How to Train for a Week-Long Bike Tour

The Long Rides and Weekly Training Hours

A week-long tour is much more attainable than many people think. You don't have to complete tour distances in a single week before doing an actual tour. Let me use an example outside of cycling to help you understand. People that train for an Ironman triathlon that takes some 13 to 17 hours for most age group athletes, will not complete an Ironman triathlon in a single day of training and most will not complete a marathon in the training preparation for an Ironman.

How much training is needed?

More information: Find online training plans for bike tours.

The chart below is pulled from my book, Training Plans for Cyclists. It is from the chapter, "Level I Week-Long Tour, 60-80 Miles per Day." It displays the total weekly training hours and the two long rides required to prepare for a week-long tour.

More: 10 Keys to Get You Through a Long Ride

Week

Long Ride #1

Long Ride #2

Weekly Total Hours

1

0:30

1:00

4:00

2

1:00

1:30

5:00

3

1:30

2:00

6:30

4

2:00

Day off

4:00

5

2:00

2:30

8:00

6

2:30

3:00

9:00

7

2:00

Day off

4:00

8

3:00

3:30

11:00

9

3:00

4:00-5:00

12:00

10

2:00

2:00

7:30

11

0:30

5:00 - tour day 1

7:15

12 - Tour Week

 

 

25:00 +/-


The chart displays the long rides and the remaining rides during the week are some 30 to 120 minutes long. If you have the time and energy to add 30 minutes to some of these rides, you can; but, it's not mandatory. You can also bump up the long rides by 30 minutes.

Take notice that weekly training hours do not build to a peak in the week before the tour. Too many cyclists go into their tour exhausted from the training. You want your biggest training week to be some two or three weeks prior to the tour. Aim to have the weekly training hours around 50 percent of your estimated tour week.

Also notice that recovery weeks are included in the weeks leading up to the tour. These recovery weeks help you absorb the training and bump your fitness to a new level. Don't make the mistake of constantly building weekly training volume in a linear fashion for some 10 to 16 weeks prior to your tour.

More: How to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Cycling

What About Other Sports?

You can keep other sports like swimming and running in your plan. I recommend keeping at least three and maybe four days of cycling in your plan. If you are currently swimming three and running three days per week, cut each of those sports to two days per week—each. In some weeks you may need to cut them to one each.

Your long run can be substituted for one of the aerobic bike rides and a swim can be substituted for one of the cycling recovery workouts. Make the second swim and the second run very easy Zone 1 or Zone 2 efforts. Consider your swim and run workouts as sacrificial—that is if you're tired, these are the first workouts to skip.

Advanced triathletes can use a week-long tour as part of their triathlon training. This discussion requires a separate column.

More: How Much Fuel Do You Need During Long Rides?

In nearly all cases, I suggest skipping swimming and running during the week of the bike tour. You will have plenty of training volume during the tour and there is no reason to run. If you want to splash around in a pool to recover after a long day of cycling, that's fine—but—no swim "workouts."

Not as Simple as "Ride Your Bike," But Not Complicated

As you can see it is unnecessary, and likely counterproductive, to "just ride your bike" to prepare for a tour. Most cyclists will be over-trained by riding as much as possible to prepare for a tour. You need three things to be ready for your tour: 1) consistency, 2) long rides, and 3) shorter, more intense rides.

The best part is you don't have to give up your life to train for a week-long tour. Just train smart.

More: How Many Centuries Can I Ride This Year?

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