MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 8: Fitness & Freshness

This is Episode 8 in an ongoing series of videos we will be posting regularly to share our mountain biking tips and tricks with our subscribers.

Prior Episodes:

Episode 7: Improve Shifting for Under $10

Episode 6: Ditch Your Camelbak

Episode 5: GPS for Mountain Biking

Episode 4: Maps for Mountain Biking

Episode 3: The LBS

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy

The MTB Tip of the Week for this week is to use a heart rate monitor while riding.

You may not think it will be helpful for you in this stage of life or in your current riding.  You would be wrong.

Knowing your heart rate (as well as recording your GPS route) while on your mountain bike ride can be invaluable no matter how good or bad you feel your riding is currently.

I once had believed that monitoring my heart rate was a chore that really didn’t have a great benefit to give me, either because I had to analyze that data or I had been riding so infrequently that it was tough to figure out what it meant for today’s ride.

Watch the video below and I will explain how I have been using the heart rate monitor in conjunction with some software that makes both of my above concerns moot.



As mentioned in the video (you really do need to watch it if you haven’t already or everything below will not make much sense), Strava premium has a great feature called Fitness & Freshness (it is truthfully one of the only features in Strava premium that I actually use very often besides occasionally downloading a friend’s GPX route).

Fitness & Freshness display is under the Training tab, once you sign in on (it’s not currently available in the Strava app). See below for screenshot.



Today, my fitness is at 32. If I don’t ride again on 2/8/16, Strava premium is telling me that my Fitness will be 31 and my Fatigue will be at 27 (see screenshot below), so my form will be a 4, which is calculated as the difference between Fitness and Fatigue. Form is an indication of how ready your body is for a cycling workout beat down. I always ensure to rest for enough days prior to my next big cycling event, whether it’s a race, a long ride, or an overnight bikepacking trip. That way, I can ensure that my muscles are not fatigued to the point where, although my legs may feel fresh, I have gotten out on longer rides and after a couple hours, it’s obvious that I have less in the tank than I should for such a big ride.


Steps to capture and upload this data:

My work flow is either to record my GPS route and heart rate using my Garmin Etrex 30 or by using my phone with the Endomondo app.

I am going to show the latter method since Endomondo is a free app and most people have access to a smart phone that can communicate with either an ANT+ or Bluetooth heartrate monitor strap.

When you record the route, you need to go into settings ensure that your accessories are connected, specifically your heart rate monitor. When yhe connection is established, make aire the heart rate is displayed in real time on the screen as one of the data fields. Once it is, and you have a good GPS signal, start recording your ride by hitting the large play button.

Stop recording by hitting pause, then stop. Then sign in to and export your ride file as a .tcx or .gpx file (those are the only two options). You can do all of this on your phone as shown in the screenshots below.

First you will see your ride like this.


Click on the down arrow to the right of the ride name.


Then choose Export.


Then choose .tcx or .gpx. It doesn’t matter which one you choose because strava will use either and your heart rate data is embedded in both.

Then upload it to

Ask questions if you have any difficulties uploading your file to


Here is what my Fitness & Fatigue looked like after my latest bikepacking ride on 1/23/16.

Looking into the future, to see what my Fitness & Fatigue will look like on 2/16/16 if I don’t ride until then. My Form will be fantastic, but my Fitness will also be much lower.

The key for me has been to ride often and ride hard if I want to see some real improvements in my fitness which translates to faster riding on the trails, but I find that rest days are huge. Either completely take time off the bike, but not too much or your fitness will dramatically decrease, erasing the fitness you just earned by riding those long and/or hard miles. Or you can just do shorter and/or less intense rides that still let your heart and legs rest, relative to the hard workout rides you have been doing on other days. What’s so cool about using the heart rate monitor is that everyone is different and we are different than who we were just a few rides ago, so it helps to show you who you are today, as it relates to how hard you have been pushing your bike’s “motor”.

I hope you have found this MTB tip of the week helpful.if so, please share it with others, bookmark it, or leave a comment letting us know.

Thanks for your support!

Now get out and ride on!





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