With many options available, how do you choose the right one? Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cyclist, here’s what to consider when picking a cycling camp.
Most riders already know what they want to accomplish during their week. Improving how they climb, ride in a group or working on descending skills and endurance. A quality cycling camp should send a questionnaire ahead of time but if they don’t, let the resident camp coach or coordinator know when you arrive to cover the subject during your stay.
Keep your goals realistic. Cycling camps vary in length, and you can’t go from feeling like you are always dragging a piano up the hills to climbing like a pro in a short week. Focus on refining your skills and taking that knowledge home to work on over a longer period to see results.
Do you know your average speed when you ride? This is important to know before deciding on the cycling camp for you. Your average on the flats and in the hills determines if your level matches the camp’s. Staying with the pack is a huge motivator too. Beginners mixed in with advanced or expert riders is a cocktail for potential injury, distress and disappointment.
Yes, you are there to improve, and riding with better riders will certainly push you harder but there is a limit. You are going to ride more than you do already, and you will be tired. You’ve got a week to get through and being grouped with riders of the same level or close to it, will keep you excited about riding your bike as you improve.
As non-professionals, we don’t get to ride every day but you’ll be doing just that during the camp. Our bodies need time to adapt to the new physical stress of daily training. And a week of riding every day when you are out of shape can quickly turn into an interminable nightmare.
The camp should have a set schedule for the week that describes the terrain, the amount of mileage and climbing on the program. Once you’ve got this information, schedule a few extra sessions during the weekdays in the months leading up to your departure date and add longer endurance rides on the weekends. Take a few days off before you go to be rested and ready.
Do you bring your own bike or do they provide one for you? While most cyclists would prefer to ride their own bicycle, transporting our favourite steed can be annoying and costly in excess baggage fees. To properly protect your bike during transport, it needs to be in a special case, which most cyclists don’t own.
If the camp has a bike for you, ask for its measurements and geometry. This way you can compare it to your own bike’s stack and reach (among others) to know if it will be a good fit for the week. If you aren’t sure, camps have resident mechanics on hand to make any adjustments necessary, like stem length and saddle height.
What pedals come on the bike? If they don’t match your brand – or they do but you have longer spindles – bring yours along. Your saddle for the week can make or break your experience too, so pack yours. If the seatpost diameter (usually 27.2) is equal to your bike’s, bring the entire seatpost and saddle combo for an easy swap. If you remove your saddle, mark where it is on your rails first.
If bringing your own bike, be sure it is in proper working order. Check your chain wear and brake pads and invest in some new tyres. Top off your liquid latex if riding tubeless and fully charge your battery if your drivetrain is electronic. Don’t forget to pack your chargers if your system requires regular charging.
We all prefer to ride in beautiful weather but Mother Nature may have other plans. Pack leg, knee and arm warmers along with a few thermal base layers. Add to that a vest and jacket in case of rain. If you have lightweight, quick-attach fenders, pack them too. It’s better to be prepared for any conditions. Your helmet is a given and also your favourite eyewear, with a few different lens choices if you have them.
Some camps provide a complete kit or kits to their clients. But will it fit? Ask the brand name and see if you can find it in your local shop to verify your size before you arrive. If that isn’t possible, consult their published sizing guide and do your best. In either case, pack a few pairs of shorts and jerseys. Onsite laundry facilities should be available.
Number of riders
What is the maximum number of participants for your cycling camp? You are paying for personalised attention from the staff and coaches and need to know the riders to staff ratio. Numbers also affect road safety when riding in a bunch. A good rule to follow is nine riders or fewer for the camp.
Don’t overdo it!
Many camps come with catered meals thanks to an on-site chef or a full buffet in the hotel restaurant. While it is important to treat yourself after a long day in the saddle, don’t overdo it. You’ll feel heavy and lethargic and might even leave the camp heavier than when you arrived.
Make (mostly) healthy choices during your stay, focusing on foods that aid recovery, such as slow-carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores mixed with some protein. A quick snack within the first 30 minutes of returning to the base can prevent you from over-bingeing later.
Rest and stay hydrated
You’ll be riding more than you are used to, making rest an important component of your daily recovery. If the camp provides massages, take advantage of them! No masseur on duty? Bring or invest in devices like the PowerDot or a Compex that help with recovery by stimulating muscles electronically.
Remember to drink as often as possible, especially when riding in a warm climate. One bottle for every hour you ride is a guide. Water alone may not be enough. Include electrolyte-based drinks to keep muscles functioning properly. Fluids are necessary to flush the body of waste material produced during intense physical activity and post massage.
Have fun! While it might be nice to feel like a pro for a week, it isn’t the reality, so don’t take it too seriously. Training camps for cyclists double as holidays too, so make the most of it. Enjoy meeting and getting to know your teammates for the week. You may create new relationships that will last a lifetime.