How to Make It Through a Major Bike Trip
Story by Jason Lewis, Strongwell
Photo by Pixabay
Biking. It sounds like fun! Mountain biking, hitting the trails, camping and riding through the woods … or maybe marathons are more your thing. Climbing hills and coasting back down, feeling the wind in your face, riding for hours on end…. It’s exhilarating, for sure, but before you hit the road or the trail, you need to prepare. If you’re contemplating a major bike trip, there are a few things you should know.
Train Your Body and Your Mind
Centuries (100-mile rides) aren’t like regular rides, they’re longer. For these types of rides, you need to be physically and mentally prepared to be on a bike for several hours. Or perhaps you’re planning a multi-day trip where you ride for a while and spend the night somewhere, only to ride again the next day. In either case, you want to be sure that your bike and your gear are up to snuff.
In preparation for a big ride, you should plan for up to two months of training, taking two or more long rides per week, increasing in intensity and length each week. If you haven’t already done so, get your bike fitted to ensure proper distances between seat and pedals and that the handle bars are at the right height. This ensures maximum comfort when you’re riding. It also helps to chart the ride so that you’re familiar with the terrain and expected weather conditions. Make sure that you have places to stop for bathroom breaks and food and water refills, as well as alternate routes in case of bad weather or other emergencies that require getting home quickly.
The week leading up to the ride, make sure you’re eating well and drinking plenty of fluids. Practice your long ride a few days before your trip, giving yourself a few recovery days before the real thing. You’ll want to make sure that your bike is tuned and the tires are properly inflated, and that you know how to use all the gears on your bike and how to make repairs.
The morning you plan to set out, eat a good mixture of carbs and proteins for breakfast. Dress properly for the ride, including sunscreen, a well-fitting helmet and shoes, and sunglasses. Check to see that your padded shorts and shirt or jersey are comfortable and appropriate for the expected weather. As you gather your essentials, pack twice as much food as you think you’ll need and emergency gear that includes: a jacket or vest, mini-pump/Co2 system, patch kit, multi-tool kit, emergency lights, cash and credit card, phone, ID and insurance card.
Managing the Ride
During the ride, take in a small number of calories every 15 to 30 minutes and hydrate with a bottle of water every hour, drinking small amounts at a time. If you can, take a break to snack and refill water containers after two hours. Conserve your energy by pedaling in a circular motion rather than pushing and releasing on the pedals like an elliptical machine. When you can, stand up in the pedals and drop your heels to stretch out your legs; shrug your shoulders and stretch out your arms and hands.
If your trip includes stops throughout the day, walk around and stretch. For meals, bring a mixture of high energy, easily digestible food like bananas, crackers, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with protein bars and salty snacks. Don’t forget that this trip is going to leave you aching and tired. It helps to have cooling packs or ibuprofen for when your muscles get too sore.
Don’t get so caught up in your trip that you forget about preparing your house. The last thing you need on a lengthy bike ride is news that you’ve had a break-in. Before you hit the road, it’s important to secure your home. Just like taking a vacation, you want to make sure no one can tell you’re gone. Consider having a remote monitoring system so you can monitor your home online. Get rid of any hidden spare keys and stop your mail and newspaper delivery. Use timers on lights and noise-producing appliances such as your TV or stereo so that it looks and sounds like someone is home. If you can, have a friend or neighbor house sit or check on your house occasionally.
A major bike expedition can be an exciting adventure. All it takes to pull off a great trip is some physical and mental preparation. Once you’ve prepared yourself, your bike, and your home, you’ll be ready to ride!