13 Sep Mountain Bike Training
Developments in Mountain Biking
When in 1974 the first enthusiasts, notably Gary Fisher and Tom Ritchey, started riding down the mountains around Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco on old, classic cruisers, they had no idea of the boom that would follow with the invention of the mountain bike. A little later, these enthusiasts added gears to their bikes, thus creating the first genuinely off-road mountain bikes. Now they could not only ride down the mountains, but go back up again under their own steam. At the end of the 1970s, the first mountain bikes were produced in large quantities in sunny California. Almost immediately afterward, the first industrial production centers were moved to Southeast Asia, and thanks to greater quantities and lower prices, mountain bikes also took the European market by storm. The modern components giant Shimano also underwent a boom thanks to countless technical mountain bike innovations.
The first mountain bike races on Mount Tamalpais were downhills with a mass start, and cross-country and uphill races were soon added. In 1990, the sport of mountain biking was officially recognized by the world association, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), and the first World Cup was launched in 1991. Prior to this, from 1987 to 1990, there had been three years of two competing World Champi- onships organized by two associations.
In addition to the above-mentioned races, you can also enter dual slaloms and var- ious trial, fun and stunt competitions as well as speed biking races, in which speed records are attempted.
The development of the mountain bike has not only had an impact on competition, but also on health, leisure and hobby activities. Cycling has experienced a boom that shows no sign of tailing off. In fact, the bicycle as transportation is even in- creasing in popularity due to environmental and traffic problems.
What is the special appeal of mountain biking?
Mountain biking’s all-terrain suitability allows riders to find their own path off the beaten track. It appeals to the spirit of discovery in all of us. It is exciting to explore an area that you have previously only traveled through by car and find hidden areas of natural beauty. The slower speed of the mountain bike allows you to really get close to nature on small trails and paths away from the busy roads where you can explore and actively experience beautiful countryside.
As greater distances can be covered by bike than on foot, even remote places can be reached in a day. You can stop at any time to rest, look around and enjoy the view. On long rides, which may even push you to the limit of your performance, in the perfect and back-to-basics environment you may rediscover forgotten feelings such as hunger and thirst. The feeling of sinking exhausted onto your bed after a hard day’s cycle is another undeniable highlight of a new attitude to life.
As well as all these rather obvious attractions, we can also add the thrill of a fast downhill ride and the feeling of gliding–similar to skiing–that the biker always rediscovers in the mountains. The difficulty of riding down a narrow trail against the resistance of gravity and centrifugal force, or using all one’s strength and skill to negotiate a steep incline, are sensations that excite bikers and keep them coming back for more.
Stunts and Trial
Playing with gravity is particularly fascinating for youngsters, who are unfortunately less and less excited by cross-country racing with its harsh training demands, and who prefer to endlessly practice stunts and tricks. Jumps over natural obstacles and DIY ramps, fast downhill rides in disused quarries and bomb craters and trial manoeuvers over old cars and on steps cast a magical charm over young bikers. They invest all their pocket money in the newest parts and the right gear and spend the whole day on their bikes with no desire to go racing at all.
A Healthy Sport for All
The sales figures for mountain bikes show clearly that the sport of mountain biking is definitely not just for elite racers. Only a small fraction of the bikes purchased are used for racing; the overwhelming majority is used for everyday off- and on- road riding.
Off-road mountain biking is a great sport for families with children because they can experience nature without being endangered by traffic. Driving often for miles at the weekend with the bikes on the car roof instead of riding there by bike is not ideal. Even right next to cities there are usually great locations that can be di- rectly accessed by bike.
The environment should be respected, and mountain bikers should remain on tracks and paths to avoid disturbing the vegetation cover and wild animals in their shelters.
Mountain biking is a stimulating activity for mind and body as a keep-fit and rehab sport. The high number of gears on mountain bikes makes it easy to select the correct exercise intensity. Biking is also demanding in terms of coordination. Longer rides at low intensity on relatively flat terrain are an experience that every keep-fit cyclist can handle. An upright, but not stiff, sitting position and, if pos- sible, a suspension fork or a full suspension bike will considerably enhance the comfort while riding.
Competitive Mountain Biking
The mountain racing scene has evolved from its initial stages when it was domi- nated by ex-racing cyclists and enthusiasts, and nowadays many mountain bikers are completely new to the sport.
Since the introduction of the World Cup, the sport has become very professional and more and more commercialized.
There are certainly no other sports that are as physically and mentally exhaust- ing as a cross-country race over a tough course. Just being part of a mass start and the tension of jostling for a good starting position make your pulse race. During the race you are constantly riding at your performance limit, you are overtaken by other riders, you overtake some riders yourself, you stop yourself from being over- taken, and you may fall and try to ride through technically demanding passages as safely and as fast as possible. To succeed even at a regional level, you must have a lot of training under your belt, a fair amount of natural talent and, above all, be highly motivated to work hard and suffer in training.
The performance level in cross-country racing was really low from the early to mid- 1980s, so that almost anyone could take part in international races, apart from a few elite riders. Today, though, a broad, high-level elite with a professional ap- proach to the sport has formed and explores every opportunity to succeed. competition, it is noteworthy that in mountain biking performances are generally improving.
Once certain mountain bike races become so lucrative that they can compete with the classic road cycling races, strong road pros with thousands of racing miles in their legs will definitely also participate in these cross-country races, and as long as they can manage the technical aspect of the courses and train to race over shorter distances, they will always prevail over the current mountain bikers.
A similar phenomenon is noticeable in the sport of track cycling, which opened to professionals at the Olympic Games and World Championships. Suddenly, in the individual and team endurance disciplines and point races, the pros pulled away from the existing professional amateurs, setting incredible new world records in the process. This was and is possible because they were accustomed to events such as the great tour races, which require a completely different performance potential than would be possible in amateur cycling. A similar development is very likely to occur in mountain biking in the near future.
In the technical disciplines such as downhill, dual slalom and the different trial races, this development will not take place as they require other abilities rather than endurance and strength. Cycling technique and coordination must be trained equally intensively but are more strongly linked than endurance and strength to the rider’s physical talent. It is usually not possible to make a trial rider out of a rider with poor coordination skills, whereas a merely average cross-country rider can go on to be very successful after years of well-planned training. In the technical disci- plines, performance progress is increasingly dependent on equipment innovation and is often the limiting factor, at least in downhill and dual slalom.
For an individual with little endurance background, mountain biking will trigger certain changes in the body. The purpose of these changes is to adapt the body to increased performance demands. In addition to visible changes, such as more de- fined muscles or weight loss, a series of other more subtle adaptation processes take place, which increase the performance level of the body’s complex system. For a mountain biker who takes his hobby seriously, learning as much about the body as possible should be a fundamental requirement because it enables him to do the sport he loves. An understanding and awareness of the body are becom- ing less and less emphasized in a time of computer-controlled training, and an un- avoidable consequence of this is that many elite athletes overtrain until their bod- ies break down.