In a recent blog post, we talked about the hottest bike trends for 2017—and touched briefly on the phenomenal growth in e-bike popularity. I think we underestimated their appeal.
A new report by Navigant Research suggests that e-bike sales will jump from $15.7 billion in 2016 to nearly $24 billion by 2025, more than doubling the number of units sold from 3.3 million to 6.8 million worldwide. That’s a lot of people riding e-bikes.
It’s no surprise, then, that the “stigma” associated with electric-assist bikes in the past has pretty much disappeared. E-bikes are everywhere, from delivery bikes to e-mountain bikes and even commuter bikes. A lot of bike commuters are embracing e-bikes as a way to maintain a greener lifestyle—while still arriving for work not totally exhausted, sweaty, and in a state of disarray.
When it comes to a bicycle tour vacation, however, people tend to hesitate a bit more—and that’s a shame. Because e-bikes make a great deal of sense for a lot of riders, new and experienced alike.
Ever wonder if an e-bike is a good choice for you? See if you recognize yourself in any of these riders—if you do, you might be a great candidate for an e-bike on your next bicycle tour.
Eager Eva — age 51
Eva isn’t an experienced cyclist; in fact, it’s been awhile since she actually climbed on a bike. She doesn’t even work out regularly, other than daily walks with her dog.
But she’s an adventurous sort and she loves new experiences. Her best friend Ginny, an avid cyclist, took a bicycle tour last summer and absolutely loved it. She’s planning a six-day tour of the San Juan Islands this fall—and invited Eva to join her.
This type of adventure is right up Eva’s alley and she’s extremely motivated to take her up on the offer, but she’s worried she won’t be able to complete the 25 to 35 mile a day rides. She knows Ginny will feel obligated to hang back with her and Eva’s afraid it will ruin her friend’s vacation. But she’s always wanted to see the area and the idea of a bike tour kindles her sense of adventure.
Why an e-bike works: An e-bike lets you go further and faster than you could manage on your own efforts, so Eva will be able to keep up with Ginny and handle her daily mileage, even if she doesn’t have the time or interest to do fitness training before their vacation.
Dislocated Dan — age 46
Dan has been a passionate cyclist for years and he spends several hours a week on his bike. He’s in great physical shape—except that four weeks ago, he strained the lateral meniscus in his left knee and has been in physical therapy for rehab ever since.
Dan’s booked for the eight-day Crater Lake bike tour that’s set to depart next week and he’s a bit worried that his knee won’t be up to strength for the tougher climbs and 60-mile-a-day rides. But he doesn’t want to miss the vacation he’s been planning for almost a year.
Why an e-bike works: Although the level rides and slight inclines won’t put much stress on his less-than-healthy knee, the steep hills are a different story, where riding hard can aggravate a strained meniscus. Dan can use electric assist to give him a boost of power that takes the stress off his damaged knee so he can complete his tour without pain or fear of relapse or additional injury.
Challenge Me Charles — age 55
Charles switched from running to biking about six months ago and recently joined a mountain biking club—he loves the challenge and exhilaration of off-road riding. Never one to turn away from a test of his will and endurance, he and a friend booked the 15-day Camino de Santiago bike tour of northern Spain’s Basque country.
Charles is expecting to push himself to the limits of his endurance—and he’s actually pretty excited to see how his skills stack up against his more experienced friend. But there’s a tiny, nagging fear that he may not be able to handle the brisk climb to the Cruz de Ferro or some of the more challenging terrain and he’s starting to second-guess his decision to go.
Why an e-bike works: When you ride an e-bike, you’re in complete control over when you need a boost—and the amount of boost you need. And sometimes, that’s all a rider needs to give him the confidence to tackle a new challenge. Charles may not even use the electric assist, but he knows it’s there in case he wants it. No more worries!
Adrenaline Abbie — age 41
We all know someone like Abbie—that person who is always after the next big adrenaline-fueled thrill. For some, it’s skydiving, for others it’s windsurfing, but for Abbie, it’s the straight-out excitement of pushing herself to the limit in pursuit of the most amazing scenery in the world.
Abbie’s a hard-core athlete who does triathlons; when it comes to riding her bike, the more extreme the challenge, the better. In fact, she’d ride her bike up the Alps if she could, but of course, that’s not humanly possible with a traditional bicycle.
Why an e-bike works: E-bikes open up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to extreme challenge, like our e-mountain bike tour through the Julian Alps in Slovenia. Thanks to e-assist technology, Adrenaline Abbie can go to previously unreachable places where not even cars can travel. For the adrenaline junkie, e-mountain bikes offer a bold new frontier of unexplored terrain.
Cardiac Ken — age 57
Ken had a heart attack a year ago and underwent some major cardiac procedures to treat his diseased vessels. As part of his cardiac recovery program over the past year, Ken’s been riding a stationary bike three times a week—but now he wants to try the real thing with a Joshua Tree bike tour.
Even though the tour is customizable for longer or shorter routes and appropriate for even beginners on a bike, Ken still has some reservations that he might get tired or push himself too hard and be unable to finish the tour. He’s in a bit of a quandary about whether he’s really up to the trip.
Why an e-bike works: Ken can monitor his heart rate and physical condition with a wearable device like a Fitbit—and if he’s exerting himself beyond his comfort zone, he can use electric assist to reduce his workload. E-bikes give you more control over the amount of effort you need to exert to do the tour, letting you keep your heart rate at a comfortable level while you ride.
Mike and Molly Mismatch — late 40s
Mike and Molly are a very physically fit married couple—both enjoy active vacations and spend a lot of time working out. Molly loves to ride her bike; she does some road bike racing and logs hundreds of miles a month. Her dream adventure is the Empire Builder Epic bike tour through the Rockies, the Cascades, and Glacier National Park with daily rides of 100 miles or more.
Mike is no slouch, but his jam is running—he’s been running marathons since his 20s—and he’s not sure how that translates to long days on a bike. And if it doesn’t, wouldn’t that kind of ruin the vacation? After all, the whole point of adventure vacations together is experiencing the views together, the oooh and aaaah moments together—captured with an occasional selfie with a stunning mountain background, of course. If he’s lagging behind Molly, those magic moments won’t happen.
Why an e-bike works: Mike’s in great shape, but there’s no denying that distance running and distance biking are two completely different things—and he’s right to be concerned he won’t be able to ride alongside his more experienced wife.
An e-bike gives Mike the option of a little extra boost so he can keep pace with Molly and know that they’ll be able to enjoy those special moments together—and she won’t have to hold herself back, either.
Joy-riding Jonah — age 39
Jonah is a fun-loving single whose favorite adventures are road trips of all kinds. He’s done all the iconic highways—Route 66, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Pacific Coast Highway. He’s even done the Alaska Highway from Dawson’s Creek to Fairbanks.
But he’s beginning to feel as if he’s missing something seeing everything from behind the wheel of a car at 65+ mph. The scenery is just a blur and the solitude is getting a little old. He’s ready for something entirely new…a fresh perspective…an opportunity to go places he’d never go in his car—and a chance to meet some new friends along the way. So he booked a mountain bike tour through the Leavenworth area in Washington.
Why an e-bike works: Jonah just wants to have fun—and what could be more stress-free and enjoyable than cruising through Devil’s Gulch on an e-mountain bike? It looks like a blast (and guess what? It is!) Who says you need a health or fitness reason to cruise around on an e-bike? Just do it because it’s fun.
A Word from Miracle Matt…
Our own Director of Operations here at Bicycle Adventures loves e-bikes and here’s why:
“I like to ride e-bikes because sometimes I don’t want to work hard. It’s fun to sit back and relax and it makes conversations on the bike easier when you aren’t breathing hard. Imagine if you could ride the KATY trail across Missouri with your best friends on ebikes. Or McKenzie Pass in Oregon before the cars are allowed on the highway. You could ride 2 or 3 abreast and really engage with your travel companions.”
A few things to keep in mind…
E-bikes are heavier than other bikes and with cycling, every ounce can make a difference when it comes to performance. That also makes them more difficult to carry and load up on your car if you’re planning a DIY bike trip.
They also cost a bit more than traditional bikes, but the good news is that you can upgrade to an e-bike on a Bicycle Adventures tour and give it a try before you decide to invest in one for yourself at home.
And there’s also the issue of range. Depending on the model and how much you use the electric assist, you may run out of juice during your ride.
All that said, however, e-bikes are a great equalizer and a fun and stress-free way to get out and experience the world from the saddle of a bike, even if you’re not a regular rider.
E-Bikes are for everyone!
With e-bikes, there’s nothing holding you back from your dream cycling holiday. If you want to sit back and relax whilst catching up with friends, you can do this while sitting on an e-bike, gazing across amazing scenery. So why not start planning your bicycle adventure today – just get in touch and we’ll get the ball rolling.
Whether you’re a committed cyclist logging thousands of miles a year on your bike or just a little bike curious (maybe considering your first bicycle tour), it’s always fun to spend some time trend spotting.
And for bicycle enthusiasts, 2017 is going to be a particularly exciting year with changes in every aspect of the industry—from how bikes are engineered, assembled, and even sold.
Take a peek at what we see as some of the biggest emerging cycling trends in 2017.
1. Hydraulic brakes will become de rigeur, both for specialty and even mainstream bikes.
It’s indisputable that hydraulic disc brakes offer superior braking, but their hefty price tag meant that they were only available on high-end road bikes.
This year, however, you can expect to see them on everything from endurance bikes to gravel bikes and even aero racing bikes.
Bike makers are keen to keep up with their competitors, and as more manufacturers add hydraulic brakes as standard features, they’ll become commonplace across the spectrum.
2. Wider tires are popping up everywhere, even on road bikes.
Wide tires give a smoother ride and boost suspension capabilities, as well as allowing you to ride off-road on uneven terrain, so perhaps it’s not surprising to see them gain popularity with road bikes.
In fact, you’ll see widths of up to 47 mm (1.85 inches), christened the new “road plus” size, a dimension previously only seen on cross-country bikes. Some manufacturers are even changing their frames to accommodate the wide-tire trend.
Don’t be surprised to see tires pushing the envelope with 3 and 3-½-inch widths, just shy of the fat tire range.
3. The “gravel grinder” is no longer a niche bike but an increasingly popular mainstream choice.
All-road, open road, x-road bikes—whatever you choose to call them, today’s gravel grinders are the fastest growing category of bike sales, a trend not likely to slow down anytime soon.
Gravel grinders got their start in the Pacific Northwest and have made their way to biking enthusiasts across the country. Characterized by wide tires and disc brakes, gravel grinders are a road and mountain bike hybrid that can be ridden just about anywhere.
4. Carbon frames are for everyone except the most budget-conscious rider—because weight really does matter.
With bike manufacturers, shaving even a gram from the bike’s overall weight is cause for celebration. Designers and engineers spend countless hours trying to whittle the number down—which is one reason carbon frames are becoming standard with all but the most inexpensive mass-market bikes.
But there are advantages beyond the weight savings. As Matt Paul, our director of operations says, “A well designed carbon fiber bike rides better than other bikes. There is a compliant quality that I have best seen described as ‘magic.’ Stiff when it needs to be stiff, forgiving when it needs to be forgiving.”
He goes on, “For example, when you turn the cranks on a carbon bike, the power is transferred to the back wheel because it’s stiff. But when you are riding over jarring surfaces, the handlebars, seat posts, and suspension portions of the frame will eat up the high frequency vibration—better traction and better ride comfort.”
The engineers at Orbea took the lightweight mandate to heart, as well, carving 100 grams off the 2017 Orca and 200 grams off the 2017 Avant, a significant achievement, using high-tech carbon frames and other design enhancements. You’ll notice the difference.
5. E-bikes are taking off across the board, especially in the mountain bike niche.
Although the 2016 sales figures aren’t complete yet, most analysts point to a whopping 50% increase in the United States and perhaps even more in Europe. In fact, there’s going to be a huge push for e-bikes at Interbike in September, the largest bike industry trade show in North America.
E-mountain bikes open up a whole new world for novice cyclists—and have the potential to completely change the mountain-biking demographic. Imagine being able to discover new destinations and adventures previously unthinkable for all but the most elite riders—like Triglav in the Julian Alps in Slovenia—using an e-bike.
6. Expect to see suspension on road bikes for improved riding.
Various forms of road bike suspension have come and gone over the years, but expect 2017 to be the year when manufacturers embrace new technology (coil suspension on the steering column, elastomer rear suspension) for softer-riding road bikes.
7. There’s a gear shifting revolution afoot with 12x systems.
Sram introduced a 1×12 gear system in 2016, but it looks to take off this year due to the increased gear range and almost instinctual response. Right now, only Sram offers this option—and it carries a hefty price tag—but as it catches on, expect to see other players like Shimano get into the game.
8. Smart bikes and bike integration is the next big thing.
Whether it’s Shimano’s Dura-Ace groupset with integrated power meter, sensors to help you find the best aerodynamic position, or the high-tech Super Bike kitted up with fingerprint sensors, GPS system, and media center, integration is going to be a big deal in 2017 and beyond. If you want to get a jump on the integration trend, check out the Trek Madone 9.9.
9. Direct-to-consumer bike sales (and mobile mechanic delivery) will change the way people buy and assemble their bikes.
Eddy Merckx, BH, Ellsworth, and Elby have already joined forces with Velofix in British Columbia to offer bicycle assembly, delivery, and fitting, and German manufacturer Canyon is opening up direct-to-consumer sales in the US this spring.
This will lower consumer prices, especially for high-end models, as manufacturers decrease brick-and-mortar locations in favor of the more efficient and economical direct-to-consumer model. Savvy manufacturers are following the Velofix model, offering assembly and delivery as part of the deal
Of course, that won’t mean the end of the local bike shops, where everyone goes for right-now expertise. The local shops that remain in this ultra-competitive environment will be the best of the best—a win/win situation for cyclists.
10. Wireless electronic shifting is winning over fans in a big way.
Sram’s eTap wireless electronic shifting system, new in 2016, got rave reviews when they were introduced. They eliminate all the cable routing, giving the bike a cleaner look. Battery sizes should get smaller as more companies get in the game—expect to see Campagnolo and Shimano to introduce their own electronic systems this year.
11. Sock doping is really a thing, even for men.
If you think you’re seeing a lot more hot pink, turquoise blue, and neon green socks in your cycling club, you’re not imagining things.
Loud colors and funky prints are definitely on the menu in 2017—and don’t be surprised if you even see mismatched pairs and crazy color combinations on the most serious cyclists.
Just remember: If you’re going to sock dope, stay away from short socks. What’s the point of embracing your wild side if no one can see it?
12. You’ll see more manufacturers offering custom options to create a bike that’s uniquely “you.”
Orbea, our partner, is at the forefront of this trend with its My-O project.
When you order a bike from Orbea (and several other manufacturers, too), you’ll be able to customize colors and components for a one-of-a-kind bike that stands out from the crowd.
Always fancied a lime green road bike with hot pink accents? It’s now possible—and we expect to see a lot more custom colors on the road in 2017.
Ready to Get on Your Bike?
If all this talk about bike trends is making you hungry to try out new gear, why not fill in a few questions and start planning the ultimate bicycle tour today? You can ride one of our top of the line Orbea bikes and get a taste of the latest technology—while discovering a destination you’ve always wanted to see.
And if you’ve noticed a trend we missed, share it in the comments below. We’d love to know what you’re seeing in the cycling world this year.
If you’re like a lot of people, a bicycle tour is a bucket-list adventure all by itself no matter where you go. But like any vacation, destination is everything—and these one-of-a-kind places are even more fabulous when you explore them on a bike.
That’s not just idle talk. If you’ve never inhaled the heady fragrance of lavender as you cruised along the coast or felt the tropical breeze on your face as you biked to a hidden black sand beach—well, you’re missing something truly magical.
Whether you’re a bicycle tour newbie or are an experienced rider looking for the ultimate cycling adventure, here are five awesome destinations that should top your list in 2017.
If you’ve never been to the San Juan Islands, you’re in for a treat. Floating along the intricate waterways of the Salish Sea, this archipelago contains some 170 islands, although only four are served by ferry—San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw.
That’s where you’ll find the gorgeous shorelines, quirky shops, upscale galleries, and world-class cuisine—all the things that make them a top destination for bike adventurers. The fabulous climate doesn’t hurt, either: You’ll enjoy pleasant 70 degree days all summer long (perfect for long, meandering bike rides!)
Reasons to go:
- The whale watching is superb all year round—it’s the best place in the world to see orcas. You may also catch a glimpse of humpbacks, minkes, and gray whales if you’re lucky.
- There’s an amazing locavore foodie culture that never fails to delight even the most particular palate.
- The vibrant art scene showcases the finest Native American and internationally known talent.
- If you love a picnic by the shore (and a lovely bottle of wine), this is the place for you—the picnic spots are divine.
- It truly is a bicyclist’s dream with miles of coastline, fragrant lavender fields, charming country farms, and the friendliest people who never fail to smile and wave.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Bike to Pelindaba Lavender Farm and visit Lime Kiln State Park—one of the country’s best whale-watching spots.
- Kayak Roche Harbor or take in the magical Puget Sound views—take a dip in one of Lakedale’s three lakes if you like.
- Hike Mount Young and check out the panoramic view of the Cascades from the summit of Mount Constitution.
- Search for driftwood on the beach or schedule a private massage with a glass of champagne in your room at the resort.
- Feast at a private catered dinner and experience the amazing sights from the air on a float plane ride to Seattle.
Your first glimpse of the sapphire blue lake will take your breath away. Crater Lake has a magic about it that you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s not just spectacular; it’s mystical, almost holy. The local nations (the Klamath, Modoc and Shasta people) have endless legends of gods, epic battles, and love stories that involve Crater Lake, and once you go there, it’s easy to see why.
It’s one of my favorite places on the planet—I’ve ridden the rim many times over the years. I think one of our favorite guests, Lynn P. from Florida, summed it up best: “If I had one last day on Earth, I’d ride the rim at Crater Lake.”
Reasons to go:
- Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country (and the ninth deepest in the world). Ringed by sentinels of jagged cliffs, this sapphire lake is so clear, sunlight penetrates nearly 400 feet.
- Wizard Island, the spiritual home of the Klamath people, is a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- The ride around the rim of Crater Lake is one of the finest bicycling routes in the world—it often occupies the number one slot in Bicycling Magazine’s “Dream Rides” list.
- The eclectic adventure culture of Bend, Oregon, is something you have to experience for yourself.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Cruise the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, a Top 10 Road in the West.
- Climb the Cascades and ride through the lava fields of McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway.
- Fish, hike, go whitewater rafting—or just soak in the pool at McMenamins after a day on the road.
- Wander the brewpubs and sample craft beers in trendy Bend.
- Explore the ancient evergreens in Umpqua National Forest.
Know what I love about Hawaii’s Big Island? Everything is affected by Kilauea volcano, which has been literally adding more land to the island for decades.
One side of the Big Island is lush, leafy coffee-growing country: Kona coffee’s distinct flavor is produced by soils infused with volcanic ash. Like wine, but it’s a coffee terroir.
The Waikoloa region, where the Ironman course goes, is a moonscape: miles on miles of lava fields too young to have turned into soil. When you’re bicycling the southeast side, you’ll see places where new roads needed to be built because fresh lava crept right over the old.
And I bet you didn’t know that you can experience 10 of the earth’s 14 climate zones on the Big Island—everything from Polar Tundra to Tropical (and everything in between) thanks to the shielding effects of the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes. The island’s sheer size is breathtaking.
Reasons to go:
- It’s impossible to overstate how the volcanoes shape your Hawaii experience. It’s nothing you can imagine—you’ve just got to see it for yourself.
- Do you love to snorkel and enjoy water adventures? This is definitely the place—and don’t forget the dolphins!
- This is the place for romance…the hidden beaches, the magical atmosphere, the welcoming culture. It’s the perfect destination for you and a partner.
- Astronomy buffs (and pretty much everyone else) will be blown away by the telescopes at the Mauna Kea Observatories.
- The dramatic cliffs at the Waipio Valley are unforgettable.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Spend a night on a volcano—sometimes you’ll see lava flowing from a crater into the sea.
- Hike an inactive crater and marvel at the Hawaiian goose (called the nene) waddling about on a landscape that conjures up the surface of Mars—truly astonishing.
- Explore the Thurston Lava Tube and catch a glimpse of green sea turtles sunning on the rocks.
- Take a sail on a luxury catamaran to a secret snorkeling spot—don’t be surprised if you spot some whales on the way.
- Enjoy a picnic on a stunning black sand beach after biking to Pololu Valley.
Striking stone forests, stunning starry skies, and awe-inspiring painted canyons—this is your tour if the marvels of nature make your soul sing.
And it’s not just the rocks and the canyons and cliffs; the parks are teeming with hundreds of species of mammals and reptiles and over 200 different species of birds (including the majestic and endangered California condor).
There’s something for every kind of outdoor adventurer—hiking, climbing, cycling. What I love most about this tour is the way you can truly make it your own and customize every part of your experience.
Here’s what I mean: Once when I did this trip, we had a couple of ER doctors who really loved to cycle and a pair of sweet Southern girls who really loved to hike. Our docs rode 80 miles a day on a tandem bike every day while our Southern guests biked maybe 10 or 15 and spent the rest of their day on foot hiking the canyons. Same trip—two completely different approaches.
Reasons to go:
- You’ve never smelled air as fresh and clean as it is in the parks here.
- It’s not an exaggeration to say the sunrises and sunsets are staggering in their beauty and color.
- The landscapes change minute by minute with shadow and light—this is a photographer’s dream vacation.
- Stargazing is almost a religious experience.
What you can do on a bike tour:
- See the red and orange sandstone sculptures at the Cedar Breaks Amphitheater.
- Hike the Fairyland Trail and ride your bike past the world’s largest collection of hoodoos.
- Wander the Virgin River Narrows, a spectacular slot canyon, and revel in the sights and sounds of a towering waterfall.
- Picnic at the Bryce Canyon Overlook and end your day being pampered at the luxurious Cable Mountain Lodge.
Hot, dry, stark, serene—Death Valley is a study in contrasts. Jagged mountains dusted with snow…unexpected fields of fiery wildflowers…thriving oases teeming with life…it’s unlike anywhere else in the country.
What surprises me about Death Valley the most is the light. Depending on the sun, the clouds, and the time of day, the landscape appears subtle one moment and incredibly harsh – fierce, almost – the next.
And the riding is superb, whether you’re new to a bike or an experienced cyclist—lots of wide-open spaces and plenty of downhill plus plenty of challenging optional routes for the rider who loves to eat hills for breakfast.
Reasons to go:
- If you’re a ghost town connoisseur (or just ghost town curious), you won’t be able to resist the abandoned mining towns and decrepit cabins of Rhyolite.
- Death Valley is nirvana for the hiking enthusiast—earn a coveted #HikeDeathValley decal for your trophy collection.
- The velvety sand dunes and spectacular desert views are made to be photographed.
- The valley is surprisingly biodiverse—and it’s one of the richest bird biomes in the country. Bring your binoculars!
What you can do on a bike tour:
- Take lunch at the Badwater Basin some 282 feet below sea level—the lowest point in North America.
- Hike the Ubehebe Crater, a half-mile wide crater over 500 feet deep and bike through the Mojave sand dunes.
- Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the valley from Dante’s View, the most photographed spot in the park.
- Splash and relax in the spring-fed pools at Furnace Creek.
- Challenge yourself with a 30-mile climb to Artist’s Palette at 6,500 feet—and feast your eyes on the rainbow-colored hills.
Ready to Pedal Away?
If you’ve never considered a bike tour as the ultimate way to visit your bucket-list destinations, think again. These five tours give you a whole new perspective on the places you’ve always wanted to go—an up close, intimate, and exhilarating experience.
Why not take a look at our 2017 dates, fill in this quick form and start planning your vacation of a lifetime today?
Bicycle Adventures is back with our second-annual #BikeBlackFriday event! Paying homage to REI’s #OptOutside, we are claiming a space for cycling on the day after Thanksgiving. We hope you’ll go for a ride, or better yet, go for a group ride with friends or the family that you see only once ayear at the holidays.
The act of cycling is uniquely suited to building community. Hailed as “the new golf” in business, riding in a group fosters communication, facilitates sharing and helps us see how dependent on each other we really are. I’m not sure if it’s the fresh air, the departure from our office desks into wide-open spaces, increased circulation or the shared experience of cycling through a beautiful spot – riding bikes with someone is uniquely special. Whether you are truly teaming with other cyclists in a full-on peloton, out for a casual ride to the coffee shop, or playing Bike Bingo – you are actively creating community.
And this is a great time to do just that, on the week that we give thanks for what we have, our friends, our families, our health…and the gift of time with each other, breaking bread, and having fun on bikes.
– Jennifer Schofield, Manager, Tours & Guest Services
First things first—congratulations on your decision to go forward and embrace one of the most rewarding challenges you’ll ever undertake. From personal experience, I can tell you that this adventure will change you for the better, both physically and mentally. And I applaud your decision to prepare yourself for the big event.
Whether you’re embarking on an epic adventure like the Empire Builder, a 700-mile trek from Montana to Seattle, or a more leisurely “Rails to Trails” exploration of the Couer d’Alenes, a little preparation goes a long way toward enjoying your travels.
Of course, physical preparation isn’t just helpful for bike tours. As Todd Starnes, our president and resident fitness expert (he was a sports scientist before joining Bicycle Adventures) often says—”Getting old just plain sucks; our choice is either to grow or decay.” For me? I’ll take growth every time, and your bike adventure is a giant leap forward towards your own personal and physical growth.
I think it’s important to state up front that physical fitness doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. So many of the activities that contribute to a healthy body can be done right in the privacy of your home, like strength and resistance training, stretching, and even cardio.
And the work you do toward preparing your body pays benefits in all sorts of unexpected ways, whether you’re training for a bike tour or just want less stiffness and more stamina when you’re gardening, doing housework, or playing with your grandkids at the park.
Why exercise? Physical exercise can slow the effects of aging and prevent muscle atrophy and bone loss, too—a real concern for 50+ women. I think it gives you more physical confidence to try new things…and I love what it does for my energy level.
So if you’re ready to get started, here are five tips to help 50+ athletes prepare for a bike tour.
It All Starts with Strength Training
Strength training sounds complicated and even a bit intimidating, especially if you’re out of practice. But it really comes down to these five simple motions:
You’ll notice “lifting weights” isn’t mentioned—because it really isn’t necessary! Although if you want to join a gym and work with machines and free weights, that’s always an option. I’m going to give you exercises you can do at home, with no complicated machines, and a far lower risk of injury.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests activities to strengthen each of the six main muscle groups: Chest, shoulders, arms, abdomen, back, and legs. Strength training will come in handy on a bike adventure in so many ways—supporting your back, chest, arms, and posture during the ride itself and giving you the muscles you need to pedal up hills (like the cliffs and canyons in our Southern Utah National Parks tour).
The classic “push” exercise is the push-up, which strengthens your arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, and back—it’s an all-purpose exercise powerhouse. If you aren’t strong enough to do a classic military version, you can try this four-step plan to get you there (or you can just stick with the modified version that works best for you).
A good strength routine balances pushing and pulling. You don’t need a pull-up bar to build your pulling muscles, but a set of lightweight dumbbells is helpful. I like the alternating dumbbell row because you can really feel results with just a few reps.
Planking is great for strengthening your core, which underpins pretty much everything you do. If you’re a beginner at planking, you can learn good technique and modifications with this video, plus variations for more advanced moves.
No, this isn’t a “gotcha,” there really are sitting-type exercises to help you build strength. I’m talking about squats and lunges, which are great for developing your abs, legs, and back. Even if you have knee problems, you can do these exercises at home.
I don’t have to tell you how important it is to strengthen your lower back and core—doing laundry, tying your shoes…we’re bending all day long. Some great home bending exercises are back extensions and bicycles.
Build Your Endurance with Cardio
The CDC recommends that healthy older adults get at least two-and-a-half hours (150 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity (like brisk walking) every week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity (running, jogging, cycling) activity. The heart benefits of aerobic activity are not in dispute.
But the added benefits of increased endurance will help you on your bicycle tour, especially one like the Washington Cascades adventure where 100-mile days aren’t uncommon.
Simple things to do now to improve your cardio endurance:
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
- Pursue an active hobby like tennis, swimming, or riding your bike (especially riding your bike).
- Take a brisk walk on your lunch break instead of snacking at your desk.
- Go kayaking or paddleboarding.
- Get a jump rope and skip rope to music.
Add Some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Although it sounds complicated, HIIT really isn’t. It’s simply combining brief intervals of intense exercise with longer periods of less strenuous work. You can incorporate HIIT just by running for a few seconds every few minutes when you take your daily walk—or pedaling extra hard for 10 to 30 seconds periodically on your training bike rides.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends HIIT because it:
- Improves aerobic (and anaerobic) fitness.
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol profiles.
- Reduces belly fat and body weight while preserving your muscle mass.
Sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. And the best thing is that HIIT can be modified to suit any fitness level and you don’t have to do it every day to see results. You can find a great HIIT workout for beginners here.
Our fitness guru Todd Starnes recommends observing these rules:
- Aim for “comfortably challenging,” there’s no need to make yourself miserable.
- Think quality over quantity—if you are working hard but struggling to keep the pace you had after your first couple of intervals, you’ve done enough for that workout.
- Four to six intervals no more than twice per week is more than enough to experience the benefits of HIIT.
Don’t Neglect the “4 Rs” of Recovery
Recovery is even more important for the beginning or older athlete, so pay extra attention to the four “Rs” of recovery—
If your exercise period is 60 minutes or shorter, rehydrating with water is probably enough. For longer sessions, use a sports beverage with carbs and electrolytes.
You need to eat to replenish the fuel your body spent and provide nutrients to help your body recover. For adults over 50, that means protein—at least 15 to 25 grams in the hour after exercise. Protein bars and shakes are a convenient option if you don’t feel like preparing a snack.
I’m not just talking about a short break after exercise (although that’s always important), I’m talking about a healthy amount of deep, restorative sleep at night to give your body time to recover and repair.
The recovery process looks different in everyone, but for older adults, alternating heat and cold therapy, soft tissue massage, or even therapeutic soaks are helpful for encouraging the muscle repair that occurs after exercise.
The tour guides at Bicycle Adventures take recovery seriously with an appropriate schedule of hydration, nourishing snacks and drinks, healthy breakfasts, and even special accommodations for your own diet and nutrition routine.
What You Eat Matters More than You Think
Your changing nutritional needs become even more noticeable once you hit 50. For one thing, your body may not absorb essential nutrients as well as it did when you were younger—and strenuous exercise impacts digestion, a potential “perfect storm” of nutritional deficits.
Here are some foods to eat if you want your body to be ready to go when you are:
- Probiotics set the stage for a healthy gut, the gatekeeper to a healthy body. Some people use a probiotics supplement, but you can naturally introduce these healthy bacteria into your gut by eating yogurt with live active cultures (look for the LAC stamp), fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, and aged cheeses.
- Fiber feeds the healthy gut bacteria and aids digestion. Get what you need with easy-to-eat foods like barely ripe bananas, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and asparagus.
- Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, help you burn fat, and are good for your heart. Incorporate more servings of fatty fish like salmon to boost this important nutrient.
- Protein helps repair and grow muscles and maintain bone and joint strength. Try to get some protein at every meal with foods like dairy, fish, poultry, meat, or plant-based sources (lentils, nuts, seeds).
- Vitamin D is essential to muscle recovery and maintaining healthy bones. Unfortunately, aging skin isn’t as effective at synthesizing vitamin D from the sun, so it’s important to add it to your diet with either supplements or fortified dairy products.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some practical tips and pointers to help you get started on a physical program of preparation for your tour. You’ll notice that none of the exercises I suggest require pricey equipment, a gym membership, or hours of your time—you can do it them at home and on your own schedule.
If you have any questions about fitness, preparation, and recovery, I’m always here to talk to you. And if you’re still looking for the perfect bicycle adventure for you—I can help you with that, too! Just send me a note at email@example.com and let’s have a chat.