When I have time I like to get my bike and canoe out and do a day trip. Doing a mile or two is not hard but a good day trip is between 8 and 14 miles. When I started at the beginning of the year 6 miles was all I could do before leg muscle fatigue (and butt soreness) did me in. Now at the end of the season I can just make 14 miles in 3 hours with a bit of walking the last few miles. I did a 22 mile bike only trip last week with similar results near the end of it. So I am guessing 1 bike/canoe mile =~ 1.5 or 2 bike only miles.

I usually bike/walk straight through as going down the river is much slower (2 or 3 mph) and getting to the planned boat ramp before dark is critical. The trails are mostly rail to trail and unpaved. Friction, wind resistance and towing an extra 100+ pounds up a gentle slope, are the major impediments. I find a casual pedal of about 5 or 6 miles an hour to be the most effective.

My scheduled exercise time is an hour, 3 mornings per week. Which include free weights, elliptical and recumbent stationary bike (wife's choice for our home gym). I found several related questions they all pretty much say to ride about 2/3 of your hard ride a few times a week. I am looking for a solution that will allow me to do a really hard 20 minute exercise that equate to a 2 or 3 hour casual pedal.

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  • I'm not quite sure where the question is here - you've obviously done some research to be able to post those links, and the process isn't going to be any different for you than anyone else. I mean, if you're looking for specific suggestions, training for just an hour at a time, in preparation for an all-day activity, doesn't look ideal, is there any scope for making this longer? for example, do you have any scope for commuting (using the bike) so that it doesn't impact your schedule so much?
    – PeteH
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 12:57
  • I am looking for different solutions than offered, All the solutions offered are for a single path, seldom is there only one way to get to the same place. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 13:03
  • I have posted a related question at a sister site How to strengthen bicycling muscles without bicycling? Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 10:57

3 Answers 3


The difficulty is you want specifically to train for endurance, but you want to do it in short bursts.

I'm not saying a few squats won't help a bit, but they won't do the job. And trying to push too hard on a bike for a few tens of minutes might improve your aerobic capacity but quite possibly at the expense of your knees. You also need to be in a similar geometry so the benefit of an hour or 2 of moderate pedalling on the recumbent while reading/watching TV will be limited. However (almost) within your constraints that might be the best place to start. Or drop the elliptical in favour of more bike time if you really don't want to increase your total time.

That's the fitness aspect; the soreness will only be dealt with by time in that saddle, or one very similar. If the saddle suits you you don't need ages in it to keep yourself at a level suitable for spending 3 hours on it, but you do need to get on it every few days at least.

Anything you only do a couple of times a month will be hard, skipping anything over a week or two really hits your fitnesss for a specific task (a shorter figure even than that is often quoted, but in the context of an athlete's peak performance rather than something more casual).

I'd also suggest that particularly as you build up the long towing rides rather than walking at the end you take a decent break and ride again. This will be tricky if there are uphills involved, in that case you might get away with a walk or 2 earlier in the trip.

One further suggestion given comments and other answers: switch one of your mixed exercise sessions per week to bike only from a month before your first ride/paddle trip to a week before your last of the season.


You may find Grant Peterson's books Eat Bacon, Don't Jog and Just Ride helpful. He is a big proponent of maintaining fitness with short bursts of intense work. The essential idea is to choose an exercise regime that triggers the release of growth hormone to build muscle.

I found the books quite enjoyable to read and his position makes sense – and seems to work for me.


The only way to build endurance is to spend time building endurance. The only way to get into biking shape is to spend time on your bike. Sprinting for 20 minutes will build strength, but very little endurance. You're not going to find any shortcuts here.

Put away the canoe, put down the weights, stay off of the elliptical and spend more time on your bike.

  • The bicycle is the means not the end. For me the exercise facilitates the outdoor activities by keeping me in shape, the bicycle is a means to get the canoe to a upstream launch. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 23:03
  • @JamesJenkins that's fine, but this is bicycles.stackexchange. If you need information outside of the scope of bicycle knowledge, frankly, you've come to the wrong place. Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 0:24
  • Yeah I kind of coming to the conclusion that; any questions does not involve riding $1,000+ bike at least 200 miles per week is out of scope on this site. Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 9:39
  • @JamesJenkins I see where you're coming from with that but it's a little pessimistic. There are actually quite a lot of people here who commute by bike over fairly short distances but like the occasional longer ride, and who ride cheap bikes. It's not an easy problem to solve though.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 12:13
  • I think the words "hard rides" confuse people. What you are describing is preparing for easy ride with minimal practice. Low intensity "HIIT" is often recommended in situations like this.
    – ojs
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 12:45

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