When you’re preparing for your first bike tour, it’s important to start slow. Ease yourself into training so you’ll stick with the routine and build your fitness levels steadily.
Before You Begin:
Make sure your frame, handlebars, saddle, and pedals are all correctly fitted. Your personal measurements and riding style (in this case, long distance cycling) will determine how it needs to be fitted, so talk to an expert about adjusting your bike. Our suggestion is to go to your local bike tour.
During your first week, you’ll want to cycle a comfortable distance. Once you’ve achieved a base level of fitness that allows you to cycle without muscle soreness or fatigue, start incorporating resistance to your rides once or twice a week by increasing your distance by no more than 10% each week or incorporating hillier, more difficult terrain. As always, consult your doctor before you begin if you have any health problems or are not accustomed to exercise, and remember to enjoy yourself!
As you build up, make sure you do recovery ride after big rides. These help clear waste products from your legs. For a recovery ride, we recommend 30-45 minutes with low resistance, 90 to 100 RPMs, and staying about 50 - 70% of your threshold.
When you’re comfortable again, add one or two long endurance rides a week. Remember not to over train, and give your body a rest when it needs it. Research the specifics of your bike tour so you’ll know how long you’ll be riding on average each day; the best indicator that you’re ready for your tour will be when you can comfortably ride two-thirds of your expected daily tour mileage over similar terrain.
Another suggestion is to work hard doing some indoor cycling, which really helps to build your interval capacity and strengthen out your legs. It's a bit different from riding outside, but similar enough so that you will see significant benefits from a steady spin schedule. Indoor cycling coaches are also an excellent source of advice.
You may want to compliment your rides with some muscle strengthening exercises at home or at the gym. Calf-raises, squats, step-ups, leg extensions, and leg raises all work important muscle groups in the legs, while core exercises like the plank will develop muscles useful for maintaining posture on long rides. Avoid those back aches and pains by doing dumbbell rows.
Core strength is especially important for cycling but often overlooked. The core consists of your entire abdominal region. A strong, muscular core takes the work load off the back and makes it much easier to walk long distances without tiring. Strengthening your core will yield rich dividends not just on a walking tour, but in virtually every other physical activity in your life.
For strengthening your core, follow this routine:
Abdominal Crunch: 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions each.
Planks: Hold for 20-30 seconds for three sets.
Side Planks: 3 sets of 20-30 seconds each.
Abdominal Bridge: 3 sets of 30 seconds each.
Staying on Task:
We recommend getting a bike computer and checking your data. Seeing data such as MPH, calories burned, distance covered, etc. can be very motivating.
You’ll need plenty of support while you’re training, and online bike tour groups such as crazyguyonabike.com provide opportunities for you to connect with other enthusiasts. General cycling forums like bikeforums.net often have sub-threads for touring, too.
Keeping a journal is another great way to stay motivated and track your training. Having a concrete record of your progress will help you focus on your goals, and improving stats will keep your enthusiasm high.
What to Expect:
As far as time frames are concerned, a beginner preparing for a leisurely ride could reasonably expect to be ready to tour in eight weeks.
The idea of training for your first bike tour may seem daunting, but all it really takes is a little planning and hard work. Remember to hydrate and stretch before each ride, and always treat your health and safety as your number one priority. Stay dedicated to your training and you’ll be rewarded not only with a great touring experience, but better health, fitness, and strength!