Coach’s Column: Go Enduro with These Training Tips

Continuing in our series on what ability to focus on for the various racing disciplines, this week’s column will look at the most important ability to train on for racing enduro.


Enduro is a relatively new discipline in mountain biking. It encompasses a wide variety of events from huge mass start races that begin on the top of an alp, to small timed segments within stage or endurance races. The common thread between all these events is the fact that for the most part, the start of the enduro will be higher than the finish and you will have to traverse some tough terrain in between for a time.

What are the demands of this type of racing? First and foremost excellent bike handling skills will be necessary to do well. A solid amount of aerobic and anaerobic fitness will also be important. Many enduro courses include some serious climbing sections. These sections may not be long, but they can be steep and if you are not able to tackle them quickly precious time is wasted. Having a very strong core and upper body will also be important in order to control the bike over obstacles and serious terrain. Quickness of movement is an important ability in order to redirect, change lines or clear obstacles. Obviously if you are competing for an enduro classification within a stage race, you will need the fitness to complete the entire stage each day.

Skills practice is in an important part of enhancing your enduro finishes.

Skills practice is in an important part of enhancing your enduro finishes.

The answer to our “most important ability” question for this discipline is clear: handling skills should be a major priority of training. Let’s add a little to that though. Not only do you need the skills, but you also need to be able to execute skills while fatigued. Enduro courses can be very long. A skills mistake due to fatigue can wreck a run, or worse. Also, for some events, the course or enduro section of a course may be very difficult or impossible to pre-ride. Having the ability to read terrain quickly and choose a fast line is crucial. With these thoughts in mind, a couple suggestions to add into training would be:

Add an endurance aspect to skills practice. Doing multiple shuttle runs is great for getting lots of runs in, but make sure you ride the climb sometimes as well so you can get the feel of what it is like to hit the run while fatigued. Learn how fatigue affects your reaction time and how you handle the bike. Knowing how to adjust speed to compensate for fatigue can help keep your runs clean and consistently fast.

Constantly strive to find new and challenging terrain to ride. This may be difficult logistically for some, but having the ability to read unknown terrain quickly and pick a solid line is a skill that can be developed by seeing and riding all kinds of trails. You can certainly work on your skills by riding the same course many times, but seeing a variety of trail will help you work on that ability to quickly adapt.

Also to echo Travis Woodruff’s last column, don’t be afraid to work with a skills coach or do a skills specific MTB camp. Having good feedback on ways to improve skills can help speed and confidence tremendously.

Andy Applegate is a Pro level coach with Carmichael Training Systems. He has over 20 years of racing experience and has been coaching cyclists full time since 2001. His passion is endurance mountain bike racing. You can find out more about Andy and his training programs at

Coach’s Column: Improve Skills to Get You on the Podium

Question: What skills do you often see lacking in mountain bike racers at the expert/pro level that can keep them off the podium?   What drills would you give to address those short-comings, and are they best addressed in the off-season?


Answer: As riders make advancements with their fitness it’s important to also improve skill proficiency. The degree to which a racer’s unique skillset matches the demands of a racecourse will certainly affect the likelihood of a podium finish. Most racers have a good sense of what skills they’re proficient with and also what they can continue to improve, at least relative to their competition. At the expert level and especially so in the pro ranks, most riders can stand to improve several aspects of their riding skillset. Gaining technical proficiency can lead to faster lap times without pedaling any harder. Even small improvements can help a lot. Improved skills can yield greater confidence and more focus during a race.

Skills play a huge part in every mountain bike race. Here a rider is tested at the 2015 Moab Rocks stage race. Photo by: Raven Eye Photo

Skills play a huge part in every mountain bike race. Here a rider is tested at the 2015 Moab Rocks stage race. Photo by: Raven Eye Photo

Identifying a rider’s skills profile is a great way to start.  A simple conversation about a racecourse can identify areas to improve upon – whether it is cornering, descending, rocky terrain, mud, jumps, drops, sand, off cambers, etc. The off season provides a BIG chunk of time where improvements can occur, so it’s smart to set some goals and proceed accordingly. Getting more time on the trails can help, as can riding a bike that’s different than the one you typically race on.  Training with bigger tires, more travel, or generally a more capable bike can help to reinforce core skills and allow you to make advancements and gain confidence. These adaptations can carry over when you return to your typical race setup. Revisiting the basics of proper body positioning will allow you to advance on any of these fronts. Get your form and technique dialed in before ramping up the speed. This will ultimately allow you to advance further, plus you’ll be more confident and see the progression.  Think smooth first and allow fast to follow.

If you’re snowed in for the winter and unable to ride outdoors, I’d encourage you to consider a mountain bike training camp. Even if it’s just a three-day weekend you’ll have a ton of fun with it and it’s an excellent way to brush up on your riding skill. The more you’re able to ride trails and actively looking for challenges, the more your skills can develop.  Give it time, keep positive and you’ll continue to improve over the long term.  If you don’t have a great sense for the core riding skills or you want to fast track your improvement I’d suggest seeking out some expert coaching with a skills coach. If you’re investing time into skills training you want to make sure that you’re focusing your attention appropriately.

For many of us the challenge of skill development is what got us hooked on mountain bike riding. Even as your racing ambitions get more serious it’s important to keep committed to the serious fun of developing your skillset. Remember, your fitness will only take you as fast as your skills allow, so it’s important to keep well rounded with your training approach. Enjoy the riding!

Travis Woodruff is a USAC Level I (elite) certified coach who holds a B.S. in Kinesiology with emphasis in Exercise Science. He’s coached riders to five MTB National Championship wins and has over 15 years of personal racing experience. Since 2005 he’s competed as a pro mountain biker and has coached full-time. His business, Momentum Endurance LLC, is based out of Prescott, Arizona.