Training for NC 500

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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Joined: 24 Mar 2013, 9:27pm

Re: Training for NC 500

Postby djb » 8 Sep 2020, 4:10pm

As others have wisely stated, if you have never toured before carrying luggage, while you say you are used to doing 100mi 160k days, its super necessary to start riding with the load that you'll be taking on this sort of trip.
I've toured for about 30 years and it cannot be stressed enough how adding 15, 30 or 45lbs of stuff on a bike totally changes the equation of how much more effort it takes, and especially how your gearing is appropriate to the your total bike weight combined with the terrain.

Riding unloaded just isnt the same, and preparing what you think you'll take and actually riding in similar terrain and distances is crucial to let you know if your gearing setup is good, not to mention give you a more realistic view of what daily distances are doable and how your body will handle it.
Too long days and too high gearing for a given bike+load+gradients+headwinds can easily lead to knee issues or whatever, so finding out beforehand is always going to be prudent.
And like someone else wisely noted, you could easily run out of steam after 3 days, so the trip will be more enjoyable if you figure out beforehand what is realistic for you.

You do want to enjoy it, no need to be a sufferfest.

Posts: 231
Joined: 24 Mar 2013, 9:27pm

Re: Training for NC 500

Postby djb » 9 Sep 2020, 3:39pm

Another thought, one thing that riding with a load / long days / steep hills / headwinds, is that small fit issues will get shown up and can cause little niggles.

A recent example, due to covid, I've been riding mostly other bikes this year rather than my touring bike, but a few weeks ago did a solo trip of about a week, with camping stuff, having to carry groceries sometimes longer than usual.
I knew I'd be rusty, so expected that for a number of days, but after three I realized that a slight knee niggle really was because I needed to raise the seatpost a bit. Either seatpost slip or my Brooks slightly sagging in the hot weather / long sweaty days in the saddle, or combo of both.
All I know is that when I was younger, I wouldn't have picked up on this, and riding loaded for the first time in a long while and sometimes very hilly, showed up the issue.
Raised the seat and bingo, knee felt better right away, and then that usual in tour getting stronger and stronger period happened as usual, which is always a nice feeling.

So keep this in mind when you end up training for this trip with the load you'll be taking.
I'd love to be in Scotland next summer, was supposed to be there this year, but we'll see won't we?

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Re: Training for NC 500

Postby HarryD » 10 Sep 2020, 10:18am

One important thing to remember is that distance is one thing but parts of the 500 are seriously hilly. A complete loop of Applecross is only 71km but I've recorded 1850m of ascent while a complete loop of Assynt is 103km with 2300m of ascent. 80 to 100 miles per day can easily mean 8 to 10 hours in the saddle depending on your total load

On my lightweight road bike I burn around 500 calories per hours going steady but pushing it takes that up to 700. Obviously you are still burning calories when not cycling at around 100 per hour. That's a lot of food to get through. My experience is that eating that much day after day is pretty hard and the guts don't always like it

One strategy you may wish to consider is two full days followed by an easier day to recover

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Joined: 24 Mar 2013, 9:27pm

Re: Training for NC 500

Postby djb » 10 Sep 2020, 11:44am

Excellent point Harry.
I've learned to use Google maps or whatever to very much note the rough amount of expected climbing meters in a given distance to really get a better handle of what sort of day to expect--and to manage a realistic distance to do / time to complete / and simply just how bloody hard a day is going to be.

Total bike weight and your fitness are the factors, along with proper gearing, and you soon learn what is doable for you and then also take into account what food and water you need along with availability of food and water.

Re meters climbing.
When I biked central America a few years ago, it was pretty typical that we'd have 1000 m of climbing in an average 70k day. But there were days like a 50km day and 2000m climbing, and this on a 80lb bike,maybe 90lb. 31-32lb bike + 45-50lb load, maybe more, depended on how much extra water and food carried.
50k and 2000m is a kickass day, worthy of a rest day afterwards.

Back in 93 I recall a 2200m day with probably 35-40lb load , 30lb bike, in the Pyrenees, and that was a kickass day too, but was younger and didn't know any better, my first time ever in mountains.

Photo in Guatemala to show the point
, pretty standard terrain....

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Re: Training for NC 500

Postby Pendodave » 10 Sep 2020, 1:46pm is great for this (height gain/steepness). Though maybe not for south america...
I've learnt to recognise the colour of the gradient at which I've got to get off and push...

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Joined: 24 Mar 2013, 9:27pm

Re: Training for NC 500

Postby djb » 10 Sep 2020, 2:06pm

given that this NC500 route is more popular now, and there Shirley must be lots of detailed accounts online of the route, not to mention perhaps simply using Google maps, it must be fairly easy to get reasonable ideas of what meters gain over a given distance is involved.

another reason to train using your bike setup as it will be for the trip, so you know how a given bike weight is going to be on hills.

also, re steep terrain all day, dont forget too that constant ups and downs, and presumably short (or not) steep buggers of ups and downs, can be waaaaay more wearing than one long climb. Thats certainly my take on things. Harder on the legs and knees than a long long climb where at least you find a gear or two and jug along in it for a long time.

and absolutely so if your bike isnt geared low enough.....

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Re: Training for NC 500

Postby GrahamJ » 27 Nov 2020, 7:19pm

I live in Durness and have cycled a lot on the west and north coasts. I use a MTB for touring for the low gears. I strongly agree with Alee Denham ( ... -the-flat/). Hills should be slow, not hard.

In September last year I got the bus from Durness to Lairg, and there was a woman on it with her bike. She'd been doing the NC500 but had to give up in Durness due to knee problems. When we got the station at Lairg, there was a man on the platform with a bike. He'd been doing the NC500 anti-clockwise, and had got as far as Tongue before he had to give up due to knee problems. He thought his legs had got too cold - it had not been particularly cold but it had been very wet and windy and he had no waterproof trousers. The windchill would have been fierce.

So. Low gears and waterproof trousers!