Go faster gadgets

Coach to the pros Alan Milway shows us how to harness the power of tech to turbo boost your performance on the trails.

>>> Why is fitness such a taboo subject in mountain biking?

Monitoring fitness is big business now, with Fitbits, smart watches and phone apps all tracking your exercise, telling you how you’re doing and how you could do better. You can also share your performances with the world and hope to connect with others over this, maybe even earning some kudos along the way.

Fitbit wrist-based heart rate monitor

Heart rate monitor

Your go-to gadget, great for helping you get a good idea of what certain efforts ‘feel’ like. The better your understanding, the better you will be able to note progress. Use the average and max features to assess if your ride targeted the areas you wanted, and to know when to back it down if needed – especially if one of your friends has shot off up the first climb! Great at letting you know if your pacing is as expected – and targeting your efforts too. Be aware that daily heart rates can fluctuate a lot for the same given output due to weather, fatigue, hydration, sleep etc. If you want to keep a close eye on yourself, using them to measure your resting heart rate in the morning is an ideal tool to see if you have a cold coming or you are doing too much – a rise in resting heart will indicate this.

Single-sided power meter

Power meter

Once the preserve of the Tour de France pro, power meters are now de rigeur for road cyclists, but haven’t really caught on for mountain bikers as yet. They measure the power put through the cranks, and this output is displayed on a monitor in watts. This is a very accurate representation of effort and allows you to see if you are likely to sustain the effort for a prolonged period or are working in your ‘red’ zone. Off-road, these numbers can jump around a lot due to the nature of the terrain, so ‘smoothing’ the data for a three-second average is useful. They are a great training tool and also a great way to monitor performance over a sustained time by taking averages for five minutes/10 minutes etc. You can compare your best through software (or training apps) and note training improvements and changes. You can also measure your max power – interesting and depressing in equal measure when you compare that to a track sprinter!

Training apps

The rise of the smartphone has produced an army of zombies, and when riding there’s no escaping the need to stop and show the world what we’re doing. However, tracking rides can be very useful. Using the data to give average length of ride, total duration over the course of a week or month, and also to set challenges to beat personal best times can be a very useful motivational tool. There are a number of training apps now where you can follow a training calendar and training programme, and they offer plenty of tools to assess progress. However, be mindful that if you are out to have fun with your friends at the weekend, your ride should not be defined purely be whether you or not your got a Strava KOM. Target certain rides to beat previous goals and by logging rides in a training calendar you will be able to see how your riding is improving.

Who is Alan Milway?

Alan is the best mountain bike coach in the business. He’s steered riders like the Athertons and Brendog to success, and helps regular riders like us get the most out of our riding