Training for Your Cycling Holiday
You've picked your tour but you're not sure if you ready for it yet. Well, fear not, we're going to run through some tips to help you get the most joy out of every day!
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A cycling holiday is supposed to be enjoyable. It’s an opportunity to see beautiful scenery, learn about a new culture, and push yourself if you would like to. If you are in good shape, a cycling holiday should not pose any physical challenges, allowing you to fully enjoy the trip from start to finish.
However, if it has been a while since you have done much regular riding, or if you plan to embark on a more challenging holiday, a little preparation ahead of time can help you get the most out of your tour.
So, How Can Training Assist?
Training is a loaded word that conjures up images of professional cyclists slogging away on six-hour rides during the winter months; however, in the context of a cycling holiday, it simply means getting in some riding before you leave.
So, what are the advantages of doing some practice rides and how are they going to help you on your tour?
The first major advantage is comfort on the bike. On a cycling holiday, it is obvious that riding comfortably is essential. Saddle soreness, back pain and knee problems can ruin a ride whether you cycle for two hours or ten hours per day. A poor bike fit is largely to blame for these horrors. So, if you are hiring a bike, be sure to provide accurate measurements (from your current bike) to the company, so that they can set up the bike as close as possible to what you ride everyday.
It is not essential but we can strongly suggest consulting a professional bike fitter to do a bike fit on your current bike and then, if you’re renting a bike, you can pass these measurements on to the mechanic setting your bike up. A professional bike fit will make your riding at home, as well as your riding on the tour, a whole lot more comfortable and enjoyable.
Discomfort can, however, be caused by a general lack of flexibility or a struggle with the demands of riding for several days in a row, both of which can be avoided by riding in the weeks leading up to your tour and getting the muscles used to the repetitive movements that differ from your standard day-to-day things.
A few practice rides will also ensure that you enjoy the entire tour from start to finish. If you go from almost no riding to trying to ride for a few hours every day, you may be fine at first, but you may struggle by the end of the week as various niggles catch up with you.
A gradual increase in mileage in the weeks preceding the holiday will not only help to prepare your body for more riding but will also significantly improve your general cardiovascular fitness, as well as condition your knees and back to the demands of cycling.
Preparing for the cycling holiday by following a basic training plan can help you prepare for cycling on consecutive days while also allowing your body to recover more quickly from the daily effort. Instead of wishing for a day off, you will wake up excited and eager to ride until the end of the tour.
What Should You Think About When Planning A Cycling Holiday?
Not all cycling holidays are created equal. Our tours at epico range from short, gentle rides to routes covering around 100+ km per day over some of the most difficult climbs in professional cycling.
All of the following factors will influence the quantity and quality of training you may consider doing before a trip:
Have a look at the itinerary provided for the tour. At epico we try to provide as much information as possible to help you best prepare for your tour. A holiday in which you will cycle 40km per day obviously necessitates a different level of preparation than one in which you will spend six hours in the saddle covering 100+ km.
Weekly or twice-weekly rides in a month or so before the holiday should suffice for shorter distances each day. However, if you want to ramp up the daily distance above what you have previously done, a more specific training programme is suggested to ensure you will be able to enjoy each day of riding to its max. If time is not something you have the luxury of, or you are worried about your fitness level, don’t let that put you off! Our tours offer fantastic e-bike rental options that let you explore at a more relaxed level of exertion, but with the same amount of fun.
Conquering alpine climbs, in our opinion, are one of the best aspects of a cycling holiday. The challenge, the lack of traffic, views and the tranquillity that usually comes with climbing hills are often unsurpassable. They can, however, become tortuous and unenjoyable if you are not prepared for them.
It is not totally necessary to specifically practise climbing in order to enjoy them but this may put your mind at ease. However, if you have never cycled in the mountains before, there are a few things you can practice in the weeks leading up to your tour to prepare yourself to easily navigate and conquer long, steep, beautiful mountain passes.
The simplest of these is to include extended intervals in which you push your heart rate higher than you are normally comfortable with (up to around 85% of maximum heart rate) – these intervals should last anywhere between five and twenty minutes, depending on the length and steepness of the climbs you will be tackling.
If you would like any help with preparing for a cycling tour, get in touch with one of our epico riders and we will happily guide you to a relevant training program or connect you with a professional cycling coach.
If you booked your holiday through epico, you will receive assistance along the way. On a guided tour, the guide will take care of any mechanical issues with the bike. On a self-guided tour, you will be expected to repair minor issues such as punctures and saddle adjustments but a majority of our tours have an emergency number in the event that anything major happens.
However, it is still a good idea to prepare for the types of problems you may encounter during your tour or your training rides (or at home). If you have booked a guided holiday through epico, you should be fine; just make sure you can fix a puncture.
If you are riding by yourself, try to learn about all of the bike’s working parts. If you get a cracked frame or a broken wheel, there isn’t much you can do on your own; however, you should be able to repair more common issues, such as replacing snapped cables and adjusting both derailleurs if your gears are misaligned and giving you some issues.
Your current level of fitness obviously has a significant impact on how much training you may need to do before your holiday. For example, if you’ve never ridden a bike more than 10 kilometres before, it may take a few months to build up to the point where you’d be comfortable covering the distances required for a medium-level cycling holiday. Someone who has raced or partaken in some sportives, on the other hand, would not require any additional training before embarking on even the most difficult of tours.
Most people considering a cycling holiday are already fitter than the general population, and many have recent cycling experience. As a result, rather than beginning a new specific plan, tailor your current rides to something more similar to the intensity and duration that you will be experiencing on holiday.
When evaluating your fitness, it is critical to consider a number of factors. For example, if you cycled 80km but needed to sleep for 14 hours and didn’t fully recover for four days, you’ll probably need to do a bit more training (or practise cycling at a lower intensity!) in preparation for a tour with a similar daily average.
There is no one-size-fits-all training plan for any individual or specific cycling holiday. However, a general rule of thumb would be to work up to riding back-to-back days of similar difficulty to what you may encounter on your holiday around two weeks before you leave.
Remember that cycling holidays are not races, and you should aim for a pace that allows you to enjoy the cycling and the scenery rather than counting down the kilometres until you arrive.
Low Difficulty & Distance Tours
The important thing for a holiday that is mostly flat and has daily distances of less than 40-50km is conditioning yourself to spend time on the bike. Saddle soreness is possibly the main discomfort factor you will encounter if you don’t get a few rides in before the holiday.
This will not be a problem if you already cycle regularly. Simply keep up with regular rides, at least once or twice a week, and aim to get several of them up to the same amount of time that you will spend in the saddle on each day of the tour.
If you are new to cycling or returning after a break, you will need to gradually increase your distance. Physically, you could probably do the distance quite comfortably right away; however, saddle soreness, backache, and joint pains can occur if you try to do too much too soon.
Take at least a month to prepare, adding around 10km weekly – if you have more time, the slower you increase the mileage, the easier it will be. Try to fit in at least two rides per week; even if one of them is only for a half hour or so, it will still help you out a lot. Finally, as the general rule suggests, aim to ride back-to-back days of 40-50km by the week before your holiday.
Difficulty Level: Medium
A medium-difficulty tour would be one with daily distances averaging 60-80km over flat terrain, or 50-60km over hilly or mountainous terrain. The daily ride time for a tour of medium difficulty would be around 2 – 3 hours per day.
It is recommended that you have recent cycling experience in order to enjoy this type of holiday to the max. If you have been cycling regularly in recent weeks, it is simply a matter of increasing the distance or frequency so that you are doing a couple of rides per week that are close to the average daily distance. If you’re going on a cycling holiday in the mountains, add some harder interval efforts during your rides to simulate the harder intensity you’ll need on the steep sections.
If you haven’t ridden in a long time, it’s a good idea to get in at least ten good quality rides before the holiday. These should get longer and longer until you can spend the same amount of time in the saddle as you will on a typical holiday day without any discomfort. If you’ve left it too late and only have two or three weeks until your holiday, try to get out on the road every other day. With such consistent riding, your fitness can improve quickly.
We have a great guide on the difficulty levels for our tours that you can check out here.
Difficulty Level: Hard
If you’ve signed up for a challenging tour that includes long daily distances or a lot of climbing, you probably already know how to prepare for it. If this is your first trip of this type, the most important thing to focus on is your comfort on the bike and your ability to recover from day to day.
It is critical to practise consecutive rides of duration comparable to the rides you’ll be encountering on your tour. This will allow you to find an effort level that you know you can sustain not only for one day, but also to repeat the effort the next day and the next.
As the more difficult tours often incorporate bigger climbs, having the handling skills to descend confidently after the climb would be highly beneficial to enjoy your tour even more.
The Take Away
The most important thing to remember is that a cycling holiday should be thoroughly enjoyable. Unlike in a race, you can go at your own pace or the group will be waiting for you at the top of the climb. You’ll be able to stop frequently to see interesting things or have a coffee, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Specific training is not required for many cyclists; however, ensuring that the daily distance is within your capabilities will help you get the most out of your holiday. Whether you do a few preparation rides or long dedicated sessions on a turbo trainer depends on the type of holiday you’re taking and what you want to get out of it.
If the prospect of training a bit, for something that is a bit harder than usual for you, hasn’t put you off the idea of a cycling holiday, you might be interested in some of the tours listed below. We have numerous tours which cater to every level of difficulty so you are spoiled for choice.
And, if you’ve already signed up for a tour, we hope your preparation goes well. Don’t worry if it doesn’t; you can still have a great time on and off the bike and epico will be there to support you from start to finish.
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