The following information is based on our personal experience in preparing for a long ride, and is offered as a guide only. More specific training information can be found through cycling organization websites, or from a professional fitness trainer.
We strongly recommend that you have a medical check up prior to commencing a fitness training program.
Bike it Better is a cycle coaching business run by Cazz Clarke, who is also one of our volunteers on the ride. We can recommend her training programs.
Set your goal
You should aim to be comfortably able to ride 30 km by at least 2 weeks prior to the start of the tour. Your “30 km ride” should include some hills – they really are essential for building up cardiovascular fitness. Having achieved your 30 km ride at least two weeks before the ride, plan to do another ride of 15 -20 km around a week before the tour, with as many regular, but short rides during the intervening weeks as you can manage. Regular riding will help all of your body (head, back, shoulders and backside) to get ready for some continuous days riding.
If you do most of your riding on sealed roads, remember that riding on unsealed surfaces will take more energy. Try and get out onto a few unsealed roads as part of your training.
Working towards your goal
How long it takes you to achieve this level of fitness will vary tremendously from person to person, depending on how fit you already are, whether you have done something like this before, how frequently you are able to ride and your own body’s inherent capacities. Some general tips:
- Plan to build up your ride distances by 5 to 10 km per week. If the longest ride you currently do is 5 km, aim to do 10 next week and so on.
- Ride as frequently as you can, even if it is only for a short distance. Ideally ride at least twice a week, one ride of your target distance for that week, and one of at least half that distance. Find any excuse to get on your bike, even for a short ride.
- Ride up hills. Even long rides on the flat come nowhere near climbing hills to develop cardio vascular capacity, strength and endurance.
- Spend at least some time on unsealed roads to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the extra effort they require.
- Your mental preparedness is just as if not more important than your physical preparedness. Gradually building up the distances you can ride – at your own pace – gives you the confidence to know that you can do it! If your mind tells you that you can’t do something, you probably won’t, even if your body is capable of it.
- It is important to find the pace your body is comfortable with – it is hard work and demoralizing to spend a whole day trying to “keep up” with a faster riding partner. Ask them to slow down; stop and meet up at agreed intervals; find a slower riding partner - or ride by yourself!
Look after yourself when you train
- Make sure your bike is properly set up for you: this means correct seat height, distance to handlebars etc. Your friendly bike shop should be able to do this for you if you are not sure.
- Cycling long distances requires an intimate relationship with your bike seat. Be as selective about this relationship as with any other: it is probably one of the most significant factors in your comfort and enjoyment on your bike.
- Always give yourself even a brief stretch and warm up before asking your muscles to work hard. Leaping off the couch, onto your bike and flogging yourself up a steep hill in top gear will cause damage! Allow your muscles to warm up before asking for a big effort.
- Drink water before, during and after your ride (and maybe an electrolyte drink if you sweat a lot.)
- Eat appropriately before, during and after your ride. Your body needs a steady supply of carbohydrate (from
starchy type foods such as bread and other cereals: bananas are the universal cycling staple) to keep going, and
high protein (meat, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts, dairy) after a long ride to enable a good recovery.
- Finish a ride in a low gear for the last 10 minutes or so, with your legs moving very easily to help muscles wind down from the effort of the ride.
- Stretch before and after a ride to maintain flexibility.
- Listen and respond to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t just push on. Stop, rest and try and work out what the problem is. (Drinking, resting, eating and talking are wonderful therapies for many fatigue problems)