Planning Your First Bike Trip: Part 2
Planning your first multi-day ride can be a daunting undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be! We have put together a four-part series on getting the most out of your first self-guided bike tour. This is “part 2” of the series. (go to part 1)
Part 2 – Training
Once your trip has been booked, it is now time to get to work on your training. The most challenging part of our rides, hands down, is the reality of biking 30+ miles each day and over several consecutive days. The good news is that our trails tend to be relatively flat with little elevation gain and the surfaces tend to be smooth (though the C&O Trail can at times be “rugged”).
We pace our itineraries to allow for a wide range of abilities, and particularly for riders who enjoy shorter miles per day. Even if you can ride more miles each day, do you really want to? This is a vacation after all! [And if your answer is “yes”, and we do offer more challenging itineraries, too.] Getting your body use to being on a bike and in riding position for hours at a time and over a period of several days takes some getting used to. Even for the casual rider, completing a multiday bike tour is achievable, but to have most enjoyable experience you should be prepared to “train” to some extent before your trip.
In order to prepare for your bike tour, we recommend starting off with short rides (duration will depend on your fitness level) and increasing the number of miles ridden each week by 20%. The focus of your training should be on riding some distance EACH DAY, rather than covering large distances only once or twice a week. Even a ride of just 5 miles, several days a week – PLUS adding in those 1 or 2 longer distance days on a weekend – will help you become more prepared to complete your bike tour.
A few quick training trips:
- Stretch, Yoga – If you’re use to working on a computer 5 (or more) days a week, and then sit on a bicycle for 5 hours a day, multiple days in a row you will experience tightness/strain in areas that can make your trip less enjoyable (shoulders, neck, lower back). Stretching (and even yoga) prior to your trip can help provide the flexibility needed to decreases the likelihood of strain in these areas.
- Multi-Day Riding – We strongly encourage training geared to more DAYS on the bike, rather than more MILES on the bike. The day-after-day friction of riding on a bike trip is what tends to create the most discomfort for cyclists who don’t ride regularly. If you do not ride often and want to be sure that you are prepared for your trip, you are better served to ride just 5 or 10 miles/day for 3 or more days a week, rather than riding 30+ miles on a weekend only once a week. An ideal training schedule would be 2 or 3 short (10 mile or less) days and then two longer (30-40 mile) days on a weekend as you get close to trip time.
- Proper Nutrition, Hydration – During your training, it would be good to get into the habit of proper nutrition and hydration to make sure these things don’t work against you while you’re out on your trip. “How to Fuel on Rides of Any Length” is a helpful article to read.
- Test Out Gear and Clothing – Often riders will go out and purchase new gear and clothing for their upcoming tour. If this is something you plan to do, be sure to buy it well enough in advance to test it out prior to actual trip. For example, new bicycling shorts or shoes may cause friction and not fit correctly and you don’t want to be two days into your ride to figure this out.
- Bike Fit – Also, as you train, look out for any issues that emerge from how your body is interacting with your bike. Watch for areas of friction and/or pain from the seat (seams and shape can cause discomfort – invest in some padded shorts and try out multiple saddles), bike fit (seat height and pedal placement), and handlebar set up (try changing the angle, changing bar and grip shapes, and distance between seat and handlebars). Follow this link to watch our video discussing ways to make yourself more comfortable on your bike.
Go to Part 3: Pre-Trip Preparations