Making MTB routes work for sweet spot training

I am new to structured training plans and I am finding it challenging to make my local trails work for staying in prescribed HR zones. I’m afraid it may lead to doing a LOT of riding up and down gentle dirt roads rather than cruising the lovely singletrack we are blessed with in Western Montana.

I’m wondering how strictly you stay with the workout plans in terms of time in zones vs. total workout time and any other x-factors that come up. How do you all balance the requirements of the training with your terrain AND doing interesting rides? How close do you stay to the script, and what training penalties do you pay for straying?

I hope I don’t have to become a roadie! Thanks - Dave


Ha - we’ll try to keep you from coming over to the dark side. Little known secret tho - mtb’ers train on the road for certain workouts.

Which workout are you talking about? I could see you using fire roads or paved climbs for your structured Tues/Wed workouts but then trails for your zone 2 and long rides on the weekends.

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Yes, I am talking about the structured intervals on Tuesday and Wednesday. Maybe that just needs to be done on the roads? I think I am OK with that.

I wonder about your advice for how precisely to follow the prescribed workouts. Eg. if it’s advisable to “make up” for a missed interval later in a ride, or later in the week? Or take part of a workout easier if I worked harder than scheduled the day before?

I understand that a big part of this sort of training is in the sequencing and pacing over time. Just wondering about how best to be flexible to circumstances without messing up the finely wrought program.

Thanks - Dave

I just finished the 18 weeks of SS and did a lot of it on the MTB. It was much easier to do the prescribed workouts on the road. On the MTB, I’d usually WAY overshoot the TSS. and then be overtired for my next workout(s). The singlespeed MTB was even worse.
So, I ended up mainly doing road or dirt roads during the week and then hitting the woods on the weekend for the freestyle or “group” SS workouts (which I did alone, obviously).

Thanks Finbarr, That all makes sense.

Did you adjust workouts within the week to do any trail riding, or stick precisely to the schedule? The road riding around here is less than awesome, so I am struggling a bit to find safe and enjoyable options.

I get up real early (5:30-6) for the weekday road rides to avoid cars and people. I live near a nice bike path too, so that helps and I can go fast at that hour. I will sometimes ride trails during the week, but keep it to real gradual climbs so I can keep my HR in track (tough to find a 5 min climb around here so I have to be creative).

Hey David
I agree with Finbarr that’s how I’ve been doing my SS plan. I get up early in the mid week rides on my MTB and have a choice of either flats or hills to do my intervals on. The hills are short here so here’s the trick… I run heavy winter mud tyres on my MTB (its winter here in NZ) to increase rolling resistance, making the short hills work for me. This way i get in the SS interval time before hitting the hill top if I was on my faster rolling gravel bike. I either hit the local trail network on my MTB in the weekends for my SS Group/Solo Ride or if the weather is crap the gravel bike for the zone 2 or SS ride. I’m finding the gravel/road bike so damn good for my training - it’s really making the difference in my fitness. Let’s just say in a short time with the Fascat approach and switching it up and across the two bikes/disciplines I am now leading my wolf pack up the climbs and pulling them on "Freight Trains’ with ease on group rides (we are ok to do this now here!)

It’s like Finbarr says it’s about being creative to achieve the workout. Unfortunately creative this morning meant a hard frost and I’m still warming up 3 hours later : - )


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Thanks Chris, I am making it work with the MTB mostly so far. I can do most of the intervals climbing up trails and finding flatter areas for recovery. I end up getting fairly high over the course of a workout and have a longer ride out, but that’s mostly good zone 2 work.

Glad you are able to do group rides in NZ . Our federal government is really doing badly with public health in this crisis. It’s just embarrassing for most of us, but excruciating for the sick and their families. Be well.