TrainerRoad is all about helping athletes work towards goals, and for Justin Brayton those goals don’t even involve a bicycle. Justin is one of the top racers in Supercross, a demanding and dangerous form of motorcycle racing. The fitness and training strategies he gets from TrainerRoad help Justin succeed in his sport, and lessons he’s learned might help you win your next bike race, too.
For Justin’s full interview check out the Successful Athletes Podcast Ep 23.
Motorcycles and Mountain Bikes
Justin Brayton is well known in the sport of Supercross, both for his success and for the longevity of his career. Now 36, this father of two has raced motorcycles professionally for 18 years, a remarkably long time for such a dangerous and demanding sport. Any athlete who spends this long at the top of their game is doing something right, and for Justin this means a smart and strategic training and racing plan that keeps him fit, healthy, and motivated year after year.
Since 2011, a big part of that training strategy has been cycling, particularly mountain biking. Justin uses TrainerRoad workouts to build fitness, practice skills, and facilitate recovery from his day job. He’s also successfully raced cross country mountain bike events, reaching a nationally-competitive cat 1 level. Balancing training in multiple sports with a travel schedule and family life is not easy, and through trial and error Justin’s discovered some powerful techniques for success.
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The Benefits of Cycling
Many motorcycle racers ride bicycles to aid in recovery, and Justin uses his road bike for this purpose. Since supercross is extremely physically demanding, burnout and injury are a constant threat. Easy endurance riding is a great way to stay active while resetting body and mind. It also facilitates aerobic conditioning, which aids endurance during the crucial moments of a race.
Justin strategically uses cycling and TrainerRoad to build fitness too. Unlike most TR athletes, Justin’s primary goal isn’t to get faster on a bicycle, so he doesn’t follow a full Base/Build/Specialty training cycle. But riding a mountain bike can utilize many of the same muscles and skills as a dirt bike, so Justin picks workouts that mimic the demands of Supercross and intersperses them with his motorcycle and gym training. This means lots of high-intensity VO2 max intervals with short recoveries, to develop abilities essential in his primary sport.
Racing his mountain bike has also helped Justin in other ways. One benefit is in self-confidence, as the experience of pushing himself through painful 1.5 hour-long bike races makes a 20 minute Supercross race feel a bit easier. Fueling is another lesson; since Supercross races are so short, many racers don’t pay close attention to event nutrition. Justin learned the power of good nutrition strategies firsthand through cycling, and he is more disciplined and intentional with his eating on race day as a result.
Key Takeaways: Cycling as Cross-Training
- Cycling’s low-impact aerobic effects are great for facilitating recovery from other demanding sports.
- If you’re using cycling as cross-training, it can be helpful to choose workouts that mimic the energy demand of your primary sport.
- Cross-training on a bike can teach useful lessons in mental fortitude and nutrition strategies
Lessons From Supercross
Cycling has helped Justin to better race motorcycles, but racing motorcycles has also helped him become a better cyclist. Supercross racing has equipped Justin with excellent technical skills, and this benefits him in several ways.
Cornering is one aspect where he excels. Justin’s goal in corners is to choose the smoothest path, often by approaching corners more slowly to allow for a cleaner exit. Many cyclists enter corners too quickly and brake hard as a result, only to pedal intensely and waste energy on the way out. Justin plans his lines in advance by studying the technical characteristics of the course carefully before the race begins, noting the best entry and exit for each corner and observing any rocks, roots, or other obstacles that might be a factor. He then focuses on smoothness and efficiency, wasting as little energy in acceleration as possible.
A second advantage Justin brings from supercross is a comfort with speed and descents. Many athletes focus on developing the raw athleticism of climbing, but Justin’s technical prowess allows him to ride more efficiently on downhills, too. Even if he is dropped on a climb, he is often able to recover and catch other riders on descents, as he rides these sections more smoothly and confidently.
One way Justin stays efficient at high speed is by resisting the temptation to stare at his front wheel. The ground around your front wheel moves quickly through your field of vision, but looking further ahead gives you more time to react. While Justin uses this on the cross-country course, road and crit racers can also benefit from looking further through corners. Be intentional and practice this skill on training rides, and it will come naturally on race day.
Key Takeaways: Supercross Lessons For Cyclists
- Efficient cornering makes a huge difference. Study corners closely before the race for any obstacles or other factors. Try to enter and exit corners smoother, not faster.
- Skilled descenders can often recover and catch better climbers. Practice smooth and efficient descending skills and pre-ride your race course.
- Resist the temptation to look down at your front wheel during turns. Instead, sight well ahead to naturally choose a smoother and more efficient line.
Finding a Healthy Balance
For a few years, Justin tried to race Supercross and XC MTB simultaneously. Initially, the two sports were mutually beneficial, but as he progressed in cycling the demands of high-level competition were too much to sustain alongside his actual career. Both disciplines began to suffer as a result.
Justin recognized he was pushing things too far, but he did not abandon his bike. Instead, he refocused on his Supercross career and decided to use cycling exclusively for its cross-training benefits. This is a smart lesson in training specificity; by choosing bike workouts that benefit his motorcycle racing, Justin achieves more focused results. For most TrainerRoad athletes, Plan Builder takes care of specificity for you, by building your training plan around your target event. Justin’s situation is unique, and he’s benefited from his thoughtful approach.
Key Takeaway: Balance and Specificity
- Discipline-specific training leaves you fitter and faster on race day, and also uses your time more efficiently and sustainably
While Justin currently uses cycling to improve his supercross racing, his longer term goals in the sport are more ambitious. Eventually, when his motorcycle career comes to an end, Justin plans to make bike racing his primary focus. He’s excited about finally following a full TrainerRoad plan through Base/Build/Specialty phases, and seeing how fast he can get without balancing a second sport. And eventually, he’d like to compete for the amateur cross country national championship. Whether or not he wins, Justin is enthusiastic about the process, and motivated to compete at the top level of a second sport. With the smart strategies he’s already established, the odds are in his favor.
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