My bicycle touring stretching warmup begins in my sleeping bag, progresses as I break camp and extends into my first ten to fifteen minutes on the bike. I follow up a good thorough stretch by hitting a low gear and spinning my legs for another ten minutes. I don’t waste any time as every stretch is geared toward getting on the road. It makes getting started on a rainy or chilly mornings a little easier.
Why do I stretch?
Repeated days of long riding with a fully loaded touring bicycle followed by sleeping on a 1 inch pad in the woods is hardcore. To get the most out of a tour you need your body to respond. Stretching will help you reduce tightness and strain in your neck, back, shoulders, arms, face and legs. This in turn will make the long days in the saddle less fatiguing and will hasten recovery. Always warm-up muscles before making an effort and at the end of a long day. I run through these just about every time I get on or off the bicycle.
Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup – Sleeping Bag
A great way to wake up is to hit two simple yoga poses right in your sleeping bag. I started this while touring and have brought it into my regular life. I do this every morning.
1. Downward-facing dog
Start on hands and knees. Lift hips into an upside-down V-shape, keeping palms on the floor. Bend your knees if necessary. The focus is on flattening your back and not having your heels on the floor. Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute.
2. Upward-facing dog
Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor. Then straighten your arms and simultaneously lift your torso up and your legs a few inches off the floor on an inhalation. Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute.
Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup – Breaking Camp
1. Unstaking the tent
Think of every tent peg as an opportunity to touch you toes and hold it for 30 seconds. Don’t forget to finish off by standing up as straight as you can arms extended to the sky and make yourself as tall as possible. Breathe in and out and focus on the days goals.
There are lots of tedious camp chores that can be turned into stretches. Every time you bend at the waist make it graceful and purposeful. Over the camp stove, as you load your bike, lube the chain, be mindful of how you are moving and make it count.
Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup – On The Bike
Gotta Be careful when trying this: My stretching routine is done on a bicycle while riding and at some times I take my eyes off the road in front of me. Make sure you have some spacing between other riders. Be aware of traffic, go slow and control your bicycle. These should be executed on smooth, flat, dry pavement. Don’t take any chances.
Many of these stretches are similar. It is helpful to concentrate on the area you are stretching to keep the focus on that muscle group.
1. Lower and Middle Back Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
With one hand on the handlebar, take your other hand and grip the back of your saddle. Rotate your upper body to the hand on the saddle and maintain the stretch for 8-10 seconds. Maintain eye direction forward and at the end of the stretch rotate your head 180 degrees to the rear of the bike. Switch hands and do the other side. I do this stretch 3 times every time I mount my bicycle.
You are taking your eyes off the road for a short time here so make sure there is no traffic or obstructions.
2. Shoulder and Neck Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
Reach across your chest to the opposite shoulder as far as comfortable and extend your arm outward as if pointing to something perpendicular to the direction you are riding; hold for 8-10 seconds. Switch arms and repeat 3 times.
Lift your shoulders towards your ears until you feel tension; Hold for 8-10 seconds, then slowly roll back to original position. Repeat 3 times.
3. Fingers and Forearms Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
Place fingers on handlebar and push down to stretch forearms; Do each hand 3 times for 8-10 seconds.
Bend hand back as far as possible; rotate wrist back and forth; Do each hand 3 times for 8-10 seconds.
Don’t neglect your hands. They take a lot of abuse on tour. Warm them up and cool them down.
4. Face and Jaw Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
Open your mouth in an “O” then move your lips right to left to stretch cheek muscles. Do this 3 times or 8-10 seconds.
Open your mouth as wide as you can and pretend you are a tyranasaurus rex to stretch jaw muscles. Hold for 8-10 seconds.
Be mindful throughout the day to NOT clench your jaw. Except when eating power bars. I try to sing outloud a lot when riding to keep from clenching the jaw.
5. Back Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
Keep you legs straight with the pedals at the 3 and 9 o’clock position. Hands are firmly grasping the bars, spread shoulder width apart, and bent slightly [not locked straight]. Arch your back and neck while lowering your head slightly looking directly underneath you; Hold for 8-10 seconds.
Then straighten your back to a reverse arch and lift your head up to straighten your spine; Hold for 8-10 seconds.
Perform both stretches consecutively and alternate your foot positions: heels down toes up, flat footed, and heels up toes down.
6. Legs Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
While coasting, straighten one leg in the 6 o’clock position and drop your heel. Keeping your back straight try to position your chin on top of the stem; Hold for 10 seconds. Switch feet and repeat. Then switch foot position heels up toes down and repeat.
In the 3 and 9 o’clock position, stand and drop both heels. Keeping your back straight try to position your chin on top of the stem; Hold for 10 seconds. Go up on your toes and feet repeat.
7. Unclip and Shake Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
While coasting unclip from one pedal and give your leg a good, vigorous shake. Shake it on out. Clip back in and repeat with the other leg.
8. Spin, Spin, & Spin Bicycle Touring Stretching Warmup
Throw it into a gear that offers very little resistance and spin the legs to get them warm. I do this for about five minutes perhaps longer on a chilly rainy morning.