Tour Training

      Training for the Big Tour

 

Like any sport training is a key element to your success. We have found the better you train for any tour no matter what the distance the more enjoyable it will be.  We love riding so training for us is part of the enjoyment.  It gives us a "reason to ride" as we call it.

Training for a tour is a bit easier than training for a race but both require diligence and time. Once you commit to train you must stay on the schedule. If you cheat you are not only cheating yourself but the other riders on your tour. Follow through and you will be glad you did.

On a chilly overcast day with the wind blowing the couch seems like a much better choice than a bicycle saddle. But if you have a "reason to ride" you would not trade that saddle for any couch and remote. You want to ride because you need to ride, you're on a mission

.

Remember when you train you are not only getting stronger on the bike but you are also getting healthier too. Once you get into the rhythm of training you will feel noticeably better in your daily life. Experts say "exercise is the best form of relaxation".  

It is much easier to start your training early and gradually gain strength than try and pound on a bunch of miles six weeks before you leave. Again being physically and mentally prepared will make your trip more enjoyable.

One of the questions I often get asked about our last cross county trip is..."Did you ever just want to stay in bed all day instead of getting on that bike?"....  Our alarm went off  at 5:30 AM every morning. We always rode hard the day before and always seemed to get to bed way too late. Did  I want to stay in bed??  The answer you would get from anyone of us would be ...no!

 We were on a mission and everyday was an adventure.  We were properly trained and are bodies were ready for it.  We wanted to ride.  In fact we would not feel right if we did not hop on those bikes. 

A reporter asked Lance Armstrong "How do you train for the Tour de France" his reply was simple...."hills... ride the hills".   The same is true when for training for a tour ...ride the hills.  Get in the hills, and stay in the hills. Once you master the hills you will not be interested in riding the flats.  If you're not a hill rider I know this will sound crazy but it is true. We plan our trips to spend as much time in the mountains as we can. Like team rider Jean-Pierre  told us "all the challenges and all the rewards are in the mountains".

Just because you are planning a 100 mile a day trip does not mean you have to ride a 100 miles 7 days a week to get in shape.  Don't get me wrong seat time is important but you don't need that kind of mileage to get in touring shape.  I will give you what we consider the "minimum" amount of training to be in good enough shape to enjoy your trip. I am assuming you are already in decent cycling condition before you start. Again this is the minimum,  more miles and more days of riding will only help.

If you're a few pounds overweight now is the time to shed that weight.  Nothing will hurt you more than added body weight. 


You will already be hauling a loaded bike you don't need to add 15 pounds of blubber to the load.  To put it in layman's terms... on your rump or on the bike, weight is weight and you don't want it.

Nothing will improve your cycling ability quicker than trimming down to ride at your ideal weight.

 Start off riding 3 days a week 4 months in advance of your trip. During the week get in a couple 30-35 milers of hilly terrain followed by at least one 50-75 miler on the weekend.

 Don't cheat yourself, be sure your route is hilly.   After a month of that routine add the critical 4th day.  At this point you will start to notice the gain 4 days of riding will give you. With only two days a week of riding you can barely maintain your level of fitness.  Three days you can start to notice the gain.  The fourth day is when your hard work will become noticeable. If you can get in another day or two of riding during any week grab it.  Even if the 5th or 6th day of cycling is shorter you will improve at a much faster rate. The more time you get in that saddle the better. Nothing less than 4 days a week will work at this stage of training.

Replace one of your weekend rides with a century ride whenever you can.  You will want to remember how  they feel.  It will give you some more incentive to train.

Two months before the trip is scheduled to depart it is time to face reality.  You now must start riding with weight on the bike. This is a very important part of training for a loaded tour. You not only need to get accustomed to the added weight but to the way your bicycle handles.  The once "sports car" feel of a light bike will be gone.  Your bike now handles like a fully loaded 18 wheel semi barreling down the highway.

Bolt on your panniers and start off with something more than half of your anticipated touring weight.  You can put anything you want in the saddlebags to add the weight.  We have found 5 pound bags of flower sealed in a Ziploc bags work great to get started.  Toss one in each pannier and get ready for a taste of reality on the first hill you encounter.

Whatever you decide to use to add weight does not matter.  What does matter is that you put on some quality miles on with the weight.  You know by now when we say "quality miles" we really mean "hilly miles".  You need them now more than ever so don't sell yourself short. Get that loaded bike in the hills and stay there.

When you are one month from departure you should add more weight to your bike so you are riding at or near you anticipated tour weight.

Be sure to ride your last week with the actual gear loaded in your bags so you can get any bugs out of your set-up. Have the other riders look at your load as you roll down the road. They can offer input from a different angle. 

The loaded expanded bags create a significant wind drag.  You will need to get use to the added drag and the way the bike reacts. Weight distribution is also an important factor. Try and have all bags about the same weight and expanded size.  Do not over load the rear of your bike or it will feel whippy. Read our sites section on Bike Loading for more information on this matter.

It is very important to get into the best shape you can before you make your journey.  With a "reason to ride " you will have the drive to push yourself  to get there.  It is really a win win situation for you. After a few weeks you will feel good, look good and when on tour enjoy the adventure more.