4 Books To Get You Started in Mountain Bike Racing

Mountain Bike Training BooksBuilding a blog is kind of like planning a race season.  You have so many goals and aspirations, but you have to start at the beginning.  In training, you have to build up your base and then you work toward more specific targets as the season progresses.  I see some of these initial articles at Quickdirt as the base.  Once I establish these principles, then I hope to work towards writing about more specific topics as I work on them in my own training.

I did not originate the ideas that I have talked about so far.  A lot of them come from books and websites that I’ve read.  One of the purposes of this blog is to explore different aspects of training and then use my personal experience to illustrate how they have either worked or not worked for me.  I hope that you can use these anecdotes and insights to help advance your own training.  Maybe you can learn from my mistakes and get faster sooner.  Wouldn’t that be nice.

I noticed over the course of writing my first few articles that I was referencing several books repeatedly and I thought I should devote a post to them because they have helped establish the principles that I base my training on – and that have helped make me faster.

If you have developed your technical skills to at least an intermediate level and are looking to learn how you can take your mountain bike training and health to the next level, then I would like to recommend the following books.

The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible by Joe Friel

Mountain_Bike_Books_3Before I read this book, the extent of my training went something like this…  Ride as hard as I can for two hours.  Drink beer to recover.  Repeat the next day.

Obviously I wasn’t very strategic in my planning.  This lead to some obvious shortcomings in my riding abilities.

This book gave me a road map for boosting my performance.

The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible is a great overview that helps mountain bikers plan their seasons based on their goals and abilities.  It begins with a an introduction to Friel’s philosophy about training and how to use the science to move your talents forward.  One key point that he emphasizes is intensity – which was a game changer for me.

From that point he teaches you how to do a self assessment and helps you plan a season using periodization to build up to peak performances.

One of the most eye-opening sections for me was about rest and recovery.  Before, reading this book I had always just ridden as hard as I could anytime I had free time to ride.  I never gave my body a break and by the end of the season I was usually burnt out.  Now I let my body rest more often and focus on the quality of the rides rather than the quantity.

The Power Meter Handbook by Joe Friel

The Power Meter Handbook by Joe FrielAs I started to learn more about training, I realized that most of the experts in coaching were recommending the use of a power meter to get faster.  This always seemed like an unnecessary luxury to me, but the more I read about it, the more curious I became.

I had settled on heart rate training because it was so much cheaper than buying a power meter, but the further I got into heart rate training the more frustrated I became.  My heart rate was lagging behind my effort and not really a great tool for the kinds of intense workouts I was striving to do.

I finally succumbed to my desire for a better training tool and when I bought it I also bought The Power Meter Handbook by Joe Friel.  This is not the first book on power training or the most extensive, but it is the one that I would recommend reading first.

The first 135 pages (the real meat of the book) walk you through the basics of training with power, the terminology, how to evaluate yourself and how to use those results to train with intensity.  After that their are special chapters for road racers, triathletes and century riders.  These aren’t really that important for mountain biking specifically, so you might just want to skip to Appendix A which provides a menu of power-based workouts.

Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, PhD

Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Joe FrielIf you buy a power meter and don’t take the time to learn about how to use it then you have just thrown away your money.  You need a good source of information to make your purchase worthwhile.

Training and Racing with a Power Meter is considered to be the bible of power-based training and if you are looking to kick it up to the next level this book explores everything from basic to more advanced concepts that will help fine-tune your training.  If you are afraid of “scientificky” books with charts and graphs then this book might be too intense for you.  However, if you are a math/science nerd like me you will eat up the additional information.  The details about specificity helped me target my training toward the mountain bike races that I like to compete in.

The book begins with a great introduction to the types of power meters on the market and that section would be great to read before purchasing a power meter.  Power meter training is all about data and this book talks about how to track, interpret and use it to your advantage.  The book explores various types of cycling and is not mountain bike specific.  However, there are specific case-studies for ultra-endurance mountain bike racing – 24-hour races and 100-mile races.

The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel

The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe FrielEating well is one of the keys to reaching your peak performance.  Your engine needs good fuel to run well.

Before I started reading Joe Friel’s books on training I had already started eating right and lost 40-45 lb.  This weight loss forced me to rethink the way I eat.  By coincidence, my new diet was very similar to the one discussed in The Paleo Diet for Athletes – which focuses on eating lots of fruits, vegetables and lean meats.  After reading two of Friel’s books on training and power I was very open to hearing his ideas on nutrition.

Friel talks about the 85-15 rule of diet and lifestyle, which essentially means that if you eat right 85 percent of the time, then you can cut loose the other 15 percent.  I’m probably 65 to 70 percent paleo, but that is more of a practical matter because I am a stay-at-home dad who is trying not to force my family to live with the consequences of my lifestyle choices.

I think that there is a lot of merit to the concepts of the Paleo diet and Joe Friel does a good job of showing how to adapt those ideas to the lifestyle of an athlete.

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