I'm training to do a 3,000+ mile fully loaded tour this summer from Prudhoe Bay to Vancouver, BC and then down the Pacific Coast. There are several segments on the Dalton highway with 13% grades, some of which are rather long and there are even steeper grades in British Columbia. These grades would be challenging enough with any bike, but on a touring bike with 60 lbs of gear, it will be very challenging. Riding an average of 60+ miles/day shouldn't be a challenge. Those long steep hills are what I'm concerned about so I've been concentrating on increasing my climbing strength and stamina. I put in 5,000 miles last year on the bike and believe I have a good base.
Over the last three months I've been at the gym two or three days/week working on my core and legs and doing light upper body work. I've been taking it easy, i.e. moderate weights and high reps. I've put in about 800 miles since the first of the year on the bike, doing lots of endurance miles at a high cadence with some intervals, tempo rides, seated short sprints, and hill climbing at a relatively low cadence. Though I've been working hard, I'm feeling good. My knees feel fine and I've avoided overreaching.
Last Saturday I ramped it up some and did 71 miles with total climbing of 3,500 feet. I attacked every hill until the last ten miles when my legs started to hurt and feel like jelly. It was a good training ride. I wasn't sore the next day and I felt like the ride had been relatively easy with the exception of my legs at the end. I was dissapointed, though, that I couldn't continue to push hard throughout the entire ride.
I'm planning on putting in a few more weeks at the gym doing leg work before I switch over to just the bike. With my solid base of moderate lifting, I think I might do well to spend that remaining time doing the heaviest sets my legs can handle for six to eight reps. I think this will help me gain maximum strength in my legs.
Does going to higher weights and low reps sound like a reasonable approach or should I continue my moderate weights and higher reps?
In mid April, I plan to devote one session a week to serious climbing and stop lifting entirely. I will continue to do some off the bike conditioning but it will be for maintaining rather than gaining strength. In May (tour starts in June), I plan to start riding my touring bike with a full load to get used to the extra weight.
On a related note, I should probably find a coach or personal trainer who's cycling savvy to help me with questions like this. However, I can't afford nor do I think I need an ongoing relationship with a trainer. Any suggestions on how to find someone to help me prepare for an event like this?