How to prepare for the 300-kilometre Saimaa Cycle Tour and prepare for a long bike ride

Näin valmistaudut pitkään pyöräilyyn ja selätät 300 kilometriä Saimaa Cycle Tourilla


300 kilometres is a long way to go and you should not set off on such a journey without being fully prepared. If you are interested in challenging yourself with a long bike ride, the Saimaa Cycle Tour is an excellent choice. The 300 kilometres offered at our event is in many ways a smoother experience than a similar journey on your own. This is because of the following:

  • Service stations along the way provide regular breaks, allowing the journey to be split into a number of shorter journeys - you know the saying about eating an elephant in small pieces.
  • With thousands of participants, there's enough riding and chatting for everyone, regardless of the speed.
  • When you sign up for the Saimaa Cycle Tour, you sign up for the challenge and the main prize, beating yourself, is sure to be rewarded at the finish line!

How long should you prepare for a cycling journey? Here are some ideas to help you improve your fitness and skills before the Saimaa Cycle Tour

How to prepare for Saimaa Cycle Tour for 300 kilometers

Cycling fitness required!

A cyclist's fitness is a combination of many different things. Endurance is probably the first thing that comes to mind. For tips on endurance training, read the rest of this article.

As well as endurance, another important aspect of cycling fitness is saddle fitness. Simply put, this is how well your back can withstand hours of cycling. If your back hurts after a training session, you need to do something about it. Your back shouldn't hurt during or after a ride. The first thing to do is to check your saddle width, which you can do at a good cycle shop, where they will measure the width of your sit bones and suggest a saddle that fits. If your saddle is in good shape and you're wearing good quality padded cycling shorts, you should be able to get your bottom used to riding for any length of time.

Mental fitness is the third aspect of cycling fitness. It develops and is made up of all the things discussed in this article. Mental fitness is about confidence, knowing that you have the skills you need, that you have the right equipment and that you are in good physical condition

The best way to improve all these aspects of fitness is to ride lots of training rides and push the distances you ride in moderation and at the appropriate pace.

Cycling technique matters

Cycling technique is the way you ride your bike. Staying upright and moving forward are of course basic riding techniques, but as a road cyclist you need to aim a little higher. This is usually the first point where people start telling you how to turn the rim smoothly (i.e. make your foot lift, not just push the pedal), but that's not really important for a beginner. Much more important is

  • Get to know your bike
  • Have the confidence to ride the bike in different positions and situations (sitting, standing, leaning, accelerating, braking).
  • To be able to use all the grips offered by the bike (centre, handlebars, bottom) with ease.
  • To be able to use the brakes and gears smoothly and without thinking

Once you have these basics down, you can start to think about the most economical and efficient way to ride. And many other things that experienced cyclists endlessly tweak in their own riding techniques. These include cadence, or rotational speed, the best way to ride a short climb, a long climb, a downhill, and how to handle high speeds and corners.

Checklist, cycling techniques:

  1. Get to know your bike and try to ride relaxed in different riding situations.
  2. Learn to use the brakes and gears smoothly, without thinking about which lever does what.

You need to know how to eat, drink and take a break

Once you get into the swing of road cycling, your rides will soon start to get longer. To be able to ride longer distances, you need to be able to take care of your own fitness, which means being able to drink and eat during the ride. Drinking is a simple job: water or juice in a bottle and a sip every 15 minutes. If it's a long, strenuous ride, you also need to consider eating, and coffee-break buns are often not enough to keep your cycling energy up and your spirits high. Running out of energy not only leads to a loss of energy, but also often to a pretty bad brain fog. There are plenty of options when it comes to eating right, and by trying different things you will find the right ones for your tastes. Ease of use is key: gels and bars that are easy to pop in your mouth are good choices, while nut mixes that are hard to dig out of wrappers and spill on the road are not so good. Eating and drinking should be possible while the bike is in motion, and one good way to do this is to replace part of what you eat with a freshly squeezed granny berry juice or carbohydrate-rich sports drink in another bottle.

Checklist, eating and drinking:

  1. Learn a drinking routine on training ride. Drinking must be possible while riding, so learn to ride with one hand and take the bottle from the rack without the bike wobbling and bending.
  2. Also learn how to eat while cycling and explore different gels and bars to find your favourites.

Riding in a group makes it easys

Riding alone is only half of road cycling, if that. Throughout the history of the sport, there have always been big mass start races, where the whole spirit of the sport is based on teamwork and pacing or gaining an aerial advantage. Group racing is therefore an integral part of road cycling and is by no means limited to racing. In road cycling, group racing also adds a new dimension for the fitness enthusiast, diversifying the sport in many ways.

Even cycling with just one friend is group cycling. When you ride with a friend, sometimes you talk and sometimes you shut up and just ride. But even the occasional chat keeps the time flowing and there's usually no shortage of things to talk about. After all, everyone has a hobby they love and have in common. Another aspect of group cycling that affects the time is concentration. In a close-knit group, people drive close together and each member of the group is expected to concentrate hard on driving. If you concentrate on cycling, pacing, changing shifts and chatting occasionally, time really does fly and even a hundred kilometers ride goes by so quickly that when you get home you are amazed at the number of kilometers  you have covered.

Of course, saving time is not the only benefit of cycling in a group. The tangible and measurable benefit is the speed, which is higher when cycling in a group than when cycling alone. This speed is the result of the drag created by the group. This phenomenon is also known as the 'drag advantage' and, in a nutshell, it means that those behind the leader experience less drag, saving energy and allowing them to travel at a higher average speed.

Skills needed for group cycling

So group cycling is useful, fun and an essential part of road cycling. However, there are some basic skills that group members need to master in order to have a safe and smooth group ride. These basic group cycling skills include

  • Pacing: You can only benefit from drag if you drive close enough to the rear tyre of the car in front. You can practise this with a driving buddy by taking turns to drive, trying to get as close as possible to your buddy's rear tyre. At first it's very exciting to ride close, but you'll get used to it.
  • Hand signals and shouts: Hand signals and shouts are used to signal to other members of the group to turn, slow down, stop, group movement and, for example, potholes or other hazards on the road. Signals given by others are repeated.
  • Shift change: The first person in the group to change shifts is done at a fast pace so that no one tires of being pulled too far. There are different ways of changing shifts, depending on whether you are riding in a single line or in pairs. Cyclists should never ride in more than two lines, unless the road is closed to other traffic..
  • The leader - the first rider in the group - controls the speed of the group, gives hand signals and other warnings in good time and guides the group along the correct route.

The best way to learn group cycling skills is to go on group rides or form your own cycling group with friends, where you can explore and learn in peace.

Checklist, group cycling:

  1. Get in the group, either for a group ride or to ride with your friends. Even with just one friend, you can learn to drive in a group.
  2. Agree on how you will ride so that everyone knows what's going on in the group.
  3. Follow these principles:
    • Focus on cycling!
    • Be proactive. Show your intention, show and repeat the hand signals shown. Communicate a lot.
    • Don't ride partially in front of the cyclist. Your front tire next to his rear tire is always a dangerous combination.
    • Line up or pair up, never triple up or other shenanigans.
    • Learn to ride as close as possible to the rear tyre of the person in front.
    • Enjoy the thrill of group riding!

Improve your endurance fitness

Road cycling is an endurance sport. You may not think of yourself as an athlete, but you are certainly a fitness enthusiast because you are interested in road cycling. A fitness enthusiast does not live the life of an athlete and you don't need to understand all the ins and outs of endurance training to take up road cycling. However, it is worth learning the basics because it will help you towards your goal of riding a long distance bike smoothly.

The basics of endurance training will guide how often and how you train to improve your fitness. The basics to help you improve your fitness are regularity, variation in training content and attention to different aspects of endurance fitness.


Practice regularly. I'm not just talking about cycling, but heart rate raising exercise. So what does regularity mean? The recommendations for adult physical activity include 1h 15min of strenuous or 2h 30min of brisk exercise per week. That would have to be a lower limit for the amount of activity and it's certainly not a lot, 1 or 2 bike rides a week is enough. Many fitness athletes exercise much more, e.g. 5 to 7 hours (and e.g. 4 to 6 times) per week and athletes double that. Of course, it should be remembered that a working fitness enthusiast should not compare exercise levels with a professional athlete, whose job is to train and recover. The boundary conditions in life are quite different.


Boredom - doing the same exercises over and over again - kills development. By varying the duration, effort and content of the exercise, the body is stimulated and development takes place. For a road cyclist, for example, development can mean increasing your average speed or the length of your laps. So vary the duration of your jogging, the length of the ride and the ups and downs of the hills. Sometimes have a hard week and then take it easy the next week.

Taking into account aspects of resilience

The components of endurance fitness are basic endurance, speed endurance and maximum endurance. Basic endurance training is the famous Keep talking exercise. Doing in the endurance zone is when you're already out of breath and when you're in the maximum endurance zone you feel really bad (you remember that feeling from the Coopper test or the childhood ski races, that feeling!).

You should remember to dose these different areas into your training in a sensible way. According to some sources, the ratio is 80% - 10% - 10%. So 80 % of the training is basic endurance training and the remaining 10 & 10 % for speed endurance and maximum endurance. So the most common training mistake cyclists make is to fail in this distribution. It's nice to push to go pretty hard and then almost every lap is ridden as a pace endurance workout. Too hard for basic fitness development and too slow for maximum fitness training. The worst thing is that the basic fitness that underpins all fitness does not develop at that point, preventing development in other areas.

Lengths of training rides

Fortunately, you don't have to train for 300km by doing 300km of training rides. However, it is important to extend your training rides and to push your own limits when cycling. Of course, it is impossible to give an exact formula for the distances you should be able to ride alone before the Saimaa Cycle Tour. It is wise to try to increase the distances gradually and to start with a distance that you know you can ride, even if it is 20 km for a beginner. Next time, push yourself to the limit by doing 40 km and then gradually increase the distance to 100 km during the spring and early summer. If you can ride a good 100 kilometres on your own and are not broken in any way, body or soul, by the time you reach the finish line, and if you can do the other things mentioned in this article, you are very likely to survive the 300 kilometres of the Saimaa Cycle Tour. As mentioned at the beginning, with the help of service points, the Riders' Club and your own commitment and motivation, the Saimaa Cycle Tour will make your journey much smoother than your own.

Checklist, endurance training:

  1. Remember regularity in training
  2. Vary the content and intensity of the exercise
  3. Do most of your training with calm, basic fitness cycles
  4. Gradually increase the length of your training rides

Get the equipment you need and learn how to carry out essential maintenance and repairs on you bike

In addition to your bike, you'll need a whole range of other cycling equipment for long journeys. It's also good to know how to do the most common bike maintenance and repairs yourself.

See you on the Saimaa Cycle Tour, you can do it!