Training and preparing for a bike camping trip

Cofounder, Head of Creative

Training and preparing for a bike camping trip

Cofounder, Head of Creative

Take any bike you love.

Credit: Tim Tiebout

If you’re going to take a long-distance bike trip, whether it’s your first of the season, or your first ever, we have some recommendations on how to get started.

Aside from the gear you'll be taking on the trip, which we covered in this article, there's two other areas you should be thinking about ahead of time: your bike and your body.

In order to have the best experience, we've put together some basic steps you can take to make sure your bike is safe and that you'll be physically prepared for a trip.

Let’s start with your bike

There’s been much wisdom shared about what kind of bike to take on a bike camping trip, but we believe that any bike can work, as long as it’s in safe working order. You can ride a cheap Craigslist hand-me-down, a commuter, a road bike, a mountain bike or a professional touring bike. But there’s a few important things to consider.

Start by asking yourself: do you feel safe riding this bike between 40 and 60 miles, essentially between 4 and 6 hours? 

As a quick check, make sure your brakes are responsive; check the drivetrain for any problems; test the gears to make sure they are working; and use this bike during the training rides we outline below in this article. If you have doubts about your bike, it’s definitely worth taking it to a local bike shop to have them give you a second opinion. 

When was the last time you had a flat tire? If it’s been a while, it might be worth swapping out your tubes or getting new tires before a long ride, to save yourself the trouble on the road.

You should also consider the last time your bike had a tuneup. Although it can be cost prohibitive, annual tuneups can help make your bike last longer. We can’t recommend enough stopping by your local bike shop before your ride, for a quick check or a full tuneup. 

To train or not 

Bike touring can be hard work, but we’ve designed Bikeout trips to be friendly to beginner long-distance riders. 

Our trips and guides usually fall into a 25- to 45-mile range, a challenging but accessible amount of mileage for folks who are new. Still, that makes a round-trip total of 50-90 miles, since you’ll likely be riding for two days. And those miles can add up fast.

On our own trips, we’ve gone as far as 75 miles in a day (many experienced tourers do far more than this, upwards of 100 to 125 miles in a day). But we’ve found that our favorite trips were focused on taking our time and not tiring out. 

Still, we’ve found that getting out on the saddle before a trip can dramatically help the impact, but there’s another school of thought out there too: just let the ride be the training. 

Whatever you decide, we’ve put together a basic plan for how to prepare, if you’d like to have a more comfortable experience. 

Our general training recommendations:

  • If possible, start commuting around town every day, to work or on errands.
  • Plan a weekly exploration with your buds. Go somewhere new, and go farther than you have before. 
  • Work up to carrying the gear you plan on bringing: it’s important to get accustomed to carrying the weight you’ll have with you on a bike camping trip.
  • If you’re a jogger or do strength-training, we find that these extra workouts will make the ride even easier.

So, how are you gonna get those legs in shape? We’re not fitness experts, but here’s what we’ll typically do before we head out on a bike trip.

  • 8 weeks before: Start regular weekday commutes, 3-5 miles each day
  • 7 weeks before: Ride an 5-10 mile route
  • 6 weeks before: Ride a 10-15 mile route
  • 5 weeks before: Ride a 20-25 mile route
  • 4 weeks before: Ride a 40-50 mile route
  • 3 weeks before: Ride a 40-50 mile route with light gear (20 pounds in backpack or panniers)
  • 2 week before: Ride a 40-50 mile route with medium gear (30 pounds)
  • 1 week before: Ride a 40-50 mile route with full gear (40 pounds)

Brian James Kirk is the head of Bikeout's creative team, in charge of brand and marketing.

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Training and preparing for a bike camping trip
How to prepare your bike and your body for a long-distance bike trip.
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