Miles in the legs – How to get faster on the trail

For many mountain bikers it can become difficult to get faster, it can become difficult to keep improving and we begin to wonder how the heck the elite guys do it. So why is it so difficult and how the heck do I improve my speed on the trail? Endurance miles is one of the keys to increasing stamina and performance. This is extremely important when it comes to endurance events such as gravity enduro races that can stretch for 4-5 hours and require you to not only hit the downs as fast as you can, but to ride up the liaison stages to get the next start gate….

With the off-season upon us in Australia and winter snow falling in the Northern Hemisphere, now is a great time to start your off-season training and to work on your base fitness or base endurance. This means spending time in the saddle and chasing the endurance miles (or kilometres), which will boost your base fitness level and stamina. This means longer rides at a steady pace, many people turn to a road bike for this but why spend time on a bike you don’t like riding? A cross-country or trail bike will do the job and you will feel at home on the bike instead of lashed in lycra and dancing with cars.

The longer your races, the longer your rides

It should go without saying but the longer your races, the longer your training rides should be. Keep in mind that you are not riding at race speed, you are trying to build aerobic capacity and are riding in zone 3 if you are using a heart rate monitor. This means you should be able to hold a conversation whilst riding and should be cruising along at 75-80%, with an aim of riding longer not harder. This may mean that you will need to check yourself on the downs and stop yourself from pinning it, saving your legs for the distance rather than the intervals.

A wise move is to ride on some easier terrain or terrain that isn’t excessively steep on the climbs to keep your heart rate from peaking for long periods of time. Generally speaking, I try to stick to cross-country trails when I am trying to punch out endurance miles, I find it is easier to keep a steady pace and stops me from wanting to pin it and aim for the next strava personal best. If you are pushed for time, this might mean riding on the road, gravel or if you are really stuck an indoor trainer will get the job done.


heart rate zones
Heart rate zones


Build slowly and pace yourself

Like any part of your training program, it is important to build slowly and not just go hell for leather out of the gate. You wouldn’t go to the gym and just start lifting a 50kg dumbbell so why would you go out and try and hit an unrealistic goal straight away? The key is to slowly build on your rides, try and make all of them at least 2 hours in duration and as many times a week as your life allows, but keep in mind there are other areas of your training that will require time as well. Try and increase the distance you ride each time, if you ride 30km then try and aim for 35, then 40 and so it goes. For some people this might come quicker than others, it all depends on your base level of fitness.

It’s important to balance your training with fun, so make sure you incorporate a ride a week that is just about having fun on the trail, use it to improve your skills, work on your cornering or just relax with your mates. Pace your training and build your endurance miles, it will help you improve your stamina when it comes to racing, increase your base fitness and in turn make you faster on the trail……



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