How to hack your mountain biking skills to the next level |

How to hack your mountain biking skills to the next level

Racers rip down singletrack at Keystone Bike Park as part of the Big Mountain Enduro Series and North American Enduro Tour.
Sebastian Foltz / Special to the Daily |

Few things are more frustrating for trail runners and mountain bikers than hitting a plateau. And, if you’ve been doing this long enough, you know it can hit anyone, even die-hard fitness junkies who spend most of the winter months on the treadmill and stationary bike.

Never fear — there’s hope for you yet.

“It’s important to not burn yourself out or over-focus when you’re training for a race,” said Kelly Gerken, fitness supervisor with the Breckenridge Recreation Center. “There’s a mental conditioning coach, named Chris Jenzen, and he says it’s important to let your mind have downtime from running, as well as your body.”

A training regimen for cardio-heavy summer sports like cycling begins early, long before the thick of race season, and taking a methodical approach will help your body and mind reach a peak at the exact right time.

Full body training

Sometimes, road cyclists and mountain bikers alike get too caught up on training in the saddle. Spin classes and solo workouts are fine and dandy, but, if you plan to hit Summit County’s endless singletrack this summer, you need to look at the whole picture.

“The legs are of course a huge component, but your calves and upper body are also huge,” said Renee Rogers, fitness coordinator at the Silverthorne Recreation Center. “When you’re really climbing up a hill and engaged, you want a strong back and core. The stronger you can be up top, the longer you will last.”

In other words, biking ain’t only about meaty thighs: about 75 percent of every pedal stroke comes from your calves, Rogers says, and anyone eyeing rides of five or more hours needs bicep and tricep strength to handle sustained uphills and downhills.

After a ride, be sure to show your body a little TLC with a simple recovery. Rogers suggests walking and gently circling your ankles to stretch out your calves. Another option is heading to the pool for a cool-down, and always being sure to hydrate throughout. “You want to flush out the lactic acid anytime you’re active,” Rogers said. “If your muscles are working one direction, you want to stretch them in the opposite direction. Think about biking: You have a few hours of the forward motion, so you need to stretch back, into the back of your quad, after you’re done.”

The moves

Standing calf raises: Stand straight, with heels slightly apart and arms at your sides (weights optional). Slowly rise to your toes, hold for three counts, and then return to your heels. Repeat 20-30 reps for three sets. When it gets too easy, add weight, stand on a stair with heels hanging over, or use a seated calf-raise machine.

Leg curls:

Hamstrings, quads and calves are all intricately connected. To build hamstring strength, try a seated leg curl machine (legs curl beneath the body) or a prone machine (legs curl over body).


Biceps, triceps and pecs are vital for long, sustained climbs. Keep your back straight and core activated throughout. Try 10-20 reps for three sets. Increase as needed. The goal here is endurance, not strength.

Bridge position:

This one works your legs and core. Begin on your back, with knees bent and heels planted 6-12 inches ahead of your butt. Keep your eyes on the ceiling and lift your hips. Hold 10-30 seconds and return to the ground. Do 15 reps for three sets.

For an advanced bridge extend one leg when your hips are lifted. Return to the ground and lift the other. You can also add a fitness ball beneath your heels and roll in with every lift.

Seated back rows: This one works your biceps, triceps and upper-back muscles. On a seated back row machine, grip the handles and lean back until your body is slightly past 90 degrees, with knees slightly bent, back straight and shoulders stacked. Pull handles to your chest in a controlled motion. Try 10-15 reps for three sets.

For an advanced exercise try single-arm rows on the machine or bent-over rows with dumbbells.

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