Strong Enough For Single Ring: On-Bike Training

MTB Training

The third in the series helping you to get stronger for riding a single-ring setup is all about what you can do on the bike to prepare yourself for the change-over.  Some of it is pretty straight forward, some of it needs a bit of maths and some of it is going to make you sweat……

Coming from a triple chainset:  This is fairly obvious, but you basically need to spend more and more time in the middle ring, and leave the granny ring alone as much as possible.   The key here is to do it gradually and to record how you get along.  Maybe you ride one weeknight for an hour and do a longer, 3 hour ride on the weekend.  Start off just hitting the mid-week ride in middle ring until you are able to complete your route without shifting down to granny.  If you can’t do it then keep a diary. e.g. Wednesday ride, single ring except for the last 200m of Castle Hill.  The following Wednesday it may just be the last 100m and so on.  What we measure, we improve.  Apply this to the longer rides and crack on until you are confident you can make the switch and still enjoy your rides.

Coming from a double chainset:  We basically want to apply the same technique as before, however most double chainsets are 28/40 or 26/38, meaning that if we plan to run a 32 tooth single ring (at least at first) we need to be a bit clever with figuring out the gear ratios.  If you are planning on going to a 32 tooth ring with an 11-36, 10 speed cassette then we want to simulate this with the current setup and gradually build up.  On the new setup your lowest gear will have a ratio of 0.89. (The wheel will turn 0.89 of its circumference with each full revolution of the crank). To achieve an almost identical ratio with the smallest ring being 28 on a double chainset you would need to be in a 31 tooth ring on the cassette.  Depending on your cassette you may or not have the exact size ring, but it gives you an idea of where you need to be.  My final tip on applying this is to use the limiter screw to adjust the rear mech so that it does not shift into the largest cog, and then when you get to the point on the ride where you really need the extra gear, you can wind it out and get full range again.  Just record your progress and build up until you don’t need the extra cog(s) on the cassette.

Training sessions to help improve leg strength:

1. Force Reps.  This is a demanding workout that can put a bit of added strain on your knees, so if you have had knee issues in the past, it is probably best to skip it.  Similarly, if your knees hurt during the workout, then stop.  You will need a relatively steep hill, 5-8% is ideal and it only needs to be 50 m long.  Spin into the hill at a slow pace and then shift into a high gear at the bottom.  You should then do 6 full revolutions of the pedals in a seated position, pushing as hard as you can.  As a guide to which gear you should be in, you should not exceed a cadence of 50 rpm at the cranks (a bit slower than 1 revolution per second if you don’t have a computer with cadence function).  You should be putting a very large force through the pedals and it should be demanding.  Rest for 3 minutes, spinning easily and repeat 3- 5 times in total depending on fitness and training level.

2. High Gear Hill-Reps.  This is less strenuous on the joints and is more accessible to most riders.  You will need to use a moderate gradient hill that allows you to climb for 2-4 minutes.  The first rep should be done in your usual gear, spinning up at a moderate effort.  Recover for the same amount of time that the first rep took and then repeat, but 1 gear higher.  Continue this process until you drop below a cadence of 60 rpm.  Record your results in a diary and next time try and ride further in the higher gears.  For beginners this should only be done once per week, and twice for more experienced riders.

A final note on bodyweight:  Quite simply, your ability to ride up a big, steep hill without a granny ring is all about your power to weight ratio.  If you are weak, but a healthy weight, you can get stronger and more powerful, making good progress towards your goals.  If you are overweight then all of the above points need to take a back seat and you need to shift the body-fat as a priority, both for your health and your MTB performance.

Have fun out on the trails and I hope that this helps you on your journey to being stronger and faster on your mountain bike.

Stay Strong


Strong Enough For Single Ring: Mid-Section

This is the second video in the series where I am looking at ways of improving your whole body strength so you can ride a single ring setup on your trail bike efficiently and quickly all day long.

Your mid-section (or core, or trunk) needs to be strong in order to link your upper and lower body together effectively, allowing you to generate power at the cranks.  It is an area of training that is often lacking, leading to poor pedalling technique, rocking hips,  and the dreaded lower back pain on longer rides.

Try and incorporate some of the exercises below into your training and see how you get on.

Stay Strong


Strong Enough For Single Ring: Upper Body

This is the first in the series of articles to help you get strong enough to ride a single ring setup on your trail bike more efficiently.

The focus here is on a few upper body exercises that can help to improve your posture and strength, leading to increased power through the pedals.  I use a couple of pieces of kit in this video, but you can do it all using just your bodyweight and a horizontal bar around waist height or a little higher.  You can often find these in the park or you can use a bar in the gym.  Once this series is complete, you will have a whole body workout that you can do 1-3 times per week for pure mountain bike domination!

You may also want to do some stretching, and mobility work to help open up the upper back and chest, and we will go over that in a future article.  For now, sit back, watch the video below, and let me know how you get on……

Stay Strong