Training for a Bikepacking Trip: 8-Week Beginner Plan

Preparing for a bikepacking trip can be confusing. Working out how much cycling you need to be able to do before your trip, making sure you have all the necessary bikepacking skills and being ready to set off on day one requires a lot of pre-planning. One of the best ways to make sure you are ready is to get yourself a training plan. So, how do you actually train for a bikepacking trip?

To train for a bikepacking trip, you should give yourself a minimum of 6 weeks. Within this period you should implement a structured training plan, where you slowly increase the distance you are cycling and ensure you have a good understanding of all the basic bikepacking skills.

So, now we know how long you should give yourself to prep for a bikepacking trip, but how much riding do you actually need to do, and which type of cycling should you be doing anyway? I look into this, as well as give you a sample bikepacking training plan in the rest of the article.

How to train for a bikepacking trip?

A picture of a man on a bikepacking trip

Step 1: Plan your trip

You can’t start training for a bikepacking trip, or any event, without knowing what it is you are aiming for. The training plan and regime for your first overnight bikepacking trip will be very different from the one you need for a transcontinental bikepacking race.

Some examples of things to think about before you design your training plan should include the following:

  • The total distance you have to cycle for the whole trip
  • The distance you will have to cycle each day
  • The amount of incline (ascent) there is on your route
  • What the terrain will be like on your trip
  • What the climate is like where you are riding

Step 2: Identify your weaknesses

A picture of a man on a bikepacking trip who is cooking.

Once you know what you are aiming for, you need to identify the areas you are weak. Again this will be very personal.

If this is your first bikepacking trip, this list might not only include cycling-related items. For example, you also need to ensure you are prepared for and have practised any bikepacking-specific skills, such as setting up a tent, route finding or bike maintenance.

Understandably though, one of your main focuses will be on the distance you have to cycle. Even beginner bikepackers tend to cycle for 30-40 miles per day, and this can quickly add up on a multi-day trip. More seasoned endurance cyclists might even be aiming for thousands of miles.

Areas you might want to identify that you need to train include:

  • Cycling endurance
  • Cycling strength
  • Technical cycling ability (General cycling technique or specific skills relating to cycling on complex terrain)
  • Camping skills
  • Outdoor cooking
  • Bike maintenance skills
  • Route finding skills
  • Flexibility
  • First aid skills

Step 3: Make a training plan

A picture of a man and woman on a bikepacking trip

So, now you know what you are aiming for and what you need to improve, it’s time to make a formal training plan.

How long should a bikepacking training plan be?

How long it takes to prepare for a bikepacking trip will again be dependent on the specific event you are training for. It also depends on what level of fitness and experience you already have.

Someone with a good base level of fitness who regularly cycles and camps may not have to train at all for shorter bikepacking trips (for example overnight or small multi-day trips). On the other hand, that same trip may take 8-weeks of training for a novice.

For the longer ultra-endurance bikepacking races, it is suggested that your training should be a minimum of 7 months, as this is how long it will take your body to prepare for the distances you will have to be cycling each day.

How quickly can I increase my cycling distance with a training plan?

As is the case with my example training plan below, I would suggest you do not increase your cycling distance by more than 10% each week. Increasing at a faster rate than this may well lead to injury or risk you burning out from your training regime.

What type of exercises should you include in a bikepacking training programme?

Given the majority of cyclists worry about their ability to cycle long distances on a bikepacking trip, I would suggest that most of your training time is spent on building up your cycling endurance. Unfortunately, there are not any good ways to build your cycling endurance apart from spending a lot of time in the saddle.

When I am preparing for a long-distance trip, I train by road cycling, as this enables me to get more miles in the saddle per week and more quickly.

In general, try and work up to longer distances on the bike before you look into doing these back to back. Once you have the distance down one day at a time, then try to include some more back-to-back long-distance days.

As well as training for endurance sections of your bikepacking trip, you should also include some high-intensity training (cycling at a much higher intensity for shorter periods of time). This helps to improve your leg strength and prepares your body to function when it feels it wants to give up.

For an example of a HIT Bike training regime, take a look at this plan from anytime fitness.

Should I get a heart rate monitor for bikepacking training?

Having a heart rate monitor can be really helpful when training for a bikepacking trip. This helps to give you an unbiased guide on how hard you are cycling and whether or not you need to speed up or slow down.

Newer cyclists tend to cycle too fast and too hard when training for endurance distances, however, they also don’t ride hard enough when doing intense interval sets. A heart rate monitor can help with this.

Generally, when cycling to train for endurance (for example in the long-distance rides in my training plan below), you should aim to have your heart rate at 70% of your maximum HR (called zone 2). At this level, your body is working hard enough to build up your fitness, but not so hard that you won’t be able to cover the distance.  I highly recommend a heart rate monitor.

Example training plan

A picture of a bikepacking training plan on a calendar.

Below is an example training plan for a 2-night (3-day) bikepacking trip, aiming to cycle between 30 and 40 miles per day. The plan lasts 8 weeks and would make a great first challenge for a newer bikepacker.

This training programme is designed for someone who is already comfortable cycling, but who is looking to increase their endurance and general skills before the trip. It will require a base level of fitness and you should be able to cycle 20 miles on a bike (around 1.5 hours of cycling) before starting. As with all things bikepacking, you do not need to be able to cover this distance quickly.

This training programme is just an example and should be adjusted based on your exact trip and level of base fitness. Please consult a medical professional before starting a new exercise regime.

Week NumberExerciseComments
Week 13 x 20-mile rides

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
Week 1 focuses on getting into the habit of regular riding

This video has ideas for stretching and core exercise routines.
Week 2 3 x 22-mile rides

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
Increasing the distance by 10%
Week 32 x 15-mile rides

1 x 30-mile ride

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
This week aims to prepare your body for longer sessions
Week 43 x 24-mile rides

1 x High-Intensity Ride

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
High-intensity rides are to increase the strength of your legs for climbs and ascents.

Aim for a heart rate of 80-90% of your maximum but for a shorter duration.
Week 53 x 27-mile rides

1 x High-Intensity Ride

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
From this week onwards, try to do some of your ridings on the type of terrain your trip will be on (for example wooded ground or gravel paths).

Week 62 x 20-mile rides

1 x 40-mile ride

1 x High-Intensity Ride

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
During this week’s long ride, try practising eating while on the bike. This can help you to learn which type of snacks work best for you.  
Week 73 x 30-mile rides

1 x High-Intensity Ride

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
Try and do 2 days in a row

On the days when you aren’t cycling, ensure you are up to date with any technical bikepacking skills, for example setting up your tent in the dark.
Week 83 x 30-mile rides

3 x 10-minute core exercises and stretching sessions
The distance does not change this week but you should try riding with your bikepacking bags on your bike.

This helps your body to adjust to the feel of the bags and the extra weight they bring.

It is also an opportunity to dial in your kit and work out where to pack things.

Tips and tricks to help you train for a bikepacking trip?

A picture of a man and a dog on a bikepacking trip

So, now you know the basics of planning a bikepacking training regime, but what else do you need to think about?

Consistency is key

When it comes to training for a long-distance riding event, the main challenge is getting the miles in. Multiple shorter rides are much better for your endurance than one long ride at the weekend. To try and keep yourself accountable, try telling friends and family about the trip you have planned, this way you are more motivated to keep going when it gets tough.

Learn to pace yourself

Learning to pace yourself on a long ride is a skill, and it is one you develop as you cycle more. It’s likely you can ride much further than you think, you just need to slow down. This is an area where a heart rate monitor can really help, as you can see how much you are actually working yourself.

Give yourself enough time to prepare

Training for any sporting event takes time, but when it comes to a bikepacking trip, where you have to develop multiple skills and build up your endurance, it will take longer than most. Don’t leave your training until the last minute. Even the most experienced bikepackers are advised to start training 7 months before an ultra-long-distance bikepacking race.

Rest days are important as riding days

Riding every day and pushing yourself too hard is actually not an efficient way of training for a bike-packing event, it’s also a surefire way to get an injury. If your schedule allows, aim to ride every other day during your training plan, this gives your body enough time to recover between sessions.

As you get closer to your actual event, you will want to practice some days of back-to-back cycling, but try not to push yourself during these rides.

Dial in your gear early

Riding with a fully loaded bike is very different to riding with no gear at all. I’d suggest you try riding on your bike fully kitted out early into your training plan, just to check how much of a difference riding with bags and gear will be.

On shorter trips where you are packing more minimally, this will be less important, however on long month or week-long trips, where you need to remain self-sufficient for an extended period of time, your gear will weigh a lot more.

As well as testing out your bikepacking gear, also consider adjusting your bike. If you are going on a very long trip I’d suggest you get a bike fitting before you leave.

Consider getting a coach

While this is not necessary, especially on shorter or beginner bikepacking trips, you might want to consider getting a proper coach for longer bikepacking trips or races.

Websites such as UltraMTB offer coaching sessions for long-distance mountain biking and these may well be suitable for bikepacking trips. The main bonus of these types of coaching is that you have someone to keep you accountable, someone to help structure your training and generally speed up your progress.

Prepare for bad weather

A picture of bikepacking bike in the snow

It’s not always sunny, and a rainstorm or poor weather should not interrupt your training. Try to plan for this in advance, either getting a gym membership with access to indoor bicycles or getting your own. This way you can stay consistent even when you don’t want to cycle outside.

On another note, you should ensure that at least some of your training sessions take place in bad weather (especially if the climate your bikepacking trip will take place in is bad). Learning to ride in poor weather conditions is a skill in itself and something you should practice before setting out.

Eat well

Training is only half the battle. As is the case with all exercise and training regimes, your diet plays as important a role as the exercise itself does.

While this article is not going to go into detail on the types of foods you should be eating while training, make sure that you are suitably fueling yourself, not running a calorie deficit and staying hydrated.

It can also be helpful to use your training rides to test out different riding meals and snacks. I have found that cyclists tend to get on with different cycling snacks differently. Specifically, if you plan to use any energy gels, try these before your trip as some riders find that these can cause digestive issues.

Take precautions to prevent injuries

This is somewhat linked with the advice to ensure you give yourself rest time, but you also need to make sure you are properly stretching and warming up before setting out on a training ride.

Take a look at this article for tips on how to prevent an injury while cycling.


As you can see, preparing for a bikepacking trip can be simple, provided you are able to stick to a training plan.

Joe Dalloz

Hi! I'm Joe a 30-year-old doctor, cyclist, and bikepacker who's spent thousands of hours in the saddle and written hundreds of articles about riding bikes!

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