Here is something I’ve been pondering lately. You’ll have to bear with me for a minute because when you first read this it could sound pretty crazy…
How important is pedaling endurance for downhill and 4 cross riders? Let me qualify this first…
I was talking with a very successful DH coach and he mentioned that he did not understand why riders rode a trainer at the top of the hill. He said that a rider will take about 3-5 cranks out of the gate and then coast. His point was that there is not a ton of actual pedaling going when compared to the total time on the bike. Also, pedaling is very short bursts of cranking as hard as you can.
I was also watching an old MTB video and saw some of the pro guys ripping the Mt. 7 Psychosis DH run. I was just floored by how fast they were flying and realized that their ability to absorb impacts was key in letting them go that fast. A weaker rider would have been forced to slow down or else get tossed off the trail.
They were also not pedaling a whole lot. To me, this meant that their eccentric strength levels were actually more important than their ability to pedal for 5 minutes straight. Skills also seemed higher on the list. I’d also rank total body power endurance as playing a bigger role than pedaling endurance.
So, my point is that there may be more important things that contribute to DH and 4X success (my friend Lee McCormack had some interesting insights on the 4X side things). Perhaps it doesn’t come down to “cardio” as much as we think it does.
What I’m talking about here is pedaling endurance – the ability to pedal continuously for an extended period of time. Think about it for a second. In both races you crank hard out of the gate and then you stop pedaling and start coasting. You are not pedaling for the entire length of the race, you are catching pedals where you can or need to.
What percentage of either race are you really pedaling? How long is the longest single pedaling effort?
Talk on the DH World Cup Circuit is that the tracks are getting steeper, more technical and less pedaly. In my mind, eccentric strength and strength endurance become more important than the ability to pedal as hard as you can for 4 minutes straight.
4 Cross races are won or lost at the gate for the most part. Snap the gate, get the hole shot and then stay smooth, cranking where you can. To me the most important thing to train for is that hole shot making hip strength and power more important than the ability to pedal continuously for 30-60 seconds.
Just to clarify – I am not saying that pedaling endurance is not important, just that it may be over emphasized for some riders. Simply some food for thought on a Monday morning. Anyone have some insights or opinions on this?