Training for your next bicycle tour

Ethan in Switzerland

Ethan in Switzerland

It’s been a long while since I have been on a bicycle tour but I expect that drought to end this year. Maybe I can find a new place to explore. Somewhere that offers challenging climbs, seascapes on the horizon, gravel trails that meander through quaint towns, and clean campsites available every night.  If 2019 doesn’t allow me an international bike trip there are plenty of options in our home state too.

Road in Tuscany

Road in Tuscany

My last dedicated bicycle trip was in 2011. My husband and I rode our bicycles up and down the rolling hills of Tuscany for 2 weeks. (Let me know if you would like to hear about that trip).

the people, the sights!

the people, the sights!

lunch is always a highlight on a bicycle tour

lunch is always a highlight on a bicycle tour

Experiencing the natural environment from the bicycle saddle is unlike any other travel experience. Not only does time slow down, but you taste your surroundings with all of your senses. There are many ways to approach this type of trip. Before I begin researching the logistics for my 2019 bike tour I have already begun physical training.

You never know who you will meet on top of the pass, food truck in the French Alps.

You never know who you will meet on top of the pass, food truck in the French Alps.

Once I arrived to in France for a 2 week bike tour through Alsace Lorraine and Germany without completing any pre-training whatsoever. I had hoped that my daily commuting habit would provide enough of a base for the trip, unfortunately not. On those first few days on tour I was only able to ride comfortably for a few hours at a time. My lack of physical preparation was frustrating until my stamina finally kicked in.

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them.... Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
— Ernest Hemingway , Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades by Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Wald Rear basket

Wald Rear basket

I urge you not to make that mistake. whether you are planning a solo two day bike adventure or a 2-week bicycle tour with friends you should begin training as soon as you can, 4 months is the minimum that I recommend. With a little physical training you will hold yourself in a better position on the saddle and ultimately be more comfortable.

Four Month Bike Training Schedule

My 4-month training schedule is a loose guideline for non-competitive cyclists. Competitive cyclists have much more rigorous training schedules involving resting heart rate and revolutions per minute. I don’t have the patience for this type of training. I simply want to capably ride for 4-6 hours a day with enough energy left to enjoy my evening meal.

Base Training

16 weeks before your bicycle tour

  • Begin riding 4-6 days per week, try for a total of 4-5 hours per week

  • 300-500 miles the first month is a strong goal

  • Concentrate on high rate of revolutions per minute, use all your gears. Do not crush it with a high gear ratio

  • Ride in all weather, because you will have to do the same on your bicycle trip.

Strength Training

12 weeks before your trip

  • Once or twice a week do intervals. Ride as hard as you can for 2-3 minutes, ride easy for 3 minutes, continue intervals for 20 minutes

  • Incorporate core workouts on your non-spin days

  • Complete longer rides on your non-interval days, these are your spin days.

Endurance Training

8 weeks before your trip

  • Take longer rides 1 or 2 times a week for 40-50 miles

  • Practice finishing as strong as you start

4 Weeks before your trip

Reduce strength training

  • Start spending as much time in the saddle as feasible

  • Intervals are not as important now

  • Ride with weight in the panniers you’ll be utilizing

  • Make an appointment with your bike mechanic

Week Before

  • Taper off your riding

  • Let your muscles rebuild

  • Take your bike in for it’s scheduled check-up

  • Pack

Basic Calisthenics

A stable core helps with balance, your posture, and makes you a more efficient rider. After a month of travel, cold winter weather, and socializing I’ll be returning to my basic routine of calisthenics and modest weight lifting soon, very soon.

My typical routine includes 10-20 minutes of sit-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges at least 3 times a week.


If you have a bad heart or other health problems please coordinate your bicycle training plans with a trained professional like a Physical Therapist or a Doctor.

These training techniques are flexible allowing you to adopt the mileage goal that fits with your abilities. It is much easier to maintain a consistent schedule if you note your progress on a calendar or maybe create a WhatsApp group to keep you motivated. Remember that the primary objective is for you to enjoy bike riding, even throughout the training process. The end result will be spectacular.

Slow ascent in Tuscan hills

Slow ascent in Tuscan hills