Mountain biking is a much specialised area of activity and should not be clubbed with other forms of road biking or the casual trips of a workout freak. It is definitely a very daunting proposition requiring peak levels of fitness and specific training schedules. A part of mountain biking preparation is rigorous training on the road which prepares you both physically and mentally to go for off road biking. The trick is to plan for each event of mountain biking well before the race and train accordingly. Most importantly, training schedules will vary as per the type of race you want to start off with. Here are a few options for you.
- Cross country – Held on a mixed terrain of flat and mountain circuit typically of 6 to 8 km. Ideal for preparation for those starting out in this sport.
- Downhill – It is a time trial event and is held in steep downhill terrain. Hence bikers will be experiencing higher speeds than cross country races. Bikes have to be equipped with long travel suspension and hydraulic disc brakes.
- Free-ride – It is not a matter of speed but more of skill. A typical free-ride course is spread over obstacles, cliffs and sharp drops. Scoring is dependent on the choice of route, skills and the time taken to complete the course.
- Marathon – This is the toughest form of mountain bike racing with distances varying between 60km to 100km which has to be completed in one race. Riders have a mass start from one point and have to finish at another point. It can be a very gruelling experience and is generally attempted by seasoned pros of this sport.
Apart from these main types of mountain bike racing there are others like stage races, bike trials, dirt jumping and dual slalom. Your training schedule will be based largely on the category that you want to start off.
Make your training for mountain bike racing systematic and take small steps at a time. Taking your bike to the most challenging terrains initially and trying them out will only leave you susceptible to falls and injury.
Given here are a few tips for training that you will do well to follow.
- Get a good bike – This can make or break your training programme as a good bike will ensure that you can tackle the rough terrains with ease. A good top of the line mountain bike can be very expensive so you can settle for a second hand one in very good condition. Have it checked by an expert mechanic first before making payment. For cars there are mandatory benchmarks that need to be followed for buying used ones but there is nothing of the sort for bikes. In Australia, if you are buying a used car, say in the State of Victoria, you have to compulsorily get a roadworthy certificate in Melbourne from a certified and accredited garage before the deal can be finalised. But no such specific rules exist for bikes and you have to be very careful in this regard. Incidentally one of the reputed service stations in Melbourne for issuing this certificate is Western Auto Services.
- Choose the right event – Choose the type of event that you want to participate in and train as per its requirements. It is always preferable to start with cross country racing as these are of shorter duration with a mixture of the plains and the mountains. It is a test of expertise and endurance as well as riding skills. Once you have got the hang of these races, you can slowly graduate to pure mountain biking.
- Specific training schedule – After you have chosen the event, you have to train accordingly. Is the course mainly climbing or downhill, will a lot of technical skills be required – these are some of the questions that need to be answered. Ride as much off-road as possible to get the feel of the bike. But do not ignore long sprints on tarmac just to build your stamina. A few days before the event, train exclusively on the type of terrain you will encounter.
These are some of the tips for training in mountain biking.