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How to prepare for a high altitude cycling tour

Even if you are an experienced and avid cyclist, cycling on the heights is a different cup of tea altogether. At these heights, the air is thinner and oxygen availability is considerably lowered.

No matter how fit you are, the atmosphere here will definitely impact your performance. If you really want to enjoy the landscapes then a certain amount of preparation is necessary.


As you hit the heights, the first thing you notice is accelerated breathing as your body responds to decreased oxygen levels. Your heart rate increases to compensate for it and fatigue is common. Nonetheless, it helps to be mentally prepared for initial discomfort. A comforting thought, of course, is that it will get better as you get used to it. Some also experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness and so on.

However, this is more likely to occur if you have ascended rapidly. Generally, if you give your body time to acclimatize, it has its own in-built response. Within a day or so EPO levels increase within the body which stimulate red blood cell production. This helps in more efficient absorption of oxygen. Therefore the first step is reaching at least a week before the tour starts.

Never make the mistake of underestimating the impact of altitude. Some people believe that if they reach just the day before, they would be able to cope. Unfortunately, acclimatization is a gradual process and productivity increases at a slow and steady pace. The key is not to overdo it and to take things easy in the beginning. Meanwhile, certain steps can help to ease the process. Pay special attention to hydration and drink lots of water, eat well and get adequate rest.

Prepare Yourself Beforehand

But if you really want to enjoy your cycling tour then prepare well in advance. It is not necessary that a fit person will respond well to altitude, it is the person who has prepared well who will fare better. Altitude simulation is one way to begin acclimatization even before you reach the mountains. Different techniques are used to replicate the conditions found at the heights.

One is to breathe in thin air with the help of face masks alternated by breathing in normal air. Another way is to train in normal conditions during the day but to sleep in special nitrogen rooms at night. As oxygen levels are low in these special rooms, the body begins to compensate for it.

Preparation should also include a training regime that develops stamina and endurance for long distance cycling in less than ideal conditions. Failure to do so can hit hard in the middle of your trip.


Mountain cycling is a class apart from regular cycling and includes wide variations in the terrain. There is an extensive range available in mountain bicycles. The right bicycle that is suitable for rough terrain, as well as descents and climbs, is essential.

This not only ensures more comfortable riding but is also necessary from the viewpoint of safety. Make sure your bicycle is in optimum condition before you set out. Preparation will not only help you to make the most of your tour but will also ensure your safety.