Author Topic: Getting in shape for touring  (Read 4008 times)

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Offline bobcat931

Getting in shape for touring
« on: November 09, 2015, 02:05:05 pm »
I would like to do the C&O/GAP tour in September, 2016.  No touring experience as of yet.  Road biking, rides average 30 miles on a Saturday with a metric century a couple of times a year. How much mileage/how many times per week and how far in advance to get in shape for that ride?  Fifty mile days seem daunting. Thanks!

Offline fiveonomo

Re: Getting in shape for touring
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2015, 03:06:59 pm »
I did the GAP in 2013, rode from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD. I have to say it was awesome!  My plan is to do it again, I hope to in 2016 with the new LHT I am building.  The ride was tougher than I thought it was going to be, the reason in my case was I took way too much crap.  I learned a lot on that trip.  I bought a BOB trailer (I have since sold that now) and I am sure it has its place but man I loaded that thing down.  Plus a rear rack on my bike, I could of stayed out there for three months.  My advice, don't pack to much gear, you just don't need it.  You really are never to far away from civilization.  I am in my mid forties and in good shape, my career requires that.  I also ride a road bike a lot so I thought it would have been no big deal.  I am sure it would not have been if I was not literally pulling 100 lbs.

I have heard of people putting in crazy mileage but I think around 40 miles a day will work for me next time, and I will be way lighter.  Maybe one day do 55 and the next do 38 or something.  Part of the enjoyment for me is seeing everything that I am riding through.  For me putting in crazy mileage means I will miss a lot of the scenery.  Good luck with you trip.   

Offline John Nelson

Re: Getting in shape for touring
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2015, 08:24:49 pm »
It is possible to do a bike tour with no physical preparation at all ... if you have the time to start slowly. If you want to do high mileage days right from the start, then you need to train, or you need to be young. The better trained you are, the better chance you'll have a good time. I'd spend a few months doing at least a third of the weekly mileage you expect to do on tour. Be sure to include as many hills as your tour will, and ride at least some of the miles fully loaded.

It's not complicated.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Getting in shape for touring
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2015, 10:35:51 am »
Biking is not a difficult or terribly strenuous activity.  Its far less difficult than running a marathon.  I would say most biking is similar to walking at a fast pace.  Not quite jogging speed.  You may be tired and sore after a whole day of riding.  But you will not be so tired you cannot walk into the house or up the front steps or fall over, curl up, and cry tired.  Biking is an activity you can easily do day after day after day for forever.  It is best if you are fit at the start.  Ride as much as possible before.  But you can make it without troubles if you do not ride too.  You have 12 to 16 hours of daylight each day to ride the distance.  If you ride 30 minutes and then rest for 60 minutes, and ride at 10 mph for the half hour you are riding, you can cover 55 miles in a 16 hour day.  55 miles is not a huge distance.  And 10 mph riding pace is not outrageous, even on a heavily loaded touring bike.  Unless you are climbing the Rockies, you will probably be riding at 10 mph or more.  Maybe the most important thing is to be experienced in handling the bike so you ride safely.  Your strength and conditioning and the distance are not too important.


  • Guest
Re: Getting in shape for touring
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2015, 01:49:26 pm »
Ride throughout the summer, increasing your mileage until a metric century isn't a rarity. I also recommend taking one or two short trips (1-2 days) so you know what to expect in terms of the effort required to push and handle a bike with a load. Are you planning to camp and/or cook? If not, you really don't need to carry much at all.

I did the GAP a few years ago as part of a cross-PA tour in mid-September. Pittsburgh to Connellsville the first day. Connellsville to Rockwood the second day. Rockwood to Cumberland and then north to Bedford, PA the third day. Until you hit the divide without 23 miles left, you will have a net elevation gain, albeit a gradual one. Rockwood to the divide is a little steeper than much of the other mileage. From the divide to Cumberland is a piece of cake requiring much less effort as it's a good net elevation loss as rail-trails go. Wind may also be a factor for at least part of the trip. The first day of my trip the area was under the influence of a weather pattern producing winds out of the SE. There were some open sections where I could feel myself pedaling into the wind. You also need to train your mind. You will likely be going slower than you do during road rides. You need to accept it and not push yourself too hard. Despite more than 15K touring miles I still sometimes start out too hard. It's good way to wear yourself out early on. During my Black Hills tour back in June I did 61 miles and nearly 4,800' of climbing in the first day. I was on the road for only 7.5 hours, including two extended stops and numerous shorter ones. Day 2 I did 71 miles, 41 of which were on the rugged Mickelson Trail, with a total 5,000' of climbing. Pushing too hard the first day made Day 2 very hard. I was pretty tired by the start of day 3.

BTW...Mid-September was a nice time to ride the GPA. I left PGH on a Saturday morning. Not much traffic on the trail, and I camped alone at Connellsville. Only saw one other person who was travelling loaded. Sunday I encountered a greater number of day riders, but not enough to cause any congestion. Had Husky Haven Campground all to myself.  Monday morning I saw two day riders heading in my direction and a family heading in the other directions. Days were warm but not unpleasantly so. Nights were cool, but not cold.  I really liked the two places I stayed. The dollar store in Rockwood had a poor grocery selection, but there are a couple of places to get prepared food, including an inexpensive pub on the east end of own. Just bring ear plugs if you are a light sleeper. Even though they are across the river from the campground, the trains can be very loud as they blow their horns at the road crossings in town.

Offline BikePacker

Re: Getting in shape for touring
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2015, 09:16:11 am »
Bobcat - My 2 cents on fitness prep that has worked for me is that I train to:
1. Roughly the same topology/route conditions, IF possible (the C&O, as I understand it is largely not paved?).
2. 25% of my actual anticipated/desired daily route mileage.
I do not train with a weight loaded bike.
It IS better to do more than I do per above; however, the realities & demands of life I have found restrict me to the above ..... one other thing I have learned with regard to me, even though I am a planner and, most would say, too detail oriented: While I always think that I am going to train right up to a day or so before departure, there seem to typically be last minute To Dos that truncate my training the entire week before leaving .... for whatever this observation is worth :- ).
When I get 'out there' I DELIBERATELY take the first two days at half the desired distance.  It usually isn't til the 4th day that I feel physically/mentally FULLY dialed in.
Btw, while I have never ridden the C&O what I have found on other unpaved routes is that when it has rained it is at least 30% more effort/energy demanding.  What I am saying here is that is that IF you get some rain don't let your reduced distance covered frustrate you too much.
- Best wishes for a great tour.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2015, 04:11:47 pm by BikePacker »

Offline mbattisti

Re: Getting in shape for touring
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2015, 02:54:33 pm »
I'd be more concerned with matching the time you plan on being on your bike each day than with mileage.  Plus grades are extremely gentle on the Gap/c &o.  My wife and I prepared with several short rides a week and then a longer one on the weekend and we did fine.  And don't rush it, take time to explore the trail towns (which have done a wonderful job of embracing the trail), historical sites, and to chat with the locals and all the other touring cyclists you're bound to meet.  We actually reduced our intended daily mileage on the trail because we didn't want it to end! Remember that it's all about the journey and you'll have a great time!