Riding Strong – A Track Fitness Guide

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How To: Ride Strong Track Fitness Guide

Digital fuel injection. Dual compound tires. Ride-by-wire throttles. Four-way adjustable suspension. Traction control. Antilock brakes. The modern sport bike is a dizzying array of technology, all designed to aid the rider in controlling the machine on the razor’s edge.

The past two decades have seen quantum leaps in the design of everything from tires to throttle bodies. The result is a crop of machines that, despite being the fastest and most powerful ever built, are also among the easiest to ride.

But all of that MotoGP-inspired technology is useless if the rider can’t hold up their end of the bargain. The physical and mental demands of riding a sport bike at the track are a concentrated dose of anything you’ll experience on the street. For that reason, many riders new to the track find themselves smoked after only a few 20 minute sessions, even if they are able to ride their local twisties for hours!

There’s a reason why you’ll find all of the top professionals doing intense physical training between race weekends, and it isn’t just so they can stay at a light weight. Being fit for bike means better control, better concentration, and best of all, more track time!

How To: Ride Strong Track Fitness Guide

When you go to the track, do you ride every lap of every session? I never used to. When I first started, the best I could manage was 5 sessions a day, just because I was too tired to do any more. Taking a tip from the pros, I bought a used bicycle in 2009 and started riding. Now I have three (for road, mountain and cyclocross), and ride and race them all year ‘round, in part to stay in shape for the track. These days, you’ll find me waiting by the starter’s flag for almost every session.

The benefits of cycling for anyone wishing to ride at the track cannot be overstated. Intense rides and hill climbs will increase your aerobic capacity. Long, steady rides will help you trim fat and build your endurance. The muscles you develop while pedaling are exactly the same ones you’ll use on the motorcycle. Even your visual skills will be improved, especially from mountain biking, as you’ll be required to choose lines, keep your eyes up, and look through corners just the same as you do at the track.

How To: Ride Strong Track Fitness Guide

A good strength training program pays huge dividends, as well. Your leg position on a sport bike is essentially the same as a deep squat, with the exception that your weight is on the balls of your feet instead of your heels. Strong legs and core muscles are essential to moving yourself around on the bike, moving the bike around under you, and keeping your hands light on the bars throughout.

Focus the majority of your exercises on your legs and core. Free-weight movements like squats and deadlift are the most efficient, because they are compound exercises. Isolation work (such as what is provided by most machines in the gym) has its place, but should be considered secondary. Don’t overlook bodyweight exercises, like pushups, planks and air squats, as they can play an important role in your program as well.

How To: Ride Strong Track Fitness Guide

Flexibility can also play an important role. For instance, tight hamstrings can cause your back to hunch as you reach for the clip-ons, overextending your back muscles and causing your core to fatigue more quickly. A flexible posterior chain allows you to keep a neutral spine as part of a proper body position, which in turn allows your core to work more efficiently to support your weight, instead of your wrists. My recommendation? Yoga. No, really. The combination of isometric strength work and deep stretching will help in all of the areas I just talked about, and with the bonuses of making you less injury prone, faster to recover, and more relaxed in general. Give it a try.

Finally, the most important component of any fitness program is the program. Create a routine or a schedule, and do the best you can to stick with it. Plan on spending a couple days a week on a bike, a couple more days in the weight room, and at least one day a week on flexibility. Find a weightlifting program that interests you, or even meet with a personal trainer to design one custom made for your needs.

How To: Ride Strong Track Fitness Guide

When you improve your fitness, you’ll be shocked at how much more fun you can have at the track. You’ll be less tired, in less pain, more aware, and able to relax on the bike more. A relaxed rider is a fast rider, as any riding school in the country will tell you. Together with looking after your nutrition, as we’ve already discussed, a good fitness routine will have you taking care of your body as well as you do your bike, and the result can only be bigger smiles, and lower lap times!

Do you have a routine that you follow? Questions about specific exercises? Leave them in the comments below!

  • stever

    EVERY DAY IS LEG DAY.

    • Stuki

      You’re either young, roided, or not working very hard……..

      • stever

        cry harder

        • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

          Recover more

          • stever

            do you even lift?

            • Jonas Hallberg

              Apparently you don’t.

            • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

              25+ years & still making gains. You lost this conversation.

              • stever

                Leg day underachievers please try harder

    • Ryan Kiefer

      True, for average-height people with body weights above about 250# who are still active.

      One lasting legacy of me weighting 70# more than I do now, but not being sedentary at the time, is that my legs are solid. I only do leg day once/week to maintain what I have, but it’s mostly for the back and core work that go hand-in-hand with leg work.

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Nice one pete. Couldn’t have said it better.

    • http://pete.hitzeman.com/cephas365 Pete Hitzeman

      Thanks!

  • Ryan Kiefer

    While it’s more important for the track, staying reasonably fit is a good idea for any rider.

    Fatigue is the enemy (one of many, that is) of safe riding. The fitter one is, the longer it takes for fatigue to set in. This is important for those of us who commute, and are riding home at the end of a 10+ hour day. When there’s more in the tank to begin with, you’ve got more left at the end of that long day.

    • http://pete.hitzeman.com/cephas365 Pete Hitzeman

      A good point, Ryan. Unless you’re on a Goldwing trike, fitness is important at some level for all riders.

    • Justin McClintock

      Pretty sure if I suggested something called a “burpee” to my wife in the sack, I’d be told no regardless of what it was.

  • Scheffy

    moar of these articles plz.

  • Sergei Petrov

    i’ll stick to 16oz curls

  • Piglet2010

    And find a job that does not wear you out physically OR mentally.

    • Justin McClintock

      No matter how much you like your job, eventually you’re gonna have days that do.

  • Justin McClintock

    I still try to go running or hit the eliptical a couple times a week and lift twice a week or so. But getting a “regular” routine in with a 3 year old and a 1 year old at home is challenging to say the least. I have tendonitis in both my elbows right now. Best way to get rid of that is to stop doing what caused it. Yeah…that’s not gonna work. Picking up my 3 year old caused it. Wasn’t an issue the way I used to do it…but that put strain on my back and eventually I threw out my back because of it. So yeah…kids change stuff, and you can call me Captain Obvious.

    • Michael

      not at all Justin. I’m going through the same thing. I have a 2 year old that I have to chase around all the time. Getting to the gym 5 days/week just isn’t an option anymore.

  • Campisi

    Cycling, cycling, cycling. Get a fixed-gear bike off of a bored hipster to really buck every mile.

    • Clint Keener

      I have a road bike, but end up riding my motorcycle instead of cycling.

      • roma258

        Have you tried mountain biking? Different kind of buzz from road biking (and street bikes) altogether.

        • Mr. White

          I’ll add that mountain biking also works out more muscle groups in your body than road cycling…that is if you’re actually riding single track trails. Needless to say it also improves your bike handling skillz.

      • Campisi

        It’s a good combo in urban areas, where a bicycle makes more sense for short trips.

  • Zack Crowther

    Great article! Deadlifts and sqauts are great place to start. Add in OHP and some other accessory lifts and you would have a good program. Yoga and flexibility but cardio is overrated. A little bit is cool but somebody put a bullet in my head if you ever see me on an elliptical.