If you’re venturing out on a cycling vacation, there is nothing worse than being left behind by the pack, feeling that you’re holding up the group, or pushing yourself so hard to keep up that you can’t enjoy the surroundings or the company─or worse, incurring an injury as a result of being out of your element.
Preparing for any type of vacation is important, but especially on a cycling trip. There are several things to consider well in advance of putting up the money for your trip. These include:
▲ your existing fitness level
▲ your familiarity with cycling
▲ the amount of time you have to get ready for the trip
▲ the equipment (including clothing) you take/use
▲ the amount of time you want to spend on your bike
▲ other activities you want to participate in as well as cycling
Cycling Ability and Fitness Level
When selecting a cycling trip, the above points must be considered in conjunction with each other. If you’re not very fit and you plan on going on a trip in the next little while and don’t have enough time to get fit, choose something that is realistically within your reach. For example, if you haven’t been cycling for over a year, don’t cycle often or don’t cycle far, don’t choose a pseudo Tour de France in the Alps, cycling 75-150 kilometres per day.
Ask your travel agent or tour operator a lot of questions. How many kilometers/day will you be doing the activity, or how much time will you spend doing that activity and is that what you want to do? Is the terrain hilly or flat? Will there be a support-vehicle to carry you if you don’t feel like cycling or if you get tired along the way?
The flip-side to this is to know a little about the average distance that people travel on a given terrain and not be scared by the sound of cycling 50km. On a bicycle the average person cycles about 20km per hour, so that is less than 3 hours of cycling. On a trip where cycling is the focus, 3 hours is not really a lot of time.
Assuming you have some time to prepare, there should still be a relative correlation between your current fitness level, the fitness level you need to have for the trip, and the amount of time you have to get fit before you go.
The best way to get in shape for any trip is to do the activity you will be doing on the trip. So, get your bike out and start cycling! If you don’t have a bike, you can use a stationary bike, but it’s not quite the same. Start with a short distance and increase it. Then work at increasing the speed at which you cycle a given distance.
If you’ll be carrying gear, carry something with weight, and slowly increase the amount. If you’ll be climbing hills, incorporate hills into your training. This is the technique I used to train prior to riding the 160K Ride for Karen and my first 50K Ride for Heart.
It is also important to know, that to increase your level of fitness you need to workout at least 4 days a week—3 days a week will maintain your level, but not increase it.
I’m a big believer in cross-training. As much as it is important to get lots of exercise in your chosen activity, I feel that stretching is very good for keeping your muscles loose and relaxed, while strengthening core and other supporting muscles. Weights also help in a similar manner. I would cycle 3 times/week, do 1 yoga session and 1 weight session.
Bicycles and Equipment
The equiipment you have can make a big difference to your comfort level and your enjoyment of your trip. If bikes are not supplied and you are either taking your own or renting one, ensure that it is in good shape, get it tuned and make sure it fits you properly (that’s a whole other article –link here to bike fit). The right shoes are also important. Break them in slowly to ensure you don’t suffer from blisters on your trip. If you’re not using clipless (link this), ensure the shoe you use has a hard base that doesn’t bend easily. If you have clips, mountain bike shoes are flatter on the bottom and easier to walk in than road shoes that have a slicker bottom. Padded shorts are a must. They keep you more comfortable on the saddle. Gloves absorb the vibrations of the road that can cause pain in your arms, elbows and shoulders. Get clothing that breathes well and wicks. Check the weather forecast. If the mornings are cool and it warms up during the day, have layers.
How to Carry Your Gear
I don’t recommend carrying your gear in a backpack—that will make you hot and tired. Get panniers that clip onto the back of the bike, keeping your centre of gravity low and and over the back of the bike. This also makes you more stable.
For more information, feel free to contact me at [email protected]
ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations
Jacqui Snyder is an avid sports-person, trained Chef (George Brown College graduate; trained in Switzerland and England), foodie, people-person and traveler. She is a certified CAN-BIKE instructor and has cycled for as long as she can remember. Jacqui runs ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations, organizing skiing, cycling, and hiking vacations.