How to prepare for a multi-day gravel adventure?
Once you’ve decided to head off on a gravel adventure for a few days, it’s important to train a bit so that you are ready to deal with any challenges and make the most of the trip. Spending hours in the saddle if you aren’t used to it isn’t always fun, so its not a case of training for performance/racing, but getting your body used to riding for longer periods of time.
Having bagged some hours in the saddle beforehand will help make the whole trip a lot more enjoyable and the tough parts achievable and, dare we say it, enjoyable!
Here at GravelUp, we have three different trip formats depending on your fitness, experience and time available. They are: the Adventurer - 3 days, the Explorer - 5 days and the Pathfinder - 7 days. Each one is aimed at different fitness levels and will need a slightly different approach to preparing for it.
⇥ Ali, one of our guides, explains the different levels here.
Firstly what kit do you need?
1. Your bike
You really don’t need a flashy bike to get out pedalling, so it can be a road bike, or a mountain bike, or any kind of bike! What’s important is that you can sit on the saddle and pedal. Ideally you could put some larger tyres on your bike to allow you to head off road and give some gravel a go, before needing to invest in a new bike. If you can’t get off road beforehand, panic not! We welcome gravel newbies, and we have both normal and electric gravel bikes for hire in all our destinations.
No stress or pressure here! Whether you love lycra or you’re comfier in a more relaxed fit, what’s important is that your kit is breathable. And don’t forget some padded shorts under your baggies, you’ll be grateful for them by the end of the day!
3. A comfortable saddle
We can’t emphasise how important it is that your saddle is comfortable and works well with your padded shorts. Saddle sores/discomfort shouldn’t stop you enjoying your riding day after day. There’s a lot of choice on the market with all sorts of shapes and styles for every body type and budget.
4. Hydration and Nutrition
It goes without saying that staying well hydrated is a given for any bike ride. You can drink plain water or specific sports drinks with electrolytes and energy to fuel your ride. There’s lots of powders and tablets available for this, or make your own with some diluted squash/fruit juice and a pinch of salt.
In terms of nutrition, your body needs fuel for riding all day. Just eating when you're hungry, as you might do in normal life, won’t be enough to fuel you all day long. Good practice is to eat a little something every hour throughout your ride, even if you aren’t hungry, to avoid the dreaded sugar low (otherwise known as bonking!) Choose something easily digestible like bananas, cereal bars or fruit sweets/pouches.
Not to be forgotten to avoid the walk of shame! You never know when you’ll have a mechanical or a puncture, so you’ll need some basic tools: inner tube, tyre levers, small pump, multitool, and a puncture repair kit with glue and patches. Even if you don’t know how to use them, someone somewhere will.
Now lets get to the heart of it all - training!
You’ve chosen where you’re going to go and for how many days, its time to get ready! Whether you’re already a keen cyclist, or more of a Sunday warrior, riding back to back days and still smiling isn’t easy for everyone!
1. Get a routine
The best advice we can give here is to aim to build up to riding 90% of the max distance you are expecting to do in a day. So if your trip is made up of 60-80km a day, gradually build up your rides to 75km. You could start with 30-40km rides and build up little by little.
In terms of how many rides a week, that will depend on your current fitness and how much time you have available. We recommend at least 2 sessions/rides a week, and mixing up the type of effort. You could ride on the weekend and go for a run midweek if time is too tight to get the bike out. Bear in mind that you’ll be riding back to back days, so building up endurance is crucial.
2. Mix it up!
Life can be busy, and its easy to ride the same route time after time just because its the most accessible and you know how long it will take. Whilst this can be a good way to train, it can also get pretty dull so remember to mix it up and make it fun!
Riding gravel is all about variety, and you’ll encounter all sorts of surfaces and trails out and about. Its important to be able to deal with steep sections and washed out trails so practice on all sorts of surfaces. If you are relaxed on whatever the trail can throw at you, you’ll be way more relaxed on your trip!
Don’t forget to add some climbing into your training as they are a key part of preparing for any bike adventure, and that’s where you can develop strength and endurance.
3. Mental is as important as physical
Because yes, mental strength is 80% of the effort once on your bike! Don't stop pedalling because you will get there and you can do it! We’ll be there to ensure everything goes as well as possible once we’re on the trails.
The key to staying motivated is not to take training too seriously so that it doesn’t become too much of a grind. You need to listen to your body, sometimes it better to stay warm inside rather than riding in the rain all day and getting cold then ill. Gravel is all about pleasure, so make your rides fun and adventurous. Go exploring, with friends and recreate some of the terrain you might encounter on your trip if possible.
If you follow this advice you’ll be raring to go for a gravel adventure. All that’s left to be said is have a great trip!
A final word on the spirit of a GravelUp trip, from our founders.
A trip is an expérience that's in the moment, sometimes based on pure instinct... especially true on gravel! So you won't find a Day to Day itinerary hère at GravelUp, rather an open invitation to comme join us for an Adventure and a total disconnection from normal daily Life
Together we adapt to the région we are in. A GravelUp trip sin't a race, ils an Adventure to be savoured and shared. The average speed is the one that allows everyone to enjoy the landscapes we travel through. We start together and we finish together. That's the GravelUp spirit.
Olivier, JB et Aurélien
Find all our trips on our Destinations page ! ✌️
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