How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Bike Ride

So, you’ve always wanted to ride the entire 239-mile length of one of the country’s longest rail-trails, the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri, and have now committed to it. You have the right bike and other necessary gear, reserved accommodations en route, researched the trail, and determined reasonable daily goals. The only thing left to do is to actually train for the ride. If you are like many people, this can be the most daunting task.

Whether you are heading to the Katy Trail, another route, or participating in a long-distance biking event, proper training will be the deciding factor in how enjoyable the experience ultimately is for you. It’s always a good idea to discuss your plan with your doctor and, if this is new territory for you, consider consulting a fitness professional to put you on the right track. How much you train to work up to your goal of course will be determined by your overall fitness level and current cycling ability, but there are some generalizations that can be made.


Be realistic about your abilities and your timeframe

Obviously, the better shape you’re in to start with and the longer time you have to prepare, the easier it will be to reach your goal. If your trip is planned for early spring and you’re not typically a winter rider, you will need to either commit to indoor riding or prepare yourself for cold-weather riding. Consistent training is better for your body and will result in a much more pleasant experience than trying to cram it in last minute. But be careful not to overdo it. Over-training can have negative impacts on your health and hold you back from reaching your goals.

Katy Trail State Park, MO | Photo by: Danielle Taylor


Plan your training regime

The idea of periodization is to break time down into different periods in which you focus on various aspects of training, building on each period to help you achieve your goal. Training for a long-distance ride requires gradually building up strength by increasing the length and intensity of your rides. Periodization can help you do this. When planning your own regime, begin by keeping track of your mileage and gradually increasing this amount each week to fit your timeframe. You are looking to increase your aerobic base, but keep the workouts pretty moderate at the onset. Eventually, you will need to incorporate strength training into your program. Finally, it is important to have a recovery phase where you continue training, but greatly reduce the intensity so that your body can recover. Typically, this is a week or so before the actual event.

Photo by: 8bar bikes | CC BY-ND 2.0


Focus on hydration and nutrition

This may seem obvious, but in fact it’s an aspect many people fail to properly consider. Get the most out of training by staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet. While riding, continue to pay close attention to ensure that you’re consuming enough calories, are not skipping meals, and are putting good things in your body. Be sure to continue hydrating even after you stop for the day.

Training for a long-distance bike ride need not be an arduous undertaking. The more time you have to train, and the more gradually you ramp up, the more likely you will be to effectively and efficiently achieve your goals, and the more likely you will enjoy it. You will have achieved a tremendous goal and likely will begin planning the next ride soon thereafter!

Cardinal Greenway, IN | Photo: Courtesy Cardinal Greenway, Inc.


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