Follow these 5 tips to help you train for enduro mountain biking
© Sven Martin
Professional mountain bike coach Alan Milway shares his expert advice on how to train and become a better enduro rider.
Enduro racing blends the best parts of downhill racing with adventure and the riding large distances of cross-country. It's a fantastic day or weekend out with friends, as well as an amazing race event. Here are renowned mountain bike trainer Alan Milway's tips and nutrition advice for becoming fitter for these longer distance rides.
1. How to build endurance
An enduro race is not over in five minutes. In fact, it's often not over after five hours so endurance – as the name indicates – is key. The ability to maintain effort for long periods of time is a primary demand for this discipline so build your aerobic capacity through long, steady rides.
Riding very hard on Enduro style stages at the weekend is great, but to succeed in a race you need to complete multiple stages, often over two days, so having this distance trained into your legs is necessary.
2. Get out on training rides
Heart rate monitors are useful for this style of training, as you don't need to go too hard or at a high intensity. Building your 'engine' at a biochemical level involves steady state, aerobic exercise, where lactate actually hinders some of the areas we are looking to establish so keep a rev limit on these rides, make them interesting, and cover a lot of ground.
Aim for rides over two hours in duration, and closer to four hours if you can. You'll need to fuel during rides, and for these efforts volume is more important than intensity. Just remind your training partners of this when they shoot off up the first climb.
3. Work on your downhill riding skills
Where a downhill race is focused on one track ridden at the highest speed, an enduro race often has six stages to be ridden at full speed so skills are key here. If you're limited by your skills in even one of these stages, your overall time will suffer significantly.
Skills practice is often overlooked by riders – they just go out and ride, but don't section parts of tracks as often as they should, to truly learn the best lines and the best approach for a section. Modifying this approach to have a clear improvement in skills as an outcome for the ride will make a big difference. Skills coaches can help a lot here, too, and are well worth the investment.
If you're new to mountain bike riding, use the trail grading system to build up to progressively more challenging sections. When you're comfortable riding the technical sections, start to repeat these to try and improve your speed through them. Trail centres usually have graded routes, and these allow for good skills progression.
4. Build strength in the gym
Although you need to cover a lot of ground over the course of an Enduro event, the stages themselves are at full pace and often similar in nature to a downhill stage. Very hard bursts of pedalling, rough terrain, sections to pump and sprint, and climbs to power up. Having strength and power in the upper and lower body will contribute to stage times, and maximise control on the bike.
Although you're not looking to set records in the bench press or deadlift, having strength in the push and pull, as well as lower body through leg strength development, will be seen on the bike. Hitting the gym is clearly useful and should be part of your training.
As a good starting point, I would suggest using a squat, lunge, and deadlift to build lower body strength, and then inverted rows, TRX rows and chin ups as progressions for upper body pulling movements. Press ups, dips and bench press are great as progressions for upper body pushing movements.
Check out Millway's Instagram to see some of these exercises at work.
5. Take nutrition seriously
To keep your energy levels up beyond two hours requires you to take in fuel along the way. Carbohydrate is king here, and having snacks, drinks and gels are all good ways to keep energy and performance up.
Often, poor results in long duration events can be explained by poor nutrition on the day so be very aware of this. Store food on the bike, in your hydration pack and in your pockets, with a wide range of carbohydrate snacks. During a long day, caffeine can be very helpful, too, and help sustain effort and focus. Recovery will be aided by taking in protein alongside carbohydrate. You don't need pre-packaged food for your high carb snacks – homemade rice cakes, flapjacks and peanut butter and jam sandwiches will all help fuel those long races and rides.
Alan Millway has been training elite mountain bike athletes for over 13 years. Visit his website for updates on his training sessions.