In a blog last week, I gave you detailed data for the first three days of a bike tour. At the end of the blog I told you I’d show you data from one of my heart rate files in a rested state and let you know how the tour ended. Additionally, I want to let triathletes know that you don’t have to be riding your bike 6 days a week and endless miles to be fit enough to do a bike tour.
Day 4 of the tour I did a “no pressure on the pedals” day. I needed a recovery day. Though it was still a pretty big day riding – out 4:45 and ride time atabout 3:40, average heart rate was low at 109 and max heart rate was only 137.
Day 5 I didn’t ride at all and did an easy hike. On day 6, my intention was to hit the climb, Rabbit Ears Pass, at threshold. I had to modify my desire as I couldn’t manage threshold intensity. I find that on bike tours the more days I ride, the more warm-up I need. There wasn’t enough warm-up before the climb to push it at threshold (151-164). Secondly, the accumulated fatigue in my legs was just too much. The best I could manage was a fairly steady Zone 3 effort (144-150), dipping into high Zone 2 when I lost focus.
Day 7 was a nice way to end a tour – the last half of the ride was downhill and a good chunk of the day had tailwind. To average 21.3 miles per hour over 67 miles with anaverage heart rate of 117 is pretty darn nice. There was even a generous amount of toodling on that day. (i.e. We didn't push average speeds at all.) You’ll see that heart rate was above 140 for just a couple of pops.
In the first blog of this series, I gave you summary data. What I find over the course of a big week like this, is that the ability for me to push threshold heart rate (and above) degrades as the week progresses. Even recovery days and one day off won’t be enough recovery for most people. I’ve written about race recovery time in a past column. Though this wasn’t a race, I expect it will take me some 14 to 21 days to fully recover.
What I mean by "fully recover" is that I could drive high heart rates for extended periods like seen on this file. (Ignore the elapsed time as I forgot to turn off the Garmin. This was a race where I slit a tire at mile 18.5 and limped my way back to the start after a tire change that could have been timed with a sun dial – notice the temperature spike when I started rolling again.)
For the triathletes out there, know that I still train like a triathlete though my key races this season are mountain bike events. I was fully capable of completing the bike tour of near 460 miles and 29 hours of ride time in spite of the fact that in the 12 weeks prior to the bike tour, my weekly training hours were typically between six and 13. Those hours typically included two hours of swimming and two hours of running. Some weeks the hours included 30 to 60 minutes of strength training.
Key points: Cross training helps your fitness for a bike tour and you don’t have to give up the other sports to prepare for the tour. I do recommend cutting those crosstraining sports during the tour so you can fully focus on cycling.
In summary, if you:
Properly prepare for a bike tour
Pick key days to ride fast
Use some days as aerobic-only ride days
Recover properly after the tour
…I guarantee your fitness will see a significant boost. Obviously your cycling will improve. Not as obvious, I’ve seen improvements in swimming and running (after full recovery) for triathletes and I believe this is due to the huge increase in aerobic training.
You can find bike tour preparation plans on ActiveTrainer and in my book “Training Plans for Cyclists." One of those plans may help you prepare for, enjoy and benefit from a bike tour.
The weather started to shape up on the third day of the tour, yeah!
Day 2: The ride went from Granby to Steamboat Springs and included Muddy Pass (8,772 ft) and Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 ft). Relative to the last couple of days, today was uneventful. I’ll take it. (83 miles, 3386 ft. of climbing)
Though the weather was better, the pass still required vests and arm warmers for Ron, Gale and Scott.
The rabbit ears - of Rabbit Ears Pass fame. Ron Kennedy, Gale Bernhardt and Scott Ellis doing a mix and match of Peloton Cycles gear on top of Rabbit Ears Pass.
Day 3: From Steamboat Springs we were supposed to ride to Glenwood Springs. The ride was to go through the Glenwood Canyon that spans from Dotsero to Glenwood Springs. This canyon is often on lists of “most beautiful drives” in the United States. My preference is to ride the canyon on the bike path that runs just below the interstate and parallels the car pathway. Unfortunately, the high water runoff this season encouraged the Colorado River to submerge the bike path in several locations. In at least one location the path has been destroyed and sent downriver in pieces. Read more here from the Glenwood Post Independent. (Steamboat to Gypsum was 87 miles, 4783 ft. of climbing)
Calm Colorado River bulging at the seams. The bike path is just below the road surface, underwater. A different section of the Colorado River as it rages through a steeper and rocky section.
Bikes were left in Gypsum and people were transported by bus to Glenwood Springs. Most people were happy to have a day off in Glenwood Springs and take the opportunity to enjoy a raft trip on safe parts of the river, swim in the hot springs pool or take a tramway ride to the caverns.
Others (like Bruce Runnels, Ed Shaw and Gale) had a way to get bikes to Glenwood Springs and took an easy ride to the State Fish Hatchery and soaked in the views of Storm King Ranch. The day off ended with me in a somberero and singing...but that's another story.