Preparing physically for a cycle tour

 Gary Corbett

Finally, after weeks - if not months - of searching for a cycle tour that ticks all of your boxes, the research is over and the booking is made.

Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the day when you can finally head off on your long-awaited cycling holiday ... if only life could be that simple.

Sure you have spent an inordinate amount of time planning which cycle tour to take, but once booked that isn’t where your trip planning finishes if you want to enjoy the experience to the maximum.

As with all things in life, you only get out what you put in, hence the need to physically prepare your body prior to leaving for the start of your cycle tour.

This fact applies no matter whether you have booked a so-called “easy” tour with few or no hills or if you have booked a tour that tackles some of the most arduous mountain climbs in the world.

To put it bluntly if you want to get the most out of your long-awaited cycle tour you will need to do some sort of physical conditioning.

Before booking a tour it is wise to ask relevant questions of the tour operator about the type of bicycle you will be riding and the terrain you will be cycling over – so you can prepare accordingly.

On my first guided tour along the Loire River in France, one lady in the group had never ridden a bicycle with gears. I chivalrously volunteered to spend the first half of the first day riding alongside her either changing the gears for her or supervising her own very ordinary attempts at changing gears. The reality of the situation was that she should have been prepared for this basic task before she left home.

On another tour a clearly very unfit and overweight gentleman proudly announced to the group at the get to know you meeting before the start of the tour that it was the first time he had ridden a bicycle in 35 years. The result? He struggled over every kilometre at the back of the pack for the first two days and then had to stop riding on day three with a severe case of saddle sores.

Given that his tour finished prematurely I am sure in hindsight he regretted not doing at least some sort of basic physical training before leaving on the trip.

So what type of preparation is best? Basically do as much cycling as possible! Sure, if you have the time and the inclination it would be a good idea to sign up at your local gymnasium, but after all you are going on a cycle tour so get out there and do just that – cycle as much as you can.

It is also important to note that many cycle tour operators allow you to bring along your own bicycle on tour.
Clearly, there are many advantages to be had by cycling your own bicycle. First and foremost there is the cost saving factor given that you will not have to pay bicycle rental costs.

But just as important is the comfort factor. After all, who wouldn’t want to enjoy sightseeing from the comfort of their own bicycle seat? Also, by riding your own familiar bicycle you should not face any unexpected (read unwanted) mechanical or bicycle fit issues.

While bringing your own bicycle is not feasible for the majority of cycle tourists who travel vast distances to get to the start point of their tour, there is a viable alternative - bring your own bike seat with you. Or do as my wife did on an Italian cycle tour from Florence to Rome in 2012 ... bring a super soft sheep skin seat cover to accessorise your unfamiliar rental bike seat!