MTB again 2.5 years ago in my late 30's after a 15+ year gap.

My fitness at the start was lacking, so much that in the pedally trail centres I was riding, I wasn't able to enjoy the downhills as I was still buggered from the uphills!

Being able to climb well involves 2 main things - endurance and strength. Endurance, or stamina is when you're spinning away on a 'normal' climb and your heart is going 170bpm and you're out of breath, when those around you are chatting away about their latest upgrade.

Strength is that short, stupidly sharp climb which you can't spin up, or the 7th brutal climb of the day when your legs just don't want to push any more...

I've been there with a lack of both.

The cure? Riding. Lots.

The best thing to build stamina and strength is just to put in the miles, try and ride 2-3 times a week.

If you can't ride that much, look at running...

Last winter when we had 6 months of rain and mud, I knew I wasn't getting out as much as I needed to keep my fitness up, and I knew I didn't want it to slip and fall into the 'unfit' zone again, so I started couch to 5k in December. 4 months later I was running 10k, and I've pretty much kept it up since then - alternating between running and riding primarily.

I'm now the fittest I've ever been, with the strongest legs, at age 39 - however due to me focusing on running, I've found that I've had the endurance in spaces but my legs were running out of strength before my aerobic capacity was done, the last few weeks I've been riding much more and climbing really steep, technical climbs has been much easier.


So, tl:dr - ride lots and lots, if you can't ride, run (it really does build up leg strength dramatically) and when you've started to get a decent level of fitness, keep it up - you have to maintain it once you get there.

I did a 48 mile ride on Saturday with a few k ft of climbing, then 11 miles the next day with 1600ft climbing on which my HR barely got over 150bpm (max is 188) - 2 years ago I'd have needed a weeks rest after the 48 mile ride...

Bathroom_Security

Original Poster:

2,007 posts

78 months

Monday 7th September 2020
quotequote all
Weight wise im overweight, but gone from mid 16 stone down to 14 8 today. Continuing at around 1 or 2lb a week. Not drank since December, diet is fairly good now

I cant run, I hate it and I've injured myself so to get round that I bike probably 6 times a week, road bike most evenings but the rides will vary from a quick 8 mile blast to a 20 mile ride (with good sustained effort). Will increase that mileage soon just because fitness is allowing it and i have decent lights now. New to road biking.

Mtb is usually 2 hrs on an evening a few times a week although darkness has stopped that for me now, to 3 hrs on a weekend, usually both days

Been riding just over a year, lockdown absolutely fked my fitness which is why I got a road bike. But im about where I was before lockdown. Its not that i can't do the climbs its just i have to do them slowly at 170bpm while the others are chatting about cars or upgrades half was up the hill as you say. I started at Swinley last year and I couldn't make it to the top of any of the hills there without being severely out of breath or stopping yet now if I go there I barely struggle at all so somethings improved.

I'll see if I cant sort some lights out for the mtb and get out with them on an evening and just keep pushing myself.

frisbee

3,153 posts

71 months

Monday 7th September 2020
quotequote all
Check they aren't riding e-bikes!

Castrol for a knave

1,778 posts

52 months

Monday 7th September 2020
quotequote all
Bathroom_Security said:
Weight wise im overweight, but gone from mid 16 stone down to 14 8 today. Continuing at around 1 or 2lb a week. Not drank since December, diet is fairly good now

I cant run, I hate it and I've injured myself so to get round that I bike probably 6 times a week, road bike most evenings but the rides will vary from a quick 8 mile blast to a 20 mile ride (with good sustained effort). Will increase that mileage soon just because fitness is allowing it and i have decent lights now. New to road biking.

Mtb is usually 2 hrs on an evening a few times a week although darkness has stopped that for me now, to 3 hrs on a weekend, usually both days

Been riding just over a year, lockdown absolutely fked my fitness which is why I got a road bike. But im about where I was before lockdown. Its not that i can't do the climbs its just i have to do them slowly at 170bpm while the others are chatting about cars or upgrades half was up the hill as you say. I started at Swinley last year and I couldn't make it to the top of any of the hills there without being severely out of breath or stopping yet now if I go there I barely struggle at all so somethings improved.

I'll see if I cant sort some lights out for the mtb and get out with them on an evening and just keep pushing myself.
Mountain biking can be a funny thing fitness wise. i can be at my fittest, racing road and cross bikes and jump on my MTB and make child birth noises all the way up a hill.

I figured it was due to my core being weak. Sure, you need core on a road bike, but I find on the MTB is comes in to play much more. A good core means you engage the glutes more, which is a big muscle group and really can make a difference.

Also, look at your gearing and cadence, try to hit the hill almost spinning out and then let the drivetrain take up the slack, rather than hitting a slope and changing up as you go.

Also, I ride clipped in, tried flats but found that I could be more efficient if clipped in - try that if you use flats.

Finally, use the winter to build endurance - no more than zone 3 on the road bike for 20 miles. At this stage you need to build bottom end, no need to concentrate on high intensity, threshold stuff. Just steady 80% effort max to spin the legs and build the base.



Tall_Paul

1,869 posts

188 months

Monday 7th September 2020
quotequote all
Bathroom_Security said:
Weight wise im overweight, but gone from mid 16 stone down to 14 8 today. Continuing at around 1 or 2lb a week. Not drank since December, diet is fairly good now

I cant run, I hate it and I've injured myself so to get round that I bike probably 6 times a week, road bike most evenings but the rides will vary from a quick 8 mile blast to a 20 mile ride (with good sustained effort). Will increase that mileage soon just because fitness is allowing it and i have decent lights now. New to road biking.

Mtb is usually 2 hrs on an evening a few times a week although darkness has stopped that for me now, to 3 hrs on a weekend, usually both days

Been riding just over a year, lockdown absolutely fked my fitness which is why I got a road bike. But im about where I was before lockdown. Its not that i can't do the climbs its just i have to do them slowly at 170bpm while the others are chatting about cars or upgrades half was up the hill as you say. I started at Swinley last year and I couldn't make it to the top of any of the hills there without being severely out of breath or stopping yet now if I go there I barely struggle at all so somethings improved.

I'll see if I cant sort some lights out for the mtb and get out with them on an evening and just keep pushing myself.
Road biking is good for fitness, but an 8 mile ride is probably barely worth it, unless you're going flat out for those 8 miles. On a road bike you should able to average 13-16mph fairly easily so 8 miles is 40 minutes, if that.

If you're doing a weekend road ride, try and aim for 30+ miles, so 2 hours or more. Running is much more efficient time wise, so if you're only cycling you'll need to do an hour minimum each ride to see much benefit.

Intervals can be good, but I like to think that MTB is one big interval session biggrin climb hard, chat and recover and the top, charge downhill with a decent HR, then repeat...

TBH, sounds like you're already doing what you need, it won't hurt to introduce some weights (core and compound stuff will be good, ie squats, deadlifts, rows, farmers walk, planks etc.) but the best thing to get fit for cycling is cycling. Unfortunately it's not something that happens overnight, but you'll probably not notice it until you're on a group ride and realise you're one of the first to the top of each climb.

Losing weight will help massively for climbing too, the lighter you and your bike are the less your body has to work. I'm 6ft 3in and 12st 7lbs and probably won't get much lighter, it's still disheartening when someone 5ft 3 and 10 stone scampers up a climb like a whippet out the traps biggrin

A good idea if you have strava is to pick a local climb/segment and ride it as fast as you can, then every 8 weeks or few months or so, attempt it again - it's a great to see your progression that way.

There's a 2.6 mile, 550ft climb near me that I pb'd at 16:12 in May 2019, then 15:32 in June 2019, then 15:06 in April 2020, and then 14:50 a few days ago. So a minute and a half knocked off in that time.


Edited by Tall_Paul on Monday 7th September 18:27

Brads67

3,199 posts

59 months

Monday 7th September 2020
quotequote all
Loose any chub, forget weights, get a road bike and do plenty miles.

You get cycling fit by cycling.

Kawasicki

8,491 posts

196 months

Monday 7th September 2020
quotequote all
You probably don’t need strength, you probably need aerobic fitness.

It’ll come fairly quickly if you are consistent with the training. Don’t overdo the training to the point where your training consistency suffers. I went from pathetically weak/unfit to fairly fit in 6 weeks.

My arse hurt though. It wasn’t the saddle!

_Hoppers

569 posts

26 months

Monday 7th September 2020
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Do intervals, apparently

Tall_Paul

1,869 posts

188 months

Monday 7th September 2020
quotequote all
Kawasicki said:
You probably don’t need strength, you probably need aerobic fitness.

It’ll come fairly quickly if you are consistent with the training. Don’t overdo the training to the point where your training consistency suffers. I went from pathetically weak/unfit to fairly fit in 6 weeks.

My arse hurt though. It wasn’t the saddle!
Yeah deffo aerobic fitness if he's chugging up the climbs at 170bpm.

For that - some base miles (zone 2/3 for 1-2 hours) but also just getting in the miles. That's why I took up running and will start it again in earnest in a few weeks when the weather turns, I'll be doing 20-30km a week with 3x runs, or 2-3 hours running, that would be 6+ hours riding for the same effort for me.

TwistingMyMelon

5,915 posts

166 months

Monday 7th September 2020
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Intervals and lose weight

I do find cx/mtb use core/upper body more than road , so a small weight routine helps , although cardio and weight is more important


Evanivitch

7,930 posts

83 months

Monday 7th September 2020
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frisbee said:
Check they aren't riding e-bikes!
Haha I thought this too!

As many others have said, do the miles. But also worth on your breathing rhythm, make sure you're using the right gears at the right time, and maybe a few bodyweight squat and lunge sessions will help build.some strength Inbetween rides.

And stretches for recovery!

PomBstard

4,250 posts

203 months

Tuesday 8th September 2020
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In addition to what others have said, one of the ways I try to improve my core whilst on the road is to find a gentle slope upwards and ride no-handed as far up as you can go. Improves balance too. Unless you fall off, then it undoes everything.

For me, its riding with SPDs. I've recently gone back to flats to improve my technique, but I'm still significantly quicker uphill when clipped in.

Using Strava or similar is a good way to test your improvements or to set a goal on a decent climb. It doesn't have to be KOM or top 10, maybe top 20% or similar, or better than one of your mates biggrin

Rich135

672 posts

203 months

Tuesday 8th September 2020
quotequote all
I cycle in the Surrey hills too and just had 4 weeks off riding and it hurt to come back!

My advice is do some running if you can (3km is enough) to improve your breathing and heart rate, and do lots of MTB riding, hitting the hills. Road biking won't help you train much for hills, it's such a different style of riding.

What bike do you have, and what bikes do they have? If you're is full sus, is it locked out? You can lose a lot of energy with the bike just jumping up and down as you peddle. Some bikes are made to make climbing easier, but try going uphill on a "downhill" enduro bike and you will suffer badly. You may just have the wrong bike.

Rich

okgo

30,050 posts

159 months

Tuesday 8th September 2020
quotequote all
Rich135 said:
My advice is do some running if you can (3km is enough) to improve your breathing and heart rate, and do lots of MTB riding, hitting the hills. Road biking won't help you train much for hills, it's such a different style of riding.
rofl

WHERE DO YOU PEOPLE GET THIS STUFF! It's actually insane.

wobert

3,135 posts

183 months

Tuesday 8th September 2020
quotequote all
My input would to be to lose weight.

Since 1/1/20 I’ve been on a weight loss program and I’m currently at 85kgs having started the year at 102kgs.

This alone has made a ‘night vs day’ difference to my riding and every hill is now approached ‘at full gas’ as a challenge, rather than a hindrance.

That +18kgs makes such a difference.



Edited by wobert on Tuesday 8th September 11:48

Castrol for a knave

1,778 posts

52 months

Tuesday 8th September 2020
quotequote all


Just.

Zone 3.

Whether you're running, MTB or road bike, Zone 3.

No point hammering away at intervals, HIT sessions and wotnot. You need base endurance, everything else slots into place after that.

Mastodon2

13,292 posts

126 months

Tuesday 8th September 2020
quotequote all
Rich135 said:
Road biking won't help you train much for hills, it's such a different style of riding.
Out of interest, could you elaborate on this? I'm not a MTBer but I'm interested to know why road biking isn't good for hill climbing training.