Cycle touring is exciting and challenging but without the fitness it will be hell. I know that some people do build up their touring gradually on a very long tour, and this is possible, but it may also mean that you’ll be doing quite short rides initially. It could also mean without the miles and experience under your belt and in your legs you might not enjoy the tour as much.
So, how do I know if I’m ready?
If you are able to do loaded back to back day rides that are as long or ideally longer than you are planning for your tour you are physically ready.
By getting long loaded practice rides in you’ll know if the saddle and your bicycle set-up is right for you before heading off on tour.
How should I build up my fitness?
Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get fit. The more time the better. The amount of time needed will vary from person to person and this depends on a variety of factors including your current fitness level, your riding experience, strength levels and your bike handling skills.
Set yourself a training schedule
Sample Training Week
•Monday – Rest
•Tuesday – Strength Training (optional cycling) / Fitness Class
•Wednesday – Indoor Cycling / Cross Training / Fitness Class
•Thursday – Strength Training (Optional cycling) / Fitness Class
•Friday – Rest
•Saturday – Long Ride
•Sunday – Long Ride
Build your mileage gradually
Increase the distances that you travel by no more than 10% per week, this will reduce your chances of injury and also means that the increase in distance each week is achievable.
Consider the terrain that you’ll be riding on your tour.
If your tour is going to be hilly, try and get quite a few hill climbs in. Do vary your training.
•Hill training – this will give you strength and power
•Interval Training / sprints – this will help you to ride faster
•Riding long distances – this will make long days in the saddle so much easier
Do also try and incorporate some sort of cross training into your exercise program, eg. swimming, walking, running, rowing, resistance training and stretching. These activities will help to reduce your chances of getting injured and will also bring variety into your training schedule.
Going from unloaded to fully loaded
Initially ride without your panniers. Once you’ve achieved your distance goal gradually increase your load.
On some days on tour you’ll definitely need a strong mindset. Getting all of the training in your legs before you go out on tour will help to give you the confidence to continue to pedal through on those hard, hard days when you really just want to be curled up on your sofa reading about somebody else’s cycling adventure.