Maintaining Fitness in the Transition from Summer to Fall

By Sarah Kaufmann

Sarah Kaufmann enjoying the
Sarah Kaufmann enjoying the fall colors. Photo courtesy Sarah Kaufmann.

As summer winds down and fall rolls in, we are about to enjoy some of the most incredible riding of the year. Whether you are closing out a heavy season of road or mountain bike racing or just finishing a long summer of recreational riding, the weather, the colors and the dirt off-road are at their peak during the fall. There are great options for keeping your fitness and improving your riding: cyclocross racing, skills training, mountain biking for the road rider or road riding for the mountain bike rider.

The fall can be a great time to work on skills – both for roadies and MTB’ers. There are clinics and private coaching to this end. Try something new! Many of the resorts offer lift access mountain bike riding or have the trails still open – put on a full-face helmet and hop on a big travel bike! See the fall colors from behind goggles. I guarantee if you have been riding roads all summer, this will be a whole new experience – and don’t think just because it is gravity-fueled that you won’t get a workout. If you’re doing it right, downhill riding is a powerful and exhausting full-body effort! Not to mention an exercise in adrenaline!

With all the rain we have had this summer, the dirt is perfect Velcro for your tires right now. We are lucky to live in an area many consider a mecca of mountain biking. Park City has 400+ miles of trails alone and the views of the shimmering aspens in the fall are truly breathtaking.

The road riding in the fall is also amazing. It’s pretty nice not to be chased out of the valley by unbearable heat or nasty inversions…but it still pretty wonderful to pedal up any of our numerous canyons to enjoy the same shimmering aspen views and crisp fall air.

For many people, it is time to make the switch to cyclocross racing. CX racing can be a great way to prolong summer fitness and a super fun way to keep riding when the snow starts to fly.

When the temperature drops and snow starts falling, think about trying a CX race. Mud and freezing temperatures are what make CX fun! It’s time to put those off-road skills you picked up at the bike park to use!

For what it’s worth, I haven’t participated in a CX race in two years. (For all the reasons above… perfect dirt, beautiful colors and super comfortable temperatures). The fall is such an amazing time to ride – I would rather get lost for hours on my mountain bike than ride in circles for 45 minutes. That said, CX racing is a total blast and ‘riding is circles for 45 minutes’ is the worst possible way to describe it. It is the CrossFit of bike racing with strength, form, skills, fitness, and agility all required. (And when your barrier skills are like mine, a sense of humor helps, too).

CX racing is a great way to prolong the riding season before it is time to transition to something more winter-friendly (or at least before it is time to be truly miserable while training on the bike). Check out the cyclocross section in the calendar section of this issue for the full calendar of CX races in the Intermountain area. Our local CX community is super welcoming and the vibe is fun and supportive (just remember that heckling is part of the program and is considered supportive…).

While the CX scene is fun and happy, you will want to change up your training a little after a season of riding or racing on the road or MTB. Contact me below, I am a coach and can help you with this! You may have a solid base of fitness but you will need some final touches to tune up your CX engine. Moreover, a full CX season can give you a leg up on fitness for next year. The winter is the time to really do your homework and make the big advances in form and fitness for next year.

If you have never tried CX racing and are thinking about it, give it a shot. There are first-timer races so you will be racing against other people in the same boat. You will want to practice getting on and off your bike quickly. And you should have a moderate level of comfort riding your bike off-road. But there will be no challenging technical terrain or any technical moves with consequence.

You do not need a CX specific bike to race CX. A mountain bike can work great. If you want to get an edge, swap out your wide MTB tires for something skinny (with knobs). If you have suspension with a lockout, lock it out for the race (both front and rear). If you use clipless pedals, you should use MTB-specific shoes, or something with a sole that has tread and not a slick road-specific shoe. Make sure you do a warm-up (this is a great time to pre-ride the course, just do it between other races when there aren’t racers on the course). Practice getting off the line and clipped into your pedals and moving fast!

See you at the races! But don’t be surprised if it’s after the perfect fall riding conditions have passed!

Sarah Kaufmann is a coach with PLAN7 Endurance Coaching and a pro XC racer with Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite Team. She won the 2011 Women’s A UTCX Series Championship. She can be reached at [email protected] or 413.522.3180

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