The Downtime Podcast - Mountain Bike Fitness for the Every Day Rider - Pedal Progression


10 February 2022

The Downtime Podcast – Mountain Bike Fitness for the Every Day Rider

Ben Plenge is one of the countries top MTB fitness coaches and as a local Bristolian, he’s a good friend of Pedal Progression. In this blog and episode of The Downtime Podcast, Ben shares his insight into fitness strategies for the ‘every day’ mountain biker. Read on to find out more and listen to the podcast below…

Photo: Downtime Podcast

Having finished a 3 year stint testing products and writing for Wideopen Mag, he’s picked up a bike sponsor with Vitus and moved on to focus entirely on his business The Strength Factory, which he runs from a South Bristol gym. He works closely with top athletes (Wyn Masters, Vero Sandler, Joe Smith and Fergus Ryan, to name a few) getting them physically and mentally prepared for the demanding race seasons ahead… but the majority of his clientele are the every day riders such as you and I.

As a mountain bike skills coach, I wholly advocate the benefits of focussed exercises such as strength training, yoga and targeted stretching. They go hand in hand with MTB coaching and is the best combination for real and measurable progress.  The term ‘fitness training’ may sound serious but it doesn’t need to be, because the extra work you put in is simply quantified by the additional happiness you get out, when the time comes to ride.

It’s common to see our coaching customers struggle with specific skills due to a lack of flexibility or strength, which can sometimes become a frustration and hinderance during practice. Riders often complain of being unable to keep up with their mates, sore thighs after a descent, arm and hand cramps from ‘death-gripping’ the bars, or feeling stiff and restricted like you’re fighting for control. If you’re a rider who suffers from any of the above… (or even if you’re not) then targeted exercises and/or skills coaching will help you ride better and feel good.

I’m a big believer in yoga and strength training as I owe a huge part of my MTB progress and day to day wellbeing to these activities. I know too well that small and regular efforts off the bike can really help you on the bike by unlocking those tight hamstrings or improving ankle mobility, for example – ultimately you’ll be able to ride faster, jump higher and go the extra distance all while reducing the likelihood of injury. Win win win!

But how do us average folk have the time for coaching and training amongst our already busy schedules?

In the New Year spirit many of us will have set new goals and resolutions to better ourselves as humans with good intentions to start as we mean to go on: More gym, more riding, more quality time with friends and family, more healthy eating, less drinking, less social media, learn a language, take up salsa dancing, learn to backflip, get fitter, healthier and happier… the list goes on! But how many of those resolutions have you managed to keep up?

It’s easy to set the bar and expectations of yourself high but over time, during every day life, those goals can become harder to achieve. Before you know it old habits creep back in and motivation plateaus. We’ve all been there.

Ben knows the struggles of the every day mountain biker all too well. He’s a family man, business owner and keen rider but sees the challenges of finding the balance in at all… So he’s come up with some foolproof methods to help you improve yourself and your riding by making achievable goals and carving out more ‘you’ time.

In this episode of the Downtime Podcast he talks with host Chris Hall about fitness and riding success strategies, how to manage the metaphorical ‘stress bucket’, how consistency is key and how much easier it is to maintain than it is to gain.

Photo: Aspect Media

His underlying message ‘better humans make better mountain bikers’ is a simple slogan that can inspire us to be better people daily, through fitness, wellbeing, riding bikes and achieving our true potential. The fitter and healthier we are, the more we can enjoy life and be prepared for whatever it throws at us. We can maximise enjoyment on the bike even more through a sense of progress, and achievement.

It feels good! Let it fuel the passion for mountain biking (and life) even more.


It’s true, movement is medicine, so stretch, squat and lunge into 2022!

The podcast is available on all popular streaming services (Apple Google, Spotify, Amazon) or by this link on the Downtime Podcast website.


Written by:

Phil Simpson