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  1. #1
    Senior Member BicycleCrazy's Avatar
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    Cross Country Tour Training

    Hi Everyone,
    My 13 year old son and I continue training for our cross country ride this summer. We have been riding and working out at the Y.M.C.A. until the weather clears a bit.

    One training ride we plan to do 3 times a week beginning around April is a 16 mile ride to a local ski resort. It's a two-lane road that turns 172 times and gains 3400 feet. The total ride is 32 miles.

    Thoughts on this ride and additional suggested training?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Don't repeat the same ride 3 times a week . . .
    A cross country ride has a variety of terrain including mountains and not all have 170+ switchbacks.
    Get in some distance riding . . . work up to a 100 miles a day.
    Will you be carrying your own equipment or will someone carry it for you?
    Ride an indoor trainer if possible; however get used to inclement weather riding. . . you'll encounter it somewhere on ypur trip. It will not all be sunshine!
    Yes, rain, wind. sleet and snow can happen anytime.
    Get out there and ride MORE!

  3. #3
    Senior Member BicycleCrazy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback...yes, we will be carrying our own gear and plan to do rides with full gear and camping prior to our trip

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Burnout can be the result of too much training, especially for a 13 yo. Intense training for a x-country bicycle tour is just not needed.
    Adequate conditioning is. Adequate being that your son can pedal about 40 loaded miles without getting overly tired. As the tour progresses, that mileage may increase to where 50-60 is comfortably doable on a good day, split into morning and afternoon rides. Really no need to mentally wear yourselves out before the tour. Unless intense training is just something you both enjoy.

    In reality, 32 miles, 3 days/week is not that intense. It's the 3400 ft of climb and the time involved. But I guess that's ok too if you're decending 3400 ft. As long as your son is not complaining, or indicating reluctance, guess you're good to go.

    As point of reference, I probably ride 12 miles/day x3/week. As tour date approaches, will up that to a couple of 40 milers unloaded. I find
    that I can then avg 50 loaded/day with no undue effort, from day 1.

    Great plain you've got there with the son and all. I admire you both.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    mev
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    I would do two additional things:
    1) If you can, make sure your cross country ride leaves a little margin in the 1st week or two - so you can condition along the way. Avoid having too much of a schedule up front in way that you end up "behind".
    2) Take a short shakedown trip of 2 days or 3-day weekend to go out with your gear, camp and then circle back again.

    Otherwise as others have mentioned climbing the same 3400ft three times a week seems more than adequate. Finding some opportunities for variety or occasionally doing a longer but flatter ride or something else might be helpful.

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    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    If you can bike commute, that is a great way to fit training into a busy schedule. Also, you are typically carrying loads while commuting (lunch, clothes, wallet, etc). Even if those loads are not as much as you might carry touring, it does prepare you more than riding an unloaded bike. I also agree that some long weekend rides are essential. There is a big difference between riding 30 miles three times a week and riding 100 miles in one day.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BicycleCrazy View Post
    One training ride we plan to do 3 times a week beginning around April is a 16 mile ride to a local ski resort. It's a two-lane road that turns 172 times and gains 3400 feet. The total ride is 32 miles.
    How far do you plan to ride each day on your tour?

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    Senior Member BicycleCrazy's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the great responses! The reason I plan the training ride indicated was primarily for strength building to prepare us for the steep climbs we will encounter. Sounds like we may be better off doing that ride... say once a week and 3 or 4 longer mileage rides over less hilly terrain?

    As was suggested, we plan to take it slow at the start and gradually begin to increase our daily mileage. We are planning approx. 9-10 weeks for the trip.
    Last edited by BicycleCrazy; 02-03-12 at 04:55 PM.

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Yes, mix it up ...

    -- Do the hill climb ride you've suggested once a week or so.

    -- Do at least one longer ride each week, at touring pace. Make day tours or overnight tours out of it ... get to know every attraction within a 100 km radius of where you live. Cycle out to the local lake, go for a swim, have a picnic, cycle home ... that sort of thing.

    -- Do some shorter faster rides. Here's one I've done in the past ... find a short loop (i.e. 1 km around the block). Casually ride around a few times to warm up, then send your son off first, riding as fast as he can. When he reaches the corner and turns, you start riding as fast as you can to try to catch him. He'll keep riding as fast as he can to stay in front of you. If he's strong, and you aren't catching him, you may need to shorten his lead time. When you catch him, ride around slowly for a couple laps to recover ... and do it again. It turns intervals into a game.

    Doing different things, going different places, etc. will keep it interesting for your son.

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    Senior Member BicycleCrazy's Avatar
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    Thanks! Curious what members think? Which is more important when training for a long distance tour?

    Strength Training
    Mileage
    General Conditioning

    Thanks again!

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    All of the above and none of the above.

    Long distance touring is 90% mental, 10% physical. Nearly all about motivation, as it is with most things. We do what we want to do, somehow. That being said, the better overall shape you're in, the easier the ride will be, and the easier you can meet an unplained distance/wind challenge.

    My longest loaded ride day was 87 miles to reach a motel 'cause I could find no decent camping spot. Not that far for some, but for an old man.....I was bushed and took a rest day.

    Now that I'm on a bent, would have been no big deal. But, I digress.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  12. #12
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    9-10 weeks for a cross country tour sound a bit short to me, especially with a 13-year-old. Sure it is doable, but I would allocate a little more time. Then again I usually take it a bit slower than others. Something to think about.

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BicycleCrazy View Post
    Thanks! Curious what members think? Which is more important when training for a long distance tour?

    Strength Training
    Mileage
    General Conditioning

    Thanks again!
    Fun!!

    We're talking about a tour ... not The Tour.

    You've got a 13 year old son ... don't forget to keep the fun in any cycling, or other activities you do, in preparation for this tour, and on the tour. If you make tour preparation seem like work, or if you make the tour seem like work, you're going to have a son that doesn't want to do it anymore.

    Your tour should be fun ... "training" for the tour should be fun as well.


    Spend your weekends exploring your local area. Let your son pick a spot he wants to go ... and cycle there. Cycle to lakes, to swimming pools in neighbouring towns, to museums, amusement parks, waterslides, ice cream shops in neighbouring towns, places to do a bit of hiking, etc. etc. etc.


    In one of the cities I used to live, I might recommend something like (for example) ... cycling about 20 km to the Science and Discovery Museum. Spend a couple hours exploring the museum. Then cycle 10 km to "Little Italy" to get a gelati each. Then cycle 10 km to the largest park in town. Ride around the park a few times ... do some "Race you to the next "Yield" sign!!" intervals for another 10 km or so. Stop and toss a ball or frizbee around for a while. And finally cycle 10 km home. Lots of variety. Lots of interesting things to do. Total cycling ... 60 km.


    In the evenings after work/school do a variety of things ...

    -- Ride to the local park to toss the ball around or swim (it is important to work on some upper body strength for touring as wel)

    -- Do those "Race you to the next "Yield" sign!!" or chasing (as I described in a previous post) intervals. Maybe figure out other interval games you can play.

    -- Go for a relatively brisk ride for a hour or two

    -- Do a few hill repeats

    -- Oh, and be sure to ride in a variety of weather ... rain, wind, cold ... make it a challenge, an adventure.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoltani View Post
    9-10 weeks for a cross country tour sound a bit short to me, especially with a 13-year-old. Sure it is doable, but I would allocate a little more time. Then again I usually take it a bit slower than others. Something to think about.
    Good point.

    What is the distance across the United States (assuming that's the country the OP is crossing)?

    If it is about 6000 km ... that's 600 km a week or 6 days of 100 km each day, with one day off each week.

    That's a lot of cycling!! I'm a long distance cyclist and I wouldn't want to do that much cycling on a long tour. It would be exhauting, and there wouldn't be enough time to really see anything.


    One wonders what the point of this tour is ... is it all about making it across? Or is it an interesting way to see and experience a country?

  15. #15
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I like Machka's advice about fun.

    I wouldn't train too hard until the month before I actually left. For now I'd try to ride at least once a week - maybe twice if you can fit it in. I'd try for at least 30 miles a ride, although I wouldn't beat myself up if I could only get in a 20-miler, or had to skip a weekend entirely.

    During the month leading up to the tour I'd try and ride more - 2 or 3 times per week, perhaps 4. I'd try and get to where I was riding every other day, and also try for some rides on back-to-back days, or back-to-back-to-back. What I find challenging about a tour is doing a long ride with a big load, then getting up the next morning, tired and sore, and realizing I have to do it again. Then the next day I have to do it again! (Etc.) Simulating this in training would get you prepared. It will also tell you if your saddle is adequate. My butt never hurts on a 30-mile day ride, but can get agonizingly painful after 5 or 6 50-60-mile days in a row.

    Another thing that I think makes sense is to start training with a load prior to the tour. You don't need to pack up your actual stuff. You can carry sacks of rice, beans - I used bird seed last spring. If you're not sure about your packing list, pack it up and ride it up some hills. You might find you're good, or the amount of struggle might convince you to leave one or two items at home.

    Okay, having said all that, let me confess that I seldom get in shape before a tour. I'm a teacher. I usually leave soon after the school year is over, and the last couple of months of the school year I'm so busy that I'm lucky if I can get in a ride each weekend. So I ride myself into shape at the beginning of the tour. I plan short rides for the first three or four days, and if I'm suffering I'll throw in a rest/recuperation day. I'm in no hurry so I can take it as slowly as I want. If I was on a schedule and had a limited number of days before I had to be somewhere, I probably wouldn't have this luxury. But I don't want to tour if I have to be in a hurry. For that reason I probably won't attempt a cross-country tour until I retire.


  16. #16
    Senior Member BicycleCrazy's Avatar
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    One wonders what the point of this tour is ... is it all about making it across? Or is it an interesting way to see and experience a country?
    While both making it across and seeing the different parts of the country are part of it, the reason for the ride is in memory of my brother and my son's uncle who died of cancer in 2002.

  17. #17
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I like Machka's advice about fun.

    I wouldn't train too hard until the month before I actually left. For now I'd try to ride at least once a week - maybe twice if you can fit it in. I'd try for at least 30 miles a ride, although I wouldn't beat myself up if I could only get in a 20-miler, or had to skip a weekend entirely.

    During the month leading up to the tour I'd try and ride more - 2 or 3 times per week, perhaps 4. I'd try and get to where I was riding every other day, and also try for some rides on back-to-back days, or back-to-back-to-back. What I find challenging about a tour is doing a long ride with a big load, then getting up the next morning, tired and sore, and realizing I have to do it again. Then the next day I have to do it again! (Etc.) Simulating this in training would get you prepared. It will also tell you if your saddle is adequate. My butt never hurts on a 30-mile day ride, but can get agonizingly painful after 5 or 6 50-60-mile days in a row.
    I would start riding regularly now ... I wouldn't wait till a month before the tour. It's really too late then (especially if the intended distance is about 100 km/day). Aim for 4-5 days a week year-round to generally stay in shape. But in those 4-5 days a week do a whole variety of riding.

    Some days should be casual, relaxed rides around the neighbourhood. Other days should be more intense. Other days should be long. As you say, there should be some back-to-back longer rides in there, of the planned daily distance on the tour, or longer ... overnight tours work well for that.


    Riding with the intended load is good ... again overnight tours are good for this. The bicycle handles differently with a load than without.

    To the OP ... your plan was to ride up a mountain 3 times a week "primarily for strength building to prepare us for the steep climbs we will encounter". You'll encounter these climbs at the beginning and end of your ride, but there will be several weeks in the middle of the ride where it will be all about wind, and there won't be much climbing.

    It is good to do some climbing (especially with your panniers etc.) so that you know you can handle the climbing when it comes, but it is also good to get some practice in windy conditions. Wind + panniers = some very squirrelly bicycle handling. You'll need decent upper body strength.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    A lot of good advice, even if some of it is conflicting. I tend to go with being in the best shape that is possible. That way there is always some reserve in case you have a bad day (s) early in the trip. You don't start out in the hole and stay there or are forced to take more rest days. Staying in good shape also fits into my other activities.

    My wife and I enjoy riding, and ride 3-4 days a week most of the year. We do at least one tour a year( 3 weeks to 3 months). We incorporate many of Machka's suggestions into our rides to keep it interesting. We make riding and training fun. My wife is also a triathlete which forces me to ride harder in the early spring and summer. We switch from road bikes to touring bikes a month or so before a tour. We've averaged 50 miles a day on loaded bikes for 74 (including 3 rest days) days to get across the U.S. in time to get back to work in the fall. We both started in excellent shape, are very experienced tourers, did not have any mechanical problems, and it was still a challenge. Granted, we are a little older, and my recovery time is not as short as it used to be. There are going to be some really tough days on any tour. Reality is usually different than what is envisioned if you have not done a long tour. This is brought home quickly while pedaling steadily in 95 degree temperatures to maintain 8 mph into the wind, going downhill! Or cycling 2-3 weeks across southern Wyoming, Idaho or eastern Oregon in high 90 degree temperatures . As Cyclebum said,"it is 90% mental". This is true, but mental attitude is much better when the physical resources are adequate to attain your goal with a reasonable amount of effort.

    I can also tell you from the mistakes that I made with my son on his first long tour, that it does have to be interesting and fun. I doubt if my son has ridden a bike more than a dozen times since that tour when he was 15. He's in his 40's now! It has to be fun regardless of the reason for the tour. Mix up the training, and do things that keep him interested, i.e., swimming, weight work, CX skiing.

    Best wishes on your adventure!
    Last edited by Doug64; 02-06-12 at 10:47 AM.

  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I like to use the following formula as a guideline for determining how long it will take to cover a particular distance.

    Distance in km/50 km per day = Days

    So if the distance is 6000 km, divide that by 50 km/day = 120 days (17 weeks).


    Most of the time I would ride more than 50 km in a day, of course, but that formula allows for a reasonable amount of flexibility in the schedule for days off (or reduced distance days) because of weather, tiredness, illness or injury, mechanical difficulties, or interesting things to see and do along the way.


    But, if you absolutely need to do the tour faster than that, I wouldn't recommend planning on riding any more than 5 days a week. Plan to take at least 2 days a week off to do something interesting, to rest, or to deal with issues which may arise along the way. So if you are planning to ride 100 km/day, at 5 days a week, your 6000 km tour will take 12 weeks.

  20. #20
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    I am interested to know the son's perspective on all this?

    What kind of say is he having in the planning of the ride? What kind experience does he have in cycling? In camping? In meeting other people? In adventure?

    How active is he in other activities and sports? Is he going to be able to cope with not communicating through social networks for extended periods?

    What kind of bicycle is it envisaged that he will do the trip on? Does his bicycle fit him? What is the current longest distance he has ever ridden?

    Have you thoughts about letting him sign up as a member of BikeForums (the threshhold age is 13, IIRC).

    I am holding my thoughts on the plan until the OP provides an insight to these questions.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Rowan,

    Excellent insight. I wish someone would have made me think more about those questions 30 years ago!

  22. #22
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    Are you planning on camping? Try out all the gear needed and packed on both bikes. Try a one or two night overnight. How is the total weight and distribution, front to back. Food, cooking supplies, sleeping supplies etc. What are you going to bring to record events, camera, small electronics, diary?

  23. #23
    Senior Member BicycleCrazy's Avatar
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    I am interested to know the son's perspective on all this?

    What kind of say is he having in the planning of the ride? What kind experience does he have in cycling? In camping? In meeting other people? In adventure?

    How active is he in other activities and sports? Is he going to be able to cope with not communicating through social networks for extended periods?

    What kind of bicycle is it envisaged that he will do the trip on? Does his bicycle fit him? What is the current longest distance he has ever ridden?

    Have you thoughts about letting him sign up as a member of BikeForums (the threshhold age is 13, IIRC).

    I am holding my thoughts on the plan until the OP provides an insight to these questions.
    Nick is very excited for this adventure. We are doing this ride together, therefore he is involved in every aspect of the ride...planning, training etc. We cycle around our community on a regular basis but no touring experience. Our training continues to increase in daily miles. The most he has ridden in a day is currently 25 miles.
    He is very active in sports...Football 4 years, Basketball 2 years (currently playing), track 1 year.
    We have not purchased his bike for the ride yet as we are having trouble finding a good fit with proper gearing etc. He is 4' 10" (suggestions?)
    He couldn't care less about not communicating on social networks...he hardly uses them. As far as signing him up as a member on BikeForums is concerned...that is up to him. However, our goal is to spend less time on the internet, tv, videos games etc. and more time riding

  24. #24
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    My take is that the longer the tour the less training matters. You want to start out in good general physical condition and be used to riding longish miles on a bike, but that is about all that is required. I personally wouldn't train much on loaded bikes, different strokes though.

    I do advise taking it easy in the beginning and building miles and pace as you go. My personal take is that if I need rest days I am riding to far or fast. I save rest days for doing stuff in places that I want to stop or I don't take them. I find that I usually prefer to just do a low mileage day once in a while rather than take days off.

    I think a fairly open ended schedule helps minimize the pressure while on the tour. 9-10 weeks is doable, but not a lot of time. We were 73 days and pretty much didn't take rest days. It is better to allow 12 weeks and finish in 10 than to allow 10 weeks and worry about the schedule the whole way.

    I have done long tours with zero training and it was OK. I did suffer a good bit in the Sierras, but that was due to the extreme heat when we were there and trying to keep up with my daughter when I should have just ridden my slower pace.

  25. #25
    Senior Member BicycleCrazy's Avatar
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    Thanks so much for the suggestions and encouragement...We still need to decide which direction to ride. Here is our route. Please share your thoughts.

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