Incorporating indoor training, with OUTDOOR technical XCO/MTB skills?

Hi. I have used trainer road now since November. Seems very good, except that I have struggled about on some workouts. Hard keeping the power up. And went down 5 % ftp last test. The two before that both sent my ftp up by 5-6%.
1: Any inputs?

What about now at spring. Shouldn’t we put the trainer aside and go out in forest? To do intervals out so we do train on going fast on trails while out hr is high?

2: How to modify this? I have no watt measurements on my Scalpel. Close down tr and reactivate during fall/ winter?

3: what does the pros do? What do the traimerroad coaches recommend? I can’t do perfect trainerroad intervals on trail, wait or not.

I’ve had the same thoughts. I’ve been swapping out the Saturday session for an outdoor ride, but trying to keep a clear objective for the ride rather than just riding aimlessly. For example I have a local 4.5 mile loop that incorporates a twisty technical downhill, a mile of gravel road for recovery then a 10 minute climb which I do at threshold. 3-4 laps of that and I think it’s a pretty good susbstitute for a trainer session but with skills benefits too.

You got watt measurements on your bike? Or use hr outside?

Hr and RPE. Strava can also be useful as people riding with power meters have a lightning symbol next to their times on leaderboards so you can get a bit of an idea. On the climb I mentioned there’s a guy a few seconds slower than me who did 275w for the 10 mins (I know weight affects things) so it’s in the right ball park.

What does the trainerroad coaches think og this matter? How to follow program outdoor without powermeter?

You are right that technical skills need outside riding to develop.

What a lot of people do is outside rides on the weekend, and do indoor trainer rides during the week (when work/school commitments make getting out on the trails harder).

This combines the benefits of structured training with development of technical skills.

When riding outside, intensity and effort levels are often dictated by the terrain. But (depending on where you live) you may be able to choose the terrain for the kind of adaptations you are looking for (eg. 30 second climbs, 2 minute climbs, 10 minute climbs).


You train inside and ride outside. I think weekend fast group rides are perfect to improve bike handling skills plus endurance. When I say fast one, it is above 100km and with 35+kmph average speed.

If you are doing climbs, then you should be able to replicate your indoor sustained power trainin outside without any issues. As you will go up slower, you will need less bike handling skills.

Good luck

Om talking about single track skills. How to ride fast on trails. And xco courses

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I’m having the same issue. I’m in the middle of my Sustained Power Build (medium volume) which I’m using to prepare for a 42km XC (short-ish) marathon in June. Trails are very to hard to get to for me (I live in Tokyo) so my compliance on the indoor trainer is very high but then I do worry about the technical skills not keeping up.

So I’m experimenting with only using my recovery days for practicing technical skills. The assumption is that practicing technical skills does not require intensity (at least not for the technical skills that XC needs which is mainly cornering and smoothing out rough sections?) and in fact avoiding intensity might be extra beneficial for improving bike handling accuracy because you are forced to slow things down so you can really dial little things in. So for me, this means sessioning particular sections of a trail at various speeds, targeting my weaknesses while trying to improve smoothness and efficiency, all mixed with lots of rest breaks.

Also since the downhill sections in XCO and XC marathons are where you are supposed to be recovering, I plan on adding a few (longish) downhill sessions with the goal of never letting my heart rate rise above zone 2. This kind of practice should fit the bill for a recover day as well.

If I were not ramping up to a race (say in a base phase), then I would go back to adding intensity to trail riding and using them for fitness.

Anyway, I’m interested to hear other people’s thoughts as well!

Suggestion: You should probably add MTB to the title if you want this thread to be MTB-specific?

I certainly believe you need to ride on trails to keep your skills up.

I used to be quite good in the technical bits riding xc but lately I’ve been riding mostly on the road or the trainer, frankly I’ve come to realise that whilst I enjoy mtb I’m not that good.

However I rode on a technical route last weekend and felt I was all over the place and my ride wasn’t flowing but when I checked Strava I had set PRs on nearly all the segments, by a big margin.

The hours on the trainer over winter obviously helped with my strength and fitness but my lack of riding affected my skills. If I was more fluid I would have been a lot quicker.

XCO and MTB 100 racer myself. Come spring/summer you’ll need to start incorporating rides on the trails. This is best achieved by keeping your weekly intervals indoors (Tuesday and Thursday on MV plan) then incorporate trail riding usually on Saturday or possibly Sunday.

I would look at the intention and intensity of the TR Saturday workouts, but don’t attempt to mimic the workout exactly. I usually start my Saturday/Sunday trail ride at a casual pace to warm up and session parts of the trail. I find corners, rock gardens, root sections, etc., and keep going over that section to improve my skills and make sure I session it cleanly. I do that for about 30 mins or so.

Then the remaining time I consider the planned TR workout and do it at the trail based mostly on RPE. So if the workout is Lion Rock (3 sets of 3x5 threshold with 15 second sprint and 30 second kick at the end), I set an interval/lap timer and keep that in mind at the trail. Work at intensity when you’re supposed to and recover when you’re supposed to. It won’t be perfect and it doesn’t need to be, but it’s close enough to get intensity and bike handling at the trail.

The benefits of high intensity interval training is argued to be best at 2 and maybe 3 times per week. So you’re getting most if not all of your interval training gains mid week on a mid volume plan with those 2 interval session (Build phase). So that Saturday interval day has flexibility. If the TR Saturday workouts are closer to your event goals, you can also swap out Saturdays for Thursdays workouts depending on what the workouts are.

A common mistake is people work hard over the winter and see good fitness gains, but then lose structure come summer when their workouts/rides are mostly outdoors. It’s more difficult to do structure outdoors (depending on location and if you have a PM), so your fitness will likely see a slow decline when you need/want it the most. I’d recommend that if you do nothing else indoors, do at least 2 interval session per week on the trainer and you will see your fitness improve or at worst only plateau but not decline.


If I remember correctly watching a video following Nino Schurter, he was even commenting that riding off road is a lot of stress on the body. The main thing is what are your skills needing? Tempo/medium pace is probably a better pace to work on handling skills since it’s pretty fast, but not so fast you need to worry about crashing. My single worst crash I’ve ever had was one of my first rides on dirt after a nice winter of training. I was pushing the pace a bit with my new-found fitness and the trails were still a little wet and I missed getting on to a wooden bridge. My head slammed in to the bridge, luckily my glasses/helmet took the force of the blow, but the glasses were shattered and I just ended up with a small cut on the bridge of my nose.

I think in years past I’ve tried to ride fast too often on trails, eventually bringing the overall quality of those rides down… sometimes it is good to work on good flow at a nice and easy pace to help lock those patterns in for doing some 5-10 minute periods of race pace. Riding singletrack is a lot like chess, always be trying to think of two moves ahead of where you are. Eyes up ahead looking where you want to end up. I’ll reiterate the trying to do at least 1, possibly the 2 weekday interval sessions and use your weekend ride if possible for some faster trail time. If you need weekday trail time take it really easy on the ups… then try to get in some good rhythm and flow when going downhill.

I personally believe technical skill isn’t improved by riding slow through a trail.

Nearly every technical sport I can think of requires practicing at the level you will be competing at to improve. This does NOT apply to cardio/endurance/strength efforts though. Strictly technical skill.

If I need to improve my balance, navigation, skill, and dial in the bike for a race I need to do that at race pace. If I don’t, I find that while I might have the engine to ride at the speed, I find myself out of control easier. This doesn’t mean going out and doing 20 miles at race pace… but putzing through the trail at Z2 won’t improve your technical skills in any way for a race.


Just about every technical sport drills at a slower speed as well as doing some time full speed. Professional fighters don’t spend all of their time doing full contact sparring…

so your saying MMA fighters never practice full contact sparring? they just walk around the ring with their arms down pretending to fight, and then in a match just pretend like they know how to fight?

of course they don’t. they have drills that are to mimic a fight, at fighting pace/intensity. as I said, it doesn’t take doing the full 20 miles of a race length at race pace to improve technical skill, if you NEVER ride at your max pace, you’ll never get faster technically.

just like a snowboarder will practice a routine to perfect it before going to the Olympics. a duathalon shooter will practice shooting while at max aerobic intensity, and any technical skill needs to be practiced how its going to be used in a race/event.

I have no idea how you are coming to that conclusion based on what I wrote. The only one here who even came close to mentioning something you should never do is you, which is not what actually happens in reality with the highest level skill athletes.


Haha had the same last week, although I am newbie in cycling in general and especially in mountain biking.

I had set a PR on a track in January and rode it for the first time again last week, I wasn’t pushing and I felt like my technique was a lot worse than in January but still managed to improve my PR with 3 minutes.

I hope to be able to spend some more time on the mountain bike this summer to improve on my technical skills

A lot of great feedback here. I’d just like to add that there are a lot of advantages riding outdoors. I used the previous recovery week doing shorter bursts of threshold out on the trails. I feel that only riding long slow distance once a week during the winter is good for keeping technical skill.


Riding fast outdoors requires a lot. Both fitness and skill.

I don’t have a problem riding at threshold out on the trails and once I get up to 40-60 minutes threshold work I generally feel that I start making stupid mistakes. Which I learn from and use to make improvements.

I strongly believe that making a real effort on an XCO-course is awesome training. Do 3-5 laps depending on how long it takes you and check power-profiles afterwards to see if that compares to your races.

I do 2-3 sessions indoors now during my first summer with Trainerroad. I’m about to die everytime because it’s like 28C indoors but I need to test out what works for me. This is only my second racing season so I’m still figuring things out.

However I feel what works. And riding slow outdoors is OK but riding fast outdoors is awesome and extremely necessary.

As a fellow XCO style racer this question seems pretty simple to me.

It’s a great example of when a low-volume plan is prime!

Basically, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday on the road bike following the trainer road plan.

Wednesday should be spent on single track developing skills, but at an easy pace (.60-.75 IF). This allows you to really experiment with line choice and different techniques that you wouldn’t be able to think about otherwise.

Sundays should also be spent on the trails, but generally at a faster pace. I tend to do about three hours at .80-.85 IF.

Just my two cents.

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