Pacing and Nutrition on a 20 days bikepacking trip in the Alpes

Hi, next week, the 27th of June I’ll start a trip in the alpes.
It will end the 21st of July.
I’ll be self supported carrying all the gear to eat sleep drink etc.
I’m planning on doing 4 days “ON” 1 day “OFF”. Total 20days ON 4 days OFF
The day “ON” will average 5h45min, 100km and 2100m of elevation.

The main question is what intensity should I pick, my FTP is 270W and I was thinking about IF=0.55
That would make an average of 150W for each rides (I took into acount the altitude : Altitude and Aerobic Performance - Joe Friel)
What do you think of that

For nutrition I am used to apple cereal bars (1 every 30 minutes) and since I won’t have my energy drink, I’ll buy salt and sugar in a supermarket to make a homemade carb drink.
How much sugar per liter I don’t know ?

Should I bring my compression socks or it is not worth the added weight ?

Also this week i’m tapering

Any suggestion about all of that, have you experience a similar trip ?

Thinking about a pacing strategy on a bikepacking trip sounds mentally exhausting.

I would ride to a pretty easy RPE and ignore your PM.

Nutrition may be hard travelling through different towns but 60g of sugar in big bottles with some salt and eat and drink constantly would be the goal. It will be an eating contest.

Use all the cafes and grocery stores you can find to shove as much food in your system as possible. Try and stock up on packet lollies and stuff like that.

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Done a few bike-packing trips in Europe and also silk road mountain race which is at the more extreme end of things. I would say you are massively trying to overplan it. Flexibility is definitely a positive thing.

So firstly I’d get rid of fixed on and off days. My personal preference is generally no days completely off the bike as I find the day after a complete rest day feels a lot worse than having a relatively easy day, but YMMV. (The exception is if I’m passing through somewhere particularly interesting where I want a full day seeing the place). Generally easy days work themselves out without any planning, at this time of year bad weather will likely dictate some times you’d rather not be on the bike!

Also off days can be practically difficult if you are wild camping, or quite boring if you are at campsite in the middle of nowhere. So if you do decide to have an off day try and do it a bigger town where you actually have stuff to see/do.

Similarly, get rid of fixed distances or times. No problem having an average goal in mind. But let everything else dictate the exact distance each day i.e. camping spots, resupply points, how you feel etc.

Regarding pacing, the suggestion of not looking at power and just going for a really easy RPE is a good one. I don’t know how Friel accounts for altitude, but ime there is quite a big variation in how people respond, so it’s something you really need to “wait and see”. With all this it’s much better to go too easy than bury yourself in a hole.

In regards to nutrition, the Alps are just not that remote. You will never be too far from a cafe/restaurant/supermarket/petrol station. Nearly all of which will sell energy drinks. The sugar and salt option will work, but it’s a fair bit of faffing and then you are stuck carrying the rest around, and no doubt sugar will end up getting everywhere in your bags. Personally I take electrolyte tablets to put in my water and just drink a coca cola or Fanta at stops.

Again, I wouldn’t overthink it and worry about getting exactly 60g of carbs per hour.

Total kcal over the day is a much more important thing - you probably can’t eat too much. Remember it’s touring not racing, nutrition doesn’t have to be optimised for perfect performance, you are not bonking at 0.5IF because you had no carbs for 1 or 2 hours.

You plan to ride less than 6 hours per day. Good breakfast before you set off, boulangerie stop at 2 hours, and then a decent sit down lunch stop around 4 hours should get you through alone. Of course feel free to use energy drink and snack on the bike for some extra kcal.

I would suggest carrying a few emergency gels just in case.

Compression socks don’t weigh anything and pack down pretty small. If you really want them and have space I don’t see why you wouldn’t bring them if you think they are beneficial. Although im sure the kinds of people that cut the handle off their toothbrush to save weight would disagree!

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Great suggestions from @critpig and @boarder2020 here.

Long rides/trips like this call for flexibility and adjustment. :slight_smile:

It can be difficult to come up with a pacing strategy that will work for the whole 20-day trip. I’d agree with the others that going along at an easy RPE would be the best move here. At times you’ll feel stronger, other times less so – so adjusting your pace based on how you’re feeling on a given day/at a given time will be key.

Stocking up with nutrition at grocery/food stops is a good idea as well. That way, you might not need to carry quite as much stuff on your bike at all times. You should also be able to choose different foods that you might find more appealing than others based on how you’re feeling during the trip. You might be used to apple cereal bars right now, but there may come a point over the course of the 20 days where the idea of one more apple cereal bar just won’t do… It can be nice to have different options!

I also think that finding soda/energy drinks/hydration drinks at those stops is a good call. Carrying sugar/salt around can be a drag… And that stuff spills everywhere really easily. Might just be easier to grab a Coke (or similar) if possible when you stop to top up on some carbs and/or pour it into one of your bottles.

That said, I’m a big fan of pouring sugar straight into a bidon and taking that along for easy carbs… So if you get a spillproof bag/container, then it might be worth taking some sugar/salt if that’s what you’re into (and if you have enough space/weight tolerance for it).

And compression socks probably wouldn’t hurt if you like them! They seem easy enough to pack along with you.

I think the most important part of this trip will be eating – eat often and eat as much as you can at your rest stops! You’ll be burning a ton of energy riding as much as you will be each day, so keeping your energy stores topped off as much as possible will be crucial to keep you moving (and feeling good).

Have fun on the trip – feel free to let us know if you have any other questions!

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Thanks for all of those great answers, the only issue with flexibility is the fact that I have a train to go back home and I wouldn’t like to miss it
I guess I can always make the trip shorter if I don’t feel as good as plan :slight_smile:
Since I’m overthinking alot of things, I thought about recovery drinks, the plan would be to buy drinkable yogurt !

if you want to put sugar in your bottles use the sachets from cafes/McDonalds/restaurants etc. Easy to carry, no risk of splitting and will be a measured amount. You can put a load in a plastic bag and just top as you go along.

Good idea yeah I was thinking mainly about that for salt but it also works.
Or like they said, just drink some apple juice (or else) and add salt in it .

Most bikepacking trips have a fixed end date. So yes, you do need to have a rough plan. But not down to deciding on rest days and exact km each day before you set off.

Divide the total distance by number of days and work out the average distance you need to do per day. Assume that some days you will do more than this, some days less.

If you realise you are massively ahead or behind on time adjust the route accordingly. You can always use transport to get you and the bike to the end point if necessary.

I’d say thinking about a specific recovery drink is probably overkill. As long as you are taking on lots of kcal with a decent amount of carbs anything is probably fine. (Protein also important, but total daily protein probably more important than specific timing).

In some ways it’s more important finding what you actually want to eat lots of at that moment than what has “optimal macros”. Also you might be constrained by what’s actually available where you decide to stop.

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