There’s something incredibly special about riding long distances. It might be the endorphins your body releases or all the great sights you get to see. Whatever it may be, long-distance bikepacking ticks a lot of the boxes for people.

As a bikepacking and ultra-cycling expert who has not only raced at a high level but held world records (sadly now reclaimed by other cyclists!), I know the value of training before a race or an event.

A place where many cyclists struggle is training for long-distance bikepacking. There are many different ways you can get bikepacking fit, and it doesn’t come down to endless hours riding on the bike.

In this article, I’m going to be telling you everything you need to know by discussing:

My bike on the beach in Oman during a long-distance bikepacking race. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Why Train For Long-Distance Bikepacking?

When it comes to bikepacking, it’s different for everyone. For some people, it’s 50 km a day on flat roads. For others, it’s 300 km a day on an ultra race. Bikepacking is whatever you want to make it, and going on an adventure should be experienced by everyone.

Whatever you plan to do when long-distance bikepacking, training is vital.

If you go in unprepared, it never ends very well. You can easily get injured, be very uncomfortable, and have an unsuccessful trip if you don’t allow some time for it. 

A common misconception is that you must spend a lot of time on the bike to bikepack well. 

Do You Need To Train For Bikepacking?

There are a lot of riders that grab a bike and go bikepacking, and somehow, it works out.

I don’t recommend going down this route. It’s better to do some training and have a better experience.

Training for long-distance bikepacking on a white gravel bike.
Training on my local roads. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

How To Train For A Long-Distance Bikepacking Trip

Step #1. Establish The Available Time You Have

The first mistake a lot of people make is overplanning and under-delivering. When I first speak to clients I’m training or who are thinking about bikepacking, I first ask, “How much time do you have free each week?”

If you have 5 hours to train, great, if you have 20 hours, even better. In my eyes, the ideal is around 8 to 12, and that is plenty to ensure you are ready for anything. If you have less time, you have to be smarter about how you use it. 

Step #2. What Training Sessions Do You Need To Do?

There are a few different types of training sessions you can do that you can do. Here’s what I recommend:

High-Intensity Training 

Great for building power and also training the cardiovascular system. This session would last from 30 to 90 minutes, and you would have a high heart rate of around 80% of max.

Endurance Riding

Endurance riding is longer sessions, getting your body used to cycling for long periods of time. These sessions are from around 1.5 hours anywhere up to 6 hours and around 70% of the max heart rate.

Cross Training

Then we have cross-training. This could be stretching sessions, strength training, or even recovery rides. These are optional but go a long way.

Step #3. You Need To Make A Plan

When it comes to making a bikepacking training plan, you have to take the hours you have and combine them with the different sessions you want to do. Doing a mix of lots of different sessions will go a really long way to getting you overall fit. 

It comes down to how much time you have spare and the kind of training you want. Here, I am going to give you some examples of how to split your time up depending on the amount you have each week. 

When it comes to bikepacking, the biggest benefit comes from riding endurance. So ensuring that is the bulk of the training your doing is important. Next you have high intensity, then stretching and strength training.

6 Hours 

If you only have 6 hours a week, you could do an endurance ride for 4 hours and 2 hours of high-intensity training. There’s no stretching or strength training in this, but you can add it by taking a little time off your endurance ride.

10 Hours

If you have ten hours per week, there’s a lot more you could do with the time, but it still goes under the principle of mixing up the sessions. You could do 2 x 3-hour endurance sessions, 2 x 1-hour high-intensity sessions, and 1 hour of stretching and strength training each.

12 Hours

12 hours is a lot of time you have to train, and you can make some serious fitness gains. I would consider splitting it down into a 1 x 6-hour endurance ride, 1 x 4-hour endurance ride, 1 x high-intensity training session, and 1 hour working on stretching and strength training.

15 Hours +

If you have 15 or more hours, you have more than enough time to train. It means you could push your limits and become an incredibly strong bikepacker. You could focus on 2 x 4-hour endurance rides, 1 x 6-hour endurance ride, 2 x high-intensity sessions, 1 hour of strength training, and 1 hour of stretching. 

It’s good to try and split the sessions up across the week. Try to avoid back-to-back days with tough sessions in them. Always allow for time to rest and recover when required. 

Step #4. Apply Progression

In time, you will get used to the workload, and the body will become fitter and adapt. It’s good to increase what you’re doing over time to ensure it continues to challenge you. Regular testing with tests such as FTP and Ramp tests can show progress or lack of it. 

 Consider making sessions longer, adding more intensity, or using different exercises when it comes to strength training and stretching. Keep yourself from getting too comfortable, or you are not going to improve. 

Step #5. Trial Runs

Finally, we have trial runs. These are where I recommend loading up your bike and getting out on either long days riding loaded or going away for a couple of days to practice bikepacking. On these days, it’s good to experience what it might feel like on longer rides. 

This is a great time to practice camping, packing and unpacking, eating the correct foods, and drinking enough water to keep you going. A big part of becoming a better bikepacker is getting a lot of experience on roads and trails.

Training for long-distance bikepacking on my white gravel bike.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Top Tips For Long-Distance Bikepacking

When it comes to bikepacking, not only does having a training plan go a long way but there’s so much more you can do to ensure you become better. Here are my top tips!

Bike Fit

A bike fit is such a great tool to improve your bikepacking experience. It’s the process of fitting you to your bike so you can cycle as efficiently as possible while minimizing the risk of injuries.

You can go to a professional or attempt to do your own – though if there’s room in your budget, I’d highly recommend going to a pro!

Train Loaded

The next step is to train loaded. So many bikepackers go into adventure and into races without knowing what it feels like to have all the extra weight on the bike. I highly recommend training rides with all gear, food, and water. 

Plan Your Nutrition

When it comes to bikepacking, a big mistake many riders make is not eating and drinking the right amount. It’s something that is very hard to get right, but having a plan for what you’re planning to eat, when, and how much to drink helps so much.

Enjoy Company

Riding with others goes a really long way, not just to help with confidence, but you will pick up on what they are doing, and it will help you improve the way you train and experience much faster. 

Rest Is Best

The more your train doesn’t mean the fitter you are going to get. If you overtrain, you can send yourself the other way, and you will become less and less fit!

Now You Know All About Bikepacking Training…

When training for bikepacking, getting some miles in beforehand is great to make the trip a much better experience and let your body know what it’s in store for.

Thanks for taking the time to enjoy our article, and happy travels!

The post How To Train For A Long-Distance Bikepacking Trip Like A Pro appeared first on BikeTips.