Base training in mountainous areas

Curious what peeps living in areas with limited flat routes do for base training.
I’m talking about those long (4h+) in Z2-3.

I personally can’t stand more than 90min on the trainer, no matter what.

I’m not exactly sure what you are asking here, you don’t give us details to work on. If you have a light enough gear, say, 34:32, you can get up mountains at quite low power levels … slowly. So if you have a power meter and you choose mountains that are not very steep, you can easily stay within Z2–Z3. Also, are there really no flat routes where you live? I live on the coast of Japan, so going along the coast I basically have no elevation change whereas going inlands, I can easily get up to 1,000 m or 1,600 m peaks.

Personally, I have a problem with holding back, though, because I like going uphill at a fast pace, so if this is your problem, too, I don’t quite know what to recommend other than be disciplined and stay within your power budget.

Sure. The problem with mountains is that once you go up, you have to come down, and unless you’re pedaling like a maniac a 53x11 DH you can’t maintain the power.

Believe or not there’s people that live in areas with no (safe) flat routes, unless they drive more than an hour. And with steep mountains. I lived in the French Alps for few years and I can tell you that long and flat routes are not available there, and everything goes up 10%+

My question is, to those who live in those type of areas (I don’t now), what are their go-to workouts to build base and replicate those type of efforts.

I have a client, who lives in a VERY mountainous area.
The way his year is organised is that majority of the base training falls around this time of year, that is Winter when chances of him riding in the mountains are fairly low.
What I get him to do is have easy rides done on a trainer for and no more than that.

By the time the weather warms up, we take longer rides outside but for that, he has a fairly low gear selection (34/32). That allows him to ride moderate climbs without putting too much effort in.

The thing is with outdoor rides is that you cannot make them very specific. What we’re after at that stage is TIME spend on a bike, without going all out.

If you can, get yourself a cassette with a fairly large range and find a route that doesn’t have many 10%+ pinches and use that for your base.


That’s just a fundamental difference when riding outdoors: you have to stop pedaling and you can’t just stick to a power profile in most cases. Even when cycling along the flat routes, traffic, traffic lights and intersections force me to slow down and accelerate as the situation demands. Not permanently pedaling is just one of the features of riding outdoors vs. indoors, that’s why you need to longer outdoor rides to have the same training benefits as indoor rides.

And lastly, instead of just thinking of downhill segments being detrimental, you could use the opportunity to improve bike handling skills.

In my experience, you should not approach outdoor rides as perfectly replacing indoor rides. Instead, I try to work on stuff outdoors that I can’t work on indoors such as practice pacing myself uphill, bike handling and drafting.

You haven’t given us a lot of information here. I have lived and spent time in various environments as well (including the French, German and Austrian alps), and suitable cycling routes in any respect depend very much on a lot of factors, including safety concerns and route profile. And mountainous ≠ mountainous. So for example, when I was living in the alps in Bavaria, there were plenty lakes in the mountains, and you could piece together a flat route by circling one of the larger lakes. When I was in the French alps (Les Deux Alpes and Les Houches specifically), that wasn’t an option, though. In Munich I could follow the local river. Even more importantly, right now I can’t do any rides in the mountains on my road bike because of black ice. I could do some mountain bike rides in a bit when we have more snow higher up.

If you want a flat route with little traffic and other disturbances that is safe, this is even harder to come by and is in my experience something only a local, experienced rider would know.

So I think you have to be a bit more precise what it is that you are after and where you are located.

My Driveway is 12% up to the road, which has a 10 % pitch up to the main road, which in 1 direction is 10 to 12% up or 13% down. I get a good VO2 workout coming home from most rides. All of my Z2 is on the trainer, or the bike goes in the car.


34:40 let’s me get up my category 4 hill on my commute home every day

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I live in Colorado. I have a 34:40 as my easiest gear. I put on the bigger cassette for a long gravel ride and it also helps me keep things easy when I need to on climbs.

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Thanks, this is what I was looking for: so when yo get on the trainer are you able to do blocks of 2+hrs in Z2 on it? Or do you do more SweetSpot work? What are you favorite workouts from TR?

Yes, easy gears is definitely the way to go if you want to stay outside.

I did SSBLV 1 and 2 last winter, and in the spring felt as though I had built a “house on sand” I switched to a polarized plan for the late spring, summer and fall. I was doing 3 3hr trainer rides/week, zone 2, Seiler zone 1. I capped my pulse at 120+/- and adjusted power accordingly. I saw my power climb 30 watts over the summer at the same pulse. I injured a leg off the bike in Sept, so spent some time off, just did a 2 wk block of VO2 max work, and am starting SSB MV. I’m 65 and started riding in 4/18 after 8-9 years off from a previous racing career. When doing the polarized plan, I did 1 VO2 workout/week. I didn’t get to Seiler’s 4x8 min at 105% of FTP before my injury, I followed Coach Chad’s VO2 progression.

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Good stuff! Thanks for sharing, much appreciated.