Mountain bike racing is a passion of mine, but I had always assumed that I was destined to mediocrity due to my own genetic limitations. After five years of racing I was a middle-of-the-pack sport racer and my speed had plateaued despite hours of training. Given the fact that I didn’t have any more hours I could attribute to training I assumed that I was as good as I was going to get.
Then, in 2013, I stumbled into a few things that caused me to shred the singletrack faster than I ever imagined I could. What made this even more amazing to me was that I was actually riding less than in past seasons.
On February 2, 2013, I stepped on the scales and weighed in at 204 lbs – which at 5’10”, means that I was becoming a chunky monkey. I had put on 20 lbs in less than 3 months and decided that my weight, and more importantly, my health were heading in the wrong direction. I decided at that moment that I had to make an immediate change for the sake of my long-term well-being. Over the course of the next three months I lost over 40 lbs and I was starting to feel much better.
In April, I shocked myself in my first contest of the year. At the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association race at Mountwood I finished first in my age group. I couldn’t believe it. This was a race that had destroyed me and left me bedraggled the previous couple of years. I was just hoping to finish in the top half of the sport pack. Winning my age group was a complete surprise and an inspirational moment for me.
I began researching training methods, nutrition and equipment – anything that I thought would help me get faster. While I am still not an elite cyclist, I have improved dramatically and I think I’ve learned a few things that can help mountain bikers of all levels improve.
In a nutshell, I started with the weight loss. Then, I read The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible by Joe Friel to learn about periodizing my training and the value of recovery. Based on his recommendations, I purchased a power meter, the PowerTap G3 MTB Disc Hub, paired with a Garmin Edge 800 GPS Cycling Computer to help me target my training to the demands of my specific races. I then read two other books on how to train with a power meter – The Power Meter Handbook: A User’s Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes & Training and Racing with a Power Meter. These two books completely changed the way I work out and have made me faster in my races.
This site is a chance for me to share what I’ve learned – what has and hasn’t worked for me. As I continue to explore how to increase my fitness and get faster on the bike I plan to share it with you here. But, even if you don’t care about winning races, being fit makes the sport of mountain biking much more fun. If you can climb the hill like a billy goat, then you have that much more energy to fly down the descents. I think that mountain biking is such a fun sport and there are so many different ways to enjoy it. I love the adventure of exploring new trails and hopefully this blog will expose that passion and help introduce the sport to new riders, as well as, show veterans new ways to enjoy it.
Cheers and Happy Trails,
-James Knott, mountain bike enthusiast