Outside workout on rolling singletrack (MTB) questions

I am new to Outside workouts, but I finally found a great way to make it happen on my MTB. I am using a rolling, closed-loop, 3.1 mile section of singletrack that is about a 15-20 minute bike ride over road and gravel/fields from my house. It is a less-frequented and less technical section of trail compared to other things around me. The other trails are less open, more rocky, with more dis-mounts required, and more heavily frequented by walking and riding users. I’m excited about the potential training this will provide for me!

My question for outside workouts on MTB: During an interval, is it my goal to be as constant as I can while also getting my NP in the recommended range? I am contending with loose and curving descents at times, so there is no choice but to slow down and to stop pedaling at times. Which means, that when I’m climbing or on the flat, I must often make myself go above the targeted power range in order to hit the interval target. I suppose it would be useful for my head unit to read “lap NP”, if I understand this right and it is a best practice.

In the couple rides I have done, I find that HR is pretty useful as feedback, though I know it can be variable. It’s often better feedback than the 3-s power I am reading on my Wahoo ELEMNT Roam head unit. It also accounts for all the other (non-pedaling) work my body is doing at times. For reference, I am using a Left-side-only Garmin Rally pedal-based power meter.

Are there any other recommendations on head unit setup? Or on other compensations to intervals where you know there is no other choice than to stop pedaling at times? I realize that if I am too extreme in going above the targets, that I will be targeting un-intended power systems for portions of my interval, but I feel I am doing the best with the trails I have. And - the trails I have are honestly the same trails I target for racing, so I consider that a bonus. Thank you, TR, for letting me get outside!

Don’t chase the NP number. If the goal of the interval is 300w, your goal should be to spend as much time at 300w. Don’t do 375 for 30 seconds cause you had to soft pedal a corner.

I liked 3 second smoothing as a beginner because it was quick enough to show me when my power was dropping or spiking. IMO 10 seconds is too long for a beginner since you might not know how your effort correlates to a specific power number, especially as you’re on rolling terrain. The 3 second smoothing showed me pretty quickly when I needed to make adjustments. As I got better at training, I could anticipate and think I could do 10 second power now.

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I’ve tried workouts on MTB trails numerous times and its just not very effective. There’s just too many turns and undulations to get the intervals even close. I’d move your workouts to gravel/road. Maybe if it’s the right trail you can do z2 and/or tempo, but other than that it’s not the best way to do outdoor workouts.


MI-XC, I seem able to do Sweet Spot ok. You may be right that more difficult intervals may have to be specifically suited to some of the uphill parts of the course. But my new attitude is to prioritize training on the trail above getting the intervals done well. I’m going to see how it goes - since I’m in SSB right now, I may do ok.

Be mindful of how much coasting there is on that rolling course. For longer intervals (like SS) it might be ok if coasting is very minimal. Do you have any extended off road climbs, gravel road climbs are best IMO.

For me, where I ride… trying to hit numbers on a singletrack course is hard. Because of this I use a segment of the course (of desired length) and do timed repeats on it. That way when you hit that turn, hill, drop you aren’t worried about a power meter reading but getting though it as fast as possible. Mountain biking is a different beast and IMO training tilts more toward cross country running than road cycling.

All that said be careful out there as the risk of a head-on collision increases a ton when working out on singletrack. I have had one (not fun) and a few scarey near misses. Even when you are alert, have a bell and calling out on blind turns the other guy could have headphones in and not paying attention. Because of this I now do my interval training is on gravel or places with full visibility. Stay safe!