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Train, Pack, Ride: Preparing for the Bikepacking Adventure of a Lifetime

Get ready for the bikepacking adventure of a lifetime with this guide. Strengthen muscles and build endurance through a 4-week training plan. Follow tips on stretching, nutrition, and mental preparation....

You have been dreaming for a long time that you would like to hit the road and go on a long-distance bike journey. You want to escape the daily grind, panniers and bike in tow, immersed in the beauty of the backcountry. A bikepacking adventure is on your bucket list, and you have dreamed of it long enough. Now it’s time to get ready for it. 

The first part of a 3-part Bikepacking Preparation series starts now, and this will get you on your way to becoming fit and ready for a life changing adventure. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we will bring you a series dedicated to preparing physically and mentally for your unforgettable bikepacking trip.

In Part 1, we'll focus on the physical demands of long-distance cycling with various workouts and a schedule to get you fit and road ready for the trip. Part 2 covers nutrition, mental preparation, and a more detailed progressive training regimen. Finally, Part 3 explores rest and recovery, proper gear, specific techniques depending on the terrain ahead, and getting involved in a cycling community for extra inspiration.

Follow along with our guide to help equip you with the skills to craft your own epic adventure.

The open road beckons. It's time to gear up, get ready and ride forth into the journey of a lifetime…

Part 1: The Physical Demands of a Long-Distance Ride and Training for It

Bikepacking is a fun activity that invites both adventurers and regular riders to enjoy the thrill of riding and the natural beauty of the outdoors. But behind the beautiful scenery and sense of freedom is a struggle that requires physical strength, mental toughness, and careful planning.

Even though riding on the open road or trail is a different kind of thrill, it is important to remember that these long-distance rides are not just a stroll in the park. Even for an experienced rider, the different terrains, uncertain weather, and length of the ride can be tough. For people who aren't in the best physical shape, the trip can quickly go from being an exciting adventure to a difficult experience.

Training before a trip like this isn't just to make the trip more fun; it's also for your safety and health. Riders risk muscle strains, joint pains, extreme tiredness, dehydration, and even more serious accidents if they don't prepare well. Also, if you aren't ready, your body may not be able to heal well from day to day. This can lead to a buildup of fatigue that could end a trip early.

With the right exercise, your body will be used to the stresses of long-distance riding. It helps build stamina, strength, and flexibility, which all help make the ride better and more fun.

When you're physically ready, you can fully enjoy the beauty and peace of your surroundings instead of being worried about pain or suffering. In the end, training lets you fully enjoy the trip, making each pedal stroke not just a step forward but also a deeper dive into the experience of bikepacking.

  1. The Physical Demands of Bikepacking

Bikepacking, a fusion of long-distance cycling and self-sustained backpacking, often unfolds in regions far removed from urban comfort. While its charm lies in the thrill of discovery and connection with nature, the activity itself can be quite demanding. Let's explore the multi-faceted physical challenges that come with bikepacking:

  • Muscular demands: While it’s no surprise that the legs—particularly the quads, hamstrings, and calves—are extensively engaged, bikepacking solicits far more than just the lower body. The core, for instance, plays a crucial role in maintaining balance, especially on uneven terrain. Your back and shoulders bear the weight of the backpack, with the trapezius and rhomboids working overtime, especially when you're hunched over handlebars for extended periods. Your arms, particularly the biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles, aren't exempt either, as they assist in controlling the bike on challenging terrain.
  • Endurance: The nature of bikepacking means that riders will often be on the road for hours, if not days, at a time. This requires both cardiovascular endurance to maintain a steady pace and muscular endurance to keep pedaling despite muscle fatigue. It’s not just about getting to your destination but also having the stamina to set up camp, prepare food, and handle other essential tasks at the day’s end.
  • Flexibility: This might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but flexibility plays a pivotal role in bikepacking. Whether it's bending over to fix a puncture, reaching behind to grab something from your pack, or even just stretching out cramped muscles after a long ride, having a good range of motion can make the experience much more comfortable. It also reduces the risk of strains and sprains.
  • Balance and Proprioception: Traversing through off-road terrain, navigating narrow trails, or crossing streams requires an excellent sense of balance. Proprioception, or the awareness of the position of one's body in space, becomes essential when riding on uneven or rocky paths, ensuring you react appropriately to sudden changes or obstacles.
  • Thermoregulation: Riding in varying weather conditions, from scorching heat to chilling cold, means the body needs to regulate its temperature efficiently. This requires a combination of physical fitness and appropriate clothing to prevent conditions like heat exhaustion or hypothermia.
  • Recovery: Bikepacking isn't just about how well you ride but also about how quickly you recover. After a day's ride, the body needs to repair and replenish. Good physical conditioning ensures faster recovery rates, allowing you to wake up fresher and ready for the next day's journey.

Understanding these physical demands underscores the importance of comprehensive training. Being prepared ensures that the journey remains enjoyable, with the body and mind working in harmony to tackle challenges and savor the breathtaking moments that bikepacking offers.

  1. Workouts and Exercises to Strengthen Key Muscles and Build Endurance

For a bikepacking trip to go well, you need to work on certain physical skills. It becomes important to focus on workouts that build the main muscles used for cycling, improve cardiovascular stamina, and increase general flexibility.

The best way to improve your overall health and get ready physically for that epic long-distance trip is to ride a lot! However, doing specific exercises will help improve the overall readiness of your body and make it work at optimum efficiency, thus making the whole journey way more enjoyable.

Here's a full look at the exercises that are suggested, what they do, and how to do them:

a) Cycling Intervals:

  • Purpose: Builds cardiovascular endurance and improves leg muscle strength.
  • How to: On a stationary bike or a regular bike on a safe route, begin with a 10-minute warm-up at a comfortable pace. Transition to a 30-second sprint, pedaling as fast as you can, followed by 30 seconds of rest or slow pedaling. Repeat this cycle for at least 15 minutes, and conclude with a 10-minute cool down.
  • Frequency: 2-3 times a week.
b) Planks:
  • Purpose: Strengthens the core, which is essential for stability while cycling.
  • How to: Begin in a push-up position, but with your weight resting on your forearms instead of your hands. Ensure your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Engage your core and hold. Start with 30 seconds and gradually increase as your strength improves.
  • Variations: Side planks to target oblique muscles
  • Frequency: Daily.
c) Squats:


  • Purpose: Targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes—the primary cycling muscles.
  • How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the knees, pushing your hips back, ensuring your knees don’t go past your toes. Aim to get your thighs parallel to the ground and then push back up to the starting position.
  • Variations: Add dumbbells or a barbell for increased resistance.
  • Frequency: 3–4 times a week.
d) Lunges:
  • Purpose: Strengthens the thighs and buttocks while improving balance.
  • How to: Start with your feet together. Take a step forward and bend both knees until the back knee nearly touches the ground. Push through the front foot to return to the starting position and switch legs.
  • Variations: Reverse lunges, lateral lunges, or incorporating dumbbells.
  • Frequency: three times a week.
e) Push-ups:


  • Purpose: Works the upper body, focusing on the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which is beneficial for bike control.
  • How to: Begin in a plank position with hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the ground, and then push back up.
  • Variations: Wide-arm push-ups, diamond push-ups, or incline push-ups.
  • Frequency: 3–4 times a week.
f) Deadlifts:
  • Purpose: An excellent compound movement that targets the back, glutes, and hamstrings, enhancing the power of your pedal stroke.
  • How to: With a barbell in front of you, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and knees, grasp the bar with a firm grip, and stand up, lifting the weight. Return to the starting position carefully.
  • Note: Proper form is crucial to preventing injuries. Consider seeking guidance from a professional if you are new to this exercise.
  • Frequency: 1-2 times a week.
g) Stretching:
  • Purpose: Improves flexibility, aids muscle recovery, and reduces the risk of injuries.
  • How to: Incorporate dynamic stretches (like leg swings, arm circles) before workouts to warm up the muscles. Post-exercise, transition to static stretches, where you hold a stretch for 15–30 seconds, targeting major muscle groups.
  • Frequency: Daily.

By doing these exercises as part of a regular training routine, you will not only be ready for the physical demands of bikepacking, but you will also be able to enjoy the trip without getting tired or hurt. It's important to work on both strength and endurance so that you're ready for everything the road can throw at you.

4-week Exercise Schedule for Long-Distance Preparedness Training: (Adjust according to your fitness level)

Preparing for a bikepacking adventure requires consistency in training. Here's a structured 4-week program to gradually build strength, flexibility, and endurance. This schedule aims to optimize your physical preparedness while also ensuring sufficient recovery time.

Note: Before starting any exercise regimen, it's crucial to warm up for at least 10 minutes. This can be a combination of light jogging, dynamic stretching, or low-resistance cycling.

This 4-week schedule integrates both strength training and cardiovascular endurance. As you advance through the weeks, the intensity and volume increase progressively, preparing your body for the demands of bikepacking.


  • Ensure you maintain proper form throughout all exercises to prevent injuries.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel any unusual pain (beyond typical muscle soreness), consider adjusting the routine or seeking advice.
  • Stay hydrated and ensure you have a balanced diet to complement your training regimen.
  • Enjoy the process! Remember, the goal is to enhance your bikepacking experience.

This concludes the first part of our guide to preparing for the bikepacking adventure of a lifetime. Stay tuned for the next installment, which will cover nutrition, mental preparation, and a more detailed progressive training regimen.

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