The cycle tourists’ non training plan

Training plan for a cycle trip is a pretty good idea… but we didn’t do it.

Our trip started from a small ski resort village called Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise, located in the French alps. It was winter time so obviously there was a fair amount of snow around, which made cycling slightly difficult! To embark on a cycle trip was not a part of our plan before coming to France to work a ski season. Several months lounging around in ski chalets, munching our weight in stinky cheese and guzzling litres of beer daily, and we were ready to go. We hadn’t bothered to create a training plan, and were not exactly in peak physical condition.

It was not physically possible for us to train on the bikes due to the snow. Kelly also had suffered a torn meniscus in her knee while skiing, which made it extra impossible.

We had only decided 6 weeks before our work contract ended that we were going to ride to China. So there was not a whole lot of time to plan and train for this silly adventure. I think we managed to borrow a car twice in the lead up to the trip. So on these rare occasions, we were able to drive to a lower altitude and ride for about 20km around a lake. That was our ‘training’. Pretty gruelling, huh?

In an ideal world it would have been nice to get in regular long rides, to get us physically and mentally prepared for the task we were about to undertake, but ultimately it did not matter that we couldn’t train, we had no training plan.

col du lautaret by bicycle
Col du Lautaret by bicycle

We had only purchased our bikes maybe 3 or 4 weeks before we set off. We only ridden them twice and had never ridden them fully or even partially loaded!

I will admit it was pretty terrifying rolling down the extremely steep and still slightly icy hill from the ski station on the first day of our trip with the panniers and backpacks fully loaded strapped to the bikes for the first time. Having never had weight on a bike while riding before it was quite a shock and probably a fairly dangerous introduction to cycle touring.

One piece of advice I would give is definitely do at least a few rides carrying weight just to get used to the way it changes the handling and responsiveness of the bike.

We had a really low budget. So, had opted for very cheap ($20) rear panniers off eBay and a 70 liter backpack on my rear rack, and a small daypack on Kelly’s bike, with homemade handlebar bags made from 6 pack coolers that I’d stitched buckles and straps to. So, we had a whole lot of junk in our trunk! Extremely heavy at the back and basically nothing up front. I would not recommend this set up. I definitely wouldn’t recommend not at least going for a few test runs with this set up… but we survived! Which only proves, it can be done!

In the end it would have been nice to have had more time to get in better shape. And, get used to riding the bikes (loaded or even unloaded), but ultimately it did not matter as we still managed to do what we set out to do, ride to China.

The first day we rode roughly 65 km and felt like we’d really achieved something great… this was by far the furthest either of us had ever ridden on a bike before. I remember laying in our tent on the side of the road that night feeling absolutely high and giddy. We can do this!

That first day was preparation for the second day, the second day was preparation for the third day and so it went on and on. An easy training plan to follow!

Everyday we felt slightly more comfortable and confident riding long distances ,and getting used to the bikes and the quirks of riding them when weighted down with stuff. The first few weeks were admittedly very tough physically due to our bodies just not being used to it, but like I said, everyday it got easier and gradually we were able to push on to greater distances.

I’m sure there is a wealth of information and tips out there for how to get in peak condition for a tour. If you have plenty of time up your sleeve to train, it would be a great idea to check them out and see if anything appeals to you. For me personally I found reading some of these blog posts and info about preparing for cycle touring, scared me and made me more nervous about the trip, as I knew that it was not possible for me to undertake any of these regimes. Sure we could have done training without actually being on a bike like body weight exercises and whatnot… but we just kind of never got around to it.

China by bicycle
At the Chinese border!

So is it essential to train? Absolutely not! The point I want to get across in this section is that anyone can go cycle touring. It’s as easy as… well as easy as riding a bike!

Even if you are not the fittest person out there. You can still do it and eventually your fitness levels will get higher and higher and the cycling will get easier and easier!

If you do not have time/access to a bike pre-trip or whatever, don’t sweat it! It really is quite a simple task; hop on a bike and just ride! Don’t get discouraged by reading posts about how hard you need to train. Or worry about the fact that you don’t have a $4000 bike with all the latest gadgets and fanciest German made gear. Just hit the road and go! You will learn along the way. Get better at it everyday and come to realise somethings that you would have maybe done differently, but ultimately you will be able to do it!!

Believe in yourself and you can achieve anythi….no I’m not actually going to say that. Just get on that bike and go my friend! Fully trained with legs of steel? Years of riding experience? Or, a total novice with no clue what you’re doing and calves that look broomsticks? It doesn’t matter you can do it, and ride wherever you want in this world!

Good luck and safe cycle trails!!

Do you have any additional tips for the cycle tourists’ non training plan? Please add your tips below.

Check out the videos from our France to China trip to see how we got on!

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