How to Train for a Cross-Country Bicycle Tour

Last week, the Pedal Prepper, an alumni newsletter directed toward current Bike and Build participants, was e-mailed to all of the participants on my Boston to Santa Barbara route. While I clearly express unending gratitude to our alums, including Lindsay, for putting something like this together, I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree with the training guide presented on the last page. I don't think I'm alone here, either.

The training program presented in the Pedal Prepper looks to be ideal for one thing: training a non-athlete for a short triathlon. It recommends 2-3 rest days per week, and a combination of bicycle, running, and swimming workouts, none exceeding 60 minutes. It also suggests including a weight circuit.

My philosophy is that there is no better training for a bicycle trip than actual cycling. Nothing is as good as good old fashioned outdoor riding; if it's too cold for that, rollers are the next best thing. I understand that it's still quite cold outside in most of the country, and that riding is difficult, so I would encourage anyone doing the trip to try to put in more hours on Spinning bikes, indoor trainers, and/or rollers.

What do I do to train? I set up a bicycle with PowerCranks, which I ride for 90 minutes on my rollers, first thing in the morning, 6 days a week. I alternate between hard and easy days, and cycle between harder and easier weeks: easy, medium, hard, recovery. Once it gets a little warmer, I'll add in longer rides on the weekends, building to my 230-mile Intercity ride.

I don't expect most people to train the way I do, but some shorter, easier variant of it, with 60 minute rides leading up to a 100-mile ride, seems to be the way to go. You can throw in running and swimming if you're passionate for those activities, but there is no replacement for at least 5 hours a week in the saddle, at least 4 days a week, and that's the bare minimum.

Ride hard!