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Old 03-19-12, 10:06 AM   #1
DogBoy
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Physical Prep for a Tour Question

I am planning a 7 day 400 mile tour this summer 50-70 mile days, and I was planning on most of my base-miles to be in the form of bike commuting to work, which is only 10 miles a day. I was going to supplement these with long weekend rides on my road-bike and 2 extend-the-route-home (from the current 5 with options of 10-15 & 20 miles) bike commuting miles. I was all set with this plan, until this weekend.

We had a nice spring day so I did a 40 mile ride on my road-bike (vs my touring bike) and the body position was different enough that I felt different muscles engaging, and my kiester felt a bit sore due to different position on the saddle. When I add up the miles, I do many more rides on the touring bike, but for time on the bike, it will be about 50/50 road-bike to touring bike.

So the simple question is, do I need to do more of my training on the touring bike, or will I be fine by the time I build up to the tour (Early July)? Since that really is a personal type question, I guess more specifically, do YOU prepare for your tours primarily on your touring rig or do you swap steeds?

BTW, the intention of the tour is around a fitness bootcamp where I also get to camp and see roads I don't normally see, so I am intending it to be somewhat demanding. I typically average 16 mph unladen on the road bike over that distance so I'm assuming 12 mph or so loaded, which will translate to 6 hrs on the road, and probably 8 - 10 hours from stop to stop each day.
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Old 03-19-12, 10:34 AM   #2
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We try to do a several day rides with just the rear panniers before a tour. Last year it wasn't possible and we were pretty beat at the end of the day. You do get fitter as you go but the idea of the tour is to enjoy the ride and not have to struggle the first several days.
We usualy start with a couple of 60/70km rides, rest a day or two and start with the 80/100+km rides afterwards.
This year we're planning several day rides before cycling to Paris (+/-450kms in 4 days) check out the city for four days and cycle back home.
About 4 weeks later we're taking the month of June (destination unkown yet) for a proper tour.
Oh and we always practice on our touring bikes, our other bikes are just for around town and shopping.
Average speed is about 15 to 18kph fully loaded.
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Old 03-19-12, 11:01 AM   #3
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I only ride one bike, my touring bike. I don't like being passed by all the "hammer boys" on their sleek road bikes, but I am a bike tourist who needs to be able to ride a loaded bike 50+ miles a day, not some local yokel trying to impress his/her buddies.

So, I'd suggest you forget riding your road bike and only ride your touring bike. This not only lets you get the feel of your touring bike, but also to become aware of how your bike sounds on the road, an important thing to know when on a tour where it is important to know if something is wrong as soon as possible. As your tour approaches, I'd add weight to the bike until near the start of your tour, you are carrying about the same amount of weight as you will be touring. I do that because distance is one thing; riding that same distance on a fully loaded touring bike is something else altogether.

I try to do 2 fully loaded rides, back to back, at the distance I plan to ride on my tour the week before I actually start my tour. For me, that is two 50 mile rides with all my gear in the panniers and loaded on the back rack.

It is a great comfort to me to know that I am ready and able to meet the demands of my tour from the very beginning.

Also, be sure to take a shakedown ride before you go on your trip. I'd recommend an overnighter about as far from your house as your first day's ride. This will give you a good idea of what you can do, if you have the right gear, and anything else that can only be learned by getting on a bike and riding it somewhere.

Good luck and have a great time.
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Old 03-19-12, 11:20 AM   #4
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I do the opposite of Raybo... I spend almost all my time on my TCR year around. My touring bike is dialed in for fit and is ready to go when I am. I sure don't fill panniers with junk to train for a tour either since I know it already works well and how I will pack it up. If I want to get more fit I turn the pedals harder. Watts are watts and having saddle bags full has nothing to do with that. I do intervals and recovery rides when on the road. I also do fast group rides with my local buddies.

Base miles are just that.. Build a strong base on whatever bike will get you out and riding and having the most fun.

And yes I would suggest building up the miles before a tour. Plenty of people start a tour out of shape... It can be done but isn't much fun when the first week starts on the West Coast headed East.

If you want to practice on the touring bike I would suggest finding a campground about 50 or so miles away. Load up for an overnight and do just that. Little shakedown cruise never hurts before you leave.

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Old 03-19-12, 11:52 AM   #5
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It's the miles that count, not the ride. OTOH, lots of prep miles on the tour bike will let you know about any fine tuning you may want to do vis a vis fit/mechanical before the tour. Physical prep for a short tour is more important than for a longer ride, as you have little time to condition while touring. But there is no need to overdo it and burn yourself out. Your daily commute with a few longer rides as the date approaches is enough.
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Old 03-19-12, 12:56 PM   #6
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I find that bike fit, saddle comfort, and the like become more important as miles increase. Long trips on your road bike may help with fitness, but they won't tell you what changes need to be made on your touring bike for long term comfort. Some long shakedown rides on the touring bike might not be a bad idea.

I also find pretty significant differences between loaded and unloaded riding. If you're in shape, you may acclimate more quickly, but it may still be an adjustment. I took a two night, three day ride prior to a longer tour and found that the weight of my gear bogged me down at the beginning, but at the end I was getting used to it. So much so that when I took the weight off, the bike felt lighter and faster than ever before. Rather than let my legs return to their usual, unloaded level of fitness, I used a larger front chain ring while the bike was unloaded. Next time I loaded the bike up, I switched to the smaller chainring and the transition from unloaded to loaded was much less severe. Now I use the big ring exclusively around town and the small ring exclusively when touring.

So I'm not convinced that road bike riding with little weight is the best prep for a loaded tour, but certainly it is better than no riding. And while I'm happy to do some shorter, overnight trips in preparation, I just can't bring myself to deliberately load up dead weight for practice (although I do get a little more cavalier about what I carry leading up to tour, as in, "no, I probably don't need extra water, snacks, and my full portable tool kit for this ride, but why not? It's less then I'll carry on tour."). So do what you can and what you enjoy. It'll all have a positive benefit, but I think actual touring miles will have the most benefit.

The problem I face (and it sounds like maybe you as well) is that all my tours are usually short (a week or less) and destination-driven. On a long, open-ended trip, I'd be happy to start slow and build up the muscle and stamina as I go, but when I have a pre-determined end point and time, I have to hit the ground running, so those shake down rides become more important.
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Old 03-19-12, 01:09 PM   #7
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DogBoy, Ride the touring bike for longer rides to have the fitment sorted before the tour. Nothing worse than being tired, sore and uncomfortable at the same time.

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Old 03-19-12, 03:37 PM   #8
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Thanks for the advice. I think I'll still ride the road-bike for some of the group rides but I'll throw a couple of loaded weekend rides in there for fun. I like the 50 mile campground out and back idea too. I appreciate it!
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Old 03-19-12, 08:32 PM   #9
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So the simple question is, do I need to do more of my training on the touring bike, or will I be fine by the time I build up to the tour (Early July)? Since that really is a personal type question, I guess more specifically, do YOU prepare for your tours primarily on your touring rig or do you swap steeds?
My touring bike weighs 3X more than my road bike (51lbs vs 17lbs) and that's just with my credit card touring load! I find that training on the touring bike with the gear I expect to carry is much more productive than training on the unloaded road bike. This is especially true since my tours tend to involve a decent amount of climbing. I generally spend 4-8 weeks before a tour riding the touring bike (with gear) almost exclusively. I do lunch rides of 12-15 miles 3-4 times a week, then one or two longer (40+ mile) rides on the weekend with as many hills as I can talk myself into. I try to push the pace as much as possible, since even my weekend rides tend to be shorter than a day of riding on tour.
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Old 03-20-12, 06:20 AM   #10
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I'm no expert, certainly, but I just try to ride a lot before a tour. I ride my road bike the most with some mountain biking mixed in. Before a tour I usually get on my touring bike a few times to re-acquaint myself with the bar-end shifters. No matter what I do, I still start my tours slowly and work my way up to my usual average of 50-55 miles per day.
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Old 03-21-12, 10:52 AM   #11
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I ride my touring bike everyday,it's my only transportation,I'm always ready for touring.....

I good rule of thumb for touring.You can ride in 1 day what you ride weekly for commuting.You have all day long to ride 50-60 miles,that's 5MPH average during the summertime.Just about anybody can do that.

If your just a weekend warrior,get some saddle time in,you can do the mileage but your hiney might complain some.Riding day after day is alot different than busting out a 100 miles on the weekend,you have the week to recover.A couple high mile days while on tour can play with your head.Your brain says ride,your hiney and legs say it's time for a rest.

I don't do any training other than ride my bike.I've ridden everyday for 30+ years,if I'm not ready,I never will be.

I plan everything around a 10 MPH average,if I"m making good time,I'll either ride farther,stop at a watering hole,or just ride slower and enjoy the sights.

I like to have a few hours everyday to screw around,I might run into the worlds biggest bra ball and have to make a detour to see it!

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Old 03-22-12, 01:30 AM   #12
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I'm no expert,
Your posts and experience say otherwise.

Unlike others, I mix up my riding with three or four bikes -- a rando bike, a quick roadie, a tandem, a fixie, and a tandem. My old Fuji Touring has done a lot of miles, and is comfortable. I will have to see about the new Thorn.

However, one thing, DogBoy, try to ensure your fit measurements on the road bike are as close as possible to the touring bike. I suspect handlebar drop will be an issue, but otherwise things should be the same. I run Brooks saddles on all the bikes, so transferring between them is not an issue. Different saddles on your bikes may be one issue causing the discomfort.

Getting out on 50-mile overnighters is a important to gauge your fitness, strength and other issues with your bike and gear.
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Old 03-22-12, 02:16 AM   #13
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You don't need to train for touring. It is pretty easy going, you only need to train for difficult terrain or fitter partners. If you just want to head out you should be able to work up to 90 mile days after a few days. Training is boring, but when you hit the road you have the distraction of the beautiful countryside, and the draw of the unfolding route, you can knock off 40 miles in the first 3 hours, and after that limp on through the rest of the day at whatever pace, you can't miss making some fairly heavy miles.

People train these days just so they can watch more TV, but this whole training thing is relatively recent. Say around the 70s. It's a fine pastime, but not necessary to cycle at 10 miles an hour.
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Old 03-22-12, 02:48 AM   #14
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The OP does say it is intended to be akin to a fitness bootcamp -- not a typical bicycle tour.

Maybe a bit of pre-training might make the difference between hell and heaven.
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Old 03-22-12, 04:50 AM   #15
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OP, I don't think you need worry too much about the difference in position on the road bike vs touring bike. If it were the other way round - training on the tourer then riding a long way on the roadie - I might be concerned, but since moving from roadie to tourer you're moving to a more relaxed posture, I think you'll be fine.

As for your schedule, how demanding it is depends on how fast you want to go. I don't know what sort of terrain you'll be encountering, but on my tours I'll typically plan on a 60 mile per day average and expect to spend about five hours on the bike. On hilly days the distance will be less but the time will be similar, if it's pan-flat I might go further and faster. But don't underestimate the impact of being fully loaded; on the first day of a long tour last year (admittedly on an expedition tourer with almost 50lbs of baggage) I barely averaged 10mph. I'd have been very nearly twice as fast on my road bike.

EDIT

Rowan, what model did you buy from Thorn? I have a Nomad. It's no lightweight, but it's a hell of a bike.
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Old 03-22-12, 05:17 AM   #16
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EDIT

Rowan, what model did you buy from Thorn? I have a Nomad. It's no lightweight, but it's a hell of a bike.
Club Tours. The Nomad was a bit of overkill for the type of touring we intended, and we weren't that keen on springing for the Rohloff hubs.
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Old 03-22-12, 06:25 AM   #17
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I have been doing no training at all for my recent tours other than trail running. When I started my most recent 2400 mile tour I had not been on my bike since the last tour 4 months prior. I don't especially recommend that, but it has been OK. The point being that you can get by with whatever level of training you choose if you are reasonably fit. When I have trained for tours in the past I just made sure to log plenty of miles on my road bike since it is more fun to ride than the touring bike (which is set up for a nearly identical position as my road bike).

The biggest thing is to be sure you can stand to be in the saddle all day. So training is mostly about hours on the bike.

That said you need to figure out what works for you. Also on a 7 day tour you don't have time to ride into shape on the tour like on longer tours so keep that in mind.
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Old 03-22-12, 07:03 AM   #18
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However, one thing, DogBoy, try to ensure your fit measurements on the road bike are as close as possible to the touring bike. I suspect handlebar drop will be an issue, but otherwise things should be the same.
Good point.

Additionall, I would suggest that if well conditioned to riding the road bike that you try even having the handlebar drop be the same. After realizing how comfy my road bike was on long rides I set my touring bike to the same bar level (somewhere between 4 and 5 inches below the saddle) and have happily toured that way ever since. That may not be for everyone, but it might be worth a trial period to see how it works for you.
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Old 03-22-12, 07:33 AM   #19
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Club Tours. The Nomad was a bit of overkill for the type of touring we intended, and we weren't that keen on springing for the Rohloff hubs.
Nice bikes. The mechanic who built mine up said his favourite bike in their range was the Raven Sports tourer, but of course that too has the Rohloff. I can understand your reluctance, they cost a small fortune, but I must say they are a very impressive bit of kit.
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Old 03-22-12, 08:32 AM   #20
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The morning after drinking 8 beers out at the lake I loaded 40 pounds on a 30 pound bike and rode 40 miles in some hills. Made it home in ~3 hours. That's how I knew I was ready for a loaded tour...
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Old 03-22-12, 01:01 PM   #21
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You'll be fine. 50-70 miles days = 17 to 19 hours a day not riding your bike. Touring is much more mental then physical and I'm sure you'll be fine. Enjoy the scenery and sites that you would otherwise never see driving 60mph in a car.
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Old 03-22-12, 05:49 PM   #22
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Training is boring, but when you hit the road you have the distraction of the beautiful countryside, ...................................
I am truly fortunate to live in a place where all of our rides are in beautiful countrysides. My wife and I look forward to our "training" rides, and ride every chance we get. Probably 4-5 days a week, unless the skiing is good. We really enjoy riding of any kind. We often up our mileage and intensity a couple of months before an important tour or a tour that we know will be harder, like the Pacific Coast, crossing the Cascades, or the Alps. We also try to get 300 to 400 miles on our touring bikes by switching from our road bikes a month or so prior to a trip.

I don't understand why someone would choose to tour on a bike if they thought riding one is boring and onerous. I'm also not sure why anyone would start an important trip like a Trans-Am or European tour (actually any tour) purposely not in good riding condition.

Last edited by Doug64; 03-22-12 at 05:58 PM.
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