A trick to getting the most out of the time you have is to multi-task. We do it at work and home all the time but few riders realize that you can multi-task on the trail. By following a few simple tips you can get more fitness and skills work out of every ride.
I know that some riders will wonder why you would want to be so serious and try to turn everything into a training ride, yet I wonder why you wouldn’t want to improve and see what the trail reveals to you when you have achieved the next level of skills and fitness. You think you’re having fun now but you don’t even realize what kind of fun you’re missing out on because you don’t have the skills and fitness to “see” it.
Here is a quick story to illustrate this point – a few days back I saw a cool opportunity to use a flat rock as a lip in order to gap a 6 foot section of trail and use the backside of another rock as a landing. I’ve ridden that trail dozens of times and never realized that was there because I was never going fast enough for my brain to realize I could make the gap. My skills and fitness were not at a level that let me “see” the move that was now readily apparent to me. A super fun trail just got a bit more fun because the trail revealed something new to me thanks to my increased skills and fitness.
Obviously you may not be looking for sections of trail to jump over but the same thing will happen on climbs and descents. You’ll suddenly start to see the trail differently because your increased skills and fitness will make you see it through different eyes.
And far from sucking the fun out of a ride (I don’t monitor heart rate or go out with as pre-set number of miles I have to cover) the tips I am about to share with you will keep you more engaged on the trail. These tips are about how to turn any ride into the type of deliberate practice you need to really improve. They help you make small incremental improvements every ride which, over time, will help you take your riding to levels few get to.
Here are my Top 3 Tips for Getting More Out of Every Ride:
1. Stand and attack as much as possible. No one has ever told me that they feel strong on hard, standing pedaling efforts but they feel like they are going to blow up when sitting down and spinning the flats. If you want to use your regular rides as training rides the best thing you can do is face your weakness and force yourself to stand more so you can get strong and comfortable in that position. Once you do this then you will be able to stand up at will and lay down extra power.
2. Practice your skills. First, you need to know what you are working on but once you have done some research or taken a clinic you should be practicing something every ride. Whether it is body position, vision, cornering or some other skill, be conscious of what you want to do, what you did do and what you need to correct. This will turn a regular ride into the type of deliberate practice needed to really improve.
3. Ride like you’re doing intervals. There is no award for having the most constant pace so hammer the trail hard in some areas and spin and recover in others. It is too easy to get into the habit of going just hard enough to make it through a trail section instead of going as hard as you can. As you work on pushing yourself harder you’ll find that you can push longer and your average effort will go up as well – what used to seem like a hard pace won’t feel as hard.
One of my favorite things to do is go on a 30-60 minute ride with my seat post set halfway down (that way it sucks to sit so I want to stand) and hammer out the trail as hard as I can that day. I try to stand and attack as much as possible, sitting only when I need to in order to recover for my next hard effort. I also go out with a specific skill I am going to practice. Lately I have been working on leaning my bike and not my body in corners and it has been helping a lot.
These rides have helped me improve a lot as a rider over the last few years. Yet, when I’m out on the trail I rarely see riders doing the same thing. There is little thought put into what they are doing and how they might be using that ride to improve. Instead they are usually on autopilot, riding the same trail in the same way as they have for the last several years.
Hope fully these tips can help you turn more rides into opportunities to grow and improve. Having more fun on the trail is what it is all about and by being more engaged and working on improving your skills and fitness when riding you’ll give yourself more chances to do just that.