1. Start Training 3-4 months in advance
Start training at least 3-4 months before the planned departure date. One month of riding four to six days a week, either inside on your trainer or outside on your gravel bike, is sufficient. You want to spin the bike at a higher rate of revolutions per minute (RPM). I am a huge fan of the “spin to win” style of ride. This is a chill pace ride where I am spinning at about 85-90RPM on a flat-ish surface (a little variation in elevation keeps the rides interesting). For your base mileage, a good goal to have is to get at least 300 to 500 miles under your belt.
Also, take time to work into a stretching routine. This will get your muscles, tendons, and ligaments ready for the next stage of training.
2. Build Strength
This is the stage where you can gradually start mixing in a little more varied training. Riding hills and structured training that includes a little interval and sprint work is key. You will want to mix this in gradually while maintaining your “spin to win” rides between workout rides. The key here is don't overdo it! Injuries are a bummer and can put a damper on any adventure plans.
Your goal should be preparation, not overworking your body. Days where you have more structured training, like sprints or intervals, these should be your shorter riding days, and the “spin to win” riding days should be longer in the saddle. Remember, strength does not mean going out and crushing huge gears. Building strength is about getting your body into optimal shape for a longer tour. I this case higher rates of spinning will get you up the hills faster with less energy used. Hill climbing and strength training should be continued once or twice a week as you get into this next phase of training.
3. Build Endurance
This phase of training is meant to build up endurance for longer days in the saddle. You can start by taking longer rides once or twice a week. The goal by the end of this third month should be to ride around 40 to 50 miles a day, two days a week. For these longer rides it is all about enjoying the time spent in the saddle. You bike is a freedom machine and allows to explore places that you might not have previously been to. Ride many hills, enjoy the views, meet new people along the way and most importantly take a camera to get that get that one epic photo for Instagram.
4. Ride with Weight
This might be the most important stage of training. About six weeks before the departure date for your adventure ride; begin to carry weight on the bike as you ride. The best days for carrying weight are going to be on the long endurance days. However, like any training program goes start slowly, carrying around 20 lbs., and begin to work your way up to carrying all of your gear a couple of times a week for about two weeks before your trip kicks off. This time is critical for you to build strength in your ligaments, muscles, and tendons. This will help to avoid injuries and prepare you for an epic and enjoyable trip.
5. Have fun!
This is the key