I'm 45, 5'10 (178cm) and 77kg, live in the French alps and I'm into skiing and mountain biking, and I'm trying to raise my overall fitness, though not for any competitive purpose.
I don't have a huge amount of time, so I have a usual circuit which is a 12-15k loop with around 500-700m of climbs varying from a 7% cruise to a 40% grind (there's no such thing as a small hill around here!). This usually takes me 45mins to an hour. I track all my rides on Strava and I've started using an HRM to see what that's doing. I usually find my heart rate sits at around 165 during the climbs and I can sustain that without it being a problem. Since April I've done about 38 such rides, plus a couple of longer ones. I did a 50k event with 2500m of climbs last weekend and essentially came last. I'm not feeling that my efforts are producing any results at all - my personal best ride this year was my second ride of the season while I had a cold and a hangover! Since then my results have essentially all been average - I don't appear to be making any improvement at all, even though I'm riding almost twice as much as I did in the previous two years. I can see I've built a fair amount of muscle, but it's not having any impression on my performance or how I feel about it. On Strava my position on leaderboards (admittedly, just about everyone else is on road bikes, not 15kg of full-sus rig!) is forever dropping - it looks like everyone else is getting better!
I eat pretty well - lots of fresh fruit and veg - and I limit myself to 1 caffeinated drink a day, and generally don't eat any desserts or sweet drinks. I tried moving to a slightly more protein-heavy diet (eggs instead of cereal for breakfast) for a month, but I generally felt worse on that and it didn't seem to make any difference.
I really, really hate running and have no interest in taking that up! I could do more road cycling, but I don't have a road bike, and I'm not really interested in a having a faster bike just to make my averages look better without actually being any fitter.
What do you think would be my best approach to improving overall fitness? Persevere with more of the same, or would you recommend I do something else?