How to Train for your first Bike Tour
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.
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. A good bike fit can go a long way to preventing sore knees, necks, and backs!
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. 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, it’s recommended 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. For a San Juan Hut ride that would be about 30 miles a day and around 2500 ft of climbing. Another important fact to think of : You should be doing some long (time-wise) rides. 5-6 hours at a low heart rate to build up your endurance.
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.
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.
I recommend Strava or Map My Ride and checking out your data. Seeing data such as MPH, calories burned, elevation gain, distance covered, etc. can be very motivating. Telling your friend to join too can make for a fun way to keep accountable. 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.
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, if you stick to a solid training plan. 3 months if not as consistent. The more time you give yourself, the easier the training will feel and the less likely you will be to injure yourself.
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! And riding with San Juan Hut Systems will make memories for a life time!