How to Prepare for a Multi-Day Ride
article by Taylor Thomas
Before embarking on a multi-day ride there are a few things that you’ll need to consider. One of the biggest and most obvious differences between single day rides and those lasting several days is the amount of riding. This “volume” is what makes the preparation different from most other events. The wear and tear on your body after many days of riding forces you to think differently about your training. Shifting some of your focus towards strength training to prepare your legs, and aerobic training to prepare your body will all be a part of a successful multi-day ride. Special attention will also need to be paid to nutrition and recovery, as the cumulative toll on your body is greater during multi-day efforts. Tackling any logistical challenges inherent in these types of rides is also important before you depart. Riding day after day can be both challenging and rewarding, and by focusing on a some key areas you can prepare your body and mind to tackle any length ride with confidence.
Preparing your body to ride day after day is the most important part of training for a multi-day ride. Typical training may involve a few rides with varied intensity followed by rest days or cross training. However, when training for a longer event it’s important to slowly add more riding into your schedule. Adding both time to the individual rides, as well as consecutives days of riding will help prepare your body for the strain of long rides. If the ride you’re planning is to be completed as a self supported bike tour, meaning you’ll be carrying all of your necessary equipment, then it’s also a good idea to add weight to your bike as you increase the volume. The extra weight will build the necessary leg strength to comfortably pedal the heavier bike, as well as familiarize you with how the bike handles when it’s loaded.
During preparation for multi-day rides the focus should shift away from high intensity interval training and towards endurance-based aerobic rides. Developing your aerobic system is vital for maintaining a consistent, comfortable pace over several days. If you’re using a heart rate or power meter these rides should be in Zone 2 or a perceived effort of 4 on a scale of 10. Also try to pace yourself during the beginning of a large block of training. Often times the effort during the first day of riding is much stronger than during the last day. Remind yourself during training that you’re mimicking the actual ride you’re preparing for, so pace is vital for finishing healthy and happy.
While endurance is no doubt important for multi-day rides, it must be developed in conjunction with strength. Just as the cardiac system must be strong enough to tackle day after day of riding, your muscular system must be just as resilient. Training for the demands of the specific ride is important to ensure preparedness. If the ride is going to be flat, your training should include some long, flat days to practice cadence and endurance. However, if the ride will cover hilly or mountainous terrain then incorporating climbing during your training rides is necessary. Each type of terrain requires different skills and will tax your body’s systems differently.
Incorporating strength workouts into your training routine will help develop the necessary muscles for the rigors of the ride, as well as allow you to hone in problem areas that may need attention. One day of strength training can help produce a well-rounded athlete, as well as help with injury prevention during hard blocks of training. Some great workouts to include are:
Squats – 3×10 each side with light weight
Burpees – 3×10 in rapid succession
Plank – 3×1 minute. Try to increase time during training
Lunges – 3×15 each side with light weight
Box Jumps – 3×10 in rapid succession
Workouts like these will help you to build power and muscular endurance, both of which are important during long rides. It can be easy to focus all of your attention on riding, but remember that developing strength is just as important as endurance when tackling long multi-day rides.
Nutrition and Recovery
Due to the increased caloric demands of longer rides, special attention needs to be paid to both nutrition and recovery during training as well as the main ride. Training rides are the perfect place to experiment with your nutrition on the bike, as well as the best foods for recovery after. Keep in mind that the goal is to not finish the day depleted, but rather fueled and ready for the next day of riding. Focusing more on “whole foods” and using gels and chews as supplemental fuels tend to help keep you full, and repair your body for the next day’s effort.
Once the day’s riding is complete shift the focus towards recovery, repairing, and replenishing. Recovery is vital in order to remain healthy day after day. The appropriate blend of carbohydrates and protein will help to fill you up and refill energy stores. Effective recovery foods should be dialed in during training so that you know what works when the main event arrives. Without proper nutrition and attention to recovery your body will respond poorly to the stress of multiple days of riding, so make these items top of mind when preparing.
Not to be overlooked are some of the logistical challenges that often times come with longer rides. Multi-day rides often take you further from home and into areas that you may not be familiar with. Take the time before your ride to familiarize yourself with the route, and any details that may need to be thought out prior to arriving. There may be things like tolls, bridges, or tunnels that may present certain challenges when on a bike. A little preparation can help relieve a lot of stress before you run into any of these issues. If you’re touring, a practice run can help work out any kinks in your set up and equipment. Plan a small overnight trip to dial in your bag placement, gear selection, and make sure that everything suits your needs. Being as prepared as possible before the main ride will relieve stress and help you feel confident in both your training and preparation.
Although multi-day rides are a departure both physically and mentally from more traditional single day rides or events, they’re a great way to push yourself and experience something new. Shifting your focus during training to preparing specifically for the rigors of riding day after day will allow you to ride with confidence. Your training should consist of multiple long endurance-based rides to train your aerobic system as well as at least one day a week of specific strength training. Use your training rides to hone in on your nutritional needs both for during and after the ride. Take the time to iron out any details that may cause issues during the ride. The challenges that are inherent with any ride lasting more than one day are the exact components that make it that much more rewarding upon completion.
Taylor Thomas is a dedicated endurance athlete with over a decade of experience as a competitive cyclist. He’s been involved in all facets of the sport, from working professionally with top brands like Trek and Specialized, founding race teams, organizing events, and personally competing at all levels. His racing background includes road, cyclocross, triathlon and ultra endurance events that push the body and mind to their limits. As a USAC certified coach and pro level mountain biker Taylor enjoys sharing what he’s learned with his athletes to help them achieve their goals. When he’s not on his bike he can be found on long trail runs or rock climbing in the mountains with his wife and dogs.
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