Adventure riding tours fall into the category of cycling holidays or bike trips but have a more defined purpose. In most instances they aim to raise money for a specific cause while giving people a unique way to see some amazing sights. Many adventure tours also simplify the travel experience by providing bikes to ride. Riding tours can be a rewarding and fun experience allowing you to move off the road and away from mainstream tourism to see parts of a country not possible in a car. They are often linked to a charity or fund raising causes to help those who are not in a position to help themselves.
We spoke to Laura from Inspired Adventures, a group whose riding tours tick all of those boxes to get some helpful advice for first timer's on how to prepare for an adventure riding tour.
Basic training tips
Before you undertake any training program it's best to visit your GP for the 'all clear'.
Cycling is the most obvious exercise to get involved with but walking, running, aerobics and strengthening exercises will also make the cycling component easier. The distance, speed, terrain and profile can differ dramatically depending on the location and type of tour you are on so be sure to do some research before you sign up.
In most cases the riding component of a tour will be longer than an hour but no longer than 4 hours. For those that haven't done day rides before four hours may seem like a lot of time but remember a riding tour isn't a race, it's a ride with a purpose that will enable you to see some beautiful sights and soak up the local landscape. There will most likely be frequent stops, points to regroup and designated ride leaders to offer assistance and encouragement along the way.
To prepare for the time a day in the saddle may take, try to be active for the same amount of time. If you are expecting the longest day to take you three hours, try doing a ride for 2 hours then walking for an hour as soon as you get off the bike. You may even split the time between a walk, a fitness class and some gardening or household chores. As long as you are confident you can be moderately and consistently active for several hours at a time, you can be confident of completing the distance when the time comes.
To prepare for varied terrain and profile mix up your ride locations as much as possible. Make sure you complete some rides on flat roads, undulating roads and even some long hills. And make sure you do some riding off road. It's very unlikely a whole riding tour will take place on smooth bitumen, so try riding on some dirt tracks or park land.
For first timers, it's not all about the bike. There are many activities you can do off the bike to prepare for your adventure. Strength work is a great training tool that is efficient, cost effective and you can do it almost anywhere. Simple exercises like squats, step ups and sit ups will strength your legs and core. Walking up stairs is a great way to build leg strength and get a cardiovascular workout at the same time. Within any strength or exercise regime you undertake, make the focus to build strength and endurance through your legs and core, and do it progressively to avoid any chance of injury.
What to pack
Packing for an adventure riding tour is more complex than you might think. There are the obvious inclusions like a helmet, toothbrush and clothes, but a few select items can make the adventure all the more enjoyable.
Regardless of the amount of riding to be done on the tour it is imperative you pack multiple cycling specific shorts and tops. Cycling specific shorts are sometimes called 'knicks' or 'bib shorts' and have a pad (chamois) to make sitting for long periods of time comfortable. The padding is usually thicker in specific areas to conform to a bicycle seat shape while still allowing freedom of movement. The shorts will generally be made out of a lightweight, breathable fabric that is bacteria resistance to further aid comfort and reduce the severity of any foreseeable odours developing. For this reason it's not necessary to wear underwear underneath cycling knicks and leaving them off will reduce the chance of chaffing. Having multiple pairs of knicks will enable the chamois component of the shorts to dry after each ride. Don't count on being able to wash your clothes each day as not all places you visit will have sophisticated laundry facilities.
Cycling specific tops are useful for the same reasons, they are specifically made to be lightweight, breathable and allow for movement. Cycling tops are called jerseys, and come with a full length or quarter length front zip, and two or three rear pockets to store food, bike accessories or additional clothing. Instead of buying both short and long sleeve cycling tops, it's best to buy short sleeve tops and purchase arm warmers in case it gets cold. A rain jacket or vest is another great investment. These tops can be packed away to almost nothing and stored in a jersey pocket in case of emergency.
Cycling specific clothing is made from fabrics which will significantly reduce the chances of chaffing. Another way to prevent this is with anti-chafe lubricant or chamois cream. A tub of chamois cream or Vaseline may well be the most important thing you take with you on your cycling adventure. Don't forget the sunscreen either.
Below is a packing list of essentials that has been compiled by Inspired Adventures local guides and experts.
- Large rucksack
- Daypack—approximately 30–35 litres with a secure waist strap. This can be carried by the support vehicle to be accessed at most spots
- Small pack to cycle with that fits sunscreen, electrolytes, camera, hand sanitiser and water bladder
- Power adaptor (to suit destination)
- Sleeping bag liner for extra comfort (optional)
- 2 x 1 litre reusable water bottles or rehydration system
- Waterproof, reusable bag for worn clothing and to keep items dry
- Padlock for bags
- Spare batteries for all devices
- Lightweight waterproof top and trousers
- 3 cycling t-shirts
- 2 long sleeved shirts
- 2 pairs of padded cycling shorts (minimum)
- 2 pairs of knee-length shorts
- Cycling gloves
- Lightweight trousers
- Biking shoes or equivalent
- Casual clothes and comfortable shoes for evenings, travelling and activities
- Underwear and socks
Health and Hygiene*
- Toothbrush and toothpaste*
- Wet wipes (or equivalent)
- Shampoo and conditioner*
- Lip salve & sunscreen (minimum SPF30+)
- Sanitary products
- Insect repellent (with DEET)
*All liquids must be biodegradable
The Inspired Adventures 'Cycle for Women Challenge' is an 11-day cycling adventure exploring Cambodia's landscape while also raising money to help Marie Stopes International empower women 'to have children by choice.'
Inspired Adventures estimate that for every $10,000 raised from the Cambodia program, 1,148 unintended pregnancies, 188 maternal deaths and 1,120 years of productive life lost to disability could be prevented.
The 'Cycle for Women Challenge' is ranked as a 'moderate' adventure ride, 3/5 on a scale of difficulty. While riding is not a pre-requisite, being fit and active is. Inspired Adventures describe the adventure as 'specifically designed for people who are relatively fit and willing to train.' Not only will a solid fitness base make the adventure easier, it will also enable you to enjoy the experience more so than if you were struggling just to make it through the day.
There are six designated days of cycling during the 11-day journey with distances ranging from 35k to 80k. Being able to comfortably ride these distances would be a great milestone to tick off in the months leading up to the riding tour.
We hope this advice has been helpful and inspired you to go on your own adventure riding tour. Find out more about the Inspired Adventures 'Cycle for Women Challenge'
This is a sponsored piece from Inspired Adventures. All images provided by 'Inspired Adventures’