Nate Hill is entering the 2014 season as the reigning Big Mountain Enduro series champ. With $50,000 of overall prize money up for grabs in 2014, the BME series is the biggest in America, attracting the fastest US based riders. Racing on what many considered the bike of the year, a Yeti SB-66 carbon, he will again be a very strong contender at every race he enters, with appearances at several EWS races planned. Hills just returned from racing the challenging Andes Pacifico in Chile. What follows is some insight into his training, having fun, and staying fresh on the bike. Like many successful enduro racers, Hills has a multi discipline (XC, downhill, and dirt jumping) background. Bringing specialized weight training into his regimen, with Dee Tidwell and Enduro MTB Training, Hills will be gunning for the top again this year. Find out more on the enduro specific training in Part 1 and Part 2.

Nate Hills racing on the Mag 7 trail system in Moab, UT. Rough and rugged.
Nate Hills racing on the Mag 7 trail system in Moab, UT. Rough and rugged.

What is your background in mountain bike racing?

I began my racing career as a cross country racer in 2002. After one year of suffering, I realized I had more skill than fitness, so I bought a downhill bike. I raced downhill for eight years, six in the pro class. After racing similar tracks for too many years, I began racing cross country again to keep things fresh. I raced a year as a pro in cross country, downhill and super d at all the events I attended, just as Enduro was beginning to emerge as a viable discipline in the U.S.

How do you feel your background in downhill and cross country has helped you excel in racing Enduro?
The downhill background definitely helps in the skill and mental toughness aspect. One race’s preparation is tested to the fullest with multi-day stage racing, and always being a privateer has taught me heaps about having my ducks in a row when it’s time to get on the track. Cross country racing has taught me about suffering and keeping things in perspective.

Was 2013 was your first full season of Enduro? Did you do any “Enduro-specific” training coming into the last season to prepare?
2012 was actually my first season focusing on Enduro. This was the first year of the Big Mountain Enduro Series (BME) and the North American Enduro Tour (NAET) was just getting started. Enduro specific training for me is basically riding your bike as much as possible on varied terrain. This includes everything from dirt jumping sessions, to road riding, and everything in between.

With your transition into racing Enduro full-time, how has your perspective on training (in general) shifted? What do you do now that you didn’t do before and vice versa?
Training for Enduro is basically preparing yourself for anything and everything. This is the beauty and essence of this type of racing in my mind. Every race is completely different and it’s the well-rounded package that will excel. Obviously training for downhill, the focus is on power and skill in a 5-minute window that exists once per weekend. Cross country training was more about endurance and sustained output over a much greater distance. Enduro requires you to not train yourself too far in either direction.

How was racing in the domestic Enduro scene different from racing in some of the Enduro World Series events? How do you feel like your pre-season training adequately prepared you for the domestic and international scenes respectively?
The Enduro World Series (EWS) and BME/NAET races were similar in the fact that they were all completely different. I like that because it is harder to know exactly what to expect each weekend and this rewards the well-rounded rider. The competition at the top was very tight at both, often coming down to mere seconds, after two days and over an hour of timed racing. Just riding a bunch early and coming in fresh with an open mind at any race helps.

Looking back on 2013 season, how has this shaped how you are preparing for the 2014 season?
Like any good racer, I am addressing my weaknesses, which I will spare you of the details.

Racing at Keystone, CO, which will be a stop on the Big Mountain Enduro and North American Enduro Tour in 2014.
Racing at Keystone, CO, which will be a stop on the Big Mountain Enduro and North American Enduro Tour in 2014.

Are you training under a specific coach or training program, or are you self-coaching yourself through this process?
I recently started my first go at working with a trainer. I have always been self-motivated and trained on my own. As the competition gets increasingly tighter, I will be trying to gain any advantage because seconds truly do matter in our sport. I am working with Dee Tidwell at He has a ton of experience training athletes and racing himself, so I have confidence that his programs will pay off for me in 2014.

How much time do you spend in a gym per week (if any)? How much time do you spend training on your bike per week? How will this ratio change as you get closer to the start of the season?
I have been spending about three hours a week at the gym for the first time in my life. I rarely ride my bike this time of year and ski every day instead. This gives the brain and the body a chance to refresh and keeps my fire burning for the change of seasons. I will be back on the bike soon enough, so I try to enjoy winter where I live in the mountains.

Do you feel that off-the-bike, a.k.a. training in the gym is important for Enduro training? In what ways?

Strength training definitely helps on the bike and with injury prevention when you do hit the deck. Most of racing is mental, like all sports, but at the top end there are many pieces to the puzzle of success, and strength training fits in hugely.

What are your favorite type on-the- bike and off-the-bike training? 

On the bike, I just enjoy good ol’ technical trail riding. Sedona comes to mind as some of the more challenging and engaging trail rides I have enjoyed. Off the bike, I keep mentally sharp by sending it on my skis and driving my WRX sideways in the snow.

What are you looking forward to most in your 2014 race season? 

I am most looking forward to seeing all of my “summer friends”. Traveling to new places and riding new trails is what this is all about for me.

What are your goals for your 2014 race season?
Duh, travel to new places and win races. Seriously though, traveling the country and getting people stoked on mountain biking is my job at the end of the day. If I can help grow this sport and highlight my sponsors fine products, and have a good time doing it, then everyone wins right? Shameless product plug for making this possible, cough, cough, SRAM, Yeti, Smith Optics, Maxxis, Mavic.

Any recommendations/inspiration for aspiring athletes racers trying to get into and conditioned for enduro racing?

Ride as many different bikes as possible in as many places on varied terrain. If you don’t know how to jump, learn. If you have never done a 50-mile road ride, get after it! Only practicing what you are good at is not going to get you very far to becoming well-rounded. Getting out of your comfort zone at least once a day is mandatory for progression. Oh yeah, and have fun! I have had some of the best results of my career, not because I am a highly-trained fitness freak, but because I am truly enjoying testing myself at the races. At the end of the day, my headspace seems to determine my results just as much as my preparation.

Angel Fire, New Mexico started off the season for many racers with relentless downhill poundings.
Angel Fire, New Mexico started off the season for many racers with relentless downhill poundings.

Words: Sarah Rawley Photos: Daniel Dunn

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