So, you’ve already chosen a stunning destination, planned out the best route, and are now ready to get fit for your upcoming tour.
But a series of questions start popping into your mind.
How do I train for a bicycle tour? Do I actually have to get in shape for a trip that will span a continent?
The questions sound familiar, right?
Don’t worry, though! I’ll walk you through everything you need to do when getting fit for your first bike tour.
When I was a bike tour beginner, I thought I would ride myself into shape on my first week of the trip.
During the previous months of our first bike tour, my friends and I were too occupied packing the right gear and ensuring that our bikes were in good working order for the long ride.
We knew that a good tour bike and the right gear were the most important things for a successful long-distance ride.
But guess what happened?
We came back with saddle sores and terribly aching muscles. That was quite a disappointment.
So, after the tour, I decided to seek help from seasoned veterans who have cycled in different tour levels, and they indeed had much to offer.
I realized that a lot is involved when getting ready for a bicycle tour, and only the right training strategy can help cyclists achieve their goals.
Proper training for a bike tour gets the muscles and tissues ready to run more efficiently, leading to a happier and fulfilling tour.
That’s why I have compiled a detailed guide on how to train for cycle touring effectively. Check it out!
How to Train for a Bicycle Tour
When training for cycle touring, the first thing to do is make a training schedule that will guide you. Having a plan will help you be consistent and focused.
Depending on the nature of your tour, this training program will help you get fit for your upcoming trip. This plan aims at training for a long-distance, multi-week bicycle tour.
Of course, you can gear down the workouts, especially the mileages, if you look forward to a relaxed or one-week bike tour.
Stage 1: Base Training Miles
Base training miles targets at building a strong base and improving your pedalling efficiency on the trail.
Ideally, you should start training for a strong base at least three months before your planned departure date.
During the first four weeks, you can train indoor with a stationary bike if the weather hinders outdoor riding. But if you are comfortable outside, it will even be more enjoyable.
You can ride three to four days a week for about two hours each day at a steady pace. Don’t think about the distance, but focus more on time.
If you haven’t been doing any base training miles before, expect to feel tired for the first few weeks. But there is no need to worry as your body will adapt easily with consistency.
After training for the second week, incorporate a longer ride of about three to four hours at least once a week.
In this case, riding during the weekend will make your training life easier as you have much free time. This way, you can even afford to ride for up to five hours.
And before you kick off with your base training, be sure to do some five to ten-minute stretches to get your muscles, tendons, and ligaments ready.
Other forms of training that can improve your base fitness include swimming, cross-country skiing, and trail running.
You can add a 30-minute session of these exercises to your fitness routine at least three times a week.
Now, you may wonder how the base miles will help your fitness for your bicycle tour.
The truth is, base training miles will help your body get used to long-distance riding without sustaining saddle sores and aching muscles.
Keep in mind that the more you get your body ready physically, the more enjoyable your trip will be.
Stage 2: Build Strength
The second four-week stage aims at building strength and improving your overall mobility.
For longer rides, you may think that only your legs get tired. But this is not always the case. The upper body, including the neck, back, and core, are also victims, and they may limit your overall strength if left unfit.
Sure, having strong legs is crucial for bike touring, but so is a strong core, strong neck, and fit back for a good cycling posture. You don’t want any part of your body to limit your strength and endurance.
The best way to strengthen your upper body and legs is to incorporate some strength-building workouts into your training schedule.
Here is a training plan with effective strength-building exercises that will get you ready for bike touring:
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
- To do this exercise, hold a dumbbell upright against your chest and position your feet a bit wider than the shoulder width.
- Drop your hips down while keeping your chest open.
- Try to separate the ground with your feet and engage your glute as you get back to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise bout 10 to 12 times for about three sets with a 1-minute break between each set.
Rubber Resistance Bilateral Seated Row
- Begin in a seated position with the band wrapped around your stretched feet.
- Bend your right elbow and pull the handle to your ribcage while exhaling.
- Keep your chest open and shoulders down. Rotate your upper back when pulling the elbow back.
- Maintain a good posture while pressing between your shoulder blades and return the hand to the starting point.
- Then alternate each side at a steady pace for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Dumbbell Split Squat
- With a dumbbell on each hand, start with one foot in front with shoulders and hips aligned.
- Bend your knees while sinking your hips and lower yourself until the back knee nearly touches the floor.
- Maintain a straight posture and inhale as you get down with control. Then exhale as you start pushing up to the original position.
- Repeat ten times each side for about three sets with a break of one minute between sets.
Push-Up to Side Plank
- Begin with a push-up on your knees or toes and then switch to a full-body side plank.
- Rotate your ankles such that your feet’ sides and hips are vertically stacked before lifting one hand off the floor to point toward the sky.
- Hold the position 4 to 5 seconds before returning to the original position. Then another push-up and a side plank on the other side. Throughout the entire exercise, keep your abdominals engaged.
- Perform about 3 to 4 sets of this exercise with a 1-minute break for recovery.
Dumbbell Bent-Legged DeadLift
This workout focuses on the back, hands, legs, and core muscles. You can perform it about 3 to 4 times a week.
Here is how to do a dumbbell bent-legged deadlift:
- Start standing with feet hip-width apart and dumbbells on hands in front of the body.
- Bend forward at the hips while driving your hips back and bending the knees.
- Hinge forward while inhaling until your spine is almost parallel to the floor, bringing the dumbbells down toward the ground.
- Exhale as you drive up through your hips and knees to the original position.
- Engage your abdominal muscles strongly, and don’t allow the spine to bend.
- Perform ten reps with a 1-minute rest in between for three sets.
The glute bridge workout aims at building gluteal muscle strength and improving your hip flexibility.
You can follow these steps to perform the exercise three to four times a week:
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground but slightly apart
- Exhale while squeezing your heels to the floor and raise your hips until your knees, hips, and shoulders for a straight line. You should feel the weight of your body on your shoulders.
- Squeeze the glutes hard and keep your abdominal muscles drawn to avoid overstretching your back.
- Hold the bridge position for a few seconds, then ease back down.
- Perform two sets of ten glute bridges with 60 to 90 seconds of rest.
As you might have noticed, most of these workouts aim at strengthening your legs, hips, core, and back. You can perform each one of them about three to four times a week.
Other workouts like Prone Cobra Torso Stretch, Figure-4 Hip Stretch, and Butterfly Groin Stretch can help maintain good muscle flexibility for your long-distance tour.
Again, be sure to begin with warm-ups each day before starting any cycle-specific strength-building workouts.
So, how will strength building help in your bike touring preparation?
Strength training will boost your overall fitness, give you better muscles, and improve your flexibility.
It will also enhance your cycling posture and correct muscle imbalances that many cyclists experience. This way, you’ll be sure that your trip will be a success in terms of the cycling experience.
Now, even with these strength-building workouts, you still need to ride regularly. This could be the right time to ride on those roads you’ve been waiting to explore!
Stage 3: Build Endurance
After working on your base fitness and building strength, you need to build endurance on the foundation you’ve laid.
You can incorporate a long ride once or twice a week to build your endurance during this stage. Training on hills is also a great way to boost your cycling stamina.
Long rides will help you reach new places and enjoy exploring nature, thus preparing your mind and body for your upcoming trip. After all, the cycle tour will involve long riding and visiting new places.
So, the exercises have to be more specific in this stage. You want to do several rides more consistently during the week.
By the end of the fourth week, you should be able to ride for 40 to 60 miles without experiencing any discomfort.
Building stamina can be quite demanding, but I always advise beginners to be realistic and avoid overdoing it.
When I was trying to build strength for my Girona bike tour, I felt the urge to train more and push myself. Unfortunately, I lacked motivation training alone as I had to cycle long distances.
Surprisingly, my cyclist friends also claimed the same, so we decided to join forces and encourage each other as we trained.
We couldn’t believe how things got easier and so natural when riding together. The more we cycled, the happier we were.
So, if you are having a hard time building endurance with the long rides, I recommend that you find some friends.
Cycling fanatics are all over! You could even be surprised that more than a few cyclists in your neighborhood are struggling with the same.
Riding in a group with friends or other bike enthusiasts is a great way to stay motivated and achieve your goals. You will inspire each other to keep going.
Stage 4: Ride with Some Weight
The last stage in the program involves cycling with some weight on the bike, especially if you are planning a self-supported tour.
Start carrying about 20 to 30 pounds on your bike during the long endurance days. You can even bring all your gear a few times to get your muscles and ligaments ready.
Cycling with weight will help avoid injuries during your adventure and develop a good riding position that will ensure maximum comfort throughout the ride.
You don’t want to start nursing sore muscles after cycling for barely a week during the actual trip.
During the last training stage, rest days are as important as the training days. You need to get enough sleep and practice proper nutrition.
Training Tips for the Ultimate Bike Touring
Consider the Nature of Your Cycle Touring
It’s essential to consider the nature of your trip before embarking on the training program. This is to ensure that you know the type of pedaling you’ll experience on your tour.
Understanding the nature of your cycle tour will help you optimize your training and choose the appropriate workouts.
There are some aspects of a cycle tour that you need to get ready for if you want an enjoyable trip.
For example, if your tour will involve some big mountain climbing days, then you know that you need to at least cycle on a hilly terrain during your training.
Also, if your tour is self-contained, you’ll need to ride with some weight to build endurance and get your muscles ready.
Cycle Regularly by Focusing Cross-Training
This may sound obvious, but the key to becoming fit for long rides is to get miles on your legs. Whether you are in your first or last bike tour training stage, you need to ride as much as you can.
You can start with short training rides for the first week and increase the mileage gradually to build strength and endurance.
Running and swimming are great cardio workouts, but doing them alone won’t make you fit for a bike tour.
So, you need to focus more on improving your overall biking performance.
Spend time on your bike in a variety of weather conditions and extend your rides as you progress. This will enable you to cope with the outdoor weather conditions.
It is also a great chance to test your weatherproof gear and see whether certain weather conditions affect your riding style.
Train on Hills and Off-Road
Cycling uphill will increase your stamina and push your limit without damaging your experience.
While you may not love climbing hills, training on them will prepare you for any climb you face when touring.
Off-roading will help you get familiar with handling your bike and build your strength and endurance.
If your trip will involve long rides on the road, it’s essential to practice pedaling with other vehicles to build your confidence near cars and other bikes.
My trip to Southeast Asia would have been a disaster if I didn’t have much experience riding on busy road.
In such places, fitness is one thing, and being confident to ride in traffic beside other moving objects is another thing.
Be Consistent in Your Workouts
While riding more will help you nail your base fitness quickly, I’ve found that consistency in training is the critical factor to building riding stamina.
If you want to be consistent in your workouts, you need to commit yourself to a training plan. Training aimlessly can lead to discouragement, especially if the progress is slow.
No matter which program you choose to follow, being consistent will allow your body to adapt to the training faster.
When you are leading a busy life, it can be difficult to incorporate specific training sessions into your everyday routine.
At the same time, you need to spend more time in the saddle to get fit for a cycle tour. The best thing to do is to add cycling to your daily routine.
For example, you can choose to cycle to work instead of driving. Such flexibility will help build consistency and increase your strength.
When I learned that being in the saddle more was key to getting fit for bike touring, I started utilizing even the trips to the shops.
I also leveraged the weekend local events in my neighborhood to ride more and make up for any missed daily distances.
Proper Nutrition and Hydration
During your bike tour training, it’s important to develop a habit of proper diet and hydration.
Staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet will catalyze your cycle tour fitness journey and ensure that things don’t work against you while out there.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How Do You Get in Shape for Bike Touring?
A: You can get in shape for bike touring by building a training plan and sticking to it.
Your tour-training program should have exercises that will help you build core strength and base fitness while still allowing you to work on your resilience.
Maintaining good flexibility is also key to getting in shape for a bike tour. Adding a few stretches to your training plan will improve flexibility and prepare your body for long-distance riding.
So, can you ride yourself into shape for bike touring? Yes, of course, you can do that, provided you get serious with your training early enough and maintain consistency.
Overall, the key to getting in shape for bike touring is spending more time in the saddle and training for strength.
Q: How Do I Prepare for Bike Tour?
A: To prepare for a bike tour, you need to choose a destination, find a good touring bike, plan your route, pack your gear, and train for the adventure.
Ideally, this preparation should begin about 3 to 4 months before the planned departure date. This will give you adequate training time, especially if you are a beginner.
When choosing a destination, you should consider the places that interest you. But if you’ll be touring as a group, you may want to discuss the destination and decide on a locale that will fulfill your varied needs.
As a cyclist traveler, you’ll have many options when it comes to route choice. So, you want to ensure that you plan your routes well and go for the locations that will let you enjoy more.
For example, you can choose the secondary roads and remote routes for a more enjoyable expedition.
If you don’t have a good touring bike, you can begin with what you have, but its efficiency will depend on the nature of your tour.
A well-maintained road bike can successfully complete a weekly long ride on the road. However, if you’ll be riding on rough and hilly terrain, you may want to invest in a touring bike or a fat bike.
When choosing your gear to pack for the bicycle tour, you need to strike a balance between comfort and convenience.
You want to ensure that you carry all the essentials and still have the lightest possible load to make your life easier while out there.
Now, when it comes to training for bike touring, you need to work out by building up your mileage over time.
The best way to train for a bike tour is by including strength-building exercises in your workout routine. And don’t forget to stretch before and after the training.
Then create time to cycle more for your base training and get your body used to longer rides.
You can also train with weight on your bike for several hours a week. You’ll thank yourself for it when hauling your gear during the bike tour.
As the tour approaches, you also need to ensure that your bicycle is in good shape as its fitness is essential as your core strength and riding stamina.
Q: How Do You Train for a Long-Distance Bike Ride?
A: Whether you are a beginner or cycling pro, a long-distance bike tour requires adequate training.
But the question is, how do you train for long bike touring? Do you simply get in the saddle, or where do you start?
The best way to get fit for a long-distance bike ride is to build your base fitness, strength, and endurance.
To do this, you need to set a training plan of about 9 to 12 weeks to improve your intensity and mental strength.
A good plan will keep you focused and motivated as you have targets to accomplish each training day.
When formulating a training plan, it’s important to be realistic to ensure that you don’t give up on the way due to frustratingly slow results.
Make sure that the plan has all the exercises you’ll need for base fitness, strength training, and improving stamina.
Flexibility training is also vital, as you want all your body parts to be flexible enough before your long ride kicks off.
If you feel that preparing for your long-distance bike tour alone is hard, you can invite a few friends or family members and start training together.
Another crucial thing to consider when training for a bike tour is your diet. Food is an essential part of training, and you need to ensure that you are taking it balanced.
In addition to a balanced diet, you should drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated all the time.
Are you looking forward to getting in shape for your cycle touring? There are many training plans online, but you need to ensure that you choose the correct one.
With the right training schedule, you will be able to ride for longer distances, have fun, and achieve all your tour bicycle-touring dreams.
Building endurance requires a lot of hard work and commitment, but the results are always worth the time and effort.
The more you train, the less likely you’ll come back with saddle sores or other riding injuries, which would inconvenience your adventure life.
So, get out now and build strength for your next bicycle adventure. You’ll be surprised at how fulfilling the experience will be, especially if you realize your goals.
Whether you decide to cycle outdoors or indoors on a stationary bike, feel free to utilize the tour training tips provided in this article.