Oct 262017
Travel Takeaways: Physical Effects from a Long Bike Tour

A week after wrapping up the longest bike travel effort I’ve ever undertaken, what’s going on physically in addition to the mental and professional aftereffects?

I never weighed my load so I have no idea what I was pushing but it was no featherweight.

I did a reasonably good job of preparing myself physically for the trip and I’m really glad I trained.

Each day definitely left me knowing that I’d ridden a loooong way, and each morning started off with that feeling of heavy legs that comes from extended exertion. But then I’d warm up and it wouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge to do another 35 or 45 miles.

If I hadn’t been ramping up my mileage to prepare for the trip it would have been a different story. And if we’d had an itinerary with significantly more daily mileage I definitely would have needed more advance training–good to know as we look forward to where we’ll ride next year.

Riding 1) a heavier bike 2) loaded with much more gear 3) every day 4) on a trail that had a lot more rolling resistance and 5) pretty much never provided any coasting gave me a different kind of workout.

When I rode my bike to work Monday morning after my vacation ended it was nothing! Lighter bike with skinny tires, a lot less weight to carry, and a paved surface the whole way–it was like flying. Even the hills felt easy. Coasting was an absolute treat. And the 8-1/2 miles is just a warm-up. We’ll see how long this lasts but wow.

Okay, so some of the calories consumed along the way fall into the “treats” food group.

“Fueled by calories” doesn’t automatically result in big weight loss.

I periodically wear a heart monitor to see approximately how many calories I burn on a longer effort. When I did 30 miles on the trainer a week before we left on the trip I used over 1,900 calories. I don’t totally use that as an excuse to replace all those calories the day I ride but that glass of wine is completely justified–heart-healthy benefits, right?

On the trip it quickly became apparent that it would be uncomfortable to eat really big meals, as they tend to repeat on you when you’re back on the bike. Given the location of towns on our itinerary we ended up only stopping for lunch once or twice. Most days we ate a decent breakfast with some staying power, noshed on a bar or two as we rode 3-4 hours, then ate an early dinner.

So with only two “real” meals a day and all that exercise I was sure to lose weight, right?

I don’t want to lose weight to attain some socially prescribed ideal–or, well, not just for that. But when part of what you’re carrying on the bike is your own personal saddlebags there’s some incentive to (ahem) streamline the load a bit.

I did drop around 2-1/2 pounds and feel stronger. I imagine I added some muscle with 10 straight days of riding far more than I usually do. But it’s not as if I came back a whole new me. That wasn’t a goal but I did have a teeny tiny little fantasy that I would jump-start my metabolism in some magical way.

All in all this is the biggest sustained physical effort I’ve ever undertaken, as far as I can recall. I feel a real sense of accomplishment having tackled it successfully. Now to plan the next trip and try to keep my activity level up.

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