Rene Wildhaber and Andrew Shandro / © Red Bull

Are you fit enough to ride???


A recent review on the FAQ’s of some of the premier Mountain Bike Travel sites indicate that riders on these mountain bike holidays require a reasonable amount of mountain bike fitness, but what exactly is that?



The below quotes have been taken from their websites…


“Our trips vary in difficulty but generally they are suited for fit-intermediate (sport level) to expert riders. A fit-intermediate rider is one who can ride 4-plus hours per day, for several days in a row…”

“You are capable of riding 4 hours a day at a moderate pace, and can handle one or two climbs a day up to a total of 300 m (1,000 ft). You exercise regularly throughout the year, at least twice a week for an hour…”

“You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness wherever you are riding – in the UK and Spain there are no lifts available, but even in France and Andorra you will need to ride uphill…”


As a mountain biker and keen traveller, I have often been mentally planning for a mountain bike holiday, but have thought if I will be fit enough to enjoy it?


Forking out thousands of dollars only to be dropped on the first hill, on the first day, does not sound like fun to me and recent rides with friends suggest that my fitness level may not be up to scratch.


Don’t worry,  I have plenty of excuses as to why…ready for it?


  • I don’t have enough time to ride regularly
  • I have family / work / study /children / [insert life issue here] commitments
  • I eat like shit, and am partial to the odd donut


Not really revolutionary, in fact most of my riding mates have the same issues, if not more, yet can still manage to kick my ass on the trails, on the hills and on the flat. In the end it comes down to laziness and procrastination.


So as Dr Phil might say…


Time to Get Serious


So I am going to embark on a reality TV style ‘journey’ to discover what options and resources are available to mountain bikers to improve their fitness and if there are any that may be relevant to a long time mountain biker who has let themselves go and wants to back to a ‘reasonable level’ and ride ‘4 hours of moderate pace’ for ‘several days in a row’.


My search came up with a couple of examples and options to pursue, in the quest to become a better mountain biker.


Mountain Bike Strength Training


I recently completed a boot camp style fitness program which produced positive results for me, incorporating a number of strength and cardio elements, so when I found, what seems to be the only mountain bike specific strength training program that incorporates 9 key elements, I was impressed.


It seemed to make sense that there are a variety of factors at play, which when targeted, can improve your performance, focusing upon your weakest areas.


As described in the video the 9 elements in the MTB performance wheel include:


  • Strength
  • Power
  • Endurance/Cardio
  • Mobility
  • Nutrition
  • Recovery
  • Mindset
  • Bike Set-up
  • Technical Skills


Unfortunately I appear to be weak in about 7 of the 9, so it’s time to start working.

The Ultimate MTB Strength Training program is specifically for mountain bikers written and delivered by James WIlson who has trained a variety of mountain bikers, including  DH champion Aaron Gwin, has appeared in a number of MTB magazines and MTB websites, providing extensive resources on mountain bike specific training. As mentioned before, this appears to be the only up-to-date mountain bike training program available. Have a look at his website and YouTube clips, as he has provided an extensive amount of free resources to view.


Ride a Fixie


Ok or singlespeed – lets not get bogged down in the details…


The riding of a fixed gear bike has been highlighted to me on many occasions from friends who ride one and I have read various articles, such as this one on the benefits of riding a fixed gear bike. The article and  anecdotal evidence pretty much sing the same tune – ride a fixe and you will improve your riding fitness.


This may not be relevant to everybody, but to a punter (read amateur) to riding fitness – like me, I can use all the help I can get.




Maybe it’s time to transform the ’97 Gary Fisher HooKooEkoo, thats sitting in my shed, into the fixie she (yes she) is destined to become.




Classic Mountain Bike Fitness Program


There are countless riding programs available on the net and what seems to be a regular occurrence in the cycling media on a 12 week program to get fast, get fit or complete your 100Km/mile race. Within the sea of training programs there are a couple of standout gems, especially from the marathon and stage race event sites on programs to follow that involve  a gradual increase of time on the bike, with a taper before the event.

© Dave Silver/BC Bike Race


One of the resources that I related to, both the language used and the program suggested was the quick and dirty six week program by BC Bike Race Marketing Director, Andreas Hestler. The program doesn’t overcomplicate with a range of thresholds and heart rate percentages for each ride, but rather goes down the path of guided program, easy to understand that anyone could follow. If want the hardcore, technical program, also by Andreas, try this link.





 The Next Steps


Taking my cue from James Wilson’s MTB Performance wheel, I will be targeting my strength and power weaknesses first in an effort to start the improvement on my overall MTB fitness. As with all good achievements, this will take time, but I feel better equipped to tackle this with a clearer plan.


The other key areas which will be addressed in later posts to improved my mountain bike fitness, will focus on the elements that have been neglected in the past such as mindset, nutrition, mobility and bike set-up. I am keen to explore these areas and the improvements that can be achieved when time and energy is placed upon them.


So over to you. What programs have you used in the past that have made a significant difference in your riding? Gone from being dropped to taking the charge – what were the key changes made?


You may also be interested in these posts:

6 More Ultimate Mountain Bike Races – Part 2

7 of the World’s Ultimate MTB Enduro & Stage Races

3 MTB Products I Can’t Live Without – MTB Review





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