Really high HR on when MTBing

I’ve been using TR for a little over a month so far and am really pleased with the adaptations I’m seeing - so yeah!

Here is my question - when I’m on my gravel bike or the trainer (Kickr, in erg mode for the TR workouts) my HR response is very logical - goes up on hills, higher intensity, etc. But when I mountain bike on the trails my heart rate is high all.the.time. I took up mountain biking as a 40 year old mom and brought no “I rode as a kid skills” to the table so I’m not a very good technical rider. And because of this any tech (and I mean even some minimal tech like a rooty section or a few logs to hop over) and my HR sky rockets (likely due to a combination of anxiety, completely tensing up and fighting my bike). Thus, every time I do a mountain bike ride I’m cruising around with 85+% HR for a lot of my ride. I’ve got a 50 mile 9000’ vertical ride in September that is an A race (Vermont 50) and I planned to do low volume training T,W,Th and then longer trail rides on weekends. Am I sabotaging my TR prescribed efforts by doing 3+ hour rides with an avg HR of 85%? Thanks!

PS - I just ordered the Garmin Rally 100 pedals so I’ll soon have outdoor power data if that matters, but I don’t yet

PPS - I have taken a MTB skills clinic and have gotten some help with friends but I don’t think finesse on the bike is ever going to be my thing :slight_smile:


It sounds like you’re doing fine with the Training effort for your physical engine, I’m wondering if you should take some of that 3+ hour time to do an hour of basic MTB skills. As you’ve identified the stress/anxiety of technical riding certainly seems evident in your HR. There’s tons of videos of drills you can do on YouTube where all you need some open space and your bike. I think you’d derive HUGE benefit from working on the basics.

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Skills will definitely help, though maybe not in a way that shows up on the HRM. MTB is much more of a full-body activity than road or even gravel, so you will have a bit of a bump for that. I’m 50+ male, and started MTB in my early 40’s. My HR is always higher on the MTB than the road for what feels like a similar effort, and when I race XCO, my HR leaps to about 90% of max, and pretty much stays there for the race (~90 min).

I don’t think you’re derailing your training in any way, you’re just getting a different workout, and improving your MTB muscle fitness,

And a word of caution for the power meter, initially you’re likely to be disappointed at the numbers as compared to the RPE. Particularly average power. MTB is so varied and bursty that the averages alway look low compared to how you feel, especially if you’re used to road or trainer averages. That’s not to say it’s useless, quite the opposite, but you’ll need to spend some time learning to interpret the numbers you see with the actual effort you’re delivering.

I’ve found the real-time power data is most useful on longer climbs, where the steady effort lends itself to more reliable numbers you can use to modulate your effort.

Good luck in VT!


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HR during MTB is pretty much irrelevent, unless you’re actually following a very specific outdoor workout/intervals.

I regularly ride MTB and my HR is as high on the downs, with no pedalling, as it is on the ups. The only time you get a break is on the flatter transitions between trails :slight_smile:

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Thanks! I’m not really planning on using the power meter for MTB except for things like you said - trying not to dig too big of a hole on long climbs and then just curiosity. I plan on keeping them on my gravel bike except for MTB races I think.

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