Training to Cycle New Zealand

Introduction

In March 2017 I will be bikepacking 3000 km, solo and unsupported across New Zealand. I will be cycling mostly off road and carrying all of my own supplies and equipment. Off Road Aotearoa is almost ready to begin! This is a major undertaking and the biggest solo challenge I have yet attempted. I feel ready but how did I get to this point?

I am 6”5 (195 cm ), 27 years old and have the knees of a decrepit geriatric. When I move my joints crackle and grind like wet wood in a fire. My body has been described as both ‘absurd’ and ‘unsustainable’ from close friends (thanks girls! haha). So for those of us who haven’t been gifted with the perfect body and actually need to train up for an adventure, here is my training plan. This is an adapted version of the plan from Jeff’s Bike Blog. I think it works well for cycling but could definitely be changed again for almost any endurance event/ ultra-distance expedition.

Early Days Pre-training (around a month)

Start small especially if this your first tour, I began just riding to work and back and taking a slightly longer way each time. So about 15 mins there and 30 mins back five times a week. On my day off I would go for a bigger ride or hiking usually around 1.5 hours ride or a 2/3 hour hike. For setting that base level of riding, doing a  little bit everyday helps build the connective tissue in the joints (what little I have left) without making you too tired. I rode in all weathers too, right through NZ winter so I got to try out my waterproofs and layering system.

Training Month 1

Now the base level of fitness had been reached I started to up the ante and the time in the saddle. This is the most important bit. Don’t worry about distances per week just look for more time in the saddle. Hard rides at this point will just be hillier or riding faster.

  • Mon-Cross train (generally hiking or swimming or both)
  • Tue-Big ride 1-2 hours, hard
  • Wed-rest
  • Thu-Ride 1 hour, easy
  • Fri-rest
  • Sat-rRde 1 hour, easy
  • Sun-rest

Bare in mind I work as a chef, so work long and quite physical hours especially on the weekends, so I tend to go easy when work is busiest. My days off are Mon and Tues so they would be my big training days.

 

Training Month 2

Now I was starting to feel quite good on the bike and started adding more varied terrain. More technical riding and singletrack kept it interesting and more difficult. I also upped the times, as well as riding to and from work everyday. The cross training is an interesting addition. It allowed me to test my fitness in other ways whilst still training the legs. The hiking was good for strengthening the knees and preparing me for any hike-a-bike scenarios. The swimming was purely to work on my lung capacity and give the knees a rest.

  • Mon-Cross train (generally hiking or swimming or both)
  • Tue-Big ride 2-5 hours, hard
  • Wed-rest
  • Thu-Ride 2 hour, easy
  • Fri-rest
  • Sat-Ride 1 hour, hard
  • Sun-rest

Training Month 3

Again gradual progress, if I started to feel run down or like I was getting sick I would back off and take it easy. Overtraining feels a lot like the start of the flu. Aching joints and sensitivity to the cold are good indicators your about to over-train. Stop and rest, make sure your getting enough sleep.  I started throwing in some yoga for a little bit of variety and found I felt great after and much more flexible, rather than shuffling around the kitchen with aching joints. Doing back to back days is good practice for the expedition but make the second day of riding easier to let yourself recover a little.

  • Mon-Big ride 3-5 hours
  • Tue-Ride 2-4 hours and cross train if possible.
  • Wed-swim/yoga
  • Thu-Ride 2 hour, hard
  • Fri-rest
  • Sat-Ride 1 hour. easy
  • Sun-rest

Training Month 4

At this point I had been gathering all my equipment bit my bit and it was time to start doing overnight trips. Testing out ways to carry gear and testing the gear itself. Riding in the rain is the best way to check how waterproof your stuff is. Plus I’m a firm believer it’s good for building character!

 

Food and water are important thing to take into account here. How much are you using and how often? I eat every hour without fail (also a good time to apply some sunscreen) and drink on the move. Water consumption varies depending on the weather but I aim to go for a pee at least twice a day whilst riding, that’s just me however, I generally drink lots of water even when I’m not training (about 5-6 litres a day! Yea I know that is a lot but I always have). Doing some calculations according to Biiu Thomas’s book ‘Feed Zone Portables’, I came to the conclusion I needed to intake about 340 kcal per hour. I am still working on the best method for this so please wait for more info when I have fully perfected my diet plan/ idea.

  • Mon- Ride 3-5 hours loaded -camp overnight
  • Tue- Ride 3-5 hours loaded back
  • Wed-swim/yoga
  • Thu-Ride 3 hour, hard
  • Fri-rest
  • Sat-ride 2 hour, easy
  • Sun-rest

 

Training month 5

This is where I am currently. The final month and feeling strong. I went back and rode some of my earlier ‘hard rides’ and can really see the difference! All of my current rides include long hills (I happened to bump into Kate Fluker (NZ XC legend),  and she advised ‘if you haven’t got much time, hills are good for the building intensity’). I mix up riding loaded and unloaded and vary trail surface to try to simulate varied terrain.

I am planning to ride around 6-7 hours a day at the start of the expedition, so I have been riding 8-10 hour days during training. Riding further than needed helps with confidence showing that I can push it if I need to. In my last week or two I will relax slightly just stick to 6-7 hour days and really focus on getting my packing and diet correct.

  • Mon- Ride 5-7 hours loaded -camp overnight
  • Tue- Ride 5-7 hours loaded back
  • Wed-swim/yoga
  • Thu-Ride 3 hour, hard
  • Fri-rest
  • Sat-ride 2 hour, easy
  • Sun-ride 2 hour, easy (occasionally camp Sun night too and have a three day camp/ ride)

No excuses

This is just a brief overview of what I personally have been doing. I’m still working full time, still have bills to pay and grown up stuff like shopping and cooking and cleaning. I have managed to fit this training in around my life and, up until the last month with very little difference in my social life (the last month being an exception where I am literally just riding and planning). Anyone can do this plan or can at least adapt it to their schedule. Going for an epic expedition takes time, yes, but it’s not as much time as you would think. The average person watches 20+ hours a week of television! That’s more than all the training hours on the bike for the final month! So let’s get out there and start seeing some adventures!

 

 

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