Bike Ride Training Programme
It is imperative that those taking part in this type of cycling event are adequately prepared in order to get maximum benefit from it. The event is a challenge and requires a high standard of fitness and an understanding of how to use a bicycle and its gears. It is not a race. There will be back-up and support during the ride itself.
These bike ride training guidelines have been prepared for us by Joanne Cavill, a cycle training consultant.
Summary of bike ride training guidelines:
Before starting your ride it is a good idea to do stretching exercises to loosen up the muscles.
Check that your saddle is at the correct height and tyres are pumped correctly.
If you have not cycled for some time, begin with a half hour ride every second day. After two weeks increase to 45 minutes and after one month increase to 1 hour. It is preferable to cycle for one hour, two or three times per week.
Find stretches of hilly terrain in order to experience the difficulties of cycling uphill and the changing of gears.
Ensure your training programme includes “off-road” cycling.
Learn to use your gears. On flat, or slightly rising, terrain you should not be in too low a gear otherwise your pedalling rate is too high and you will be expending unnecessary energy.
Change gear while it is still relatively easy as you go up hill. It is difficult to change when you are pushing up a steep hill because the gears are too taut and the chain may come off.
Never change gear when the chain is on the large sprocket wheel at the front and the small wheel at the back as the chain may come off.
When you are training don’t forget to take water, a small medical kit, repair kit, some energy food with you – and always wear your helmet.
Detailed Bike Ride Training Guidelines:
You may be required to cycle anything up to 60 miles in a single day. This requires a certain level of endurance, leg strength, aerobic fitness and tolerance to sitting on a bicycle saddle for up to six hours, or longer, per day.
The mixture of terrain from tarmac roads to rough desert and forest tracks requires you to have a degree of bike handling skill. Your fitness and skills can be improved in the three months preceding your trip by following a bicycle specific training programme.
Here are some tips to help you get the best out of your training and ensure you have a very enjoyable experience.
Before embarking on any training plan make sure your bike is in good working order. If you are not mechanically minded get a bike shop to check it over for you. Ensure your tyres are pumped up to the maximum recommended pressure.
Make sure your saddle is the correct height otherwise you will encounter back problems on a long distance journey. Your leg should be comfortably straight with a slight bend in the knee (not stretched) when your pedal is at its lowest point.
If your saddle is too low it will increase your work-rate and you will tire much more quickly. If in doubt get a fellow cyclist or someone in a bike shop to check out your riding position. It is very important for your own comfort and safety.
Using toe clips or clipless pedals is an advantage for long distance cycling. Shoes with a rigid sole, like proper cycling shoes, also reduce foot numbness which can occur through hours of continual pedaling.
Wear comfortable shorts or tracksuit bottoms that don’t have heavy seams around the crotch area. This can lead to unnecessary saddle soreness. Avoid baggy trousers that might get caught in your chain. If you can, invest in a pair of cycling shorts which have extra padding in the crotch area and are long in the leg to prevent the inner legs chaffing on the saddle.
Learn to use your gears. On flat, or slightly rising terrain you should not be in too low a gear otherwise your pedaling rate is too high and you will be expending unnecessary energy. Change gear while it is still relatively easy as you go uphill.
It is difficult to change when you are pushing up a steep hill because the gears are too taut and the chain may come off. Never change gear when the chain is on the large sprocket wheel at the front and the small wheel at the back as the chain may come off.
Any good training programme progresses from general to more specific training. In the six months before your trip you should aim to reach a fairly good general fitness level through either running, swimming, cycling, aerobics, circuit training or strength training. This gives you a good base on which to begin your cycle specific training.
Cycle Specific Training
In the three months plan before your trip you need to build up your endurance, leg strength and your bike handling skills.
Endurance takes a long time to improve, but equally it takes along time to lose it. You must work on your endurance for the whole three months allotted to your training. Bike specific endurance is what you require so try to do most of your endurance training on your bicycle.
If the weather is bad this can be substituted with running, swimming or circuit training. To improve endurance you should ride for a minimum of two hours without stopping. Your body will go into fat burning mode after about one hour and it is from this point onwards that you have to train your body to run like an efficient engine on its fat stores.
We all have enough fat as fuel to keep us running for hours! The key to endurance is training your body to burn this fat efficiently to allow you to keep on going at a steady pace for several hours. Your endurance rides should be performed at a comfortable speed.
If you have a heart rate monitor you should be riding in the 65-85% range of your maximum heart rate. If you are new to cycling I recommend doing two rides per week of two hours duration in your first month of training.
More advanced riders may wish to tackle two rides of three hours duration per week. Beginners should eventually build up to riding for at least three hours once a week, say at the weekend, with a two-hour ride during the week if you have enough daylight. Longer rides with café stops etc. would be beneficial on warm summer days at the weekends.
By the end of the three months you should be aiming to ride as near to 60 miles as possible on a single day. At this stage you will be well prepared to tackle the demands of your trip.
Efficient cycling requires a certain amount of leg strength. The greater your leg strength, the less tired you will be at the end of a long ride. Work on your leg strength at least once a week either by doing weighted squats in the gym, keeping your feet parallel and about pedal width apart in order to closely simulate the pedaling action.
Alternatively do bike specific strength work by pedaling up hills in a big/ heavy gear while remaining seated in the saddle. This will develop your quadriceps and gluteal muscles, the powerhouses of cycling.
While on the subject of strength, it is very important to have strong abdominal and back muscles for cycling. During your gym sessions make sure you include abdominal and back exercises to improve your core strength.
It will help with your hill climbing and increase your fatigue resistance. A general strength programme once or twice a week is highly recommended for all sports. If you cannot fit in gym sessions during the week, do not sacrifice bike time for them. Before your trip, getting used to the bike is more important.
A Note about Spinning Classes
Spinning classes are a fantastic way of improving your bike specific fitness. They are a good high intensity supplement to your endurance training. By all means include them in your three-month programme.
Because the intensity is high do not do more than two Spinning classes per week. It takes a long time to recover from high intensity work. Remember not to substitute Spinning for real cycling. Use it as an additional training session or use it when the weather is bad.
It is more important to ride your bike outdoors. You will not be sitting on a stationary bike in the desert.
Bike Handling Skills
Some of the riding you will do on your trip will be off-road on rough terrain. Prepare yourself for this by doing some of your endurance rides off-road on a mountain bike. The demands of off-road cycling can be quite different to on-road.
More skill and co-ordination may be required in negotiating the bike through rough terrain. Practice riding on stony ground, forest trails, footpaths and on steep gravely hills. Get used to steering around difficult obstacles and maintaining your balance.
When coming downhill the weight of the body should be on the pedals, not over the saddle. Off-road riding demands upper body and core strength as well as leg strength so keep up that gym work.
Practice riding in and out of the saddle on hills to give different muscle groups a work out and to prevent your back getting stiff. Ride most of the time in easy gears to avoid sore knees, especially off-road. Spin the pedals as fast as you can to improve your aerobic capacity and save your knees.
Drinking and Eating
Cycling uses a huge amount of energy. After a training ride you must replenish your muscle glycogen stores so that your muscles can repair and rebuild themselves in time for your next training session.
Eating a high carbohydrate meal immediately after your endurance rides will shorten your recovery time. Remember also to re-hydrate fully during and after each training session.
Your body has enough glycogen stored in its muscles to keep you going for about 90 minutes of moderate exercise. After this time your body converts to using fat as a fuel. Until your body becomes efficient at burning fat through your endurance training, you will need to eat something during your long endurance rides.
To prevent your body going into energy deficit during a ride (a condition commonly known as the hunger knock, the wall or the bonk) eat a high carbohydrate snack such as a muesli bar or a banana every hour during your ride.
This keeps your muscle glycogen levels topped up. If you don’t like to eat during a ride then use one of the many carbohydrate sports drinks in your water bottles. Remember to keep sipping regularly, not just when you feel thirsty or hungry.
Hydration and energy intake are very important in long distance cycling. Eat and drink regularly during your training and during the cycling days on your trip. Eat a high carbohydrate meal within 2 hours of finishing your ride. Your recovery time will be shortened and you’ll be ready to go again the next day.
After every training session try to do some simple stretches. Cycling can reduce your suppleness if you do not take the time to stretch afterwards. Stretch while your muscles are still warm. Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds and do not bounce. Always include your back, glutes, shoulders, neck, quads, hamstrings and calves.
Health and safety
When you are training do not forget to take water, a small medical kit, repair kit – and always wear your helmet.
This is some basic information to get you started on a three-month cycle specific training programme. It is by no means comprehensive or suitable for every individual. The amount of training you are used to and your present fitness level determines how you tackle the three months prior to your trip.
Use your head. Build up gradually to a level you feel comfortable with. Most importantly ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike. Enjoy the fresh air and the freedom.