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How to Prepare for a Long-distance Cycling Trip


It’s cycling season again and you may think a lot about long-distance solo cycling trips. Taking a bike ride through many cities and states with over 1000 miles is an awesome adventure that will pay rewards in physical and mental well-being as well as character-shaping experiences, as there’s nothing like a long ride to bring a sense of accomplishment. And long-distance bike tours also allow meeting new friends while exploring popular and obscure places in the United States. If you feel that you are not sure about everything for your riding trip yet, check out this article to help you get started with planning your long-distance bike trip.


1. Research Your Tour Ahead of Trip

Of course, proper preparation is essential for your first long-distance bike tour. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people, have traveled the routes before you, and these experienced folks are often more than willing to share their experiences with you online. People who have actually pounded the pavement and have encountered the unpredictable on their journey are the best resource for what to expect on a given ride. There are several things I summarized from my research and experience for you, and you should plan ahead your trip: 1)Plan for your skill level, read the description of the tour you’re considering carefully to make sure that your skill level matches the trip; 2) figure out your budget, although the general costs of a long-distance cycling trip can be much lower than a traditional vacation, you’ll still want to create an adventure travel budget for the unexpected; 3) talk to people with long-distance cycling trip experience and do online research, so you can prepare your belongs and gears according to your trip.

2. Know Your Body

OK, if you’re relatively new to the sport, or have yet to attempt anything longer than two hours, you need to be physically prepared. Before you even step on your bike, you need to assess your personal level of fitness. However, first of all, it is important that you see a doctor before heading out on a bike tour. It is better to confirm whether there are physical problems, and there will be no sudden illnesses caused by cycling. If there are, cycling is not recommended. In addition to these relatively large hidden dangers, the other is whether there are problems in certain parts of the body. For example, many people have knee pain, and pain when going downstairs and mountains. Then I don’t recommend cycling, because there is a problem with the lumbar spine, you cannot sit for a long time or bow for a long time.

3. Start Training for Your Cycling Trip at Least 2 Months Out

Once you’ve been given the go-ahead to start training for your trip, jump on your bike, and start training. The goal is to get in shape as well as feel comfortable, safe, and in control of your bicycle, it will help in the early days and help prevent injury if you build up a fitness foundation first. On the other hand, working out at the gym, improving your cardiovascular workouts, and eating healthy foods can also play a part in preparing for a long-distance bike tour. As a beginner, you may want to start with shorter distances. You know you’re ready to depart on your bike tour when you can ride at least 30-40 miles without feeling any extreme discomfort. Once you’ve become comfortable riding your bike, start adding some weight. Add a couple of panniers to your bicycle or start pulling a trailer. As your departure date nears, start riding your bike with more and more weight added. For instance, carb-loading two days before your trip and your muscles will build plenty of glycogen stores if you eat properly. On carb-loading days you should eat at least 10 mg of carbs per kg of body weight.

4. Bike Set-Up and Equipment

You may want to choose the right bike that you feel comfortable and pack the following items:2-3 water bottles. Especially in the heat, you’ll go through one or three a day. A helmet of good quality that fits right. Sunblock and sunglasses. Lights, reflectors, and bell on your bike. Cycling gear: gloves that are padded in the palm, padded and tested cycling shorts, Dri-Fit long sleeve white crew neck top to keep the sun off your skin and control your body temperature, and rain gear, and GPS bike computer with a heart-rate monitor. On your short rides, the bike set up is not so meaningful but on a long-distance bike ride, it could be crucial. Getting a bike which is the right size for your is the basic thing but some of the riders still disregard it. Bikepacking bags allow you to carry essential gear for your trip while putting an emphasis on keeping your bike light and nimble so it will handle well on off-pavement terrain. They will fit almost any bike – just strap them on, fill them up and you’re away. And they encourage you to pack light – this means you can cycle uphill faster and reduce the wear on your bike parts. And a frame pack also can help to put things (i.e.: phone) that you can easily access to. 

5. Food and Drink During the Ride

This one is one of the most important long-distance bike riding tips. Your target should be eating one piece of food every 15-20 minutes. One 1 liter of water every hour also should be OK. Of course, this depends on heat and exertion level as well and you should adjust adequately. If you don’t eat enough you can feel the so-called” bonking”. It means that you haven’t taken enough carbohydrates while cycling and have exhausted your body’s glycogen reserves, leaving you with very low blood glucose levels. You will feel extremely weak and tired and most probably your ride will get to an end. Usually, I carry 1 energy bar every 20 minutes of my ride and in the middle, I make a big meal in some countryside restaurant. Just in case always get some extra food and water supplies.


6. Use The “20-40s” Method

When you try to speed up you can try this method which is called “20-40s”. Sprint for 20 seconds then rest for 40 seconds and repeat that sequence four times for one set. You can do this drill as many sets as you want and you will definitely improve your fitness and speed during the process. Maintaining a cadence of around 90 RPM is crucial for your long-distance rides. In these zones, you give your muscles and aerobic system a break. It is scientifically proven that 90 RPM is the most efficient cadence speed. You should consider this in your cycling. If you don’t have a cadence sensor on your bike finding the right cadence speed is a little bit tricky. Remember, just drop as many gears as needed and focus more on maintaining your RPMs than your speed.

7. Check the Wind

The wind is either can be your enemy or your friend. If you cycle with the tailwind you are going to be faster and will use less energy. If you are going against the headwind you will need much more energy and most probably you will cycle slower.

8. Stay in Touch

Carrying your charged phone with you on a cycling trip is the easiest way to stay in touch when traveling. And share your location with social media is a good idea to let people know you are safe.

9. Prepare for the Unexpect 

Most of the time, your rides will be smooth sailing along the hills, but sometimes the bad things happen. You should ALWAYS be prepared when it happens. In my opinion, this is one of the most essential long-distance bike riding tips. Always carry at least two spares of inner tubes, tire levers, a good multi-tool, reliable bike pump, cell phone, ID, and some cash.


10. Let Your Body Recover 

You’ll get stronger as you complete the route on your long-distance cycling trip. And post-ride recovery is essential to getting you ready for your next training session. After a big bike ride, you may be dehydrated if you didn’t manage to take in enough fluids, so make sure to take in lots of fluids. It is better to refuel your belly with clean nutrient-dense foods, not processed junk. At night try to stay away from your phone, laptop, or a TV screen in the hour before going to bed, limit your alcohol consumption to have a good night’s rest. Going for a leisurely ride the day after your big ride can help your body’s recovery process.

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