Marathon mtb plan and actually riding a mtb

While doing the mtb marathon plan, I do need to ride my Mt bike to keep my skills up What trainer workout is best to substitute in a mtb ride ? I probably need to ride off-road once a week. It’s pretty much impossible to do a prescribed interval workout on our technical twisty singletrack.

Hi! I’ve been on MV-plans all year and used Sunday to ride my MTB for minimum of 3hrs. But I’d recommend riding fast at least once a week if at all possible. That is race pace. It’s so different from riding LSD with the MTB. I made sure that my Sunday-ride had at least 150TSS but then I’ve been hammering about 600TSS/week all year round.


Hi… I’ve been replacing the Saturday ride with outdoor MTB. Aim for about 1.5-2 x TSS of the prescribed workout since the outdoor ride will be less focused part of the TSS will be “junk”.

So I really don’t get the “junk” miles or junk TSS comment. Not calling you out specifically but just in general as I think I’ve heard this on the podcast before. Increasing your training hours has a direct impact on your improvement as an endurance athlete.

I absolutely don’t buy the it’s better to ride an hour on the trainer than ride 1.5 hours outside. Yes if your noodling around without any structure at all that might be the case. But adding 30 minutes to each ride by doing them outside adds up to a huge improvement in overall training hours which is proven to increase performance. I don’t think there is any TSS or time or miles that are junk. I will say there are some people that live in a downtown area of a large city that maybe it is more effective to use the trainer, but if you live in an area where you can get out and ride I think people should.

It isn’t a zero sum game where the only options are be structured inside or be unstructured outside. Just because you descend after doing a climb outside doesn’t mean you would have had a “better” workout if you had done the intervals inside.

I think some of this perception has to do with TR not having a built in function to perform workouts outside. They have spent the first part of their existence trying to convince people they needed a TR subscription year around so they didn’t lose as much revenue in the summer. I totally get that, but it is not true that riding inside is always a better option no matter what. I would rather get in a 2.5 hour ride after work each day which includes my intervals and get in an extra 1.5 hours of “junk” TSS than only perform a 60 minute trainer session. In my experience I have gained way more fitness by being able to push to a minimum of 2 hours each day after work and increasing that training load.

To provide commentary on your question I would ride outside on the MTB on Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday. Thursday on the MV plans is a base day if I remember correctly which you can do on a MTB as long as your not doing a ton of climbing. Then on Saturday it is intervals that you can hopefully find a climb to perform them on an then do the rest of your ride on the trails. Same thing with Sunday as that should be a long ride if your not on the trainer. Again can do a 2-3 hour Base MTB ride. The work on the MTB prepares your other muscles needed to ride single track over long periods of time vs just spinning on a trainer.


FWIW I did 5 6+ hour 55-80 mile marathon races this year going through all these plans as prescribed except (MV) for the Sunday ride. I turned it into an outdoor ride and had to use heart rate as my gauge since I don’t have a power meter on my Mtb. If it was a 3x20 workout I would do the 3x20 but set my heart rate as the gauge of that 20. Not the same but the best I could do with what I had. This gave me plenty of trail strength for my race. I also kept lifting as well which also was a big help. No injuries and no fatigue aside from the race itself.


A lot too depends on the type of mountain biking which can range widely in technicality but also in terms of the length of climbs (rolling single tract vs big mountain climbs etc).

For me personally, both the indoor and outdoor work complement each other and I’m certain I get good fitness gains from both. Indoors, I’m able to lock into power zones and grind out the intervals. Outdoors, I can hit the repeated efforts hard and still mix in a lot of volume. In my region we don’t tend to have a lot of long, extended climbs, but rather rolling terrain with lots of surges, so hitting these trails tends to work both aerobic and anaerobic systems. In addition, bike handling is such a big part of mountain biking and I’m always trying to think of something to work on during rides, be it cornering smoother, pumping efficiently, etc. On days I’m feeling tired, I always get a boost going outside where I might otherwise get bogged down on the trainer. But the indoor structure compliments this outdoor activity really well.

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That is why I’ve ridden outside during all of the winter. And racing as well. It’s a whole different ballgame riding fast outside vs. endurance-pace. But even endurance-pace is well worth it outside. I’ve gained a lot of endurance-benefits from riding 3-4hrs every Sunday. I’ve also done most of those rides fasted. So I can only recommend doing at least one ride outside but I’d suggest two. One day where you go all out, race-pace on your XCO-track for 30-60 mins and one where you go z1-z2 for 3-4hrs.

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I replace the Saturday workout with a hard trail ride. I don’t try to mimic the workout, as MI trails are punchy and essentially intervals anyways. I do try to come close to the same TSS though, but I don’t worry if I’m a bit off. On occasion I will also do the Sunday ride on country gravel roads matching the workout exactly. I have a power meter on my MTB so it makes it easy. This is more so I can enjoy the good weather as opposed to being in my dark basement on the trainer.

Indoors will provide you with the correct specific training, but you need outdoors riding for Mtb specificity and to ensure you can remain comfortable with your bike setup for 4hrs plus.

Marathon race pace is effectively high tempo with VO2max bursts on climbs. Riding hard on technical terrain is needed for skills but also your safety when tired - you need a clear head technically after 4hrs.

My weekend pre race included 4hr hard outdoor efforts, and recent 12hr race training ended with 2 x 7hr efforts over subsequent weekends pre-taper.

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I do the low volume TR plans, and add outside rides on top of those.

I’ll also sometimes replace a TR workout with some sweet spot or VO2 intervals on a fire road ascent, and descend on single track. That’s a good way to get the best of both worlds.

I started Trainer Road to increase my mtb fitness and lose weight, and it has. I’ve gone from 175 to 255 and lost 30lbs. But, I live in Colorado to be outdoors and in the mountains. I supplement my outside rides with TrainerRoad rides, not vice versa. I don’t have to be at a certain level of fitness and am enjoying my renewed fitness journey while I ride outside as much as I can.