Bike touring is one of the most rewarding ways to travel. Yet it can be daunting for first time riders.
But it doesn’t have to be.
With the right training plan, you can be strong and confident on the first day of your bike tour.
Or you could be like me on the first day of my ride around Cambodia, collapsing from exhaustion after only 50 miles. Your choice, but I recommend training.
Your Super Simple Bike Tour Training Plan
1. Start with short, easy rides
4-6 months before your tour, start regularly riding your bike. Begin with an easy length, maybe only 5 or 10 miles, and build from there. Try to ride 3 to 5 times per week.
This may seem obvious, but the most important thing you can do to prepare for a bike tour is to start riding your bike. Try to keep your RMPs (that’s revolutions per minute, also known as your cadence) above 90. Your legs should be moving quickly but comfortably.
Remember to be nice to your body. You’re preparing for a big adventure. Start small but dream big. Don’t injure yourself now and mess up your future plans.
Most importantly: be patient.
2. Start Cross Training with Weights
After a few weeks of easy riding, head to the gym to start lifting weights twice per week. This is an often overlooked step, but cross training is just as important as riding your bike.
Lifting weights will help you build strength for the long bike tour. It will also rev up your progress. Lifting weights only twice a week will make that 30 mile ride feel just a little bit easier.
Never lifted weights before? Find an intro to weight lifting class at a local gym. Learn proper weight lifting form to avoid injuries and muscle imbalances. Once you know what you’re doing, you can get creative with your weight lifting routine.
Need inspiration? Check out these exercises from REI.
3. Embace Adventure on Longer Rides
2-3 months before the trip, start going on long bike rides.
Aim to take two 40+ mile rides each week. If this isn’t possible, at least one 50+ mile ride on the weekend should be enough.
Don’t be afraid of the long ride. This is a chance to have an adventure. Try out roads you’ve never ridden down before. Ride your bike to a nearby town or state park.
Pretty soon, you’ll be craving the peace of mind that comes from spending two or three hours alone on your bike.
4. Add Weight To Your Bike
2-3 weeks before your trip, start adding weight to your bike when you ride. Riding a fully loaded bike is challenging. You don’t want to shock your body on day 1 of the tour.
Begin with 15 to 20 pounds on a medium length ride and build from there. Ideally, you’ll want to do one or two long rides with a fully packed bike in the week leading up to your trip.
On top of your training plan, here are a few more things to keep in mind as you get fit and ready for your first bike trip:
- Monitor your progress. Download an app like Strava or MapMyRide, or just go the oldschool route of pen and paper. Whatever you choose, keep a record of your progress. This will help keep you honest and will motivate you when you see how much you improve in only a few months.
- Stretch! I can’t emphasize this enough. Start stretching from day one. Just five minutes of stretching after a ride can help prevent injuries and promote recovery. Not sure where to start? Try these simple stretches from Bicycling Magazine.
Training for Adventure
Training for a bike tour should be fun. You’ll be spending time outside, getting fit, riding your bike. What more could you want?
If you can’t fit in all the training, don’t worry. I did my first bike tour without any training at all (honestly, I hadn’t ridden a bike in over a year) and I survived. You will too.
If you follow this plan, you’ll be well prepared to get the most out of your first bike tour.
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