You’ve probably exhausted all of your resources, and you know that a combination of endurance and physical strength are the keys to getting you through the entire tour.
You know that there will be hills, heat, unwanted competition and other obstacles that you’ll face.
However, you might not have thought of the mental obstacles yet, and sometimes those are the biggest ones.
Speaking from experience, I felt totally prepared for my first Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) tour. I was fit and healthy, and I spent time both in the gym and on the road to build my strength and endurance. When it came down to it – I wasn’t prepared.
I ran laps around the Boston Common and I biked the perimeter of the city to prove to myself that I could push through any cramps or inclines that crossed my path. Though, I didn’t expect that a bike tour would be as mentally challenging as it was.
Little Known Training Tips for Bicycle Touring
Here are a few tips I gained from personal experience that you might not have read about in your endurance training preparations.
Train Without Music
I’m a musician, and when I work out I simultaneously catch up on all the music I don’t get to listen to in my every day life. It’s great, but I noticed it actually became a flaw in my tour training routine.
When you go on a long tour, especially one without any hotel stops, your iPod will die. If you’re using a Walkman or a Discman, it’s too heavy, and it too will die (one way to get around this is with this 16 ounce solar charger, or with a Voltaic solar backpack).
Leaving behind your attachment to technology is one of the best parts of a long bike tour, but it poses a problem when you’ve built your riding patterns on music. I built mental endurance by telling myself things like, “go hard for just one more song!”
When my iPod finally died, I was riding for hours with my own thoughts – something I was totally unprepared for.
So, it’s okay to build your endurance with the help of music, but don’t let it become a major part of your regimen.
Spend a While in the Saddle
This tip is simple, but surprisingly easy to forget. On your bike tour, you’ll be sitting on your bike for a long time. Hours on end will be spent in a single position.
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When you’re training, you’ll probably do a few miles here, a few miles there. Even if you spend four hours on your bike in one day, you’re probably not going to do the same thing for three consecutive days in a row.
Before you go on you’re tour, spend as much time riding your bike as possible. It will help your body get used to the position and build calluses, but it will also give you an idea of how boring it can get sometimes.
On BRAG, I was surprised after the first day that I was about to wake up and keep going. In our society, we don’t normally do the same thing over and over unless it involves being sedentary.
Prepare your body and mind by practicing the repetition.
Practice Touring Nutrition
Eating healthy before your tour is different than eating healthy on your tour. Especially if you aren’t credit card touring, you’ll have packed small, healthy snacks to bring along with you.
Of course, good nutrition should be part of any athletic training routine. However, you’ll probably be eating fresh grilled chicken or a nice cold salad at home to prepare. Don’t forget that these things won’t be available on your tour.
Even if you don’t eat granola bars and trail mix at home to prepare, it’s important that you mentally prepare for less food on the tour. When I started touring for the first time, I was too excited to be hungry. However, after the first couple days it hit me that I wouldn’t be sitting down to a big meal any time soon, and that is a mental challenge. It’s one of the many little things that will keep reminding you how good giving up would feel.
When you’re touring, just be ready to pretend that big steak dinners and cold fresh salads don’t even exist. Some foods you’ll likely be eating on the road include:
- Granola bars
- Dried Fruit
- Simple sandwiches
Practice Positive Mental Conversations
Finally, you’ll need to flat out mentally prepare for your bike tour. Recently, I’ve been training for my first half marathon foot race, and a mentor imparted knowledge to me that I immediately applied to my experience with touring.
He said that if I wanted to, I could get up and run 13-miles right now, even though my personal best is only five. The only thing that separates the 13-mile runners and the 5-mile runners is the ability to stay mentally strong.
It makes sense – being able to run five miles is a good indication that I am physically fit and capable of more. However, when I get to five miles I am always so ready to quit. Every step of the way, it’s easy to convince yourself to give up.
Telling yourself to just keep pushing is difficult, but once you master the art you can go as far as you’d like. So, in your training, make sure you have positive internal conversations.
Instead of worriedly telling yourself to prepare for the difficult hill ahead, instead tell yourself that it’s time to shine on the tiny incline before you. Mute your brain when it’s yelling at you to stop and take a rest simply because its bored. It’s truly the ability that separates good athletes from amazing ones.
When it comes to bicycle touring, your mental preparations are just as important as your physical ones. You’ve got the quads to stay with the pack, but having a positive attitude and perseverance is even more important in some ways.
After learning these things on my first tour, I felt mentally prepared for all of my tours to come. Though, if you’re about to embark on your first, take these tips from me to be slightly more ahead of the game than I was.