STRONGER / FASTER: Our guide to winter road riding

// Words by Ben @ MTBStrengthFactory
// Images by Jacob Gibbins
// Illustration by Monet Adams

Do you want to go FASTER and STRONGER? We’ve teamed up with Ben from MTBstrengthfactory to show you how.

In part 1 – we’re talking Road Bikes. Miles on the road will make you stronger this winter.

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First up, the fundamentals… :

// Set yourself and the bike up for winter with mudguards, lights and decent clothing.

// You may be able to incorporate road training with commuting to save time.

// Every ride should have a specific purpose like endurance, power etc.

// As you approach the race season you should spend less time on road and more on dirt.

// Have a training plan and stick to it. You can make your own or use a coach.

// Shaved legs are not cool.


Ride it, don’t hide it

For many mountain bikers the thought of wearing lycra and swinging a leg over a road bike for training is probably pretty alien. In fact it may actually physically repulse you!

Despite these feelings, there is no denying that most of the top World Cup DH racers will be putting in the road miles this winter as part of their training for the next season. Whether you’re the next Gee Atherton or just want to beat your mates, time on the road will make you a stronger rider.

Remember, Lycra is optional and you can do all of this on a hardtail if you don’t already have a road bike!

// Read our review of the Saracen Hack – a great “road bike for mountain bikers”


Take control

Riding on the road makes it easier to train. Here’s why:

“Road riding is predictable and offers a fairly consistent place to train regardless of weather”

Environment: Whilst we may love riding in the wet and mud, nobody likes the post-ride admin of hosing off bikes and kit and trying to properly look after your pride and joy. When the trails are wet and muddy it is easy to use this as an excuse not to ride, especially for city dwellers who may keep their bike in the house and may not even have a garden with a hose.

Control: Road riding is predictable and offers a fairly consistent place to train regardless of weather and other factors. This means that you can go out to target certain physical attributes by riding at certain intensities for different periods of time. Slippery, muddy trails make it hard to maintain prolonged, steady state efforts in particular.

Endurance: Riders with a better endurance base will recover from each run more efficiently enabling them to practice and race at a higher physical intensity regardless of their levels of skill. This is clearly going to give you an advantage when it comes to a race run on Sunday afternoon with 10 practice runs under your belt. You will recover quicker, train harder and that all leads to increased performance when the season starts.

Other Physical Properties: As well as endurance we can use the road rides to target important physical properties like anaerobic endurance and the ability to produce power for short bursts. It ties in with the fact that we have control over the riding environment and that lets us target specific areas in order to become faster riders. This can be hard to do on a mountain bike … especially a downhill bike.

Save Your Body: Apart from your bum the road bike is less physically demanding on your body, and your upper body in particular. If you are carrying an injury or are recovering from a bad shoulder or something then a road ride is a great option to keep your fitness up whilst you may not be able to get out and shred the good stuff.

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Train with your brain … and then with your road bike.

” 1-3 hour rides, low intensity, spinning a low gear”

Going out and riding aimlessly on your road bike will only get you so far. Each ride should have a specific purpose, like endurance, anaerobic endurance, or recovery and they all take place at different intensities and over different distances and times.

Through November to early February endurance building road rides can be a regular feature of your weekly training.These should be 1-3 hour rides, low intensity, spinning a low gear.  As a guide, you should be able to chat comfortably to a mate at this intensity of riding.

Going into March and the spring you will be focussing more on building power and developing your anaerobic abilities (sprinting hard or for longer periods) and you can do this partly on the road and partly on your MTB. During the spring and summer you may still want to complete road based endurance ride every 2-3 weeks to help maintain the gains you made over the winter.

At the opposite end of the spectrum would be doing some disgustingly hard anaerobic interval training. You work as hard as you can for 2 minutes, before recovering for 2 minutes and repeating. This is a high intensity session and the road is one of the best places to do this. These harder rides will come later in the winter as we approach the race season. We’ll talk about those in a couple of months…


Let’s recap…

// Get your bike set up for winter with mudguards, lights and decent clothing

// Set aside time to train … Can you use your commute as a training ride?

// Make a plan and stick to it. Don’t just ride aimlessly!

// For November to early February aim for low intensity, 1 to 3 hour rides at a steady pace



That’s it for now! Follow these tips and you should be on your way to a winter of getting faster and stronger. Keep it up and you’ll be a better rider in no time. 

Stay Strong!



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