by Becki Rupp
Does exploring a destination by bike sound appealing, but you rarely ride? Whether you try touring Tuscany, island hoping in Croatia, or spinning around New England, cycling trips are a wonderful way to experience scenery and culture close-up and personal.
Among the reasons to book a cycling trip for an upcoming vacation is giving you a goal to work toward. And the great news is, preparing for a multi-day bicycling trip is fairly easy and definitely fun!
Training for a cycling trip will help you feel more comfortable and confident when you’re riding during your trip, and you’ll have more energy at the end of each day. You’ll also avoid being saddle sore!
Your next questions may be, when should I start and how much do I need to do?
When to Start Training for a Multi-day Bicycling Trip
When you’re trying to figure out when to start training, consider these factors:
- How much do you currently ride.
- How long will you be riding during the trip – the time each day and number of days in a row.
- How much time do you have to be able to train
Compare how much you currently ride with the itinerary of the trip you’re considering. Every cycling tour company rates their trips a bit differently, and the difficulty level usually accounts for mileage as well as how hilly the terrain is. Look at the details of how the company sets their ratings so you’re clear on what to expect.
If you’re riding periodically for an hour or so at a time, and your trip includes multiple long days on wheels, you should start training at least two months before you go.
As you consider how much time you have for training, be realistic. Chances are you have a pretty full schedule as it is, so think through what you could adjust or cut back on to fit in some time to ride.
Factor in any other major commitments between now and your trip – such as work travel or family events. You might want to start a month or two earlier if you won’t be able to get on a bike for a few weeks.
How Much do I Need to Train for Multi-day Bicycling Trip
If you haven’t been biking in a while, get started as soon as you can! Start with shorter rides, 30 minutes or even less, a couple of times a week to fire up your bike-specific muscles. This includes getting your butt used to the bike seat!
For those who ride more regularly, you can start dialing in how much more you’ll need to do to have the stamina for multiple back-to-back days.
As a general rule, adding about 10-20% more riding time per week will help your body adapt to the increase, build your stamina and minimize your chance of injury. Ideally, you should feel comfortable riding close to the amount of time of your longest day on the trip before you go.
For example, if you’re currently riding three days a week, for about an hour per ride, add about 20-30 minutes to your total ride time the next week.
If your itinerary includes some longer days – say four to five hours in the saddle – extend one of your rides for the additional time to build up your endurance. In about six to eight weeks you’ll be up to the amount of time you’ll be doing on your trip!
As the trip gets closer, set aside some time to do a couple of longer rides on back-to-back days. This helps your muscles prepare for working again after just one night of rest.
It’s best to use time to gauge your training rather than mileage. That’s because the amount of time to go a certain distance on a bike can vary a lot based on the type of bike and the terrain. Riding 15 miles on a lightweight road bike with skinny tires may take an hour, while riding the same distance on a touring bike with wider tires and a heavier frame will likely take longer.
Preparing your legs to keep pedaling for the amount of time they’ll need to go will set you up for a better experience. You’ll find a sample cycling training plan here.
Riding on a stationary bike – such as a Peloton or a bike on a trainer stand – definitely helps build endurance. That said, aim to do at least one ride per week outside on pavement (or dirt if it’s a mountain bike trip) to get used to riding under real-road conditions.
If you’ll be using an e-bike on your trip, try to do at least one ride on an e-bike before you go. The weight distribution may feel different than the bike you normally ride. Plus, the power assist takes a little getting used to. Many cities have places that rent e-bikes.
Here are some a few to make your training rides more fun:
- If feasible and safe, replace some of your driving with bicycling.
- Meet up with a group to ride – your local bike shop may host rides or be able to point you to organized rides in the area.
- Explore nearby bike paths and rails-to-trails routes.
- Participate in a local cycling event for charity – they are usually well supported with route markings and aid stations.
With some planning and time investment before you go, you’ll be ready to make the most of your multi-day bike trip!
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About the Author
Becki Rupp is a personal trainer, adventure coach and an avid cyclist who has done several multi-day bicycling events and trips. She creates customized training plans and coaches clients so they’ll be physically and mentally ready for their upcoming adventure trips. You can reach her at email@example.com or learn more at trailblazerwellness.com.