Training for your mountain biking holiday

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Any extra effort you put into training for your mountain biking holiday will pay dividends when the trip time finally comes!

Before you embark on a mountain bike tour, you should really concentrate time on training for your mountain biking holiday

Training for your mountain biking holiday with us will allow you to get the most from it and ensure that you really do have the trip-of-a-lifetime. But, if you’ve not been on a mountain bike tour or ridden in a particular country before, you may not be sure exactly what’s required to get in shape for your adventure.

So, to give you some guidance on the type of training you should undertake to prepare yourself for your adventure, we asked Alex Glasgow, our longest-standing guide in Scotland and also an experienced and successful racer, to offer his advice. Over to you Alex!

Training for your mountain biking holiday with H+I Adventures

If you’ve booked one of our intermediate or advanced mountain biking adventures, such as Nepal, Switzerland, the coast-to-coast Scotland, Spain, Ecuador, or British Columbia, you might be riding for up to six or eight hours a day, for three or four days consecutively, on some pretty challenging terrain at times, before the (optional?!) rest day. This is a considerable workload over multiple days, and requires a good level of fitness. The fitness required can be achieved by anyone in reasonable physical condition over the course of a couple of months of regular cycling. Deciding a week or two before you go on holiday that you aren’t fit enough and putting in loads of effort, is too little too late; your body takes a few months at least to adapt and improve as a result of training. So start NOW!

Am I allowed to quote roadies here?! Forgive me…

Fausto Coppi, when asked to give advice about training, replied “Ride a bike. Ride a Bike. Ride a bike”. And Eddy Merckx, “Don’t buy upgrades; ride up grades”.

The gist of these quotes is pretty simple, really; getting fit for biking is achieved through riding a bike, as often as possible, and if you can ride hard, push yourself, tire yourself out, then all the better. RIDE YOUR BIKE!

There aren’t any excuses – if you are sitting in your lounge, it’s cold outside, that first effort to get off the sofa and get the bike shoes on, is the hardest effort – once you are pedalling you will be glad you did!

I have spent a few years training for cross country mountain bike racing. During this training, I generally averaged around 10 hours a week of bike riding (around five rides a week, usually between one and two hours duration but at least one three hour ride per week). It’s not a huge hourly total for a racer, but it was enough, and training improvement can be maximised by riding hard, at high intensity, and particularly undertaking ‘intervals’ during the ride – for example, attacking a two-minute hill flat-out, and repeating this six times with three minute gentle riding between efforts.

Any extra effort you put into training for your mountain biking holiday will pay dividends when the trip time finally comes!

A feature of my annual training calendar was ‘periodisation,’ whereby I would sequentially increase training intensity (and duration to an extent) over three weeks, then have a recovery week, which had few hard efforts and a reduced overall duration, before beginning another 4 week cycle. This allows fuller and more effective recovery and physical adaption.

You’ll be happy to hear that this intense level of training is not really necessary for an H+I Adventures mountain biking vacation! Some interval training will reap benefits on the long days, allowing you to tackle that last little ‘undulation’ towards the end of the day, where otherwise you might have just decided to walk. And, if you are training relatively hard, some level of periodization might be beneficial to your recovery. Remember that during intense periods of training, your strength increases during recovery, not during effort.

Finally, one or two really long rides in the months prior to your holiday, something like 6 hours, will allow you to experience how riding intensity needs to be reduced during these long rides, and how much food and water you need for a long day on the bike. Remember that our long days are at a steady pace, and do include many stops for rest and to admire the view, so don’t worry – it’s not ‘bootcamp’!

A realistic training regime for an intermediate/ advanced H+I Adventures tour might be something like:

12 to 8 weeks to go
Two rides of one to one and a half hours during the week, and a ride of two hours at the weekend (around five hours total). Generally ride steadily, depending on your fitness, but try to make an effort on the hill climbs, or if you live somewhere without hills, make a few varied short periods of harder riding through the middle of the ride. If this amount of riding is a real step up from your normal, don’t be disheartened if it feels tough for the first week or two, and you don’t see immediate gains – it takes a while, stick with it. Week 8 – take things a bit more easy if you have been pushing it.

7 to 4 weeks to go
Two rides of one to two hours during the week, and a ride of two to three hours at the weekend (six hours total). If you can squeeze in an extra ride somewhere, all the better. Ride steadily, as explained above, but as your fitness improves, try to increase the pace, push a few more of the climbs, push them harder, you should find that your ability to recover your breathing on the move improves, and this is a great benefit. Week 4 – have a more steady recovery week again if you have been working hard.

“The gist of these quotes is pretty simple, really; getting fit for biking is achieved through riding a bike”

3 to 2 weeks to go
Keep the same weekly duration total as above (or a bit more if you can fit it in), but more importantly, increase the intensity of effort during the ride generally, and the intensity of the intervals within the ride. (Always remember to include a 10-15 minute steady warm up at the start of the ride though.) You should be coming home really tired. And maybe that 6 hour ride can be squeezed in about now?

1 week to go
Ease up. Any fitness gained by riding hard this week will be overshadowed during your holiday next week by fatigue, so take it easy. Reduce duration as well as intensity. Give your bike a bit of love and pampering, replace the cables and brake pads, get a fork service, check everything works fine, give it an oil, and pack it away, ready for next week’s superb riding!
We hope this provides some inspiration and useful tips for getting in shape to make the most of your adventure with us, but if you have any questions about training for your mountain biking holiday, get in touch and we’ll be delighted to help. Happy training!

Found this useful? Why not read our “Riding at high altitudes“, “Riding technique” and “Skills part 1” blogs for further advice.

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