How to prepare for a cycling holiday
Events such as the Tour de France and a fast rising number of amateur cycling sportives are being credited for the increase in cycle tour holidays. Many more people are keen to combine a week or fortnight’s break with a chance to ride their bike. From the famous LeJoG (Land’s End to John o’ Groats) cycling trip in the UK to leisurely bike tours in Holland to epic riding holidays over some of the Tour de France cols, there is a trip to suit all pedalling aspirations. But how do you prepare for such a holiday, especially if you are keen to push your riding to its limits on mountain passes and long in-the-saddle days? It’s a little different from the usual beach or pool type vacation where the only concerns are how many books you have to read and what SPF suncream you should rub in. Get set for a cycling holiday Cycling holidays can be as leisurely or full-on as you like, which means there are different fitness requirements for different types of trips, although the general tips are the same. Most importantly you should have spent some time on a bike – similar to the one you will be riding – before setting off on a cycling tour. Cycling requires the use of specific muscles and a similar on-bike position for many hours at a time so it’s important to feel comfortable on your bicycle. Spending time in a bike saddle will also prepare your butt for the hours of cycling during a riding holiday. Padded shorts or comfortable saddles will ease some of the potential pain, but it’s still a good idea to “toughen up” before a holiday. Fitness tips for cycling holidays You will most likely face long days or riding and hills, especially if you plan to take on some of the Tour de France cols in the Alps or Pyrenees. To be fit enough to enjoy (rather than endure) a full-on cycling holidays it pays to train for many months beforehand. Of course, it depends on how fit you are to start with. If you are a regular club cyclist or a keen sportive rider it might be that a few months of dedicated cycle training will be enough to get you in good shape for your trip. However, if you are starting from less fit, six months of training will be a better lead-up. To start with, plan shorter rides, including a few hills, and build up over the weeks to rides of around 100km or more. The riding does not need to be fast but you do need to feel comfortable on a road bike for many hours at a time. In each week leading up to the holiday try to complete two shorter, hillier rides (or one shorter, hillier ride and one shorter, faster ride) and a longer ride, including hills, at the weekend. When you have improved your fitness try a weekend when you cycle on both the Saturday and Sunday to see how your legs cope with bike rides on consecutive days. Interval sessions on hills and the flat will help to quickly build strength, while the longer rides will improve endurance. Many people find that riding with other people, or joining a bike club, helps with training because it’s more fun to ride with others than solo. If you are training in the winter months or when the weather is poor, add spin fit classes at a local gym or use a turbo trainer indoors. Stretching and recovery We recently wrote about the benefits of Cycling Stretches for aiding recovery and staying injury-free while cycle training. Many cyclists are also waking up to the benefits of self-massage with The Grid foam roller and Muscletrac. Both fitness gadgets aid muscle recovery and flexibility. Use the Grid and Muscletrac to roll out cycling muscles, such as quads, hamstrings, calves, IT bands and hip flexors. A smaller version of The Grid and the Muscletrac roller can be easily taken away with you on holiday, too. Now all you need to do is choose the cycling holiday that’s perfect for you.