GETTING IN SHAPE
You’ll be surprised by how well your body will adapt to new physical challenges. But, unless you adequately prepare yourself, the first few days on a tour could be unpleasant – or even bring your trip to a grinding halt.
Let your doctor know that you will be doing a bicycle tour, and talk about your target miles per day, depending on the tour. On self-contained tours, you’ll carry your own gear and some group gear, including food and cooking equipment. Riding at higher elevations presents significant challenges, as do extreme weather conditions, depending on the trip you select. Tours often pass through areas where medical care is not readily available.
Tell your physician about the special stress your body will experience while touring: on the cardiovascular system, eyes and skin (from sun and wind), muscles and connective tissues (especially knees), nerves in your hands (from road shock), and the gastro-intestinal system (from varied water sources, irregular meal times and contents, and sustained daily exercise).
It might not be as hard as you think.
Having decided to do a bike tour you and your bicycle are going to climb some hills and maybe even mountains during your travels. How best to prepare yourself for the type of cycling you will be doing? There is no need for an “iron-man” or “iron-woman” regimen of physical training. Any bike tour like this will be an awesome trip, but you need not view it as a physical challenge of epic proportions. Long-distance bike touring typically just isn’t like that.
Begin your training at a mileage that feels comfortable, whether it is 5 miles or 25 miles. Try to ride 3-4 days per week. Gradually increase mileage, working up to 40-mile day rides over the course of several weeks. In training for a tour, riding speed is less important than endurance and time spent on the bike. The goal is to eventually ride several consecutive days (as you will on tour) and spend as much time as possible in the saddle. Commuting to and from work is one good way to help gain fitness, as is riding in the early mornings or evenings.
Be sure to take some long rides fully loaded, to “feel at home” with the added weight of full panniers or trailer. Ideally, you should take at least one overnight trip, which will help you determine if you’ve packed wisely, and give you a chance to test your equipment while there’s still time to make changes or adjustments.
Joyce says: I really like the idea of “S24O (sub-24 hour overnight) or weekend trips. It gives me a chance to get away, try out ways to travel and carry gear at low-risk, and it is a fun way to spend the weekend.
Lastly, it is important that you avoid overtraining. If you should begin to feel increasingly tired, depressed, or irritable or begin to dread riding, you may be training too hard or too often. By the start of your tour, you do not want to feel “burned out” or suffer from sore knees. Listen to your body and rest when necessary.
Obviously the best way to prepare for this type of tour is to ride your bicycle a lot! But if you cant, running, swimming, heart-rate training, and any other forms of aerobic exercise are a good substitute.
RIDE AT YOUR OWN PACE
No matter how well conditioned you are when you arrive at the tour’s start, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of riding at your own pace. Remember that Adventure Cycling’s tours are given a generous time schedule, which is designed to let you move along at an easy pace that allows you to absorb the experience of your bicycling tour. There usually will be no pressure to keep up with – or to wait for – the group, or to be at any certain place at a specific time, before dinner time each day.
You are investing your precious time in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not a competition or a forced “death ride” to some daily finish line. The purpose of all your pre-tour conditioning is to ensure that you can do your own thing and find your own rhythm, from start to finish.