Enduro Training for Cross Country

July 2015

Enduro racing is on the rise worldwide and more and more DH stars are choosing to race the new format. But XC racing is still king, and you can embrace a little enduro to help you get faster going both up and downhill. There are 3 areas of focus from enduro style training that you can use to improve and to make you a faster XC rider: 1. Off the bike workouts 2. Skills 3. Confidence 

Off the Bike Workouts

In enduro and DH racing, you are essentially in a wrestling match with your handlebars. They want to rip out of your hands with every bump and drop, while you certainly don’t want to let them go. How do most of those guys seem to hang on, when us mere mortals struggle and crash? It all comes down to core work, and strength/mobility off the bike. That handlebar moving around and a much heavier bike underneath is a tough beast to tame. An improved core can make bike handling much easier for you, but also allow you to not burn precious energy and effort when you are going all out.

Foundations: Do this simple 12 minute workout 2 or more times a week. This will vastly improve the entire body, but also keep your back happy and open up your hips. What mountain biker doesn’t have a bad back!

Push-ups/Dips: Easy to do, can do at home without any equipment. These can really help you take control of that handlebar! Start easy (5-10) and work up to multiple sets. Focus on form rather than speed.

Core: There are a million core workouts to do, and I won’t go fully in-depth, but pick a few favorites that you like and work on them. When that handlebar is moving around, it doesn’t move in a perfect vertical plane. You need to have a strong core to move the bike around and win that fight.

Bicycle Kicks, planks & Superman are all simple core exercises that you can do quickly and easily at home every day without the need for a gym


Skills pay the bills for sure in Enduro - Richie Rude is a lot faster than JHK, even though JHK is much fitter and would crush him on a climb. Think about if you could descend a 5 minute hill 5 seconds or even 30 seconds faster, for not nearly as much effort as required to go the same amount faster on a 5 minute climb. 3 laps around the course and you just closed the gap to and dropped the race leader!

Hit up an enduro race, there are races every where across the country now. They can really show you how much faster you can go through the trail and down when you isolate it into short focused segments. There’s nothing like pushing yourself to the limit and managing to keep yourself upright, all while riding as fast as you can! You’ll learn to step up your technical and descending game quickly once you put a number plate on.  

Take a Skills Clinic! We have one going on right now with Myles Rockwell who knows a thing or two about skills (he won the World Champ DH race in 2002!) Skills clinics are great ways to learn the proper way to do techniques in a safe and comfortable environment. Learning a technique the correct way can save months or years of struggling to get something right. The top pros in XC all have personal instructors that they work with to help them improve. No skills clinics around? Find a local fast guy to help with our check out these Global Mountain Bike Network videos

Pump, pump, pump it up. By now I’m sure you’ve seen Aaron Gwin’s run without a chain (or Neko Mullaly’s 4th at Worlds). It’s one of the most impressive pieces of bike riding I’ve ever seen. How can he beat the best riders in the world without a single pedal stroke! Learn to pump terrain for speed, you can get faster without even pedaling! Pumping is a simple but underutilized skill. TrainingPeaks has an excellent article here on how to ride a pump track. But pumping can really help you get free speed and learning to ride while just pumping also can help you to learn to carry speed in sections and have you going faster down the trail without nearly any effort. Dirt Mountain Bike mag, did a set of sessions comparing chained vs chainless and they were even keel with the times or faster chainless!! The biggest change was in effort as chainless riders utilized significantly less energy over the segments.

Practice! Practice makes perfect! Go out and work on skills and techniques, and do it again and again and then one more time. Basketball players might shoot 8 free throws in a game, but they shoot 100 in practice each day. Work on segments and sections over and over until you get them right consistently. Just because you got it right 1x doesn’t mean you will always get it right. You want to practice until you can’t get it wrong. Learn to ride those difficult sections that you may encounter in a race. In the World Cups now they have huge drops, gaps and more. Things that are extremely difficult and you need to be able do when you are full gas! So you need to have it right during your practice.

Build Confidence

Your confidence will rise when you work on your skills! Most mistakes and crashes occur because of hesitation. This simple holding back, causes you to tense up and be tight, when you should be free and loose. When you work on your skills and get more confident, you learn to ride a bit looser and more relaxed. This can help you stay under control when things go wrong and bring it back and prevent that crash. Confidence can give you that boost to make an attack through a technical section, close a gap or pass a rider on a descent. Feeling good and being confident late in the races can make the difference between a podium place or watching them spray the champagne!

Workouts to get you faster while incorporating skills work:

Trail Sprints: 4 x 3 min on 3 min OFF

Trail sprints! Do an all out effort on a technical section of trail. It is very functional because it requires you to make power out of turns and ride with good form while fatigued.

Find a short but fun section of trail. Looking for flat-ish/lightly rolling to slightly downhill. Not a full downhill section or even a full climb.

Do 4 x 3 min on 3 min OFF- Don't worry about 'power' here but get that HR pegged up and focus on staying up to speed, going as hard as you can, but also being smooth and fast on the trail. You can work on increasing the length & number of the efforts as you improve during your training.

Trail Threshold: 2 x 20 min on 10 min off

Zone 4 threshold hr/wattages-do these on a trail.

Don’t be worried about the true power effort of these, what you really want you to do is get out on the trail and just peg it as hard as you can for the duration of the efforts, Just focus on going as hard as possible all while staying smooth. Great chance to peg it on a fun loop or even shoot for a Strava KOM on your favorite trails.

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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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