Indoor cycling for mountain bikers

Jun 19, 2020, 10:27 AM

Think indoor cycle training is just for roadies? Think again!


With the 2020 season facing prolonged interruption due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, cyclists of all disciplines have explored different ways of training to stay fit and focused for when competitions restart.


If the mountain biking community’s view was once that rollers were the preserve of pre-race cross-country (XC) warm-ups and switching to the turbo trainer was only ok only when the winter weather made it impossible to get outside, things have moved on; for many mountain bikers, getting into indoors is one of the silver linings in 2020’s cloud.


Here’s what some of the stars of mountain biking have been sharing during their lockdown experiences.


Nino Schurter is known as one of the fittest stars of XC who has never been shy of putting in the work, indoors or out. This year he’s been on the trainer bike at home, following the old adage “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

The Swiss rider has also been involved in online charity rides, and was brave enough to turn the camera on himself as he took on his first ever group ride on Zwift, saying “I don’t know if it’s a ride or a race?”, echoing the thoughts of many a virtual group ride virgin. He also knows how to have some fun on the indoor trainer, and other challenges at home – with a little help from his friends – including a Zwift mountain bike head-to-head race.



But of course, like the rest of us, the eight-times XCO UCI World Champion’s eyes light up at the return to real trails in the great outdoors: “It’s the feeling of pure freedom”.




Another rider rocking the rainbow stripes is XC Eliminator UCI World Champion Titouan Perrin-Ganier. The Frenchman got straight onto the rollers - with a view - in Dubai when the opening round of the XC Eliminator World Cup was postponed near the start of the global lockdown. He was already looking ahead: “we meet in October to smoke the cobblestones of @citywalkdubai”. He shared some of his backyard workout routines, before dedicating an emotional post to his Till Start home cycle trainer after two solid months together: “Today my friends the leaves and the roots are calling me, and I couldn't keep them waiting any longer”, before heading out on some beautiful local trails.


Inspirational endurance rider Sonya Looney is on the fitness comeback trail after a year of lower intensity riding effort through her pregnancy - here at 40 weeks saying “Riding keeps me sane and happy.” After the birth of her son in March, she was soon getting back to grips with a workout routine. And in June she also shows herself returning to maximum intensity on a TrainerRoad session, acknowledging that none of us tend to look our best when we’re pushing our physical limits: “Wear your suffer face proud because it means one thing - forward progress.

Olympic XCO medalist Marco Aurelio Fontana is one of the riders who’ll swap flat bars for drops to get on the trainer, as is French downhill rising star Marine Cabirou, “First step, everyday I do intensities! ... Normally I do this kind of sesh on my road bike or sometimes on my enduro bike”   along with some of the gym sessions that keep her at UCI World Championships podium fitness level.


Other downhillers putting in the indoor shifts include Cabirou’s compatriot Amaury Pierron kicking out the wattsTroy Brosnan has been hitting up his Wahoo while his fellow Australian Tracey Hannah spins some home workouts with a little help from her dog! 


Get involved


If you’ve held off from investing in an indoor training set-up it’s certainly not too late. And getting a set-up that suits you might be easier and more affordable than you imagine, offering long-term benefits to your power, fitness and race-ready fine-tuning for years to come.


You might want to roll like Marco Fontana and others, with a road bike on your indoor trainer. But it's not necessary as much of today’s equipment is compatible with mountain bikes, albeit sometimes with adaptors. We outlined the main considerations for indoor cycle training set-ups here last week.


For hardware, ensure the system works with your thru-axles diameter (most also work with QRs) and hub widths (standard, Boost, Super Boost) as well as 27.5/29in wheel diameters. For ‘wheel off’ models, check cassette compatibility, and for older systems using rollers check whether your tyres are suitable or if you need a slicker tread and/or special compound.


To use the best apps you’ll need a smart trainer, where the hardware’s riding resistance is automatically adjusted to reflect visuals on your paired laptop or smartphone. Look out for the apps with specific mountain bike training sessions. The current interactivity leader is UCI partner Zwift, which has a virtual world dedicated to mountain biking.