10 Week Training Program for Kenya and Tanzania Cycle Tour
Posted on 28/01/2020
Kenya and Tanzania Training Plan
At Escape Adventures we frequently get asked for advice on how to train for our cycling tours. We understand that it’s hard to train for a ride you know very little about. That’s why we have prepared this 10 week training program specifically for our Kenya and Tanzania cycle tour. We’re confident that following this plan will prepare someone with an existing moderate level of fitness to comfortably enjoy Escape Adventure’s 16 day Kenya & Tanzania cycle tour.
Escape Adventures Kenya and Tanzania cycle tour is our most popular tour. It’s easy to see why, with so much adventure packed into 16 days in East Africa… take me there now! Heading out into the wilderness is going to be so much fun... but the novelty will soon wear off if I’m struggling and exhausted. I haven’t actually been riding my bike recently, so in order to make the most of my cycle tour I had better do some preparation.
In this article we’re going to look at some of the general challenges we might face while cycle touring in Kenya & Tanzania and come up with some ways to manage and prepare for these challenges. Then we’ll outline a specifically tailored 10 week training program in order to be fit and ready to ride 540kms over the duration of the tour!
The great thing about doing an Escape Adventures cycle tour is we take care of most of the challenges that would face the average person trying to ride their bike through the places that we travel. We take care of your food and water, so you are nourished and hydrated for biking. We take care of your sleeping arrangements, providing you with a comfortable place to sleep so you are rested and ready to ride the next day. All you have to worry about is being fit and able to ride your bike and enjoy every day of your adventure!
But.. after saying all that, there are some specific things that you can prepare for which will greatly enhance your enjoyment of Escape Adventures Kenya & Tanzania cycle tour. When we’re preparing for any kind of adventure it’s always good to look at the big picture to identify potential challenges.
Escape Adventures’ Kenya & Tanzania cycle tour covers 540kms over 12 days of biking. The tour itself is 16 days long, so there are some rest days with other scheduled activities or options for you to explore an area on your own.
The longest single distance to ride in a day during the cycle tour is on day 7 and is 105kms. When training for a ride like this, it’s good to know what the maximum distance is that you’ll be required
to ride. We say ‘required to ride’, but that doesn’t mean we force you to do it. It pays to mention here, all of Escape Adventures cycle tours have support vehicles for us to use when we want to. You always have the option of hitching a ride in the beast
(support vehicle in KT) if you’re tuckered out. But… if you have never ridden 105kms it’s great to challenge yourself to achieve it. Why not?! It’s the perfect opportunity, especially as you’ll have the support and encouragement of your tour leaders and biking friends.
105kms is the furthest distance to ride in a day, but there are a couple other days not to be overlooked. On day 3 we ride 82kms which is nothing to be sneezed at. And later during the trip, on day 13, we ride 57kms. Now we know what we’re aiming for, we can address this in our training plan and ensure we’ll be ready to ‘go the distance’ come tour time.
If you are an experienced bike rider and have an idea about how long you think it will take you to ride a particular distance, we ask that you not apply those expectations to this ride. Traveling times during this cycle tour can be slower than anticipated due to the nature of the terrain and surfaces we ride on. We also like to stop and look at things of interest, take photos and chat to the locals, all of which take time.
2 Elevation Profile or ‘Ups and Downs’
How much does the tour route go up and down? It’s one thing to ride along a flat road, but it becomes more difficult when you have to fight against gravity and go uphill. Even riding down a hill can sometimes require more effort than cruising on flat ground.
Escape Adventures Kenya & Tanzania cycle tour includes terrain that is flat, undulating and some rolling hills. You don’t need to be too concerned, there is no Everest looming in the distance. There is Kilimanjaro, but you don’t have to climb it. We won’t deny that there are a few hills we have to get up… and down. They are not too big or too long. Getting up is only half the hill, we’ve still got to get down. Often people think that the hard work is over when they reach the top. They relax and become complacent. But it’s important to stay alert when descending on your bike, especially when on dirt roads or single track. This will be an important skill to practice in the lead up to your Kenya and Tanzania tour. The great thing is we know about these hills, so we can make sure our training program prepares us for this. Hopefully you’ve got some hills nearby that have some dirt or gravel roads on them.
3 Terrain / condition of surfaces
Our Kenya and Tanzania cycle tour consists of 65% dirt roads, 30% paved roads and 5% non-technical single track. The ‘details’ tab on our website for this tour describes the roads we ride as...
‘rough at times, slow going, pot-holed and sandy and the riding challenge of the tour should not be judged by mileage alone. The trip is suited to riders with a good level of biking fitness and off-road biking experience will greatly enhance handling on rough roads and add to the enjoyment of your tour.’
This might sound a little scary for a non experienced biker, but don’t be put off. The 10 week training plan that we are about to embark on is going to prepare us for this challenge. You will be fit and ready for those ‘pot-holed’ roads by the time I’m done with you.
We know that aerobic fitness will greatly enhance our experience of this cycle tour. But now we also know that we need bike handling experience too. What I mean by this is we need to know how to dodge a pothole, ride on a bumpy road and ride downhill on a dirt road. The only way to learn this is to do it. As much as possible we need to incorporate riding on surfaces like this during our training. But we’ll talk more about that when we get to the program.
It almost doesn’t bear mentioning, but I thought I would, as it helps to explain why you may feel more tired than expected during the trip. For a short time during the Kenya and Tanzania cycling tour we reach an altitude of 1700 meters. That’s not extremely high by any means, but high enough that you may feel a little lethargic or slightly more puffed than usual. We don’t stay at this altitude for long and these feelings (if any are even experienced) will pass as we move towards lower ground again.
5 Saddle fit
When you spend a significant amount of time in the same position, whether it is sleeping or sitting at work… or say… riding your bike, you want that position to be comfortable. Being uncomfortable in your saddle can very quickly start to impact the enjoyment of your ride. As we anticipate a few lumps and bumps along our ride it’s a good idea to get our saddle comfort dialed before our big adventure. There are a few things that contribute to saddle comfort.
First of all, like any part of our body, when we start doing a new form of exercise we must train that part of our body. It’s normal for your bum to feel sore after riding your bike if you haven’t ridden a bike before. It’s a good idea to ease into it. Start going on short rides and slowly increase the duration and time you spend sitting in the saddle. Doing bike rides multiple days in a row is important for building saddle resilience, so we’ll work that into our training program.
Secondly, the type of saddle you use will greatly influence how comfortable you are. Check out this article on our website which has a section about how to set up your bike saddle to optimise comfort. The take home points from that article is expensive saddles are not necessarily more comfortable. There is no one size fits all, so experiment and find one that works for you. In the same article, in the ‘accessories’ section, we also explain why we don’t recommend using gel seat covers.
The best guarantee of having a comfortable bum while cycle touring with us in Kenya and Tanzania is to bring your own saddle that you know is comfortable. During your training, if your saddle isn’t comfortable try some of the suggested adjustments in ‘5 Bike Setup Tips for Comfort’. Hopefully you’ll find a good position that works for you. If you don’t already own a pair of padded biking shorts this is another approach to improving saddle comfort. We recommend investing in a good quality pair of liner shorts that will go the distance. Like these Ground Effect Innuendos for men. Or these Ground Effect Rendezvous for women.
6 High-five while you ride
Finally, the last challenge you need to prepare for is the amount of high-fiving you’ll
need to do while biking. Everywhere
we ride during this
cycle tour there are children that appear out of nowhere to run along beside our bikes and yell happy greetings to us. So, in all your serious training and preparation, when it is safe to do so, take one hand off the bars and make a high five action.
So there you have it. Those are the major issues we need to address in our training program in order to be ready for our Kenya and Tanzania cycle tour.
How to use this Training Plan
This training plan is designed for someone who is already an active person and has a medium level of fitness, but might have a low level of biking experience and skill. If you are currently not active in any way, ie walking, running, swimming or another form of regular exercise, you might want to start working on your general fitness a few months in advance to build up a good base level of fitness before starting this 10 week training program. This might involve any form of physical exercise where your heart rate is raised and sustained for a period of time, 2 to 3 times a week.
Once you have started this 10 week training program, feel free to be flexible with the days and times to suit your schedule. Believe me, we definitely understand that life is busy (that’s why we’ve got to get away on a cycling holiday for a break, right?!). However, when you are planning your training for the week there will be times when it’s important to have bike rides multiple days in a row. Also, be aware if you are changing up the days from what the program specifies that you must allow time for the body to recover. Timing your recovery is more important than you might think. If you allow too short a recovery time between workouts your body won’t be ready to get the gains from that workout. And if you allow too long of a rest between workouts you start to lose some of the base you’ve been building up. Don’t get too bogged down by all this. As we said above, it’s okay to be flexible and if you miss a training ride don’t beat yourself up, all your hard work is not lost over one missed ride. Stay positive and just determine to get back on the wagon the next day. Remind yourself that training now will equal more fun later.
If at any time during this 10 week training program you feel that the program is too strenuous or have other fitness/health related concerns, please see your doctor for advice. The program has been created to be achievable with incremental increases in distance and intensity while allowing for recovery time.
Types of Riding
The training plan is made up of a few different types of riding. I outline them below, so you have some context later when they are prescribed in the training plan.
These rides are all about the kilometers. We’re looking to get a few kilometers under the belt to prepare us for our 105km day. These rides will increase our endurance. If you haven’t ridden a bike much before, don’t be intimidated by this. We build up our distance with incremental increases. It’s also really exciting when you realise how far you can travel under your own steam. Remember that when you’re on your cycle tour you have a lot of time and support. Most people find they can achieve more while on the cycle tour as they have no other responsibilities and more time to do it in.
Intensity rides are when you bike at an increased exertion level to normal. This helps build strength and increases your comfortable cruising speed. It’s important to remember to warm up gently for 5-10mins before launching into intense physical exertion. Also give yourself time to cool down afterwards. Your intensity rides can be done a couple different ways.
- Intervals You can ride really hard and fast for a timed interval, then rest before doing another interval. For example, you may ride in a hard gear pushing really hard for 1 complete minute, and then rest for a minute before starting your next interval. Or if you have landmarks you know are ahead you can set rules about riding hard till you get to the landmark.
- Hill training This will be a really great form of intensity training for our particular ride as we do have some small hills to train for. Hopefully you have a good hilly road near you and use it for doing hill repeats. This means biking to the top, or a set point on the hill, then riding back to the bottom and doing it again, 4 or 5 times is ideal depending on the length and steepness of the hill. The idea is that you catch your breath on the way back down, ready to go up again. There will be times during the training program where we specifically prescribe hill training.
- Ride at a higher intensity for a shorter time. Let's say riding while having an easy chat is an effort level of 1, and sprinting to outrun a lion (please note, you don’t actually have to train for this!) is an effort level 5. On your higher intensity ride try to sit somewhere around 3 and 4. (Feels more like a yappy dog chasing, not as scary as a lion).
This ride is where we can concentrate on challenging our bike handling skills. If you are someone who has never ridden on dirt roads it will be crucial for you to get this style of riding in at least once a week in the lead up to your tour. First you need to locate gravel or dirt roads in your area. It would be great if these roads are on somewhat hilly terrain as this will be giving us a chance to practice hill climbing and descending on non paved surfaces. If you know of some mountain bike trails nearby that are suitable for beginners this would be ideal to hone your bike handling skills and start conditioning you for some lumps and bumps style of riding. If you’re not confident at first riding non paved surfaces, try asking a friend who perhaps is more experienced how they tackle dirt and gravel roads.
This ride should be fun and not too challenging! It’s good to keep active, but not push too hard, as the body will recover well with gentle exercise. It’s also great to keep your frequency of riding up to condition your bottom to multiple days of riding in a row. If you find there is not enough time in a week to do all the allocated training sessions and need to drop one, the best type of ride to leave out is one of these easy recovery rides. If you do drop this type of ride try to squeeze in another form of activity, like walking the dog or swimming. You can always commute to work or pop down to the shops on your bike. This keeps the body active and moving and aids recovery.
That brings us to the training program. All the best for your training and remember to have fun with it.
So there you have it. I hope this program will help you prepare you for the adventure of a lifetime. If any part of this program needs clarification please do not hesitate to contact us here at Escape Adventures. We’re more than happy to answer your questions.
Kenya and Tanzania are waiting and now… you’re ready!