If you ride the same trails time and again and want to have even more fun on them here are a few suggestions on how to keep things fresh and get fitter too.
1. Boost your ride lengths
We all have a favourite loop and it’s easy to stick to that route every time you head out for a regular midweek ride, doing it on repeat. Although, in the first place, that’s a great thing to be doing, you’re missing out on something called volume progression — basically, increasing the duration of your ride from, say, 60 minutes to 90 minutes, to cause an increase in workload that stimulates physical developments.
So think about how you can extend your favourite loop slightly. Progressively adding a mile or so, or incorporating tougher climbs, will give you big improvements in all the right departments.
2. Challenge yourself
Take a leaf out of the Athertons’ book. They have stretches of road and trails that Rachel, Gee and Dan have set benchmark times on, so they know how long it should take them to ride. The challenge they set themselves is to go as hard as they can, each time they ride those sections, to try and beat their times. On your regular loop, set at least one segment where you have to step up your effort. This increases the metabolic demand of the ride and is a great way to build up your fitness.
3. The dreaded ‘S’ Word
Strava. There, we’ve said it. Many of us use the app – we love it, hate it, have been fascinated by it and have spent many afternoons on our bikes, riding as hard as we can to try and take all the local KOMs. If you pick and choose your times to use it, and forget about the fact that you’re 135th on a stage you didn’t realise you were even riding, then Strava can be a good tool to motivate you to push up that climb, even as your thighs are screaming.
4. Get your race head on
If you regularly head out with a group of riders, or even just a couple of mates, try including some mini races within your trails, like you did when you were a kid. Last one to the finish buys the beers — not too many though, you’re supposed to be getting in shape! A mix of short, sharp sprints, longer drags and technical sections will show who’s the powerhouse, who’s the whippet and who’s got the skills. It genuinely builds fitness and motivation — plus it’s damn good fun.
5. Nasty hills
It might sound like we’re trying to make your life miserable here, but seriously, we’re not! Deliberately put the hardest climbs you can into a ride and make them a regular challenge. Preferably hit them as hard as possible, and allow yourself recovery time when you’ve conquered the hill. Just think how good you’ll feel at the top! You’ll also notice how they become easier over time, as both your fitness and climbing technique improve.
6. Two birds, one stone
Riding to work is one of the best ways to get in some serious bike time, without even thinking about it. We know a 40-year-old triathlete who’s in amazing shape. He bases the vast majority of his training around his commute to work, which is eight miles in each direction. That shows it’s possible to get into good shape even with a busy life. You could try riding to work once a week, riding into work and taking the train home, or driving halfway and riding the rest – whatever works for you!
7. Tyre changes
If you regularly ride to work, especially if the route is mostly on tarmac roads or cycle paths, is your bike set up as well as it could be? Think about the basics — saddle height, suspension lockout, tyre pressures and even the rubber itself. A pair of slicks can turn a chore of a hill into a breeze — or if you’re going after the burn, try using under-inflated knobbly tyres. These are only for masochists who want some extra resistance training, though!
8. Hunting roadies
Not to be rude to our shaven-legged brethren, but try using them as a benchmark. If you normally ride steadily during your commute, up the intensity for parts of the ride. If you see a road cyclist up ahead, can you catch them? We know a guy who used to ride a BMX into Birmingham and try to sprint past anyone he saw –— he said the look on their faces was worth it! And his sprint and anaerobic power increased markedly in just a few weeks.