Building Endurance for Out-of-Saddle Riding

Mornin’ folks,

So I tried out Victoria Park in Truro for the first time yesterday. After trying out a few green trails I gave a blue trail a go (McCready for those wondering). What I found was after a single lap through the trail I felt completely gassed - couldn’t get air into my lungs fast enough and legs felt like rubber. However, when I can sit and spin on the green trails I can go for 30 mins or more without coming close to that level of exhaustion. I find this concerning because not only do I feel like it limits my progression, but also it’s a safety concern because when I get really fatigued my bike handling goes to crap and I start losing control. I’d rather like to avoid crashing, please and thanks.

Any pointers on how to avoid this in the future? Any drills/exercises I can do to build my endurance, or is it a matter of just logging more time out of the saddle?

Bear in mind the heat and humidity would have ben a factor yesterday. Not sure what it was like in Truro, but here in the HRM the humidity was stifling and saps your energy faster than usual. I felt the same things you’re describing riding trails that don’t usually completely wipe me out.

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This sounds like a basic fitness deficit, but the good news is that it should be fairly easy to solve by riding more and training for what you want to achieve. Simply riding more will get you there eventually, but if you consciously do intervals where you’re standing up and putting the power down on those green trails for an extended period, followed by a short recovery, then repeating the drill, you’ll get fitter, faster. Doing longer rides than you’re used to and slowly extending the duration, ride after ride will also help with your longer term endurance. Lastly, try to throw in some shorter more technical trails as part of each ride to grow your technical skill. You’ll find that as you get stronger, you can ride the rough stuff for longer. If you don’t have a lot of upper body strength, some basic weight work will help substantially, mountain biking uses a lot more full body/core work over gravel or road.

There are others who are much more informed on actual training than I, I don’t get nearly as scientific about it as people like @Enduro_Performance, for example.


Ride more. Then repeat.


Ride more, ride harder. Then repeat.
Enjoy the process, the journey to getting fit or fast never ends.


+1 for ride more and repeat.

The first time on a new trial is generally the hardest and most exhausting time.

If you keep riding that trial you’ll quickly see your fitness improve with each ride.

If visual information and cues help you, use Strava to record your rides and watch as your PR decreases over time.

Agree with the thoughts of others as far as riding more and the use of Strava to see if you are getting faster in segments or improving your average speed on your comparable rides.
Maybe try mixing it up a bit as well, do some gravel rides with your mtb where you are pedalling the whole time rather than the spiky power output that will occur with mtb especially if you are still developing your skills, will help build your aerobic capacity and stamina but won’t build your upper body and core as well as getting out there on the mtb trails or doing some resistance or body weight exercise to develop upper body and core strength.

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Without knowing any of your background, or skillsets its hard to provide any other advice other then, ride more.

Its possible you were having a horrible day, which happens in riding far more often the avg person admits. Everyone suffers. Learn to love it.

Take a hard look at what your diet/sleep and intra nutrition was like on said day and be realistic about your expectations.

For me personally, when I start getting to the point of total failure I just stop and recover, refuel if possible. Re assess the ride and what lies ahead and adjust accordingly.

There are an absurd amount of resources out there, but without knowing your goals, what you have access to, or the actual amount of time you want to put in it would just be snake oil.

Oh ya, and have fun.


Thanks everybody for your input! Clearly the consensus for now is for me to get off my lazy duff and ride more, and throw in some interval training to help with the power burst requirements.

Ride more, and when you feel that fatigued, don’t keep pushing–you risk injury from a potential fall, could pass out, we don’t want that to happen. Take a break, get your heart rate and breathing rate back to norm, get some water and some fuel in you, then carry on. You’ll find overtime that you’ll be able to go longer and longer. I am going through this also right now. I have been riding my 2.5" wide DH casing tires on the street commuting around, I also purchased an exercise bike for the off days, or days when I just don’t have time to ride. At least a 30-45 minute session at home is better than eating chips on the couch (that is still going to happen though…)

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I’m going to disagree with just about everyone in this thread except supercraig. Riding more, especially in your comfort zone, is a great way to maintain your current level of ability and fitness. You want to be able to give it gas in more challenging terrain, it’s ride with guys who are faster than you, trying not to get dropped at all costs for as long as you can + it’s intervals. Find a decent hill or go to the gym and amp up the resistance on the exercise bike, and hit it hard out of the saddle, balancing output so after 3 sets of 10 you want to die, or at least never do it again. Wait 3 or 4 days and then do it again. Find a trainer or physiotherapist and work out the kinks as they emerge. Repeat for 3-4 months, head back to the trail, and enjoy.


I was a huge gym rat for years… heavy lifting and biking do not mix. You get strong as hell but your gonna gain size.too which takes a toll on endurance for riding…

I’ve found doing air squats til failure can do wonders for peddling… more so than a actual weighted squat with 225 -350 lbs on the bar… rest for 5 minutes go again with air squats. You can even do jump squats they will develop the fast twitch muscle fires

Running , wind sprints… even if yiu can’t get to the trail but you have a hill nearby or your street is on a incline do hill sprints

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Do a lot of pump tracking. You have to stand to pump track properly. Make sure to pump the berms as well as the rollers. It’s good exercise for the legs, good for the arms, and good bike handling training. It’s great exercise that you can use for intervals or cardio. And it’s fun.

Then, when you’re on a trail, look for technical features that you can pump for speed without pedaling.

Ride seated as much as you can (although will usually need to stand for technical descending). Standing does require a lot more energy than seated. If you’re riding full suspension, they’re more efficient to pedal while seated. One can and generally does need to stand more on a hardtail. Run the lowest tire pressure you can, without the tires getting squirmy, hitting your rim, or pinch flatting. That will improve traction on technical terrain, and soften the ride so you can stay seated longer.

Practice unweighting the front and rear, and ledges. Roots are major flow killers, and riding lightly can make a big difference.

Look ahead and use the terrain to your advantage. Look for the smoothest lines rather than blasting straight through. Need to slow down? Look for a hump that you can ride up. Descending, and then see a rise ahead? Stay off the brakes or even pedal for speed up the next hill. Practice carrying as much speed as possible through corners - you have to pedal less to get back up to speed.


Hitting the pump track is a great suggestion. Pumping terrain not only distributes workload between upper and lower body, it builds the skills and muscle memory you need to become a stronger, faster, and more efficient rider - and makes riding fun!

Love all these suggestions but hate that I’m a 30 min highway drive from everything (except Nine Mile River). Otherwise I’d hit up the pump track more regularly. Still I’ll keep it in mind!

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Get a road bike or a gravel bike and ride lots.

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I put an uncomfortable road sale on my MTB to keep me from sitting, though forced standing might not work for everyone. It made a huge difference to my riding though! :grin:

One thing to stress about “ride harder, repeat” mentality is to remember to REST. You need recovery time in between those hard sessions or else you’re going to get hurt, burn out, or both.

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Work with your local rec department to get a pump track built! or if you aren’t renting, build one in the back yard.

@tossedsalad Easier said than done. No budget for that “N+1” lifestyle.