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  1. #1
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    How Long to Get in Shape?

    Ever since I went camping last year up through Humboldt and through Oregon up to the Columbia, I have been intrigued by bike touring. Then I saw a documentary starring Woody Harrelson (Go Further), of all people, where he did a eco/bike tour from Oregon to I think LA. That kept my interest alive. Before the trip I never knew about touring.

    Anyhow, I have been riding for a few months (after 15 or so years when I was in high school) and I have a long ways to go. However, as a teacher, I have plenty of time off and I want to make it a goal to get into this. So, how many years of training does it take to do a week or two week tour? I can see a long term goal of doing a similar trip as Woody from Oregon to California.

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    The short answer is that the fitness level required to tour is fairly low. If you are more fit, you can go further each day and climb bigger hills, but you don't need to be in particularly good shape to tour. Just be sure not to push yourself too hard, and try a weekend tour or two before anything big. Probably the most important reason to train is to acclimate your butt to the seat.

  3. #3
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    I was thinking of several weekend trips for sure. For some reason I have it in my mind that you have to be in mega shape, like triathalon shape. Riding everyday loaded down seems like quite a feat. The first couple of times would definitely be in flat areas, not some place like the Lost Coast.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    gorshkov's answer is right on. Sounds to me like you may already be in touring shape, least ways for flat land and short riding days.

    If you've got access to a hilly training route, set aside an hour a day and run it as fast as possible for a couple of weeks. No hills? Load the bike with 40 pounds and ride as fast as possible for an hour a day for a couple of weeks. Gear so that you are spinning the pedals at least 70 rpm. Either way should have you in shape to ride loaded at a reasonable pace for 4-6 hours/day. This oughta get you 40-60 miles down the road, which is about average touring pace on a loaded bicycle. You'll have plenty of time for short and long breaks, and your conditioning will improve, to a point, each day you ride.

    Touring is 90% mental and 10% physical.

  5. #5
    Bike touring webrarian
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    You have to be able to ride a loaded bike for the distance you plan to ride for the number of days you plan to tour. It isn't a race, you get no award for arriving early nor are you penalized for being late, there are no style points, and you can always stop and rest or walk your bike.

    To me, the issue isn't distance, as you can adjust that day by day. It is getting accustomed to riding a bike laden with all your gear. Bikes handle differently when they are loaded down. A comfortable bike can turn into a torture device if loaded improperly or with too much weight.

    Also, you should plan rest days into your tour schedule. I plan 1 rest day for every 4 riding ones.

    If you are planning a tour doing X miles a day carrying Y amount of weight, then your training needs to insure that you can ride X miles carrying Y amount of weight. An even better idea is to make sure you can ride X miles carrying Y amount of weight two days in a row, which is the approach I use.

    While some people prefer to train very little and use the first part of the tour as training for the rest of it, this won't work for "short" (less than 2 weeks) tours and, I believe, leads to lots of extra pain and mental anguish at the start. Personally, I don't recommend this approach.

    Be warned that once you start bike touring, you may not be able to stop!

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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    If you just go, you will have so much fun that the physical side doesnt matter. If a hill gets to hard then you can just stop whenever you like, take a long break and go a little further. It is all up to you. We went down the Oregon coast and northern Californian coast after only commuting. The first day over the coast range was hard, but doable. I have noticed that no matter how much time it has been since the previous tour, your body and muscle will be where it needs to be in a couple days of touring. Training might be nice, but certainly not neccesary.

    The best way to answer you question is to just go out and do it. It will be fun.

  7. #7
    apocryphal sobriquet J.C. Koto's Avatar
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    divtag,

    I think, for you, the most important thing is to find an area with lots of interesting places in close proximity, where you can have food, water, and a place to sleep within an easy day's ride each day. This takes away almost all of the anxiety of the first few tours. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, this should be a very easy point to meet! Especially along the coast.

    Another idea is to drive or bike to an interesting "home base" (campsite, hostel, B&B, hotel...) and ride out each day in a different direction, returning to base each evening. This way you get to experience a lot of a particular area without having to carry around a lot of gear, and you get a feel for being on a bike as well as the safety net of having a secure breakfast, dinner, and shelter each day.

    The first few times out, unless you have your nutritional requirements figured out already, be sure to take twice as much food as you think you'll need. Any money for weird cravings

  8. #8
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    Like the other posters have stated, you don't have to be a mega athlete to go on a loaded tour. I was mainly a commuter cyclist before I ventured on my SF to LA trip down the Pacific Coast. I addition to my daily short commutes, I would a 40 mile loop once a week for a month leading up to my trip and one 50 mile loaded practice run a few days before I was about to embark on my tour.

    I clearly didn't train enough. It took the first four days to feel solid on my ride. That's not to say that I was in extreme pain for those first four days. I have great memories of the first half my tour, but I probably felt a little discouraged at times. The biggest breakthrough after those four days was mental. Once I stopped obsessing about miles completed, mph, and making my destination in time, my enjoyment of the tour increased exponentially. In addition to not looking at my bike computer every 5 seconds, I learned to relax into the climbs. I just stopped anguishing over big ascents, and, instead, dropped into my granny gear and soaked in the scenery. It was at that moment I fell in love with touring.

    I would suggest that you get accustomed to long climbs. Learn to like them. Also, give yourself a couple extra days so you don't feel rushed. There's plenty of campgrounds along the Pacific Coast, so if you feel like you can't make your destination for the day, you can always find another campsite along the way. When all is said and done, your body does what it has to do.

    Have an awesome trip,
    Tom

  9. #9
    Senior Member adaminlc's Avatar
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    There was a post on here a month or so ago about a guy who rode across Canada and made a movie. You can see how he gets in shape over the course of the tour. The body is an amazing machine. It will adapt to your new conditions and give you what you need.
    I like fat tires and I cannot lie...

  10. #10
    Neil_B
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    You have to be in shape to tour? I'm glad no one told me that!







    I'm a middle-aged fat guy with knocked knees and mild scoliosis. If I can tour, 'most anyone can.

  11. #11
    imi
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfry541 View Post
    If you just go, you will have so much fun that the physical side doesnt matter. If a hill gets to hard then you can just stop whenever you like, take a long break and go a little further. It is all up to you. We went down the Oregon coast and northern Californian coast after only commuting. The first day over the coast range was hard, but doable. I have noticed that no matter how much time it has been since the previous tour, your body and muscle will be where it needs to be in a couple days of touring. Training might be nice, but certainly not neccesary.

    The best way to answer you question is to just go out and do it. It will be fun.
    +1 well put jfry541

  12. #12
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    My shape is round, the calendar places me well into the 50s and have to be gentle on my knees.
    I Tour. Echoing above comments- Tour does not equal race.
    I think Earnest Hemingway is attributed to this quip-
    “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. “

    It helps to have a bike that fits you well you are comfortable riding and confident on.
    If you use panniers- put 10 lbs of stuff in each rear one and 5 lbs in each front one.
    Then commute to work as many days as it is possible, important to ride each day.
    IMHO- while many indicate "I was only a commuter etc", that day after day riding
    helps you get comfortable with your bike and helps acclimate your body to a tour.

  13. #13
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Of course you don't have to be in great shape to tour. It will greatly increase your enjoyment though. A good amount of base miles will go far when it comes to any long distance riding.

    If your commuting now you are getting that base. I would try and add some miles if possible and work on intensity/interval training if possible.

    You will find that your enjoyment is increased if your suffering less and enjoying more. It can be hard to get lots of base miles if your life is busy. The best way to increase your fitness if that is the case is the intensity level you put in. Time yourself to work and home. Use that as motivation and try and beat that time. Get your heart rate up. Repeat.

    Consider the pain your putting in now will be worth it when the hills come.

    Great way also would be to find a Saturday group ride if your not doing one now. I promise that this will increase your level of fitness quick unless your riding with a slow group. A little competition will go a long way in motivating your to get stronger.
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  14. #14
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    I have a long ways to go for sure. It is embarrassing at the moment, but as a teacher, the plan is to spend every day (or close to it) riding this summer. I live in Huntington Beach, two blocks from the ocean, so I have both PCH and the river trail at my disposal.

    First up is to find a bike that I enjoy more, the used Rockhopper that I picked up on CL just isn't doing it. When I used to ride I liked dirt riding, so when I got the urge to ride again and make a lifestyle change I picked it up. I quickly discovered that dirt riding was no longer my thing.

    I am leery of buying a bike because the state budget is in the crapper and tenure no longer matters. I can be out of a job any day and I am the department chair. There would be no way to get another teaching job with this budget and other places aren't hiring either. However, I am leaning towards ignoring the what-ifs and enjoying what I can now. If it all goes under, nothing i can do.

    I want a steel frame. I have been thinking LHT or Randonee. I wasn't thinking new steel bike when I had my 20% REI coupon a couple of weeks ago. One problem that I have is bike fit. I am short with SHORT legs. I did a fitting at REI and the problem is I need a 52cm frame with a 43cm frame standover. Damn short legs. I test rode the 52cm Randonee, the length was fine, but my poor babies were in a bad way on stand over. Also, with the smaller frame LHTs, they use a 26 wheel. Seems a lot of people don't like them. Why?

    And I am never wearing spandex. Ever.
    Last edited by divtag; 05-24-09 at 10:03 PM.

  15. #15
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    Also, since I won't be touring for at least a year. I really do need to get in shape, but it is a goal. I will be riding to work (~3 miles), getting groceries, and riding in the evening/weekends. I know people say get a cheaper bike until you are sure you will stick with or to know what you want. I do know that I want a steel frame and there aren't too many cheap ones anyway. So, I am thinking LHT or Randonee right off the bat.

    Let's say I never get into touring and just do long rides would a touring bike be a waste or is it a good commuter/multi-purpose bike regardless?

  16. #16
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by divtag View Post
    I have a long ways to go for sure. It is embarrassing at the moment, but as a teacher, the plan is to spend every day (or close to it) riding this summer. I live in Huntington Beach, two blocks from the ocean, so I have both PCH and the river trail at my disposal.

    Also, since I won't be touring for at least a year. I really do need to get in shape, but it is a goal. I will be riding to work (~3 miles), getting groceries, and riding in the evening/weekends.

    Let's say I never get into touring and just do long rides would a touring bike be a waste or is it a good commuter/multi-purpose bike regardless?

    And I am never wearing spandex. Ever.
    What kind of daily distance are you doing now? 3 miles? If so, that's a good start, but you'll want to start gradually increasing your distances.

    The surgeon general or people like that say that we need to exercise an absolute minimum of 30 minutes per day every day to maintain the barest minimum of fitness. 60 minutes a day is required to improve fitness, and 90 minutes a day is required to lose weight. If you're at the 30 minutes a day level, that's great ... good start ... but it's a good idea to gradually increase that to 90 minutes a day. And that's moderate exercise ... not race pace. So whether you're going to tour or not, it is a very good idea to get in shape and lose weight for your health.

    Plus if you start now, you should be ready for the local century at the end of the season ... that's a good way to get into the sport, meet people, etc.

    A touring bicycle can be used for touring ... and also for commuting, and riding in general, and riding the local centuries, and so on. It's a very versatile bicycle.

    And never say never! Once you're in shape, you might want to wear spandex!! Until then, there are other options.

  17. #17
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    I have just been checking out the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30 on-line. I like, with the sloping tube that could be great fro my short inseam.

  18. #18
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    div,
    There is a lot of smoke on this thread. Touring on a two or three day route doesn't take much preparation. Touring cross country might require that you prepare a bit more. Certainly, all tourers are not triathletes, but the "crazy guy" site has plenty examples of cross country tourers who gave it up because they were not prepared when they departed.
    My pre trip training has three goals. First, I want to shake down the equipment on lots of 60 mile rides. Second, I want to build up my fitness to ride 60 miles each day and enjoy it. And third, I have to toughen up my posterior to handle the 5-6 hours in the saddle each day.
    In any event, do what seems right for you and have a good trip.
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  19. #19
    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    You can also plan your tours so you get plenty of rest. Hard day-easy day-rest. Hard day-easy day-rest. Make your easy days 2 hours or 20 miles.

  20. #20
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by lighthorse View Post
    div,
    There is a lot of smoke on this thread. Touring on a two or three day route doesn't take much preparation. Touring cross country might require that you prepare a bit more. Certainly, all tourers are not triathletes, but the "crazy guy" site has plenty examples of cross country tourers who gave it up because they were not prepared when they departed.
    My pre trip training has three goals. First, I want to shake down the equipment on lots of 60 mile rides. Second, I want to build up my fitness to ride 60 miles each day and enjoy it. And third, I have to toughen up my posterior to handle the 5-6 hours in the saddle each day.
    In any event, do what seems right for you and have a good trip.
    There seem to be two positions on this. One stresses being trained, and the other just says "get on your bikes and ride." The latter position isn't smoke. I did a nine day camping tour following weeks of inactivity while recovering from a fractured rib - I certainly wasn't training for that ride.

    Now, I had a bike that fit me reasonably well, a saddle I could live with, and gear I'd used before. I'd suggest to the OP that he have all these things before he set off on his one to two week tour. And to know the bike and saddle fit you they have to be ridden a little bit. But presumably you enjoy riding, so that shouldn't be a problem.

    I found this Dirt Rag article interesting.

    http://www.dirtragmag.com/print/article.php?ID=859

    I don't buy into everything the author says, but this part rings true:

    "Preparation is necessary for enjoying oneself on a tour. Just biking a bit every day was enough physical preparation for me. Before taking my first tour, I rode 6 miles roundtrip between home to work."

  21. #21
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    The best training schedule for touring cyclists: http://cyclingtrip.com/sections/guide/index.htm
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  22. #22
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Greetings from another teacher from California - San Luis Coastal.

    First, on being in shape: I've started tours in widely varying states of fitness, from being really fit (I thought) to being off the bike for 2 months due to a hernia repair. I've found that it's better to start a tour in shape, but it has never been enough. On every tour the first 2 or 3 days have been tough. Usually the 2nd and 3rd are the worst. I think it's just a matter of acclimating my body and pscyhe to the task. My arms are the worst - especially my forearms.

    Knowing this, I now plan very short distances for the first 3 days - 30 miles or less - and consider a rest day after 2 or 3 days. It does wonders to take a day off. Once I get into the swing of touring I average 50 miles a day with occasional 80-milers, and don't suffer too much. I try and take a rest day at least once a week.

    So my advice would be to get in as good shape as possible, but don't worry too much if you feel you're not completely fit. And schedule easy days for the first 3, with perhaps a rest day. After that be willing to take a day off if you feel like it.

    As to the bike: I have an LHT and really love it for touring. I think the 26" wheels on the smaller frames makes a lot of sense. You can get tires that are very similar to the 700 x 32s I use. I certainly wouldn't consider it a deal breaker. In fact, if you're touring out of the USA, I hear that 26" wheels are much more common and easier to find tires, tubes, etc. for.

    You mentioned the Rocky Mountain tourer. I've heard nothing but good things about that bike.

    About Spandex: Suit yourself. You sound exactly like my wife. She also refuses to wear Spandex. She has some mountain bike shorts with padding that she loves. I got a gift certificate to a bike shop as an end-of-the-year teacher present, so I bought some baggy mountain bike shorts similar to hers. The padding is nice. They have pockets (?) and a belt, but I still wouldn't wear them on tour. The baggy pantlegs rub on my legs with each pedal stroke. I think after a few 80-mile days in a row there might be a chafing problem. That's one reason I like Spandex - no chafing.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by divtag View Post
    ... with the smaller frame LHTs, they use a 26 wheel. Seems a lot of people don't like them. Why?
    So many topics are covered in this thread.... I'll just stick to this one.

    Probably 'cuz you're talking to bike shop salespeople and road racers. Here, you can talk to the right people You'll find both camps here, plus a lot of tourers who simply ride their preference. A major factor for me is having all the same wheel sizes for all my bikes.

    Get the bike that fits. If it takes 26" wheels to do that, why is it an issue? Not trying to revive a debate, but 26" wheels with the right tires are superb for touring (as are 700c). You might come in 30 seconds behind the guy on a road bike... but if this matters you're posting on the wrong board.

    You say you won't be touring for a year, so take more time to test ride and find the right fit.

    -- Mark

  24. #24
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    BigBlue you are so lucky to live and teach in SLO. I absolutely love SLO. My uncle had his law firm their before he passed. I have wanted to live/teach there for some time. Granted the cost of living is high for teacher's salary, but it is an amazing place. There is a tasty restaurant on the river across from the old mission that has the best salads and sandwiches. Also, what a great home base for being a bike enthusiast. If this miserable economy every turns itself around and districts start hiring again, SLO is one of the places I want to relocate to. I don't like SoCal. Other contenders for me are Sonoma County, Santa Cruz, or anywhere outside of San Francisco in the Bay Area that is less congested, but still cool (temp wise).

    As far as the other posters, they may not be fully understanding the shape one needs to be in. "Just get out and start." Sure that works if you can ride for 30+ miles already. However, let's say you are done at 10? Then you really can't just get out and go. Riding 3 miles (one way) to work or doing 10 miles on the weekend is a far cry from a week of 40+ per day with hills and gear. On the other hand, I am encouraged that I do not have to be Lance Armstrong and can be a regular rider and be able to do it.

  25. #25
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by divtag View Post
    As far as the other posters, they may not be fully understanding the shape one needs to be in. "Just get out and start." Sure that works if you can ride for 30+ miles already. However, let's say you are done at 10? Then you really can't just get out and go. Riding 3 miles (one way) to work or doing 10 miles on the weekend is a far cry from a week of 40+ per day with hills and gear. On the other hand, I am encouraged that I do not have to be Lance Armstrong and can be a regular rider and be able to do it.

    Read Post #16 again:
    How Long to Get in Shape?

    Whether you're going to tour or not, it is a good idea to get into shape and lose weight. Our bodies are designed to work at their optimum when we're in shape. If you teach physical education or health classes, you know that.

    And the best way to get into shape is to "just get out and start". When I first started cycling "seriously" 19 years ago, I rode 2 miles on my first ride and had to take a break after the first mile. But that didn't discourage me at all ... I continued to ride, and to build up my distances.

    So you're starting with 6 miles a day and 10 miles a day on the weekend. Great. Next week, ride your usual 6 miles on 3 days, and then ride 7 miles on 2 of the days ... take the "scenic" route home. On the weekend, go for 11 or 12 mile rides. Keep some days shorter, you need those for rest days, but gradually build up the rest of the days over a period of about 4 weeks, then cut back a little on your 4th or 5th week to give your body a chance to rest a bit, and then start building up again for another 4 weeks or so.

    Have a look at what the clubs in your area are doing and see if there's a century ride going in August or September. Many century rides offer 3 distances: 50 km, 100 km, and 100 miles. By August 50 km (30 miles) should be too easy, so you'll consider the 100 km (60 miles) or possibly even the 100 mile ride. These kinds of events are great as a goal, and for getting out and meeting other cyclists etc. They are often put on by cycletouring clubs, or are at least well attended by cycletourists.

    You might also consider a weekend tour in August or September too. Weekend tours are great ways to figure out your gear needs - do you need to pack this or that, or not, etc. They are also a good way to help determine if cycletouring is really for you.

    As you're building up, ride in all sorts of terrain and in various weather conditions. If it is a bit windy, go out and ride. If it is threatening rain, go out and ride. When you're on a tour, you don't get to pick just nice warm sunny days with no wind. So it's good to ride in a variety of conditions to see how you and your gear handle the situation.

    So go ... start riding!

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