Preparing For Your First Cycling HolidayPosted on March 17, 2015
In recent years, leisure cycling holidays have exploded in popularity as more and more people have discovered the delights and benefits of these hugely rewarding holidays. Leisure cycling holidays are just that, comfortable, user-friendly bikes, coupled with scenic and relaxing itineraries. The daily rides are designed to provide a few hours of gentle exercise each day, rather than taking you to the edge of exhaustion, like some road-bike itineraries. They allow plenty of time and energy for exploring places of interest along the route, as long as ‘A’, you have picked a tour suitable for your fitness level and ‘B’, you have prepared adequately for your trip in the run-up to departure.
Let’s deal with ‘A’ first of all. Most cycling holiday companies, Flexitreks included, grade their tours for different ability levels. In addition, the day-by-day itinerary describes the daily rides in detail, including the distance you will cycle each day. By all means select a tour that presents a bit of a challenge but be honest with yourself about your abilities as the holiday should be fun and enjoyable rather than grim and exhausting.
So how should you go about preparing for your first cycling holiday?
4 Tips For Preparing For Your First Cycling Holiday
1. Assess Your Fitness Gap
At least two months prior to your trip you should make a frank assessment of your current level of cycling fitness. The word ‘cycling’ is underlined as the sport uses a very particular set of muscles and while general fitness will definitely help, the only way to really get in shape for cycling is by cycling itself. Using a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the smallest and 5 being the biggest) decide how large the gap is between your current level of fitness and the fitness level required to enjoy your forthcoming cycling holiday. The higher the number the more cycling you will need to cram into the coming weeks.
2. Create And Adhere To A Training Schedule
You now need to create, and follow a cycle training schedule for the next 7 weeks. Ideally you want to schedule the same number of weekly rides as your score in the fitness gap assessment above. For example, if you gave yourself a three then you should schedule 3 rides per week for the next 7 weeks. To be effective, these rides should cover at least 10 miles to start with, increasing each week.
The goal is to work towards being able to comfortably ride the average daily distance you will be covering during your cycling holiday, on two consecutive days, at least a week prior to your trip. For example, let’s say you have booked our Black Forest Cycling Tour starting on June 14th. The tour covers 143 miles over 5 days, making the average daily cycling distance about 28 miles. Your training schedule should work towards being able to complete two rides of 28 miles, one on Saturday, June 6th and the other on Sunday, June 7th. Try not to cycle too much in the week preceding your trip as it will be too late to improve your general cycling fitness and you want to be fresh for the holiday itself. Whenever possible use a proper outdoor bike for your training rides, as this is the most realistic type of training, however if that isn’t possible then an indoor static bike is certainly the next best thing.
3. Beg, Borrow or Buy These
The items below will ensure you are comfortable during your daily cycle rides. It’s easy to add to this list but these are the essential must-haves.
Helmets can sometimes be hired locally but they rarely fit as well as your own. If you pack the cavity you’ll find they take up surprisingly little space in your luggage.
Eyewear will protect your eyes from dust, insects and road debris. Anything is better than nothing, be it regular specs, sunglasses or full-on cycling glasses with interchangeable lenses.
Padded Cycling Shorts
Saddle soreness affects all cyclists, even the pros, but a pair of padded cycling shorts will go a long way towards minimizing the effects. You can get by with one pair, as lycra dries so quickly you can wash them out each night and they’ll be ready to go by morning.
Wind chill can be very noticeable, particularly in the early mornings, late afternoons or on long descents. Lightweight windcheaters take up next to no space in your pannier and can make a big difference to your overall comfort.
4. Know How to Fix A Flat Tyre
The rental bikes used on cycling holidays are serviced after each outing and will be in tip-top condition mechanically, however this offers no protection from punctures, which can strike at any time and explains the spare inner-tube and puncture repair kit provided with each bike. If you don’t know, or could do with a refresher on how to replace an inner tube and/or repair a puncture then it’s definitely a good idea to arm yourself with this skill in advance of your cycling holiday. Local assistance teams are there to assist with emergencies but commonly make a point of excluding puncture repair from this service. YouTube is overflowing with how-to-fix-a-puncture videos and here’s just one from a huge selection. It’s a good idea to practice on your own bike before departing for your holiday.
And that’s it. If you honestly assess your fitness level and adhere to your training schedule then you can be sure you’ll be relishing, rather than fearing, each day in the saddle. The accessories will help you to remain comfortable and safe and if you hear the dreaded ‘pssssst’ you know you can fix it and be rolling again in a jiffy.