How to Train for a Week-Long Bike Tour

There is no better view of new places than the one seen from a bicycle. You see, hear and feel things you will never experience in the seat of an automobile. Those that have successfully completed a tour will tell you it's one of the richest and most rewarding experiences they've had as a cyclist.

The first year I did a week-long tour, I wasn't confident that I could ride my bike seven days in a row to total some 470 miles. This particular tour was loaded with long Colorado climbs to altitudes that would make even the fittest athletes gasp for oxygen. Additionally, I wasn't interested in giving up the other sports I loved—swimming and running—to train for a bike tour.

How much training do you really need to do to prepare for a week-long tour and what kind of training? Is it as simple as "ride your bike"? What if you want to include other sports too?

I can help answer these questions.

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Current Training Status and Tour Goals

Let's assume that you're aiming to do a tour that has a daily challenge of some 60 to 80 miles. Your main goal is comfortable (a relative term) completion of the daily distance averaging some 12 to 15 miles per hour.

If you're currently riding three days per week, with two rides in the 30- to 60-minute range and a third ride that is 60 to 90 minutes long, you can be ready to ride a week-long tour in around 11 weeks. If you're getting in a fourth riding day right now, better yet.

If you are a multisport athlete, you might be riding, running and swimming two or three days per week, per sport. Your long ride and run days are each around 60 minutes long.

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In both cases, single sport or multisport, you may or may not be strength training. If you are strength training, plan to reduce time and intensity in the weight room to a maintenance mode. That means cutting back on strength work to only one day per week and reducing the weights so that you are never sore or fatigued from a weight workout.

Key Weekly Workouts

As you might expect, a weekly long ride is important to your training. I like to have the long ride part of a two or three day block of riding. Riding two or three days in a row will help your endurance as well as conditioning your fanny to tolerate sitting on a bike saddle for multiple days and miles.

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The second key workout I include in tour training plans is one that works on lactate threshold speed. I begin with Zone 3 intensity and move to Zones 4 and 5a. For example, the first workout in the series might be doing 5-7 repeats of three minutes at Zone 3, each followed by one minute of easy spinning before doing the next interval. As you gain more fitness, you can include threshold work within your long ride so you get two threshold workouts per week.

The remaining weekly workouts are either form work, aerobic or easy recovery days. I put these workouts in a single group and consider them key workouts. They are key because they help with recovery which allows you to become a stronger, faster cyclist. These workouts help with consistency and I consider consistency the most important element to athletic success. If you are unable to be consistent with workouts, you will never reach your potential.

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