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I am a pathetic rider...
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been biking for about a year now, and after seeing a measurable improvement the first month, I have plateaued in my performance level for the past 11 months. it isn't that I am not pushing myself or riding enough. I do probably 5-6 hours of trail riding a week and always wait till I fall over from lack of momentum before walking a climb. But the same climbs that winded me after the first month are winding me after 12 months. I also time myself on the 6 mile loop I do the majority of my riding on, and I haven't been able to progress at all. I had one sprint run of 40 min, but unless I ride hard enough that I can't do the loop again, I can't get past around 50 minutes. My riding buddy a.k.a. father, is almost 40 and is whooping my a$$ on the trails, even though I am the one who got him into the sport. He has progressed noticably I am 16 and have no real athletic background to speak of. Any tips at all? should I make a loop around my neighborhood with a lot of climbs and do it alot? should I watch what I eat more? I am 215 and on my way down, so I don't eat THAT unhealthily. I am really frustrated here, any tips you guys? :madman:
 

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Sounds like you're getting plenty of riding in. Just to keep it interesting, switch it up, ride your loop backwards and time it that way. Or search out some new trails to expand your skill levels. You can only progress so much on the same terrain, but if you challenge yourself on new trails, you may learn a few tricks that can help you on your primary loop. The trail review section here is fantastic for locating new trails near you.

I wonder also if you're just out of shape from the winter? I don't know where you're riding, but my spring fitness level sucks compared to fall. I drop off a lot in the winters here in VT.

I'm no trainer, so all I can really say is ride because it's fun. If you're losing weight, and thats your goal, then you've nothing to worry about, as long as you're having a good time riding. It's great that your dad is out riding too.
 

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You must go on harder trails. Push your skill level further than before. Only once you push your skill further, on more technical trails, will you be able to come back and whoop your Dad on your regular trail. Once you learn the really hard stuff, your regular trail will seem easy. This is the best way to learn and to improve.
 

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Suffers From Binge Biking
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Another thing you may want to look at is your cadence. Cadence is how many times one foot makes a complete revolution in one minute. I had been riding for years without ever knowing about this important little word, and found out I had been riding wrong all those years. Beginners tend to pedal too slow, in the range of 60-70 (rpm, if you want to think of it that way). It's actually more efficient to pedal between 65-85, and possibly higher going up hills. The beginning of this article has a good explanation of cadence http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears.html For the first couple rides, pedaling at a higher cadence will feel awkward and feel like you're bouncing around a bit, but you'll learn to smooth out the stokes and it will become more natural. You can either just use a stop watch and get a rough idea of your cadence, or get a bike computer that will keep track of it for you. I got this one and have been very happy with it http://bikeline.com/itemdetails.cfm?id=2389 I hope this helps some.

By the way, you don't need to be clipped in the maintain a high cadence. I'm still using platform pedals.
 

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It's hard to say what you are doing "wrong " without seeing you ride. Something you might try to increase your speed is riding with someone who is better than you and following their line that they take on the trail. Much of the time better riders simply take better lines over and through areas that you may not have thought to ride in such a manner. I can think of several instances where I would consistently struggle with a certain area of a trail. One day I just sat there for 20 minutes or so after failing to get up the section and watched other bikers. It's a 30 degree slope up some tough slick rock-like trail that I usually would try to slowly pick apart by zig zagging my way through. Most of the guys that were faster/better riders went straight up a line I never thought to take. When I tried it, it blew my mind. I ended up following one guy up and back down the rest of the trail taking his line exactly and found a couple of trouble spots that were MUCH easier that way. It really made me look at attacking a trail in a different manner.
 

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If your normal loop is 6 miles you should be doing 3 or 4 laps of it each ride. You don't gain as much if you aren't pushing yourself to the limit consistently. A single lap at maximum intensity will never match numerous laps at a slightly lower pace. Most people don't really even get their first wind until 30-45 minutes into a ride. If you push yourself just past your first limit I think you'll be surprised how your body recovers and starts to really get into it. If you are new to clipless pedals focus on pedaling in circles instead of pushing every stroke. As much as I hate computers I agree with marsh rider that you are most likely a person that could benefit from a computer with a cadence function. Cross train too. You probably already know that you could stand to lose some weight. Do some core exercises. Crunches every day would be a good plan for you. Also start stretching. Don't stretch cold though. Get a 15-20 minute warm up then do some gradual but tough stretches. Try yoga. You'd be amazed at the muscle control it gives you.
 

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I am a pathetic rider...
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the prompt and helpful responses. Cadence really isn't an option because i ride SS. I could change gears however... Thanks again.
 

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I've been riding for about 17 years. The first 6 months I noticed I improved considerably compared to the first month or two of riding... but I still smacked a lot of trees, wrecked a lot and got passed by a lot of other riders. I finally asked my buddy who got me into riding what I could do to improve... he told me ride behind other guys who are better and watch their technique, the lines they take, how they set up for a climb or descent and apply them to my own style. This helped me out... when I was still wrecking. When someone passes you, see if you can hang on behind them, see if you can pick up some new technique that you can apply to your skills.

As I mentioned I've been riding about 17 years and I'm still learning... you'll never stop learning. And just when you think you've got a good handle on your skills, you'll learn something new.

But give it time, it'll come to you.

PS: one thing I enjoy doing when I ride is never letting the hub spin freely if I can... I try to maintain a constant spin no matter how fast or slow I'm going. I wouldn't say that it's going to improve your skills, make you a better rider or anything like that... it's just something I like doing.

One other thing I learn from my buddy in the first 6 months of riding is to push/pull... there may be some better way to describe this, but as you're spinning down the trail, push through with one leg and pull through with the other leg at the same time.
 

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I think the problem might be more simple then you think. Unless you are 6'7", 215 pounds is a lot to be carrying around. And because you said you have no athletic background...meaning you are not a musclebound football player...most of it is not the helping kind of weight if you know what I mean.

Go to a race...at the start line of an expert or pro race look at the guys physique and you will understand what I am saying. In a sport where a pound or two makes a difference..you are probably carrying 30-40 extra pounds. Think about how much weight that is you are carrying up a hill. I do not have a huge amount of experience biking..but have been a runner and athlete all my life. Unless you are in a sport where weight is an advantage (football) you are at a distinct advantage carrying extra weight. Especially in an endurance sport.

It seems you are putting the excercise in, but you will need to either be more patient as the weight comes off...or start to really change your diet and have it come off faster. Try eating smaller portion sizes, and eat 5 smaller meals a day. Needless to say keep stay away from crap food. You get down to a normal BMI you will be rocking it and making the 40 year old cry.
 

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Big Gulps, Alright!
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I plateau every swim season. Practice harder and harder and hold the same times. After a hard week of practice (read: hell week in Ft. Lauderdale) my times actually slow down.

But then I taper come championship time (drop the yardage and intensity) and allow my muscles to build and I spit out some fast times.

How does this relate to mountain biking? If you ride the same trail day after day - you will plateau on said trail. Find a new challenging trail to conquer (or ride your old trail backwards) and you'll see a difference.

Or, if you ride on a steady schedule, try taking a couple days off. It could be that your muscles need time to regroup.

If nothing else, work on your technical skill for a while. Mountain biking is a sport that you can always get better at in more ways than one. Try some technical obstacles and improve your bike handling skills.
 

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Its all very similar to jogging/running. If you run the same loop all the time..you are only conditioning yourself to that. Many experts (though I'm most definatly not one) say that you should mix it up...try sprinting on your bike a bit, then ride normal, sprint again for a bit..mixing it up conditions your body better. Switching up not only your riding habits, but locations will help as well. It will introduce different challenges to your body, thus, further conditioning yourself. Also, make sure you have a decent warm up and are not starting right on the trails. A warm goes a long way! Good luck
 

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ride the moment
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A healthy diet is crucial no matter how much you weigh. You gotta stoke the furnace! As for riding, definitely try to find a new trail like the others said. You can also do some intervals. As simple way to do intervals is to find a hill that you just barely ride to the top, but short enough that it only takes a couple minutes and you can do it without stopping. Now just ride up to the top, then ride down and take a few seconds to cool off but not too much, then repeat until you get worked. If you can't make it to the top on one lap, get off and run (not walk) up the trail with the bike to keep your heart rate up. If you do this once or twice a week in addition to your regular rides, your climbing will get noticeably faster. On the downhill sections, your body position is very important as far as handling. Also learning to use the front brake properly gives you more confidence to go fast. Basically you want to stand up and get your body behind the saddle, then couch down a bit. On really steep sections my saddle touches my stomach. Look farther down the trail instead of right in front of you. Stay loose.
 

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given that you ride the same loop all the time, as its probably the most local to you. try making a specific goal for each ride. I want push myself for a faster time. I want to push myself harder on only the climbs. I want to work on staying loose on downhills. i want to use the brakes as little as possible. i want to work on my breathing.
while you are still on the same trail, it becomes a different one with a different goal in mind.

I am by no means fast. but I find my riding gets better on the all out rides if I have worked on specifics for several rides and then go all out again.
 

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Okie Dokie said:
I think the problem might be more simple then you think. Unless you are 6'7", 215 pounds is a lot to be carrying around. And because you said you have no athletic background...meaning you are not a musclebound football player...most of it is not the helping kind of weight if you know what I mean.

Go to a race...at the start line of an expert or pro race look at the guys physique and you will understand what I am saying. In a sport where a pound or two makes a difference..you are probably carrying 30-40 extra pounds. Think about how much weight that is you are carrying up a hill. I do not have a huge amount of experience biking..but have been a runner and athlete all my life. Unless you are in a sport where weight is an advantage (football) you are at a distinct advantage carrying extra weight. Especially in an endurance sport.

It seems you are putting the excercise in, but you will need to either be more patient as the weight comes off...or start to really change your diet and have it come off faster. Try eating smaller portion sizes, and eat 5 smaller meals a day. Needless to say keep stay away from crap food. You get down to a normal BMI you will be rocking it and making the 40 year old cry.
Yes, weight is a big deal. It probably doesn't translate perfectly to biking, but in running the general rule is that you get quicker by 2 seconds per mile per pound of weight you lose if the effort remains the same. So someone who can run a 10k at 8 minute pace could immediately improve their pace to 7 minutes, 40 seconds per mile by losing 10 pounds (even without gaining any cardiovascular fitness).

Weight is a really big issue. Read a little about pro road cycling and see how much those guys pay attention to their weight when approaching a big race. The last 2 or 3 pounds lost to "put them on the edge" can make the difference between winning and being just another contender.
 

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local trails rider
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Forget about your lap times, unless you plan to race.

In a few years of trails riding, the biggest change has been the improvement in skills: coping with the rough or steep sections. I suppose I've got a little faster too but much of that is because I am no longer afraid of the rough spots. Some improvement in fitness is inevitable: I still weigh more than I should but my waistline is getting smaller.
 

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its not all about weight.. im 50lbs heavier than my girlfriend and ride a heavier bike and im faster climbing, and its not even close going down.. we went on a ride with a couple friends who im easily 70+lbs heavier than and i was stopping and waiting quite a bit.

as my weight comes down, im getting even faster, sure its less mass to carry around the trail, but weight isnt the ONLY determining factor in being a fast rider.

if you're never really pushing yourself, you'll never really get faster.
. I had one sprint run of 40 min, but unless I ride hard enough that I can't do the loop again, I can't get past around 50 minutes.
try sprinting to get that fast 40 minute lap, and when you think you cant do it again.. do it again! you know you can burn yourself out on a 40 minute lap, so do that and take another slow, calm lap. if you keep at it you'll notice your second lap gets faster and faster, and then you'll notice you can push that first lap even harder.
 

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I am a pathetic rider...
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
nachomc said:
Is your dad riding SS also?
No, my dad is riding a gearie, but he climbs like he is on an SS (shifts up, stands up and hammers) I will try to do all of these techniques on the trails like intervals, and sprints/cooldowns, and most of all, I will try and drop some pounds! I don't know if I can get down to 180 because although I am not a football player, I do have a rather big frame. I am 6'1 and am bigger build wise than anybody in my family. however I should be able to get down to at least 195. Thanks for all the tips and encouragement :thumbsup:
-B4 Stealth
 

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You'll find as you lose weight you'll be much faster. The difference in my riding from 235lbs to 210 (where I am now) is huge. I'm 6'3 and a bigger guy also - I'd like to see 205 but..we'll see heh
 
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