Cycle Training for Motocross
by Aldon Baker
That is one impressive lineup of riders: James Stewart, Aldon Baker, and the Hayden Brothers!
photo courtesy Aldon Baker
When it comes to cross training for motocross it seems that the overwhelming choice for most trainers, including myself is cycling. This is because most of us were involved in cycling at one point in our lives whether it was road cycling or mountain biking. I think it is the best form of outdoor training that can be done for motocross. It's a great low-impact training tool for boosting leg strength, stamina and cardio fitness, and it's something that you can do nearly anywhere and on a limited time schedule. It's also a training tool that's easy to track both time and intensity, and it has its two-wheeled similarities to MX, especially when it comes to mountain biking.
The fitness benefit of cycling isn’t just for the pros and can be enjoyed by every one in every age group. The seriously out-of-shape can benefit from a road ride just as much as a top athlete. Young kids as well as older riders can experience the benefits of either road cycling or mountain biking. The off-season and pre-season periods are the perfect time to either start a brand new program if you have never ridden or pick up the intensity if you are a seasoned rider. Road rides are great because they can be done either in a group or on your own. If you are brand new to cycling a great way to get started is to ask around and see if there is a bike club in your area. Bike shops are a great resource and I guarantee there are riders of all skill levels in your town.
Mountain Biking or Road Cycling?
Making the choice between a road or mountain bike is really up to personal preference. I believe you can get a great workout from either form. However, I prefer the road bike because I can get a more consistent workout from my guys. For instance, when I was training Ricky, we spent way more time on the road bike because the workouts were simply more consistent and the terrain is almost always the same, therefore it was easier to measure his training progress. With James and the rest of my guys, I use the road bike for the same reasons.
While road riding is currently the hot ticket, mountain bikes relate more to what you do on an MX bike. Mountain biking is generally more fun because you can jump over obstacles and feel more like you are actually on a motocross bike. A mountain bike can also help keep your technical skills sharp. But ultimately, I recommend which ever form is going to keep you coming back for more. In the end, the best ride is one that you will want to do week-after-week!
If you are new to cycling, I suggest reading this comprehensive article posted on Virtual Trainer that will tell you what to look for when buying a bike. Otherwise, go to a reputable dealer, usually a bike shop in your town that has been in business for a long time, and request their help. Cycling is filled with bike clubs and fanatics and the guys that work in these shops are very knowledgeable and eager to help new people. Just like Motocross, cycling is filled with great people. Once you get your bike and start riding, expect your butt to be pretty sore. Padded shorts and a gel seat will help in the long run, but in the beginning expect to walk away from the first few rides wondering how you are going to continue. Ask any one who has ridden for a while and they will all tell you that it gets better. It’s called, ‘getting saddle hardened.’ It should only take a few weeks of consistent riding for the pain to go away.
If you are brand new to the cycling, or are just starting back from a long layoff, I have put together a general workout for you to follow. The schedule will be three days per week, for 45 minutes. After the first two to four weeks the length of the ride can be increased but I don’t recommend anything longer than 2 hours. If you are venturing out on the road for the first time without an experienced rider, try to find a “loop” that is fairly flat and one that you will be able to complete in the allotted time. It may take a few rides to find a good loop. Once your confidence increases, you can find more challenging terrain with hills. This is why I recommend riding with an individual or a group that knows the roads in your area.
Light gear -------> small sprocket on front, big sprocket on rear. Cadence will be fast.
Tall Gear --------> big sprocket on front, small sprocket on rear. Cadence will be slow.
Cadence --------> How fast your legs are spinning. To set your cadence, count your pedal revolutions per ten-second
High Cadence ----> 15-20 revolutions in 10 seconds (90 to 120 RPM)
Note: “Regular” cadence will be a rate which suites your terrain. If you live in Florida like I do where it is flat, your cadence will be higher than if you live in an area with hills.
James looks pretty good on a road bike!
photo: Courtesy James Stewart
If you find that you need more leg strength on the motorcycle, then low-cadence, high resistance intervals will be important for you. By pedaling with a high resistance at a slow cadence you will force your muscles to develop fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast Twitch fibers are important in the development of explosive leg power which is crucial for the Motocross athlete. Being able to stand and sit on the motorcycle in a powerful manner will aid in proper body position throughout the race.
|Sample Workout: Developing Leg Strength
For this workout interval, a “loop” with hills is needed. Otherwise the same hill can be ridden over and over. At the start of the hill, shift into a tall gear that you can only push at 50 to 55 RPM (8 to 9 revolutions per ten-second count). Stay seated and focus on pulling your feet back through the bottom of the pedal stroke and pushing forward over the top of the stroke. Power your way to the top of the hill for a total of five to ten minutes. Once you get to the top if you are doing hill repeats, ride to the bottom and repeat for three intervals. If you prefer heart rates over cadence, going up the hill you should be in Zone 4. Going back down, down zones 2 and 3.
Sample Workout: Aerobic Development
While there are literally thousands of different ways to put a ride together, these are three simple examples of how you can make your cycle training more effective and specific to motocross. If you are a beginner, after a few months of cycling, you will soon start to see the benefits of cycling and how to adapt a ride to your particular needs. If you are an experienced cyclist, hopefully this will help you develop your program and tailor it to your needs as I do with my guys. Either way, I hope this article gives you some insight on how I use cycling to train my athletes. Thanks for reading and cheers for now!
That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.