How to do recovery MTB rides outdoors if you have a low FTP

How do others keep the intensity low enough on outdoor MTB trail rides so that they can qualify as recovery or endurance workouts?

I’ve been trying to just take it as easy as possible on the climbs but since currently I have a 170 FTP, in order to maintain enough speed for balance on most of the climbs in my area (Bay Area), I need to exert a significant percentage of my FTP and it usually ends up being in the upper sweet spot and usually threshold range even in the granny gear. Also my heart rate outdoors hovers between 150-160, and I can never get it below that.

I’m hoping this will improve as I drive my FTP up, but just wanted to check - is this a common problem or am I overlooking something?

It’s a case of pedalling slower and/or choosing an easier gear, but sometimes given the terrain it’s just not possible

If you have hilly terrain it’s really difficult to stay in your endurance zone on the MTB. Just try to soft pedal up the hills and just enjoy the downhills.

Three options…

Don’t do recovery rides on singletrack.
Buy an e-bike

I don’t think it’s possible to go easy enough on tech and uphill singletrack to make them true recovery rides. It’s hard enough to keep it in an endurance zone and not go into tempo. If you need a weekly soul ride to stay motivated and mentally fresh and work on mtn bike skills, that’s fine and you should do it…but going slow enough to recover on singletrack makes it suck. If the terrain forces you to go hard anyways you should just go hard and not do fake recovery rides where you’re putting enough stress in to not recover, but not enough to elicit any adaptation.

Don’t fret if you have to ride a little harder at times as it’s not the end of the world, but do aim to keep it as easy as possible.

It could be almost impossible to do depending on your terrain and your FTP. I know some pro xc riders actually use an ebike for easy mtn rides.

If I were you, I’d just do a chill road ride or easy trainer ride.

Thanks, everyone. Since I live in Northern California and get to ride in places like Santa Cruz regularly, it’s hard to pass those opportunities up and ride on gentle fire roads instead just to reduce training load.

I’m also unwilling/unable to get an ebike, as I just bought a brand new Santa Cruz MTB.

What other options can I pursue? Currently I am on the General Build Low Volume plan. I do the indoor Tuesday workout as assigned, and then I ride Thursdays and Saturdays, about 2-3 hours per ride. Should I instead do a recovery ride on Tuesdays indoors? I don’t personally think this would be a good approach because that’s what I used to do before using TrainerRoad, and I never got any results and my FTP or endurance never went up (was just doing unstructured trail rides all the time).

I am open to the fact that this may be temporary until my body acclimatizes itself to the volume and also my FTP rises to the level where I can easily grind away a fire road or single track climb at a lower percentage of my FTP. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect to just devote myself to TR workouts indoors 3 days/week, since that sort of defeats the purpose of my training (to be able to ride faster and for longer periods of time outdoors).