I have read a TON of cycle touring blogs in the last few months. I have read gear lists, and packing lists, and itineraries, and food plans, and camping tales (enough of these to make me secretly glad that Jason doesn’t camp – it doesn’t sound like a ton of fun!), as well as a lot of practice schedules.
Practice schedules. All the advice says, and most people do, head out on their bikes at least once before hitting the road for their cycle tour. A chance to shake out the cobwebs, make sure all the equipment is working right, and to gain the strength in their legs (and their lungs) to power them through the ride.
We haven’t done any of that.
I know, it sounds crazy…but we have some very good reasons:
1. Why get a sore bum early?
There is no doubt that your a$$ is going to hurt like a son-of-a-b*tch once you start riding for hours on end. I can’t imagine that there is anything to be done now that will make that not happen – unless, of course, you replace your office chair with a bicycle seat until you leave. So why subject yourself to such torture before you absolutely have to?
I’m not. There is only one way to work through the bicycle seat pain and that’s to just keep on going so I’ve resigned myself to the fact it’s going to hurt for a while and I’ll deal with it then. Starting now only increases the pain period and, really, who needs that?
2. It’s winter.
We have spent the last nine months in southern Ontario here in Canada through what is reported to be the worst winter in 20 years. Temperatures averaged -10C (14F) and dipped as low as -25C (-13F); I haven’t seen so much snow since I was a little girl. Great weather for building snow forts, ice skating on the local pond, or snowmobiling through the fields but not so great for trying out the new bikes.
There are a couple of ways you could practice even through an icy winter like this one:
- Join spin classes. Almost every gym these days offer spin classes; a great way to get cardio training in while strengthening those all-important let muscles.
- Get an indoor trainer. This is a great option because you can hook your own bike up to it and train on the actual bike that you’ll be riding all those kilometers later on.
We, of course, did neither of these things. We have been working out like crazy and doing loads of stair sets but, although we’re in good shape, I know that running up and down stairs is not the same thing as riding a bike. So, I say, what’s the point? Is that time on the trainer, or those spin classes, really going to make a difference once you get on the bike?
3. What if you don’t like it?
This is probably my biggest fear. What if I start practicing here and discover that I don’t like it? What if I think it’s too hard or it hurts too much? Getting on a bike and practice riding around familiar neighbourhoods and up the dreaded hills you know are coming is quite different than jumping into it in a foreign country where everything is new and exciting. If I know that I have to push through to the end of the day, I just will because I have to. I don’t want to jump on a bike here and start to doubt whether I can do it or not – I’ll just dive in head first and assume that I’m going to love it!
4. Can you really be prepared to ride a bike for up to 8 hours a day?
Is there any amount of on-the-bike training or practicing that would really prepare me for riding 6, 7, or 8 hours a day day-after-day? I think not. Unless I was prepared to ride for 6, 7, or 8 hours a day day-after-day leading up to our actual cycle tour of Europe. Reason #2 takes care of that possibility, and thank goodness because although I’m really looking forward to riding through Europe, stopping at cafés and pubs along the way, the appeal (for me) of riding that much in Canada, past cow fields and through long stretches of desolate highway, just isn’t the same.
I don’t think we’re as unprepared as it must sound. We rode mountain bikes for years and years when we lived on the west coast of Canada; we are very familiar with being on bikes in all kinds of terrain and weather. We’ve ridden for hours on end and done multi-day trips so we know the level of physical activity we’re getting into. We work out regularly and so are in fairly good shape – both cardio and strength – and we are well aware that being ‘in shape’ doesn’t mean it won’t hurt and that we won’t find muscles we had no idea we had!
I guess only time will tell. I’ll let you know if our ‘no practice’ routine was a good idea or not!