How to train for a cycling trip

Some advice from Matteo Venzi, founder of Rolling Dreamers, on how to be ready and not suffer during a multi-day cycling trip.

Home Road Bicycles Tips How to train for a cycling trip

Cycling is the perfect way to discover magnificent places slowly and enjoy an immersive experience, keep fit and live new adventures that are tough to beat on the road alone or in the company of friends. However, having the right level of training is important to enjoy the ride to the fullest and not turn the trip into a crying pain. So we asked Matteo Venzi, founder of Rolling Dreamers, who organises tailor-made and exclusive bike tours.

How long in advance should you start training for a cycling trip about 400 kilometres long?

“Starting from scratch, I think six months is an adequate preparation time to be in the best conditions for setting off and enjoying the trip without suffering as the days go by. Keep in mind that cycling trips, especially on gravel and with bike packs are slow. It can take up to 7-8 hours to travel 100 kilometres. The problem is not doing an 80-100 kilometre stage, but doing it for three or four days in a row. You have to be accustomed to being in the saddle and pedalling for a long time”.

How many days a week should you cycle to train?

“At least three days a week are essential, perhaps two or three short rides on weekdays, on the road or rollers, if you can't get out and then a longer ride at the weekend.”

Approximately how many kilometres should you cycle per week?

“Ideally, 200 kilometres a week would be great. As I mentioned before, the important thing on a trip is to be sure to be able to ride for several days in a row, so think about how you feel after the long weekend ride. If the day after you are still very tired, it means that maybe you are not ready.

Can following a specific training plan or being followed by a trainer help?

“It helps to optimise the time available, which is normally very tight. The current trend is to focus more on quality and intensity, rather than huge volumes, with workouts that work in heart zones a little higher than the usual aerobic exercise.”

Preparing for a bike trip is not only about pedalling, right?

“Exactly. One of the biggest mistakes is to think that training is just about spending time on the saddle, but it is not. We recommend at least two other very important activities. You need to work on flexibility and mobility to avoid injuries and imbalance. Keeping your muscle fibres elastic and flexible is important. The second aspect to work on is core strength. The goal here is not to lift heavy weights, but to have a good basic physical condition, which helps you not to suffer in the saddle. Bodyweight exercises can be sufficient”.

How important is training for a trip on unpaved roads?

“Gravel trails are normally a bit more muscular. The wheels run less and speeds are slower. The effort and fatigue are basically the same because at the end of the day pedalling is still pedalling, but being slightly more technical, these roads require more attention and require you to spend a little more nervous energy.

Does training with loaded bike packs make sense?

“It is certainly good to have tried everything you're going to need on the trip. It's better to find out what is bothering you in advance, if it damages stability or if you are unbalanced. Usually, the more you travel, the better balance you achieve.”

What else can't be missing when preparing for a cycling trip?

“You have to be prepared for emergencies, know first aid techniques and have a basic knowledge of mechanics, for small operations, like adjusting the shifter or replacing an inner tube. Familiarising with your navigation devices and maps is also important because there is nothing worse than not being sure of the way.”

What is your favourite cycling route in Italy?

“I really like the Pilgrims Way, a route that heads southwards from Florence. At Siena you take the Via Francigena to Rome, crossing beautiful landscapes such as the Crete Senesi, the Val d'Orcia, to the iconic destination in St Peter's Square”.