The title is perhaps a little misleading. If you clicked here, you probably either wanted a full-fledge training program or you wanted to scoff at the notion of a training program for a bicycle tour. Well, I am not a trainer, nor do I have a true training program.
But this is important, and I have something important to say. Your bike tour will be difficult. You will face many challenges - logistical, physical, mental, you name it. You will be unable to prepare for some of the challenges. Tours have a an unpredictable aspect to them, so the best you can do to prepare for the unforeseen challenges is to mentally prepare yourself for, well, unpredictable challenges that you can't directly prepare for. Did that sentence even make sense?
But let's talk about the challenges you can train for. In my experience, here is where to focus your training: 1) Getting comfortable in the saddle, and 2) Becoming mentally tough enough to handle physical stress. Unless you are a dedicated cyclist training long hours each week or pedaling on lengthy bicycle commutes, here is what the first week of your tour will feel like: First, you will become aware that you are working hard to move very slowly. You will be tired, sure, and you might get out of breath on some long climbs, your legs might start to clench up after a few dozen miles and become extremely sore overnight, you might have a little trouble walking in the morning and at first you will get on the bike and think, "Am I really pedaling on today? Can I even do it?" The answer will be yes, however. Because your legs and your lungs are not the vulnerable spots; your weak spots are your ass, your knees, your lower back, your neck, and your brain. If you haven't cycled much, your ass will be absolutely destroyed within a couple of days. You might be extremely uncomfortable on day 1, even, and it will not get better on day 2 or 3. Being in a hunched over body position and putting pressure on your knees as you pedal, your head tilted back to see the road, is not normal. It will be a shock to your body. Unless you are used to it, it will hurt. You might get oozing saddle sores on the points of contact with the seat, too. And as your brain process all of this - your discomfort, perhaps the boredom, the periodic lack of what will seem to your weak brain as increasingly delicious food, the potential to be doing anything other than what will at times surely feel like suffering on the bicycle - you will be tempted to quit.
So how do you prepare for this? Two types of workouts:
1) Rides designed to acclimate your body to the position and focused pressure on your taint. Get in some saddle times. You do not have to be fast. Just get out there and cruise, preferably on the bike you will be touring on, fully loaded if you can. If you're not packed, just throw some things in your panniers and hit the road. Keep it interesting. Bike to a brewery or a coffee shop. Stop and see the sights. Treat it as you will treat the tour. Do whatever it takes to keep you engaged enough to push the saddle time longer. Try to get in 3 hours a week of rides like this for the 3 months before the tour. If you're new to cycling, start with 30 minutes/ride, 3 times a week, and work your way to 3-4 hours per week.
2) Workouts designed to make you mentally tough. Shoot for at least two workouts of this variety per week for the 2 months leading up to the tour. If you belong to a Crossfit gym or any gym that offers high intensity workouts, those are great to toughen you up. Pushing yourself past the comfort zone and maintaining that high intensity past the point where you're inclined to quit is perfect for preparing your mind for a tour. On a bicycle, get out there and do some 5 minute all-out efforts with 3-5 minute recovery periods. And I mean all-out. You want to reach that point where your brain says quit and keep going and going and going. Is there a weather condition you don't enjoy? Cold rain? Humid heat? If the season allows for it, wait for the peak of your least favored weather, then get out there and suffer in it. That's what it's all about here. Learn to suffer. On the tour, you will prepared enough and lucky enough that it never feels like suffering, or you will learn to find satisfaction in the suffering. Personally, I crave an element of suffering.
So there you have it. Get out there on the bike and learn to suffer.
Life moves fast. Travel slow.