Pre-trip Training

While planning this trip to Sicily I decided that I would see just how long it took me to get into good enough shape be able to do the 1000 kms that I was planning to do during the trip in 2004. I started August 1st and rode my bike in and around the bike paths and streets of Toronto every day for 8 weeks.
I began with about 15 kms a day and within a month I was able to do up to 100 km in a day. The trick was not being able to do the 80 or 90 kms in one day but to do it every day for the two week or four week period of the trip. After two months I was quite comfortable averaging about 40 kms a day. I wanted to make sure that my legs were not so tired that I could not enjoy the free time I would have each day to see the local sights as we traveled around Sicily. I lost 25 lbs during the 8 weeks of training. It is important that your training includes a warm up and cool down routine to insure that you minimize sore and stiff legs, shoulders, neck and lower back.

Our trip is leaving middle of September so your training should begin in the middle of June. Most health clubs, the YMCA or YWCA and community centres around Toronto have spinning classes that will let you get started with your training while its still a little messy outside on the streets. There are some great books on cycling training available at Indigo and Chapters and other book stores that will help you set up a personal training program so you you will be ready for the trip.

The City of Toronto has good maps showing bike trails around the city. I live in the beach and ride to the Humber river which is about 40 km return two or three times a weeks. At least once a week I ride to Royal Windsor drive in Oakville and back which is about 80 kms return. For a quick fast ride I go to the end of the Leslie spit which is about 10 kms from the entrance gate to the end of the spit and back. It is a good ride because the road surface is very similar to the road surfaces that we will be riding on in Sicily. There is a combination of broken or rough pavement and firmly packed fine gravel surface. The one surface condition that you will find only in Italy is the cobblestone roads in the middle of the small villages. The closest thing I have seen to these street conditions is the cobblestone surface inside the Distillery Complex by the docks in downtown Toronto.

Cycling Map of Toronto

Even though Italians are crazy about cycling and do tend to be more courteous to cyclists than in Canada it is important that you develop some street smarts during your training sessions. Italians drive fast, the roads are narrow with lots of curves so you have to ride defensively. Carrying as little as possible on your bike as you ride means less distraction and safer riding so plan to to leave all but the essentials at home or packed in your bag on the bus. Traffic in April and May is quite light especially on the roads we will be traveling, but you must be prepared for traffic in the bigger cities. We are choosing hotels that are on roads that run right next to the sea to minimize the amount of time we spend riding in city traffic.

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