Spin to Win

Gravel biking Montana

Adapting from the slopes to the trails.

We’ve made it through another winter in Montana, but looming is what I refer to as “Peloton season.” Leverich still has lingering snowdrifts, Copper City is almost a go, and the town trails are mud-buckets. This is when a stationary or gravel bike takes the stage. It’s the opportune time to rebuild biking endurance.

Our muscles are composed of two types of fibers: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Slow-twitch muscles are employed for low intensity, sustained efforts, while fast-twitch muscles are used for intense, powerful, short bursts. The latter tire more quickly and are more difficult to train. This is where spring interval training on a spin bike or gravel bike comes into play. It’s an efficient training strategy and an excellent way to prepare your muscles for a long summer of mountain-bike riding on our local trails, which requires both slow- and fast-twitch fibers.

Interval training involves working at intensities unsustainable for extended periods. Typically, that means efforts between 30 seconds and five minutes. Rest times between intervals are usually equal to, or less than, the work time. Shoot for a work-to-rest ratio of 1:1 or 2:1. Here’s my go-to interval training for a stationary or gravel bike:

  • 10- to 15-minute warmup at a moderate pace.
  • 40 seconds of hard, fast work, followed by 20 seconds of rest. Repeat 10-12 times, maintaining a cadence between 100-110rpm. Adjust resistance accordingly.
  • 5-minute cool-down or recovery.
  • Repeat for an added challenge.

I suggest incorporating interval exercises once a week leading up to bike season, alongside strength and mobility training. You can also diversify your interval workouts to target different energy systems, modifying the work-to-rest ratio as you develop aerobic and muscular strength. Let the mud season be your training ground, propelling you toward conquering the bike trails with gusto. Enjoy the ride!

Alyssa Deane is an avid mountain biker and a physical therapist at APRS Physical Therapy.