If you are like me, you are always looking for ways to improve your off-road performance and skills.
Now, there are a lot of ways to become a better cyclist and very few of them require you to spend your next paycheck on new bike. Of course new tires or a set of wheels will help, but here are some cheaper alternatives.
Here are some training tips that will help you dramatically as we enter the sprint months of training.
Ride With Better Cyclists
One of the best things you can do to improve both your fitness and skill level is to hit the trail with cyclists that have greater skill levels than your own. Riding with others exposes you to different techniques. You can learn more about climbing, bunny-hopping and cornering by watching and emulating fellow cyclists than by reading every word ever written on the subject of mountain biking. Riding with others can also inject a healthy dose of competitiveness that often spurs you on to greater efforts.
Get in More Miles
You can improve your overall fitness level by laying down a strong foundation of base miles. Base-mile rides consist of long duration efforts (usually more than two hours) that are ridden at relatively low intensity. The intensity should be 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Riding long, slow distance miles is vital to increasing your long-distance muscular efficiency and cardiac output. While this may sound like common sense, you'd be surprised by the number of cyclists expect their fitness to improve after only riding their bikes an hour or so each week.
Add Speed Training
If you've increased the amount of miles you're riding, you should also increase the intensity of some of those miles. Just as you'd reserve one or two days for slow, long-distance rides, you should also reserve a few days for short-duration, high-intensity workouts. Make a game of doing several short sprints during these rides. Follow the sprints with some very slow riding so you are able to catch your breath, regain your strength and ready yourself for the next sprint. Obviously, these speed-training sessions are going to be fairly short, (maybe only an hour or so in length) but that's the beauty of such rides. Implement speed training into your weekly schedule and you'll be amazed at the gains you'll make in short distance sprinting and climbing strength.
Use a Heart-rate Monitor
Until a few years ago it was difficult to gauge the intensity of your training rides. Cyclists could only tell that they'd pushed themselves hard by encountering intense feelings of perceived exertion or how out of breath they were. Now that we have heart-rate monitors, measuring the intensity of our workouts has become much easier. Because your heart rate is directly related to the intensity of your workout, measuring your heart rate can help you quantify how hard you're riding.
Add Weights to Your Program
A well-planned weight-training regimen can help increase your speed and strength. Start light and gradually ease into lifting exercises such as squats and lunges for your lower body and dumbbell flies, bench press and triceps kickbacks for your chest, back and arms.
Try Some City Training
Riding the same trails day after day can quickly lead to boredom and a performance plateau in your cycling. You can prevent cycling burnout and dramatically increase your bike-handling skills by trying some alternative training. Take one day off each week to hop on your bike and horse around your neighborhood. Have you ever hopped curbs or climbed a set of steps? You might be surprised, but the skills gained from mastering these urban obstacles will prove essential on the trail when it's time to clear a fallen tree branch, power over a rocky climb or work your way through some tight and twisty single track.