Our Useful Guide to Help You Prepare For a Cycling Tour
Getting ready to squeeze on your lycra to ride some of Europe's most amazing cycling trails? Here are 10 tips on everything you need to know about bike training and best practices while riding to help prepare you for your cycling tour – with added insider knowledge from our bike tour experts.
After months of dreaming and weeks of researching your ultimate European cycling tour, you’ve booked your trip. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the day when you can finally head off on your long-awaited adventure… if only life could be that simple!
As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. So, you’ll need to do some physical conditioning to prepare. It’s also important to consider the appropriate clothing and gear to take on your trip. Adequate preparation will make your riding experience even more enjoyable.
To help you prepare, we’ve consulted our in-house cycling experts and bike addicts to compile the best tips and tricks on training and gear essentials you'll need to ensure you are comfortable and confident on your biking adventure.
10 Helpful Cycling Tour Tips
1. Consider your trip grading
It's very important to be mindful of your trip grading and read your trip notes well in advance so that you know what type of cycling you'll face on your trip. There are a number of factors to consider preparing for which will help make your tour more enjoyable. Do you have one big day of hill climbing? Will the weather be quite hot at the time of year you are travelling?
Understanding your trip itinerary and grade will help shape your training sessions and give you guidelines on how much training you should do leading up to your trip.
If you are new to cycling and are feeling unsure, don’t be put off! It’s normal to feel a little nervous. Just remember, it’s not a race. Go at a pace you are comfortable with so you can soak up your surroundings along the way. There's also the option to choose an e-bike for that extra pedalling boost.
2. Get miles on your legs
It may sound obvious, but the key to getting 'cycling fit' is spending as much time on your bike as possible. Don't make the mistake of thinking that running or swimming will suffice.
While it is good to mix up your workouts with cardio and weight bearing exercises, it is essential that you fit some riding time in your weekly workouts. Cycling regularly will activate different muscle groups, as well as get you used to sitting in your seat (or 'saddle') for long periods.
- Garry Corbett (journalist and avid cyclist)
I jog a few times a week and this was the preparation I thought was enough for my cycle trip. But once on the bike, and facing 700-metre road ascents, I realised there is a big difference between running fit and cycling fit. Now, I always recommend people actually cycle in preparation for their cycle trip – a few times a week and not just on the bike in the gym (although, that is better than not cycling at all).
- Kate Baker (UTracks General Manager)
3. Train consistently
Try to keep up a consistent amount of exercise each week, especially during the weeks leading up to your trip. Consistency and repetition are important for getting cycling fit.
To keep up consistent workouts, it’s a good idea to schedule them at the same time every week and fit them into your daily schedule. Also, remove as many barriers as possible, so you can’t come up with excuses not to train. For example, organise your gym clothes the night before, set reminders on your phone and keep a workout calendar.
4. Practice climbing hills
Let’s face it, not many people love riding up hills but the more you ride up them, the more you'll be prepared for them on your trip.
Basically the trick is to choose the “right” gear that allows you to pedal at your optimum speed. Choose a gear that is too low and you will spin the pedals too fast with the result that you will tire quickly or conversely choose a gear that is too high and you will have to expend too much energy with each turn of the pedals, with the result that you will tire quickly or potentially cause injury to your knees or hips.
- Garry Corbett
5. Be flexible
We all lead busy lives and it can be hard to fit specific training sessions into your everyday life. To fit in more time on your bike, try adding cycling to your daily routine, for example riding to the shops or work. This can also help build consistency.
The main thing I did to train was to get out on my bike as much as possible. I’d try and incorporate cycling into my every day life. Do I need to take the car to the shops? Maybe I could just pop to the shops on my bike if I only needed a couple of things. Making sure I had time in the ‘saddle’ (to prep butt and legs) was a key part of my preparation. Seeking out a few hills and stairs also helped me increase my leg strength.
- Kate Harper (World Expeditions Groups Consultant)
6. Push yourself
The more you prepare, the more you’ll enjoy yourself. If you are only ‘just’ fit enough you won’t get as much out of your trip.
To put it bluntly if you want to get the most out of your long-awaited cycle tour you will need to do some sort of physical conditioning. This fact applies whether you have booked a so-called “easy” tour with few or no hills or if you have booked a tour that tackles some of the most arduous mountain climbs in the world.
- Garry Corbett
7. Train in a variety of weather conditions
Some of your training should reflect the trip conditions. If it might rain on your trip, then train in the rain and test your wet weather gear. See how rain impacts your riding style.
8. Get familiar with handling your bike
If you haven’t done lots of bike riding previously, make sure you are very comfortable with bike handling and functions. This includes changing gears, breaking and adjusting the bike.
On my first guided tour along the Loire Valley in France one lady in the group had never previously ridden a bicycle with gears. I chivalrously volunteered to spend the first half of the first day riding alongside her either changing the gears for her or supervising her own very ordinary attempts at what is, after all, a very basic task. The reality of the situation was that she should have been prepared for this basic task before she left home.
- Garry Corbett
9. Ride on different surfaces
Your trip notes will give you an idea of the types of surfaces you will ride on during your trip. Will you be riding on dirt tracks, paved roads or rocky paths? Practice training on these surfaces so you are comfortable handling your bike in similar situations.
10. Mix up your workouts
If you are doing a multi-activity trip which might include cycling, kayaking or hiking, make sure you mix up your training sessions.
It was tricky training for the Bike, Hike and Kayak North Vietnam trip because of the three different elements. About three months before departure, I introduced swimming a couple of times a week to my regular walking routine because I thought it would help with the kayaking. Also, I sought out walks with rougher, steeper terrain to my regular routes. I made the mistake of thinking the extra walking would be my bike training, so it was lucky I got on the bike a month or so beforehand. My legs were jelly the first few rides but I improved fast due to my baseline fitness. In hindsight, I should have started on all three activities from the beginning.
– Michele Eckersley (World Expeditions PR Manager)
Feeling more confident about doing a cycling tour? Great! Continue browsing our affordable bike trips in Europe.
>> View all Self Guided Cycling Tours in Europe
>> View all Guided Cycling Tours in Europe
Do you have any other cycling advice for us? Share your best tips in the comment section below.