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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wanted to get some baseline thoughts on progression through skill as a mountain biker and what's more important. I realize it probably isn't this simple of a question, I'm thinking more along the lines of chunky trails and dealing with technical spots.

Going downhill through chunk is pretty fun and straight forward to me. I have a rad bike that probably does most of the work for me and I'm still learning and have a long way to go in general regarding skill.

But on the slow climbs through technical areas it's pretty wild to feel the ebb and flow of how when I'm doing a main run by my house I struggle at different points through the climb each time I ride, it isn't always the same obstacles. So what's more or a priority going through the tech on gradual climbs, having the conditioning to just power through some of the chunk, or having the skill to maneuver it? I realize you likely need both and they compliment each other but is there one that's more important as I'm progressing through these areas? I wonder if I should do more conditioning based riding or just continue through my route to get better at it?
 

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Skill beats conditioning, until it doesn't.

Look at it this way. Two athletes of the exact same condition, the one with better skill is faster in all parts of riding. Take it one step further. For the most part, a skilled rider can be faster than riders of better fitness. Look at a road racer who shows up for an XC race and gets blown out. Personal experience, I'm by no means a super skilled rider, but I've been mountain biking since the late 80s and consistently for the last 15 years. I can get on the bike and blow more fit riders away. I corner better, break less and generally can ride expending less energy. Skill is critical.

However, it beats conditioning until it doesn't. Climbs are the equalizer. A fitter rider will typically climb better, depending on the nature of the climb.

Now in terms of the exact point of your question. You need skill to ride through tech sections, climb or flat. No matter how fit you are, you can't clear some types of sections without great skill. My advice would be do it both ways. Spend some days riding and if you dab or step off, so be it. Can't let the tough spots get you down. You'll build conditioning here. Some days, stop at the section that gives you trouble. Try it fresh, try it tired. Look at the line and then try it again. It's ultimately a puzzle and if you unlock this one, it will build your skill for future tough sections.
 

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Wanted to get some baseline thoughts on progression through skill as a mountain biker and what's more important. I realize it probably isn't this simple of a question, I'm thinking more along the lines of chunky trails and dealing with technical spots.

Going downhill through chunk is pretty fun and straight forward to me. I have a rad bike that probably does most of the work for me and I'm still learning and have a long way to go in general regarding skill.

But on the slow climbs through technical areas it's pretty wild to feel the ebb and flow of how when I'm doing a main run by my house I struggle at different points through the climb each time I ride, it isn't always the same obstacles. So what's more or a priority going through the tech on gradual climbs, having the conditioning to just power through some of the chunk, or having the skill to maneuver it? I realize you likely need both and they compliment each other but is there one that's more important as I'm progressing through these areas? I wonder if I should do more conditioning based riding or just continue through my route to get better at it?
It really depends on your trails. I'm a 45 min drive from any MTB so I only go 2 times a month max. I ride my road bike during the week and can keep up with or pass friends fitness wise, but when it gets moderately technically they pull ahead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Much appreciated on the viewpoints.

I'm lucky in I have a really nice trail just couple minutes from my house than I ride mostly. I ride the north end to work everyday which is just a super simple green and flowy with no technicality, but lately I've been looping behind the Southwest end and riding the trail to these switchbacks down to another access parking lot and then just coming back. It's only about 5 mile loop or so but coming back and going up the switchbacks and up back to the North end is probably a higher level blue or so with a lot of chunky rock and a very gradual climb. I can't yet get that full ride in without stepping off, but I've pretty much cleared every section of it at different rides and it's frustrating I can't yet seem to put that one good ride together yet to get the whole loop.

I can feel both the conditioning and skill increasing, the power to weight ratio input really makes me wonder if my strength/conditioning part is just lacking a bit behind where my skill currently is but I know I need to get a lot better there too.
 

· since 4/10/2009
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Both skill and fitness are important, and each comes to the forefront in different situations.

Further, the way you use each is going to vary across the trails. You're going to be using different elements of fitness and riding skill when you're climbing something technical than when you're descending it. Some technical moves require a base level of strength and/or fitness to execute. In all honesty, you're going to be developing both as you progress. And it's likely that you'll eventually reach a point where to progress further, you will need to specifically train. Many riders have little desire to move past that point, so you'll get some responses from folks that you don't need to. Where that point is will depend on the individual, as well. Some riders have enough aptitude and a high starting point for their fitness, so avoiding specific training can still carry them far. Other riders less so and they have to work harder at it to get to the same point.

In this format, it's kindof impossible to give you specifics about what's giving you trouble.

But consider this: a higher level of strength and fitness means that for a given technical section, you can dig deeper before you get tapped out. Getting tapped out on the bike will make various lapses more likely. Being physically tapped out will make you sloppy in your bike control/handling. You will be unable to execute movements with the same level of power and precision as when you're fresh. Being exhausted will also give you less mental bandwidth to process complex situations and make good decisions. In addition, your nutrition and hydration are going to be components of both, as well. If you have skill and fitness, but did not handle your nutrition and hydration well, it's going to give you lower energy reserves that will be detrimental to you both physically and mentally.
 

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Much appreciated on the viewpoints.

I'm lucky in I have a really nice trail just couple minutes from my house than I ride mostly. I ride the north end to work everyday which is just a super simple green and flowy with no technicality, but lately I've been looping behind the Southwest end and riding the trail to these switchbacks down to another access parking lot and then just coming back. It's only about 5 mile loop or so but coming back and going up the switchbacks and up back to the North end is probably a higher level blue or so with a lot of chunky rock and a very gradual climb. I can't yet get that full ride in without stepping off, but I've pretty much cleared every section of it at different rides and it's frustrating I can't yet seem to put that one good ride together yet to get the whole loop.

I can feel both the conditioning and skill increasing, the power to weight ratio input really makes me wonder if my strength/conditioning part is just lacking a bit behind where my skill currently is but I know I need to get a lot better there too.
Power to weight ratio is king. I just dropped about 20lbs and I'm 2-3 gears faster up hills. Literally haven't touched my lowest gear in months. At 6'6" I didn't even lose that big of a percentage of my overall weight, but wow did it make a difference.
 

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It's both.

More strength/endurance = less skill required
More skill = less strength/endurance required
More riding = more strength/endurance/skill
Win/Win
I agree for the most part, I think skill can get you through techy sections easier but that you can often power through technical sections if you don't have skills to navigate them.

Sent from my moto g(7) supra using Tapatalk
 

· Destroyer of Worlds
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My experience is that there are three factors, not two: conditioning/fitness level, skill level, and familiarity with the trail. I find I work a lot less on a trail once I get used to it--probably mostly a matter of picking lines, but also knowing when I can ease up and get my wind back vs having to attack a particular stretch.
 

· since 4/10/2009
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familiarity with the trail. I find I work a lot less on a trail once I get used to it--probably mostly a matter of picking lines, but also knowing when I can ease up and get my wind back vs having to attack a particular stretch.
falling back on "familiarity" is at least partly something you do if you lack the mental skills of being able to read the trail and plan what you're going to do. most people only consider the execution part among riding skills, but the mental skills of assessing the trail in front of you and planning how you're going to ride it are just as important as the ability to execute those plans (which is where fitness, strength, conditioning, and other physical riding skills come into play).

sure, familiarity plays a role when you're working on refining everything and trying to go faster. but a more skilled rider should be able to read the trail faster and more accurately than a less skilled one (and also be able to do so on a more complex trail, farther ahead).
 

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Dersco, I’ve thought about this a few times over the years. We have a local here in Phoenix that rides a bike that by most people’s standards would be considered way to big for him and he easily clears technical chunk that most of us struggle with. He definitely has skills but I’m sure it is his unbelievable fitness that allows him to clean technical uphill sections with ease. On the flip side I’ve ridden with guys that have to rest a lot on the climbs but when it comes time to tackle some technical uphill chuck they also too get through it with ease. I guess the answer is, like many others have said is you need both…and being familiar with the trail also helps.
 

· Rippin da fAt
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It's both.

More strength/endurance = less skill required, but a ton of money for parts and frames
More skill = less strength/endurance required, smaller parts and frame budget
More riding = more strength/endurance/skill, and bikes and parts budget at an all time low needed!
Win/Win
Well, that one is fixed! 😉
 
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