FOR ME, THERE’S NO BETTER way to travel scenic back roads than by bicycle. In particular, I’ve found that multi-day trips –“supported” rides where you pay to have luggage delivered to you on the route–are a great way to test your perseverance and to earn the self-indulgence of the after parties.
With summer under way, these non-competitive rides are popping up across the country. Here’s a look at how to get yourself and your bike ready for your first multi-day.
Training and preparation
• Take plenty of long rides in the months leading up to the event. If you’re doing a multi-day ride, you’ll also want to practice riding long distances two days in a row. This will condition your muscles and allow you to troubleshoot anything from what food to eat to what kind of saddle you’ll require.
• Know the terrain, and be sure you’re prepared for any climbs. Some organizations may post training guides online; find them. The more closely you follow their suggestions, the happier you’ll be.
• Know your bike. Take a fix-a-flat class or learn basic bike maintenance. While many rides have some sort of rider support, you’ll feel more comfortable if you’re able to fend for yourself. Be sure to carry tire levers, a pump and spare tubes in case of a flat, or cash to buy spares on the route if they’ll be available.
• Familiarize yourself with the rules of the road. Know the laws for cycling on roads and your rights as a cyclist. Be sure to learn hand signals and common courtesies for group riding.
• Rides may have food and water stops, but you’ll want to carry some of your own. Figure out what works best for you by experimenting with water bottles or a hydration pack with a hose. You’ll be burning thousands of calories a day, so fuel up early and often, before you feel hungry or thirsty. Drinks with electrolytes, salty snacks, and carbs are a must.
• Invest in a good bike seat. Finding the right fit comes only from experimenting and trying out different brands, and you should be prepared to drop some cash on the right seat. It’s also a good idea to invest in padded bike shorts.
• Get a bike fit. Bike shops can usually help; fitting your bike will make you comfortable and help prevent injuries.
• Be prepared for boredom. Long practice rides will help ease the toll of those lonely miles on your mind. Better yet, arrange to ride with a buddy.
• If the ride isn’t a loop, figure out in advance how you and your bike will get back to the starting line. Many organizations provide bus service for a fee, but it’s up to you to be organized.
• Don’t forget about sleeping arrangements for overnight rides. Book in advance if you prefer a hotel room, as they’ll fill up quickly on rides through small towns.
Three of the best rides to start with
More challenging multi-day rides and one-day rides exist across the US. You can search for US cycling events of all lengths on Bicycling Magazine’s Event Finder.
You can find more tips to get your bike road-ready in Matador Sports’ guide How to Set Up Your Bike for Touring This Summer.