First, you are assuming that you have to do intervals when you ride outside. There is no such requirement. A 4 hour high Z2 / low Z3 ride will do wonders for increasing your aerobic capabilities. So the fact that you need to ride for 30’ to get to where you can do intervals is somewhat irrelevant (and really only applicable to your unique situation).
Second, if you are incorporating intervals into a longer ride, then riding for 30 min (or whatever) before starting any intervals is no big deal. Ride Z2 until you are ready to do them…complete them and then continue with a Z2 ride back home.
We are participating in an aerobic sport…more volume will always be beneficial to increasing your aerobic capabilities, and longer rides are a critical component of building that system.
I just did a 6 hour mountain bike race over the weekend. Overall, it went great. Fitness, nutrition and execution were as good as I could have hoped. I mainly followed the trainer road off road marathon plan, but I did do a couple of “training” rides to prepare myself. About two months ago, I did a 6 hour easy road ride to test my nutrition. The last 4 weekends, I’ve been doing easy-ish 3 hour mountain bike rides one day a week to get my body better used to the demands of the mountain bike, but didn’t do anything close to 6 hours.
It’s no big deal - but it’s not offering much benefit and adding an hour onto my ride. Which is a problem if I am time limited! An hour of something targeted on the turbo is better than an hour of random riding outside and if I am that time limited, the added prep etc compared to hopping on the turbo is going to be a big factor.
I actually stand by what I said first - 2 hour turbo rides will give you all the fitness gains you need to ride pretty much any distance. Past a certain point, really long rides are about pacing, fuelling and mental strength, not fitness (and MTB requires a lot of skill also). All of those things benefit from practice as well.
That doesn’t mean that longer rides are not helpful and you shouldn’t do them - they are and you should, if you can - rather it means that you needn’t be worried about an upcoming long ride on fitness grounds if you haven’t had time to do any longer rides in the run up.
I did a 12 hour ride a couple of years back and just looking back at my training, my longest rides in the run up were only a bit over 3 hours outside and a lot of 90 min TR sessions. I’m not alone in this experience I am sure…
No, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is in the same situation…first rule of marketing / product development is always “never assume your situation is what other people want” Same here…just because it is challenging for you (and others) doesn’t mean everyone has that issue.
Again, it depends…for someone with a lot of experience, absolutely. But that is because they have built a large aerobic base over the years. For a newbie just getting into the sport, it would likely spell disaster for the majority of people attempting it.
Again, this is not correct. There are big fitness gains to be made if you have the time to complete these longer rides consistently and are able to recover from them. Pros don’t just do the long rides/weeks because they have the time for them. They do them because they can recover from it and there are fitness gains to be made.
Sure, if you don’t have the time to do them regularly then it’s not like you will just drop dead when you try to do a longer ride and you might even be pretty successful at longer distances. But to say that after 2 hours there aren’t any fitness gains to be made is just a false statement.
I didn’t mean to be too confrontational, so sorry if it came off like that. I think for the most part we agree but I think consistent, long, endurance rides have a much greater benefit to you as an endurance athlete than many time crunched riders want to admit. Do you NEED them in order to complete longer events? no. But they do play an extremely great role in endurance training.
If you are time crunched and are deciding between a 2hr turbo and a 2hr outside ride then the turbo is probably the way to go (purely for fitness, ignoring the mental boost of fresh air). But if you have the time and it won’t cost you a divorce or child neglect then a 4hr outside ride will almost always provide greater benefit than a 2hr turbo ride. I’m not saying do this for every single ride but if you typically do 90-120min turbo rides with intensity during the week then I would always swap the 2hr turbo for the 4hr outside on the weekend.
To bring this back to OP’s question, if you have the time and the motivation then ignore one of those weekend rides and go do a 3-4 hour endurance MTB ride. If you can’t some weekends, or not at all, then you’ll be okay. But if your fitness and life can both handle the long ride and the necessary recovery then a long ride will almost always be better.
Outside of tapers, recovery weeks, and transition/off seasons you should aim to ride at the highest volume that your fitness and lifestyle can handle while still recovering. If that training is properly structured, then more hours will (in almost every situation) always equal more fitness as long as you can recover from it.
I myself have learned the benefit of having a longer ride of 4 hours. I would think some of it comes from how long you have been riding. I only started riding roughly 5-6 years ago. The first few years fitness changed dramatically as I learned to ride more consistently. The last few years I have been fairly consistent and have now can handle a 4 hour ride without it taking a lot out of me. My preference indoors is to keep my rides to typically 1.5 hours. At the start of spring I do find I need longer outside rides to get back to the comfort level of doing a longer ride. Muscles do adapt and after doing a week or two of these I find there is a different ability in my own comfort with riding longer. Yes I can go out and ride 4-6 hours with the longest ride being 1.5 hours but add in some long rides and I really do experience a different change to my body. It definitely impacts how I feel on the bike. I do feel stronger doing these longer rides vs not doing them.
So a recap on my experience. I added 2 4hr+ rides to the plan and associated them with Highland. AT did not recommend. I was very surprised how easily i completed them. Race week taper came and not feeling well, found the shortened threshold and vo2 rides tough, which was worrying.
Race day. Not feeling great, but won the vet2 class (3rd last yr) and was 6mins faster than best time.
My take. The long rides weren’t necessary but i have pacing food and race strategy sorted. Id fully trust the plan next time, although I do enjoy longer rides.
Also sweet spot sucks, give me threshold and Vo2 every time.