I don’t know why but I have become obsessed lately with the whole “pedaling endurance” concept. The more I think about it the more I think it holds the key for most mountain bikers to take their riding to the next level. And far from being just a DH rider concept, this idea applies just as much to trail riders and XC racers.
I was going over the new programs with a couple of my riders this weekend and in talking with them I mentioned a saying I’ve heard many times before – Fatigue masks fitness.
No matter where you are or what type of riding you do this saying applies to you. When you get tired your “fitness” is hard to display. However, what is important to note is that fatigue from one thing can affect your fitness in another area.
Let me give you an analogy to illustrate my point – take a powerlifter who can easily squat 600 pounds. Most would admit that he is very “fit” from a strength perspective. However, have that same guy go run a 10K and then try to squat – I guarantee you that he won’t be squatting nearly as much as he usually could.
Now, take a runner who can cover a 10K in under 40 minutes. Have them do a max effort squat workout and then go run – again, they will not be able to run as fast as they usually could.
What we have here is a guy who is strong but had that fitness masked by fatigue from an endurance event. Conversely, we have a runner who has great cardio but it was masked by fatigue from a strength event. In both cases you had people who were “fit” relative to their sport but had an unrelated event mask their fitness.
This is what I think happens to a lot of trail riders and XC riders, especially those who automatically write off a lot of my advice as being “DH specific”. No matter how great your cardio levels are, if you get to the end of a ride or race and you have been physically beat up by the trail you will feel sluggish and tired.
Your physical weakness will mask your cardio fitness on the trail. Unfortunately, a lot of riders who get to the end of a long ride or race and feel their legs going out on them misinterpret that as meaning that they need to work on their pedaling endurance (i.e. more long rides and other cardio stuff). However, what they really need to do is get stronger so that the trail doesn’t beat them up so bad that they are excessively fatigued when they get to the end of a ride.
No matter how long your average ride or race, lack of physical strength will take its toll on you and make it hard to show your cardio/ pedaling fitness towards the end of a ride. This isn’t even taking into account how stronger riders can plow into technical trail sections faster and with more control. Add it all up and how strong you are starts to become even more important to how fast and long you can ride.