Pump Up the Base – book and training program!

Rock the trainer this winter.
Rock the trails this summer.

A 12-week plan to:
• Improve your pedaling skills and power
• Ride faster and easier on all terrain
• Train quickly and efficiently

Order Pump Up the Base here >>>

“This is really great! The program reads well and makes sense. The sprint training will transfer strength gains made in the gym to the bike, and improving pedaling skills is equally valuable. I think Lee nailed it!”
– Cody Waite, pro Xterra triathlete and endurance coach, www.epcmultisport.com

“There is basically ‘free time’ to gain all over every trail. And Lee will help you find it. Efficient pedaling is so powerful but not everyone does it. The winter time is perfect to hone this skill for a huge summertime payoff. Thanks Lee!”
– Judy Freeman, professional cross country racer, judyfreeman.blogspot.com

Lee, I only wish you knew how well your teaching transfers to cyclocross. With no suspension and even less traction, poor bike handling wastes more speed and energy than any amount of fitness can overcome. And then there’s the pedaling, you spin to win but the low cadence, high torque efforts are also really important. I can consistently measure the power difference between my old pedal stroke and the one you describe. $15 for Pump Up The Base is an absolute steal.
– Christopher Kelly, leelikesbikes skills client, Pump Up the Baser and podium threat in Class A cyclocross

“I recently got my hands on the latest book from Lee McCormack – PUMP UP THE BASE. While I have an extensive background in BMX and MTB, I still need to stay on my game during the off season. Lee’s new book really gets at fundamentals on winter training and focuses on keeping not only your core dialed, but your legs strong. He covers every essential detail on what you need to do, how to do it and most of all why your doing it. Way to go Lee, I am always learning every time I apply your books to my training.”
– Ian “WingNutt” Cook, mybikestand.com

Thanks Lee. The book is excellent, well done. I’d love to see more of this kind of thing. I’m still really happy with my custom Name of Coach plan so rather than follow yours as is I’ve used it as a sort of requirements specification. It’s lead to a long conversation with my coach about how my plan needs to change to meet the demands of the sport.
– Chris K, Cat 1 racer

Lee, I just completed the first workout in week 7 of Pump Up the Base. Up to this point, I had been using the trainer, but since the weather has broken down here in The Springs, I decided to head out and hit the road with the Enduro for today’s training ride.
I used Strava to chart my progress today. Toward the end of the ride, I came to one segment that’s .2 miles (almost quarter mile) long with a 1.8 percent grade. I beat my previous best — set last May — by 20 seconds! (from 1:26 to 1:06) The really cool thing was I wasn’t trying to hammer the segment, huffing and puffing and standing to squeeze out extra power. I just stayed in the sweet zone and worked the power in my legs. (Also stayed in the big ring. Normally, I’ve got it in the granny ring). Anyway, today has to be the first time I’ve been ranked in the top half of an uphill segment on Strava. I’m usually in the bottom 25-30 percent.
Just thought you’d enjoy a “success story” around Pump Up the Base. The workouts, along with the tips on pedaling technique, have obviously really helped. I’m a little more than halfway done — looking forward to the next five and a half weeks.

– Jim


• $15 for ebook

• 8.5 x 11 inches

• 58 pages with diagrams and color photos

v2 Update: Detailed pages tell you exactly what to do minute by minute in each workout. These pages are formatted for easy viewing on mobile devices.

• Pump Up the Base is designed to build base fitness in the off season. When you’re finished with Pump Up the Base, you’ll be ready for an in-season program like Prepare to Pin It.

• Ebook version is a password-protected PDF. It will be emailed to you within 24 hours (most likely much faster than that). You can print the book, but please do not share it.

Check out questions and answers in the Pump Up the Base blog category.

Order Pump Up the Base here >>>


What you’ll be doing. Sweet spot intervals and sprints, that’s what.

How to pedal. This will change your riding life.

This program is designed for indoor trainers, but you can rock the intervals outside. If you can do some of them on a pump track, that is extra rad.

The program uses a simple, easy-to-follow graphical style.

Table of contents



• Sweet spot training
• Sprinting – fully pinned
• Warmup
• Rest
• Cooldown


• Must have
• Nice to have
• Let’s talk pedals

• Our goal
• Pay attention to posture
• Basic seated pedaling
• Power and recovery
• Forward-backward
• Pedaling out of the saddle
• Practice perfectly
• Expand your powerband

• Discipline (or not)
• Consistency!
• Stay in the sweet spot
• Do I really have to ride a trainer?
• Sitting vs. standing
• Sprinting


• Sitting
• Climbing
• Ladder
• Super D
• Mixmaster

• Workout A
• Workout B

• Workout A
• Workout B
• Pump Up The Base: weekly workouts

Intro text from the book

Why are we doing this?

Mountain biking is awesome, and the better you are, the better it gets. We basically have two ways to improve our performance (and fun) on the bike:

1) Improved skills. See the books Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, Teaching Mountain Bike Skills, Pro BMX Skills and Welcome to Pump Track Nation or take a clinic with me.

2) Improved fitness. Mountain bike fitness encompasses lots of different areas, including:

• Stability
• Agility
• Strength
• Power (these top four items should be developed off the bike)
• Long-term capacity and endurance (how fast can you ride for an hour?)
• Short-term capacity and endurance (how fast can you ride for a few minutes?)
• Fully pinned power (how fast can you ride for a few seconds?)

While you should work on your riding skills and off-bike physical abilities, pedaling is our bread and butter. It’s how we get around, and the cardiovascular benefits translate to other aspects of our riding game (pumping terrain for example).

This program focuses on pedaling power and overall workload tolerance. Specifically, it will help you sustain higher power for longer periods, and it will teach you to reach higher highs.

What’s different about this approach?

This program aims to help you develop cycling power AND skills in a way that most programs do not address. You are not just a hamster in a wheel. You are a Rider — an athlete — and I want every minute you spend on the trainer to help you rip.

The Mission

Pump Up the Base is a simple, effective program for winter (“off season”) bike training.

Winter and early spring are a perfect time to rock this adventure. Ideally, you’ll Pump Up the Base two days per week, work off-bike stability/agility/strength/power two days a week and otherwise do fun stuff and recover. When you finish this program you’ll be ready to wax your buddies or start higher-intensity interval work and crush the races. Either way, you’ll be stronger and faster than before.

More specifically, when you Pump Up the Base you will:

• Build aerobic capacity, neuromuscular power and neuromuscular coordination
• Be able to ride harder, longer
• Learn to pedal more smoothly and powerfully both in and out of the saddle
• Increase your top cadence
• Increase your peak power
• Broaden your powerband
• Stress your body enough to make you improve, but not beat you down
• Use your time very efficiently
• Not go as insane this winter

These workouts are fun and effective any time of year, but winter is a great time to build your aerobic engine and develop new pedaling skills.

About the author

Hi I’m Lee, and I like bikes. Some things I’ve done:

• Wrote the books Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, Teaching Mountain Bike Skills, Pro BMX Skills and Welcome to Pump Track Nation.

• As the skills development director for NICA, the national high school mountain bike league, I create the curriculum and teach it to riders, coaches and the coaches who teach coaches how to teach riders.

• I work with riders of all style and levels, from beginners to world champions.

• In a previous career, I was part of the team that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. I honed my infographics skills at a daily newspaper.

• Between intervals and coaching sessions, I design technical and business systems. It’s all about clarity, man.

Lee’s results

As I write this on Nov. 15, 2013, I am in week three of my second full season of Pump Up the Base.

Last winter I rocked this program then Prepare to Pin It, and I’ve had a great season:

• Making more sustained power, more easily. Right now I’m easily making 30-50 watts more than I did at this time last year.
• Max sprint power is higher, more consistent and more immediate.
• More comfortable in general.
• Deeper endurance for long coaching days. Some days I’m on the bike for nine hours!
• Despite rarely doing any climbing during the summer (my busy coaching season), I recently laid down a PR on a local climb. After years of sucking uphill, I’m in the top 10 percent on Strava. That’s a big deal for me.

This program works, and the results carry from year to year.

Have fun!


Order Pump Up the Base here >>>

56 replies
  1. Khai says:

    Hey Lee, what’s required for this – just a trainer and a slick rear tyre? I assume flats for pedalling skills as well? I’ve done way too many trainer sessions as a roadie/triathlete, but if skills progression is a key component of this rather than purely aerobic engine building I could be very interested indeed…

  2. Ian says:

    Hi Lee,
    It’s nice to see you create a program like this. One question though. What is the approximate time for the workouts? Do they vary?

    I’m fully pinned for time with a little one so having a good non trail day workout for early morning or late evening would be good.


  3. Joshua says:

    Just ordered this and read through the whole thing. The program looks really great, but the skills drills are AMAZING! I am so excited (yes that is correct) to get on the trainer and start doing “Super D’s” and “Mix Masters.” This book is way more than just a training guide.

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Khai: All you need is a bike and trainer (or a bike outside). Slick tires are quiet. Flat pedals are fun and good for skills but not needed.

    Ian: The workouts get longer as you go. In the beginning you can get ’em done in an hour. You can always do part of a workout, and when the workouts get much longer (week 10-12), you can repeat week 9 with greater form and power. Last night I squeezed in 40 minutes of Week 6, and it was good.

    Joshua: Thanks man. That is high praise from a ripper like you.

    Brandy! Just sent your copy.

  5. Khai says:

    Got the book and took a quick spin through it. Am I right in my impression that you use a road bike on your trainer? I would have thought that putting a mtb on there would be more specific… Are the differences in position not enough to be meaningful? (I have both, so it’s not a big deal but if I were to put a mtb on my trainer I’d want to get a “beater” QR skewer for it as well as a slick tyre)

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Khai,

    I do use my road (‘cross) bike on the trainer, mainly because it’s my only bike that fits.

    Your trail bike might be ideal, but the better I understand bike fit and kung fu, the less important hand placement seems.

    Hmm … if you can stabilize your sprints with a 54cm bar, imagine sprinting with a 75cm bar.

    Chain your road bike to the trainer. Keep your MTB free!

  7. Jesse says:

    Would my Time Trial Bike be acceptable for this as well? I like the idea of keeping my mtb free! Thanks Lee.

    Also, do you ever make out to the maryland/dc area for riding clinics?

  8. leelikesbikes says:

    A time trail bike will work fine, but you should put your hands on the tops of the bars.

    If your seat angle is very steep, you might slide the saddle back to more closely mimic your MTB geometry. Saddle setback is an important part of seated geometry, I think.

    I’ve never been out there, but I’d love to. We just need to set up a weekend full of clinics.

  9. Evan says:

    Title is misleading, base is zone 2, boring high volume work. It works, if you have the time for it.

    Periodized HIIT is the new hotness and has a lot of good benefits with lower volume and less time commitment.

    It works and its much more fun, but its not base, and you have to take time off for recovery after each 2- 3 month program.

    So you probably shouldnt call your program pump up the base.

  10. leelikesbikes says:

    HIIT = high intensity interval training

    Evan, thanks for the clarification.

    I’m using the word base in the sense of a foundation. This program (which I suppose could be considered HIIT) will form a base that will allow you to ride harder, longer.

    For guys like me who have no time or patience for Zone 2 rides, HIIT is a great way to build a solid foundation. From there we can ride trail, rip DH, rock pump tracks, race slalom or do whatever we want.

  11. leelikesbikes says:


    Could this be done on a spin style exercise bike? Since gear shifting is out I could used perceived effort. Thoughts?

    I have the Mastering MTB Skills 2 and it is great. A riding buddy was asking me a ton of questions and where I got this info from. Lent him the book and he was amazed at how it improved his riding.

    Later, Rob

    Hey Rob,

    Thanks for writing.

    Sure you can use a spin bike. Adjust the resistance as needed and you should be good to go.

    Perceived effort is fine. Orange-red for the sweet-spot intervals, full on black for the sprints.

    Stoked you like the book. That was not easy!

    Rip it,

    — Lee

  12. cycloscott says:

    Great book Lee. It’s expected to be a rainy winter in NorCal, so now I’ve got something to do on the trainer (instead of watching Walking Dead). I might see how well I can pull these sprints off on the rollers though. Much preferred over a stationary trainer.

    Tip for those trying to increase their cadence. Instead of trying to pedal faster (or worse, harder), try making smaller circles. Sounds silly, but it works wonders.

  13. Ian Cook says:

    “I recently got my hands on the latest book from Lee McCormack – PUMP UP THE BASE. While I have an extensive background in BMX and MTB, I still need to stay on my game during the off season. Lee’s new book really gets at fundamentals on winter training and focuses on keeping not only your core dialed, but your legs strong. He covers every essential detail on what you need to do, how to do it and most of all why your doing it. Way to go Lee, I am always learning everytime I apply your books to my training.
    Ian “WingNutt” Cook
    I went over the whole book today and even started setting my my workout area…pics to come soon. TV with my fav MTB video paying, rollers (no trainer so the rollers will have to do for now), cones for parking lot drills (pumping figure 8’s), Total gym and some weights. Oh and my FLUID for hydration.

  14. Ian Cook says:

    Cycloscott – I will also be using rollers for a while. I have for the last week so far using the drills. While its more a challenge, it definitely makes it fun. Not sure If I will see better resuslts on a stationary or not, but I have been spinning the hell out of mine!

  15. Eric says:


    Not to promote someone else’s stuff, but when is the leelikesbikes.com “Pump up the Base” program for TrainerRoad going to be available? Seems like a good fit.

  16. Dario says:

    ciao sono Dario,ho provato a tradurre il libro “Welcome to pump truck nation” ma ci sono termini che non riesco a tradurre,se avete libri in Italiano li compero perchè siete i migliori!

  17. leelikesbikes says:


    I was browsing your site and saw the book and training program Pump Up the Base. It looks like it is predominantly geared towards MTB but I was wondering if it might be something that I could use for my winter BMX training? From the outline that I’ve read and some of the example pages and the comments it may be useful for some basic skills work on just about any type of riding. I do not ride MTB and I’m a novice in BMX so I also wanted to make sure that it would be something that I could apply to my sport as well.

    Thank you,
    John V

    Hey John, check this out:


  18. neil b says:

    Hia Lee, looks interesting, you have great feedback.
    I have enjoyed your books and found them helpful.
    I only have the mountainbikes – with the 12mm bolt through back end and I have no trainer anyway. So, can I ask, is it really properly practical to do this on the bike – outside?
    With flats and chunky Winter treads?
    thanks man

  19. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Neil,,

    Yes, you can do this program outside. I’m guessing you don’t have a power meter on your mountain bike, but you can use heart rate or perceived exertion to control your intervals.

    The knobby tires will add resistance, which is fine.

    I actually recommend flat pedals, so you’re dialed there.

  20. neil b says:

    Hia Lee,
    OK, went for it. Paypal. You send a PDF, right?
    I’ve not received that yet. Perhaps you do them in batches?


  21. Jon B says:

    Hey Lee –

    Just purchased PUTB, looks like a great easy-to-follow program. One note – gmail dumped it in my spam folder (doh!)

    In purchasing my new bike, I neglected that my thru-axle wouldn’t work with my my trainer. I can use my wife’s “flat bar road bike”, but it has 170mm cranks – will this be a problem when I switch back to my normal 175s on the mountain bike?

    (Also: any plans for a skills clinic in New England this coming year?)


  22. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Jon,

    With 170mm cranks you’ll get the same fitness benefit, but the pedaling dynamic will be a bit different from your 175s.

    Training on 170s is way better than not training. Hit it! And maybe you can do some of your pedaling work on your real bike outside.

    Or … can you swap cranks? 🙂

  23. Jon B says:

    Thought about it, but of the three bikes in the house, try all have completely different BBs and chain widths. Go figure!

    Thanks again!

  24. leelikesbikes says:

    Subject: my first trail ride in 9 months


    Just wanted to let you know that today was the first time I have been out on the trails since I destroyed my ACL nine months ago.

    I have been doing your Pump up the Base program for 3 weeks now and I had no problem staying with the lead riders on the way up the hill. I noticed an improvement on the trail as well.

    Thank you so much for an awesome program! I have no doubt I will be killing it on the mountain this season!!!


    Right on Trish! Keep it up!


  25. leelikesbikes says:

    Subject: Pump up the Base v2 is freaking awesome!


    The tweaks to the program are great. Just finished pinning workout 3A to compare from the results from the previous time. It was night and day difference. The extra sprints are an awesome addition. I finished stronger, faster and with more power then the previous. Looking forward to the future workouts!

    Too bad I’m stuck in the middle of winter for a little bit but I’m looking forward to pinning it this spring while all my riding buddies are sucking wind.


  26. Iain Watts says:

    Lee, just to say thanks and the program is really working for me, now on week 7 and really can feel benefit of practising the correct pedalling methods, am using the oldest v8 copy pedals i could find in my shed for it as well. Getting ‘pin it’ next in preparation for gravity enduro and some DMR vaults.

    Iain, London, UK

  27. leelikesbikes says:

    Iain, thanks for the note. That is great!

    I’m on 10-year-old Specialized Lo Pro Mags. Just did week 4 of P2PI. Can’t believe I nailed 1,250 watts at the beginning of my 15th “red” interval, over an hour into the workout. This stuff works … too bad I didn’t have this knowledge (plus kung fu) when I first got those pedals …

  28. leelikesbikes says:

    Hey Lee-

    Been working pump up the base- modified a bit. I travel for a living so I have been adapting the program to whatever trainers the hotel gyms can offer; first outdoor road ride of the season last week averaged almost 4mph faster over 15 miles than my season opener last year- I guess that speaks for its self! Good stuff!


  29. leelikesbikes says:


    Dude! You absolutely nailed it. Every week, I think “There’s no way I can stretch this–I barely got through the last workout. But every week, I pull it off–barely. PUTB keeps me right at my limit.

    The explanations beforehand–sweet spot, pedaling skills, standing skills, the benefits of flats vs. clips, etc–all set me up to succeed. Dude, some of your simplest and most valuable instruction bears the most fruit; like, keeping your heels down when you’re ripping, or in the case of PUTB the lessons on ankling. Excellent graphics complement clear straightforward explanation, resulting in, for me, an increase in top cadence of 35%–from 120 rpm when I started to my current max of 183.

    But the real proof is on the trail, is it not? It’s been a long winter, and I haven’t really been on my bike since I started PUTB. I was at Valmont today, and to shorten a glorious tale, I ripped like I’ve never ripped before. I had no idea that PUTB was going to bring more than just fitness! I was more confident (because I’m stronger and a bit lighter, maybe?) and balanced. My weight stayed over my bottom bracket like magic! I cleaned Dirt 101 and Skills Loop together in a single pass–a thing I’ve never before accomplished. (It doesn’t suck that I did this in the presence of a group of the most elite women in MTB.) This is not typical for a first ride of spring; usually I’m very timid for the first few rides.

    So kudos, guru. Best money ever spent (well, maybe not–the private lessons I’ve had with you are a great bargain too.)



  30. leelikesbikes says:

    Hi Lee,

    PUTB was very gratifying. I’m 41, with a newborn baby, winter in Pacific North West Cascade foothills, trying to maintain fitness and train for my 3rd season of cyclocross, so a bit of a late starter CAT4 noob.

    My mid summer 20 minute FTP test last year measured 220W outdoors, so I aimed for 200W @90 rpm for each work interval. At week 4 holding 200 watts for each of 6×5 would put my HR into the red Z4 (160 ish). My sprint was around 685 W. At week 12 holding 200 watts for each of the 20×3 at 90 rpm and HR in Z3 (around 153-158). My sprint is now 910-920, occasionally 1000. I’m very happy with that given the time constraints. I do the trainer workouts Tuesday and Thursday nights after the baby goes to bed, and run 3 miles every day in my lunch hour. If I’m lucky I get to do a 3 hour group road ride, or cross country mountain ride at the weekend. I’m keen to do another FTP test outdoors now. Will let you know how that goes.

    I was thinking of doing the whole thing over again aiming for higher watts but Chris says to stay focused on the cadence and good pedaling technique, and that the power will come later.

    Looking forward to starting Pin It. These programs are great Lee. Many Thanks. I wasn’t bored once.


  31. Brad Scales says:

    Hey Lee. I bought your PT Nation book a few years ago and am about to put it to use. Our proposal to the parks board was just approved for a 40’x60′ pump track, scaffolded dj lines, and a wooden challenge course. We’ll probably add a small dual slalom course too. I’ve ridden many pump tracks but am looking forward to sculpting my first. Thanks for the help with that!

    Now, I’m looking to buy some of your books. Is there any chance you can send me a Paypal invoice to my email with combined shipping? The books are pump up the base, prepare to pin it, teaching mt bike skills, skills clinics with Lee, and mastering mountain bike skills. If you think of any better choices than I have selected, please let me know. I’m basically planning to get back into racing next year after joy-ripping for about 15 years. I’m also planning to host skills clinics for local riders. I run a bike club for my middle and high school students and plan to develop skills programs for them too. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks Lee!

  32. leelikesbikes says:

    From Stefan:

    Hi Lee,
    I started riding 1 year ago after abusing my body for 25 years with no training, beer and tobacco and in my search for knowledge I came over your MTB-skills e-book. Since then I check your site occassionally and now owns bmx skills, teach mtb skills, and pump up the base.
    I am just riding on a “fat men on expensive bikes in the local woods” level. As I work as a mariner i can focus on the training when at work, and just completed pump up the base. Been home for two weeks riding by myself but yesterday our local “gang” managed to fit in a night ride. To my great surprise I was up there with the top riders and had to wait for the slower guys :-). It is so nice to see such great result of the training.
    As you promote the pump in all your books I am seriously thinking of converting my garden…..
    I am soon of to sea again and my (hated) spinning bike..hoping to ride in cirkels around the other guys when I get back.
    Thanks Lee
    All the best

    Right on! Rip it!


  33. leelikesbikes says:

    From Troy:

    Lee, I am finishing your Pump Up the Base program next week and look forward to taking it to the next level with Pin It. The base program has really been great. I have not had this level of fitness in March since my racing days 10 years ago. It works!


    Right on Troy!

  34. leelikesbikes says:

    From Kenny:

    Hey man,

    I want to thank you for the pump up the base program. With the kids and my travel schedule it has been a life saver. I have hit PR on all my strava times this year. We did a spring trip to Hurricane UT and it was 100% more fun being in better shape.

    I am in week 7 and moving along.

    Thanks again,

    Kenny Carson

  35. Sigmar says:

    Every Year again….. i will thank you for this great training-lesson !!!
    The exercises on the trainer are hard, but when you reach week 6 and up, you are extremely fit on the bike!
    My personaly training-programm for the Season-start-Races and i`m still more than happy with it!!

    Recommended for all bicyclists!!!

  36. Brian Rowbotham says:

    Hi Lee,

    Just starting on week 2 of this program. I had one question, should the “Super-D” Intervals be done standing. To me this makes sense, you’re not gonna sit down much, if at all, during a long super-d or enduro stage but it’s not specified in the program.

  37. leelikesbikes says:

    Brian, great question.

    If you can stand in the 120rpm phases, do it! That is very hard to do, but it’ll help dial in your standing smoothness.

    How about this? Stand as much as you can. Sit when needed.

    Rip it,


  38. Doug Zech says:

    Hi Lee,

    I’ve been using your training guides since you first published Mastering Mountain Bike Skills and they have helped this 55 year old guy keep up with riders 20 years younger than me, thanks for everything you do.

    Started training again for this season and found out that I’ve somehow misplaced the last page of Pump Up the Base. You know, the one with the graph on it? Any chance you could send me a copy of just that page?


  39. Tina Francis says:

    Hi Lee,

    I watch youtube videos while I spin. Can you make some videos, like I am taking your spin class, and motivate me through all these different workouts, maybe with some good music? Then I will be queued to stand-up, pedal faster, etc. I am usually the slowest one up the hill and I want to change that this summer!



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] stronger in general. Improve your skills. That’s the focus of this article (and the goal of the Pump Up the Base training […]

  2. […] stronger in general. Improve your skills. That’s the focus of this article (and the goal of the Pump Up the Base training […]

  3. […] going to use Lee McCormack’s training program called Pump Up The Base.  Among other things, Lee is the NICA skills coach.  Aside from the high school MTB connection, […]

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