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From couch to touring in 2.5 months?

Old 06-10-16, 07:03 AM
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Catherine99
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From couch to touring in 2.5 months?

Hi All, I'm Catherine and I'm new here.

I have a tentative plan for a 3 day supported bike trip in September and I would love some experienced riders advice and guidance to help me prepare. And even just to tell me if this is a good idea or not given my starting place/where I'm at now.

Trip: 3 days on mostly flat, dedicated bike trails. 30-40 miles a day, on mountain bike. Alternatively they offer a road option on a hybrid but that one is slightly more hilly. The trips are considered "easy" by the tour company offering it. I will not need to carry my belongings, they will be transported from hotel to hotel by tour company. So just essentials while out for the day (water, sunblock, rain jacket type stuff). The bike trip begins on September 6. Though I will need to leave home for it on August 31st, so no more training after that point.

Me: I'm 38, have become quite out of shape & sedentary over the last 3-4 years though I used to be quite fit. I have just recently started riding a heavy beach cruiser casually for errands and as of yesterday I'm now also riding just to put on miles. Yesterday I rode it 7 miles and I was quite fatigued by the end of it which concerns me in regard to this trip. This is what lead me here.

Is my bike trip a realistic goal considering where I'm at now? It might help to know that I recently left my job, and am taking a year off before returning to work. So I have lots of time to put towards this. I can make it my #1 priority between now and August 31. And I love riding it.

I need to book this trip very soon before accommodations are full, hoping I can get some insight from experienced riders to tell me if I should pull the trigger or not.

Thank you for your time
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Old 06-10-16, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Catherine99 View Post
Hi All, I'm Catherine and I'm new here.

I have a tentative plan for a 3 day supported bike trip in September and I would love some experienced riders advice and guidance to help me prepare. And even just to tell me if this is a good idea or not given my starting place/where I'm at now.

Trip: 3 days on mostly flat, dedicated bike trails. 30-40 miles a day, on mountain bike. Alternatively they offer a road option on a hybrid but that one is slightly more hilly. The trips are considered "easy" by the tour company offering it. I will not need to carry my belongings, they will be transported from hotel to hotel by tour company. So just essentials while out for the day (water, sunblock, rain jacket type stuff). The bike trip begins on September 6. Though I will need to leave home for it on August 31st, so no more training after that point.

Me: I'm 38, have become quite out of shape & sedentary over the last 3-4 years though I used to be quite fit. I have just recently started riding a heavy beach cruiser casually for errands and as of yesterday I'm now also riding just to put on miles. Yesterday I rode it 7 miles and I was quite fatigued by the end of it which concerns me in regard to this trip. This is what lead me here.

Is my bike trip a realistic goal considering where I'm at now? It might help to know that I recently left my job, and am taking a year off before returning to work. So I have lots of time to put towards this. I can make it my #1 priority between now and August 31. And I love riding it.

I need to book this trip very soon before accommodations are full, hoping I can get some insight from experienced riders to tell me if I should pull the trigger or not.

Thank you for your time
OK ...

September 6
30-40 easy miles/day for 3 days.
Unloaded
June 10: 7 miles

Yep ... you should be able to do it. Here's what you do.

As soon as possible, get the bicycle you are going to use to ride it and start riding that bicycle.

Since 7 miles was a lot for you, back it off to 5 miles and do that 4-5 days this week.

Next week, try doing 6 miles for 3 days, and increase two days to 8 miles.

On the last week of June, maintain 6 miles a day for 3 days, and increase your two longer days to 10 miles.

The week of July 4, increase your lower mileage to 7 miles, and your longer days to 12 miles.

The next week, maintain your lower miles at 7 miles, and increase your longer days to 15 miles.

The week of July 18, increase your lower mileage to 8 miles, and your longer days to 20 miles.

Just keep going like that. If you do hit a distance you really struggle with, back it off a bit the next week and then start again.

Do take a couple days off each week ... rest or go for a walk.


Since you aren't working and you've got time, I'd also suggest going for a ride and then going for a walk to cool down some days.
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Old 06-10-16, 07:28 AM
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Start doing 5 mile rides as many as you can do in a day.

Take days off when you need to rest.
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Old 06-10-16, 07:28 AM
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Yes, I think you can do it. The first few months you increase your capacity quite rapidly. We started riding in our 50s and at the outset 2 miles was a full ride for my wife. Her face would be beet red at the end from the exertion (of course this was Florida in the summer so it was in the mid 90s). Within a couple months, she could do 30 miles without any problem.
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Old 06-10-16, 07:36 AM
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Machka, I love how you unpacked my very wordy post into just this:

September 6
30-40 easy miles/day for 3 days.
Unloaded
June 10: 7 miles

Seeing that will help me communicate moving forward, Thank you so much for your concise instruction, this is awesome.

I have two dogs that I walk daily and I thought to myself that I should walk them right now, as soon as I returned from my bike ride because I thought it might be good for stretching & calming my legs down. I didn't though, I waited until later because they were so tired. But moving forward I'll walk them immediately following my ride.
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Old 06-10-16, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Catherine99 View Post
Machka, I love how you unpacked my very wordy post into just this:

September 6
30-40 easy miles/day for 3 days.
Unloaded
June 10: 7 miles

Seeing that will help me communicate moving forward, Thank you so much for your concise instruction, this is awesome.

I have two dogs that I walk daily and I thought to myself that I should walk them right now, as soon as I returned from my bike ride because I thought it might be good for stretching & calming my legs down. I didn't though, I waited until later because they were so tired. But moving forward I'll walk them immediately following my ride.


Summarising just helps me "see" the situation better.

If you've got dogs and can get out for a morning walk and evening walk and then ride somewhere in the middle, that would work too. It's mainly to be active in different ways, use different muscles and work at different intensities.
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Old 06-10-16, 07:54 AM
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When you say out of shape and sedentary, not sure how bad it is. If you have health issues, consult with a doctor. Otherwise, just ride enough every day and you'll get in shape. Sorry if it sounds obvious and simplistic, but there is no real mystery about getting fit.
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Old 06-10-16, 08:02 AM
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Catherine, being the internet you can and will get all kinds of opinions, but I do want you to be assured that this lady, Machka, has lots of riding experience and more importantly, her recommendations of slowly increasing the time on your bike is spot on.
Regular riding, starting with time and distance that is doable, gradually increased distances, and listening to your body--is really the way to go for any physical activity.
In my case living in Canada, when I start riding in the spring, I very much apply these same ideas, I commute regularly but very much take it easy at first, ie choosing gears that are easier on the knees and let muscles, and yes, you will feel stiff and sore for the first few weeks, that's normal--but again, this touches on riding reasonable distances that feel doable for you.
Feeling ok with a distance is important, because a big big part of this game is to enjoy it, and to exercise regularly. When not over doing it and gradually increasing, you'll start to notice that your one hour ride that was really tiring will slowly feel easier, and you'll feel less sore afterwards.
If you can, use a destination that is maybe fun, like a coffee shop or whatever that hopefully it's along a nice route, and I find this helps as a motivator as well as a sort of habit thing too.
Do make sure that your bike fits you properly, ie not too big for you, and that seat height is good etc.
Gentle stretching after a ride is also a great habit to get into, it feels good and does help.

Bottom line, get out there regularly and keep it fun, and use the supported trip date as a goal--my wife and I have done supported trips each summer for years now, and that goal aspect has been a big, appreciated factor for my wife to get out more regularly.
As with any exercise, after a few weeks when you start to notice the improvements and feeling better physically, it's a great snow ball effect.

Have fun, get out there and yes, it's entirely doable. Sign up and use that as incentive. Just go gradually, but regularly.
Cheers
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Old 06-10-16, 08:07 AM
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I'm not as organized or as methodical as Machka, but I echo the sentiment: It sounds very doable to me.

It would be very good to have the type of bike you plan on riding to train on.

My distance riding philosophy has always been this: If I can ride 5 miles, then I can obviously ride 10 miles. It's just a question of how long of a break I need in between my two 5 mile trips. And then of course, if I can ride 10, then with an appropriate break(s), 20 is within my reach. And so on.

Getting your body used to riding seems like the hardest thing. Ride every day, at least for a few miles, so your body is used to the activity. And as you do that, work on your distance. I don't consider working on distance every day to be essential, but at least going for a ride should become part of your routine. Rest days are fine, especially if you've done a long distance ride the day before.

I like Machka's schedule. I'm not nearly so disciplined. If I want to get a certain number of miles in, I look for a destination that's halfway. Somewhere that I can hopefully cool down and relax. Ride out there, take a break, recuperate, and ride back. I sometimes bike to a nice hammocking spot and lay down and read or doze or listen to the birds or some music. Then back home. That doesn't necessarily help with the endurance to keep riding, but I think it helps with being able and willing to hop back on the bike even after you've put in some miles. I look at a 40 mile trip as 4 10 miles trips. Bike ten, stop for a break. Bike another ten, have lunch. Ten more and, after another rest, you've only got ten to go. And if you can already do 7 miles at a stretch, it won't be long before 10 miles doesn't feel bad at all.

If your days are your own, you can always start the day with a ride and and the day with a ride for twice the miles, as long as the rides aren't individually super taxing. Of course the goal will be to be able to crank out enough continuous miles to make the trip feasible.

When I was getting back into riding after a few years of barely riding, I looked at every bench along the bike path as on excuse to get off the bike and rest. It really didn't take long get beyond that. I still avail myself of the occasional trailside bench, but only on the longest rides, and usually just to get a change of pace and have a drink. Seldom because I'm completely out of steam. It's surprising how quickly that happens. For me it involved a new commute that incorporated my bike, which was great for keeping me riding every day.

If it's something you want to do, and you're willing to put some miles in between now and then, I don't see why not.
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Old 06-10-16, 08:10 AM
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Also keep food, and, especially, water handy. Maybe that's obvious. It's obvious to me until I forget and find myself 20 miles from home on a hot day with an empty water bottle.
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Old 06-10-16, 08:14 AM
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It's not only distance, but pace usually counts also. being able to maintain a faster pace means less total time on the bike, and can make the difference between what feels like la leisurely tour with time to enjoy things and long hours in the saddle.

Speed calls for power and because wind resistance increases proportional to the square of speed (4 times harder to ride twice as fast) the power requirement for more speed is a curve. As a general rule, 10mph or so is about the same effort as walking, so if you can do a 4 hour walk you can ride 40 miles in 4 hours or so. Most people can get their riding speed up to about 13mph pretty easily, but above that the curve steepens so set a goal of building your cruising speed to someplace between 10 and 13mph.

For your training, not only do you want to add more miles every week, but you want to mix in shorter, harder or faster rides. If there are some hills where you live, mix longer flat rides with shorter hilly rides, and you'll find your power improves faster, so even your flat rides will be at a faster pace.

Also - there are plenty of sites that offer training regimens, laying out a progressive routine toward a goal. Do some searching, using phrases like "how to train for a long tour", and you'll get a sense of what's involved. You can simply follow one routine, or you can combine the advice form various sources and formulate your own routine based on those principles.

BTW - I believe that it's good to finish each day's ride with half a tank. That means that if the schedule calls for 40 miles per day, you want to be able to ride 60 miles (if you have to). Having half a tank left means you'll be finishing each day's ride, fresh and ready for action rather than looking for someplace to recover.
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Old 06-10-16, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Catherine99 View Post
Trip: 3 days on mostly flat, dedicated bike trails. 30-40 miles a day, on mountain bike. Alternatively they offer a road option on a hybrid but that one is slightly more hilly. The trips are considered "easy" by the tour company offering it. I will not need to carry my belongings, they will be transported from hotel to hotel by tour company. So just essentials while out for the day (water, sunblock, rain jacket type stuff).
any details on daily schedule? i assume you're not going to be riding 4-6 hours non-stop.
start in morning, lots of rest breaks, 20 miles before lunch. 2 or 3-hour lunch break, then
another 20 in the afternoon, also with frequent breaks, arriving at hotel in time for dinner?
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Old 06-10-16, 08:23 AM
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Absolutely doable.

Go out and ride as much as your body allows...at your own pace. Hilly areas are going to force you to push, so it's not like you need to even worry about average speed, just make sure you've got some gradation in your common routes.

When I first started, I'd go up to the local school campus area -- I created a .8 mile loop there with a climb, a few flat sections (when I say climb, I mean like 2%, it's all I had and it's what I felt comfortable with). I started out probably doing 2 laps (about 2 miles)...when that got easy, I'd venture out onto cross streets, loop around, and come back. Total length of rides was about 4-5 miles.

Then one day I broke the 10 mile barrier...and that was my new goal every ride. Sometimes routes were hilly so I'd only get 8 miles in. Sometimes I pushed to 11 or so, just depended.

My next goal was 20 -- once I hit 20 (about a month in), it was just cake. I pretty much had established a pace that I could perform on endlessly if I needed to...and a pace where I was pushing myself as well.

When I first hit the 20 mile mark, I went from about 4-5 rides a week to riding every other day.

When I would do 4-5 rides a week, I would do 10 mile rides with lighter rides in between (for me, I used a home trainer to keep my wattage and heart rate low, but there's no reason you can't do this outside).
Once I broke that 20 mile mark, I took days off in between.
Then I started adding light spinning sessions in between the 20 mile days.
Then, since hills were my downfall, I targeted hill repeats, etc etc...for me, I'd push as hard as I could at least once a week on the hills...you don't need a lot of hills, just a nice long 2-3 minute hill (mine was about a 3 minute hill at 9-12% grade)...and I'd just repeatedly do it.

--

In the end, honestly the ability to do 40 mile ride 3 days in a row is just something you'll get to from riding. It's going to suck. When I started I remember getting a new bike and going 3 miles up the road and after this short 50 yard hill at about 3-4%, I was cooked. I thought I was going to have to walk my bike back.

I think when you get to that point where your fitness allows a pretty much indefinite length of ride at a speed you're comfortable going, you'll know you're there (you can get there in about a month).
The only thing to worry about at that point is discomfort. There's no reason you can't have your fit completely dialed in within a week or two...and I mean absolutely fine-tuned to where you're rock solidly comfortable. The smallest bit of discomfort after a 40 minute ride is going to be magnified on a 40 mile ride...so make sure that fit is dialed in. Even if it means trying out a new saddle. Never let your fit (saddle soreness, etc) get to the point where you feel like you're going to need a few days to recover from it. If it hurts after 6 miles, trust me, hop off, call it a day, re-evalute, post a video or do some research and try to figure out why it's hurting...and get back on a day or two later.

--

So yeah, in summary -- you can get that fitness just from riding regularly. The hills, the wind, etc will likely take care of ensuring you are putting out a good variety of energy on your rides. Your fitness will sky rocket. Your strength will sky rocket. In 2.5 months, you can well exceed your goals.

EDIT: I forgot to add cross-training. Since sitting on the bike for long periods every single day is probably going to give a little bit of discomfort, cross training was huge for me to get into shape. I'd hammer the stepmill at the gym for 30-40 minutes. I'd use the eliptical, I'd do loaded carries. I always tried to throw in something on my cross-training days that wasn't seated. We spend enough time seated....so I'm a firm believer that any cross training should be standing up.
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Old 06-10-16, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Catherine99 View Post
I'm 38, have become quite out of shape & sedentary over the last 3-4 years though I used to be quite fit. I have just recently started riding a heavy beach cruiser casually for errands and as of yesterday I'm now also riding just to put on miles.
All the answers are going to boil down to "ride more".

That said, have you read up on what proper bike fit is supposed to be? That'll make a big difference, and it will (probably) help keep you from developing any repetitive motion injuries early on. Only reason I bring that up is because most people I see riding cruisers seem to have tiny or overly large frames, with their seat posts way too low.
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Old 06-10-16, 09:08 AM
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Don't be afraid to add a couple miles during a leisurely evening ride, after you've done your main training ride for the day and had the chance to recuperate. Add some short evening rides purely for enjoyment. Enjoy the cooler air, add some miles to the day, and ride for the pleasure of riding rather than just for the purpose of training.
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Old 06-10-16, 09:15 AM
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I would just add that learning to use the gears of the bike is at least as important as getting in shape. When starting out, people tend to run in a harder gear than is appropriate. When you shift into an easier gear, it is not a great physical issue to keep peddling for hours on end -- your bottom will want to stop before your legs need to. FWIW
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Old 06-10-16, 09:37 AM
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Definitely. I have ridden on many week-long supported bike tours that average about 50-60+ miles/day, and there are often other riders on these tours who do no training or preparation ahead of time. I wouldn't recommend that approach, but people do it. However, as Machka and others mentioned, your experience will be much more enjoyable if you train for the trip. Start out with shorter rides and build up. Try to ride several times a week, with some longer distances on the weekends.
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Old 06-10-16, 10:08 AM
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That tour sounds great.

Your beach cruiser isn't the best choice for your training, but it will work. It's a single speed, designed for short, casual rides. So the saddle is wide and cushy, which is good for short rides, but can get uncomfortable on longer rides.

(After years of riding, I can ride 40 or 50 miles on my road bike quite easily. I also ride the local RedBike bike share bikes, with their thick tires, cushy saddles, and 3 low speed gears. On those, an hour ride and 7 or 8 miles is all I want to do!)

If you buy a bike with multiple gears, you can get experience with shifting and riding longer distances. After the 3 day tour, that's what you'll want to ride anyway.

But keep riding the cruiser as you shop for bikes.

Machka's time table is very doable, building up to 20 mile rides. I think for many riders, once you hit that 20 mile distance, you've got enough fitness and can stay on the bike for a couple of hours. From there, it's just riding regularly, at least 3 times a week, and you can keep increasing your trip distances.

Last edited by rm -rf; 06-10-16 at 10:13 AM.
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Old 06-10-16, 10:19 AM
  #19  
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Wow! So much response! You all are a generous bunch, thank you!

To respond to some of your points:

"Out of shape and sedentary", I'm 5'8", 25 extra pounds of fat and very much lacking muscles. I used to stay fit and strong with jogging, pilates and yoga. But a combination of factors lead me to let go of good habits and take on some bad. This is turning around quickly though. I don't have any injury or prohibitive conditions outside of being weak and soft from lack of exercise.

The measured advice of Machka - Yep, I could tell she knows her stuff by her first reply. And I walked right out the door with the dogs on a 3.5 mile walk after her second reply with advice of morning/evening walks bookending a ride.

Bike fit - I have a 26" schwinn cruiser from walmart (please be kind, it was a gift). Earlier this spring I rode it to the bike shop near my house and had them raise the seat as high as it would go and add head/tail lights, and baskets so I could grocery shop with it. I asked the owner if this bike was the right size for me and he said it was not too small but the next time I buy a bike I should test drive a longer bike since I have a long torso & arms. After he raised and corrected the tilt on my seat it felt a million times better and that's when I started to really use the bike. It had felt awful prior to those adjustments. It has 7 gears. So far I have only used as high as 4. I hangout in the 2-3 range mostly.

Riding for enjoyment: Yes! This is my goal. I want this trip to be enjoyable, that is the point. Even in my daily riding I put a small portable speaker in my basket and listen to music and much of my ride is leisurely, it's just at my lousy fitness level it doesn't take much to elevate it from leisurely to challenging during some parts where there is an incline or wind, etc. Yesterday I didn't preplan my route, I just rode until it felt right to stop, listening to my body. I routed it after I got home to see how far I had gone. Yesterday was a bit windy and I had some goods from the drug store in my basket for most of the ride.

I was thinking a good goal would be riding to my old work to visit old coworkers, this is roughly a 10 mile ride and I think of it as my first milestone. Knowing that after I arrive I can get someone to throw my bike in their truck and give me a ride back home if I don't feel up to the 10 mile return is a good trick for my mind and makes it less intimidating.

Daily schedule of trip: Yes, we plan on stopping for breaks or when we see something interesting, and for lunch. And hopefully have some steam left to explore town before/after dinner. So the "half tank left" after the ride is ideal. I will post a link to the tour but first I have to explain that i accidentally lied! I just looked at the daily distances again and it is not 30-40 miles, it is actually 25-32 miles! That was an accident. I've browsed so many different tours that I got it mixed up. Anyhow, here it is, it's on a path called the Parenzana in Istria, some of you probably know it.

Thank you all so much for assuring me this is within my reach. I am going to book the trip this afternoon! You all have made my day, thank you for the warm welcome!
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Old 06-10-16, 10:50 AM
  #20  
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It's certainly doable. Just ride as much as possible. Frankly you could probably do that without any preparation, but it wouldn't be very fun. With a little fitness built up ahead of time, you can just concentrate on enjoying the experience.

I would strongly suggest you get a lighter bike. It will be much more enjoyable on longer rides. Beach cruisers are fun and all, but more suited to errands and cruising the 'hood than long distances.
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Old 06-10-16, 11:08 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
I would strongly suggest you get a lighter bike.
2nd this, now that I actually think about it.

If you aren't interested in spending a whole lot, it's entirely possible to get great used bikes that don't need much work done on them. And in all honesty, the beach cruiser/mamachari style bikes actually aren't all that great for running errands with either.
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Old 06-10-16, 11:22 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Catherine99 View Post
Riding for enjoyment: Yes! This is my goal. I want this trip to be enjoyable, that is the point. Even in my daily riding I put a small portable speaker in my basket and listen to music and much of my ride is leisurely, it's just at my lousy fitness level it doesn't take much to elevate it from leisurely to challenging during some parts where there is an incline or wind, etc. Yesterday I didn't preplan my route, I just rode until it felt right to stop, listening to my body. I routed it after I got home to see how far I had gone. Yesterday was a bit windy and I had some goods from the drug store in my basket for most of the ride.
Don't forget, you can circle your neighborhood at night or early in the morning for a few times when it's cool, just to enjoy the bike and feel the breeze in your hair. Even though I routinely bike 20+ miles a day commuting, I often go for a couple miles worth of circles around the houses in my neighborhood at 10pm to finish off the day. Nice way to spend 10-20 minutes before I get ready for bed for the evening. Early morning leisure rides when it's still cool before breakfast and work are also a good way to fit in some extra enjoyment. You don't have to leave the neighborhood, and every mile in the saddle is going to pay off in the long run.
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Old 06-10-16, 12:28 PM
  #23  
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I know an accomplished athlete (long distance hiker and runner) who likes to train to 30% of his goal. For instance, if he eventually wants to hike 20 miles per day all summer, he'll train in the off season to about 7 miles per day, and hike the occasional 20+ mile day. I found that approach worked well for me recently for my first tour in a decade or so. If it might apply to you, the goal could be to be able to ride 10 to 15 miles per day, every day, by the end of the summer.

Try at least one 40 mile day. Getting in that one 40 miler will be a mental boost. Just knowing you can do will be a great help.

While cycling, think about cycling again tomorrow. Don't overdo it so badly you're a quivering bowl of jelly for days afterwards. Do not injure yourself training--it's supposed to be fun!

Remember to eat, hydrate, sleep well, and take good care of your skin (sunburn, rashes, chaffing, saddle sores) while cycling. A failure on any of those and your trip could get challenging. Your choices of food, drink, and clothing can become very important.
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Old 06-10-16, 01:02 PM
  #24  
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Just some encouragement here. I did my first tour about three months after giving up drinking beer and eating little debbies as a hobby, and I was never really fit before. It was a road tour, with two friends who were fit and doing 60 to 80 mile days. All I had time for was ten miles every few days, and those really hurt me bad. I did about 300 miles in four days, and it hurt, bad. Only strength of will kept me upright. But I still think that proves anything is possible, it sounds like you will be fine.

You have gotten good advice here on this thread, I have not much to add, other than when you do it, enjoy yourself and don't worry about anyone else who might be faster than you. Today, I can outride both my friends who waited patiently for me at the top of every hill!
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Old 06-10-16, 01:24 PM
  #25  
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I've been cycling for 8 months ...,. my 1st ride was 3 miles and I struggled to breathe.

I've now lost over 40 pounds, and ride long distance at speed and I pass many who wear lycra and dress like Robin Hood.... my longest ride was 119 miles at a good pace, and I average just over 200 miles per week (I commute by bike and work at several sites every day):
https://www.strava.com/athletes/12571658

here is my advice:

firstly, sign up to Strava ... it's for free (I have the premium membership which costs £4 a month and gives some extra details) .... this will log your rides and you can see your progress

get a bike computer that has cadence (RPM) .... try and ride at 80 RPM on the flat roads ... use to gears to get this

ride 5 consecutive days in a row and increase your distance every week .... on your rides, choose a section where you ride as fast as you can (for a few minutes), then slack off to get your breath back (high intesity training)

the first 2 weeks of doing this, you will be sore, and I tossed and turned at night when I slept, but remember that if your legs don't hurt after cycling, you never tried hard enough

eat proper and cut alcohol (if you do enjoy a drink, have them on your rest days)

you will be amazed at how fast you get fit .... what you put in, is what you get out
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