XC Racing Training

Hope everyone is having a good year! Looking to maybe dabble in XC racing next year, not anything with massive miles, 30 to maybe 35ish type stuff. My question is would I be better off with a second gravel or hardtail bike from a training perspective.? The gravel would be good for the endurance miles but I can also do that on a hardtail. I can also use the hardtail on the trainer for TR workouts etc. My background is trail/enduro riding with the last couple of years focused on mainly technical XC riding in the northeast. I have really come to love just pedaling vs climbing a trail and bombing down (enduro) or riding a chair lift. I have both a gravel and hardtail as second bikes and I am looking to consolidate. Thanks for the help!

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Hard tail! What bike are you going to race your actual XC races on though? Because… use that one. But between a hard tail and a gravel bike, the hard tail will put you in a position much closer to what you’ll use on race day. I just did a gravel race on my FS bike that I use for XCM racing and I choose that to get used to the position as I’ve been on my gravel and enduro bike a lot this summer.

If you’re going to be racing get a HT because you can use it for races.

Still up in the air as to what I will build for next year. I am honestly just bored with the gravel stuff haha and hoping everyone will answer hardtail. I rode a lot of gravel last year and sure it was good for aerobic fitness but I am not a believe that it transition over to mtb as much because of the body position. I think you can only build mtb fitness on the trail so I have been logging some bigger trail miles this year to help that on my trail bike.


It sounds like you already have both a HT and gravel bike already and therefore looking to get rid of one?

The HT is extremely versatile, you could ride trails and also ride gravel on it. On rougher gravel routes you might not be giving up much speed to a dedicated gravel bike.

That being said, why not keep both? You could use the dedicated gravel bike to do longer Z2 aerobic rides to continue to build your base fitness. These could be done on the road on or gravel. Then for the trails or more aggressive gravel routes use the HT.

I’d say the missing piece would be a full suspension XC bike. With all the rocky, rooted trails in the Northeast, a full suspension like an Epic or Supercaliber would make things a lot more comfortable and may get you doing longer days on the trails.

Preach. I’ve chased MTB fitness on road, trainer, gravel - doesn’t translate. Unless you’re doing courses with extended fire roads etc, you’ve got the right approach.


Agree with the points here. For a 90min - 2hr XCO you’re going to spend most of that with your heart bursting out of your chest, so gets some long winter endurance to underpin the upper end work, then get a hardtail / your racebike and use that for all the other efforts on trails to a) train your technical ability and b) get used to the bike. Use that time to practice your in-race nutrition.

The less things you’re mentally or physically having to worry about when racing the better.

Oh, and welcome to the rabbit hole…

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I am 100% biased. Hardtail

I have a gravel bike, I almost never ride it off road. It has just become my backup bike when my roadie is down. I also have a 170mm coil bike that is my main MTB. But when I want to go fast in the dirt, it is my XC HT.

It is a magical feeling when you mash the pedals of a sub 20 pound hardtail.

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