Riding Tip: 7 Ways To Find Energy On Longer Mountain Bike Rides

by Robb Sutton

Long Mountain Bike RideIn the northern hemisphere, fall is coming up and that means sunny and 70 weather that is so perfect you want to never leave the trail, so longer mountain bike rides are on the horizon.

Last night, around our usual Tuesday night mountain bike ride table at dinner, we started talking about longer mountain bike rides and how to keep the energy flowing as the miles start to pack in. It seems, that everyone has their breaking point. Whether it is a time limit of a mileage barrier, every rider has a wall that hits at some point in time during the ride. As the weather gets better, we ultimately want to stay on the trail longer, so the mileage of rides tends to increase. So…how do we keep our bodies willing to go the extra distance?

Knowing Your Body and Your Limits

While the following tips and suggestions will help you on longer mountain bike rides, ultimately, it comes down to you and your body. There is a learning curve to figuring out your own personal limits and what combination of food, fluids and technique will get you up and over your wall. However, there are certain things (spelled out here) that you can try to increase your rate of success that tend to work for most riders. At the end of the day, getting out to ride and testing different solutions will bring you where you need to be. Every rider’s body and fitness level is different, so you need to find what works best for you.

7 Ways To Find Energy On Longer Mountain Bike Rides

Here are some tips and tricks to try out on your next ride to increase your distance on the trail.

  1. Slow Your Roll – One of the biggest issues I have run into in the past with longer mountain bike rides is getting in a proper warm-up. I tend to want to hit the trail balls out right away, and that leads to problematic results down the trail. On longer mountain bike rides, extending your warm-up period and taking it easy in the beginning is essential. If you start to hammer right off the bat, you are not allowing your body to get in a proper warm-up which robs you of vital energy down the road (can also cause cramping later).
  2. Eat/Drink Early and Often – On longer rides, you are going to want to bring extra food and fluids…that is a given. However, many riders try to save everything they have in their pack for the end of the ride. This mistake brings you behind the 8 ball, so by the time you start drinking and eating…your body is play catch up instead of producing energy for the ride. While you may not feel like you need water and food during the beginning stages of the ride, that is one of the most important times to start the eating and drinking process. Just remember to stage it out so what you have will last you through the distance.
  3. Energy Drinks and Infused Nutrition – On longer mountain bike rides, it is a good idea to bring along some fluids and nutrition that are designed to carry you the distance. These normally include energy drinks and performance specific foods. While some riders are able to eat the heavy bars and energy drinks the entire ride, I find that my body does not like heavy food while riding and during the later miles in the ride…I really crave water, so here is what I do. My hydration bladder gets filled with as much water as it will hold (typically 100 oz) and then I will fill a bottle with Gatorade (preferably the powder kind). This gives me an energy drink for the ride while still having plenty of water on tap for those thirst cravings. On food, I bring along Clif Bloks Margarita flavor (infused with salt), some kind of nutty trail mix and bananas. This combination of food keeps me rolling without making me feel like I need to throw up on the side of the trail.
  4. Get In A Good Breakfast (Add The Bacon) – Your body loves fatty breakfast food when you hit the trail to use as energy over the beginning hours. Do not be afraid to add on bacon and eggs before the ride. That fat and protein will go a long way.
  5. Change Positions On Long Climbs – One of the tips I really picked up from road biking was changing climbing techniques on longer climbs to keep more energy. If you sit in the same position, spinning the same cadence for too long, those muscle groups will start to get really tired and wear out. By gearing up a couple of gears, standing up and changing hand positions, you can keep your body fresher on the climb by using different muscle groups. I like to put the bike in the middle ring or down a couple in the rear and stand up for a little bit. It stretches out my legs and rests the primary climbing muscles before sitting back down and spinning.
  6. Drop A Cooler – On some rides, you might actually be able to drop a cooler somewhere on the route where you know everyone will need refills on water and food. While this is not possible on every trail, it is a life saver on longer rides when possible.
  7. Wear A 3/4 or Full Zipper Jersey – Even on cooler rides, your body temperature is going to rise as you start to get tired. By wearing riding clothing that breathes better and provides ventilation, you can cool your body back down and find more energy. On longer FSR climbs, we will even take our helmets off in direct heat to cool our bodies down faster. If there is anything you can do to faciliate getting heat out of your head or upper half of your body…do it because overheating will bring you to a screeching halt.

Longer rides equal more time on the trail and the ability to hit more remote locations…you just need to make sure that once you get out there…you can get back. By keeping these tips in mind as you hit the trail, you should be able to break past the time and mileage barriers to get in longer rides.

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