A cycling holiday can be as leisurely or full-on as you like, which means there are different fitness requirements for your trip of choice. General tips are that you should have spent some time on a bike – similar to the one you will be riding – before setting off on your cycling holiday. This makes sense because cycling requires you to utilise specific muscles and sees you set in pretty much one position for your daily rides.
Time on a bike saddle will also prepare your nether regions for the hours of cycling while on holiday! While padded shorts or comfortable saddles will ease any potential pain, it’s a good idea to ease your body into a cycling holiday by doing a little cycle training before you set off.
Wearing the right clothes for cycling will add to the joys of your holiday. This doesn’t mean you need to be wearing Lycra from head-to-toe but a few well-chosen items can keep your body comfortable, cool and dry. For more information on what you should take with you, read our What to pack for a cycling holiday blog.
The best way to prepare for any cycling holiday is obviously to cycle more. While this makes sense, not everyone has access to a bike, but there are plenty of low-cost gyms around these days, all of whom will have a neat line of exercise bikes where some ‘off-road’ cycling can be done. While modern bikes can simulate hills etc very accurately, they are no real substitute for an actual bike ride as along with fitness, it is good to experience the effects of the elements. Riding in the wind can make you feel like you have never trained at all and unless you have experienced this kind of thing before, it might put you off on your first day.
The simplest way to get fit for cycling is to cycle to work. If it is at all possible, adding a cycle to your weekly commute helps build that fitness, saves you money and can often be much quicker than public transport. It means you don’t have to come home from work, then get into exercise mode, your exercise has already been done! For more info, you can see our 9 Reasons to Cycle to Work blog.
Finding a good cycle path local to you is also a great idea. Sustrans have accurate maps of all the cycle routes in the UK and to build confidence on a bike, these are a great resource. It also helps to build a bit of confidence of riding with other traffic on the road, so cycling to the cycle path, comes in handy too.
Cycling trips such as the Grade 2 Danube Cycle Path or Hidden Mallorca Cycling holiday will normally be on flatter routes or with mileage of up to around 30 miles each day. There might be rest days as well, so you will not be spending every day cycling for many hours.
But fitness is still important for holiday enjoyment. Make sure you have been out on your bike a couple of times a week in the two months leading up to your holiday. Try to build up your mileage gradually (increase by about 10% each week) to the longest distance in the holiday itinerary.
If you know that there will be a few hills during your holiday, make sure you add in hills to your training. (We know this sounds a bit obvious but some people do not take a look at the cycle holiday programme before they arrive!) If you’re pushed for time you could make one outing each week a longer, steadier ride and the other a shorter, faster and hillier ride. If poor weather hampers your outdoors training, try spin classes or use a turbo (this is a gadget that turns your bike into a stationary bike indoors).
One longer bike ride each week could be combined with strength training at the gym and a couple of shorter cardio sessions, such as running.
Grades 3 to 5 on our cycling holidays refer to bike tours that will include longer days in the saddle and/or hills. This is the holiday that would benefit most from focused training beforehand.
To be fit enough to enjoy (rather than endure) these holidays a training plan for at least a few months leading up to the trip is recommended. Start with 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.
Many people find that riding with other people or joining a bike club, helps with training because it’s more fun to ride with likeminded people than solo. If the weather goes against you, include spin fit classes and turbo training sessions indoors into your weekly programme.
Remember that to enjoy a cycling holiday you can choose the grade to suit your fitness. And if you go for a grade 3 to 5 trip you do not need to be as fit as the Tour pros. It just makes sense to have some cycling miles in your legs so that you can truly enjoy your trip.
Visit www.macsadventure.com and use the holiday finder to browse by grade.
This is an updated version of a blog that was first posted in 2013.