Lhasa to Kathmandu Ride (MCT) - Packing/Training/Altitude advice

Hi,

I'm going to be joining the August departure of the MCT (Lhasa to Kathmandu) trip and thought I would take the opportunity to pass on some useful information to you about this trip.

Just so you know why I'm qualified to write this by the way, I worked for Exodus for nearly 6 years leading cycling and trekking trips before coming to work in then office, including a number of trips which went to altitude (in Pakistan, Nepal and Peru). I'm a keen mountain biker (and have been riding for 20 years this year!). I also work for the CTC in the UK as a leader trainer, training potential mountain bike leaders.

There's quite a lot of advice here, but if you need any other information, feel free to contact me! 

 1. Packing

Due to the weight limit imposed by the airline, you will need to pack quite carefully, but I think it should be possible to get everything in within the limit.  This is the packing information in our trip notes (which you might have already seen), which I've added to where appropriate:

You will need the following: Along with your normal daily clothes, 4 season sleeping bag; warm jacket; sunglasses, sunscreen, sunhat, waterbottle, torch, walking shoes and a sheet sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner (these ones are very good and pack down incredibly small http://www.seatosummit.com/products/display/22)

Personal Safety Equipment: On all Exodus cycling holidays you are required to bring the following personal items, which we view as crucial for the health and safety of our clients: 

A helmet, eye-protection (sunglasses), cycling gloves and waterbottles or hydration system (e.g. camelbak).  My preference would be to go for a Camelbak, ideally with a 2litre bladder size as a minimum.  This one is pretty much perfect, and could be used for hiking/skiing/sight seeing as well as cycling http://www.camelbak.com/sports-recreation/hydration-packs/2010-blowfish.aspx

Padded cycling shorts (with loose ‘over-shorts’ where recommended), breathable cycle clothing, and a lightweight waterproof / windproof top. Its worth buying the best shorts you can get.  Pearli Izumi (http://www.pearlizumi.com/index.php ) and Gore Bike wear (http://www.gorebikewear.com/remote/Satellite/HomePage) make very good kit and they do specific fit items for males/females.  Of all your kit, getting a couple of pairs of good shorts will make the biggest difference to how comfortable you are whilst riding! The other item I would recommend is some chamois cream like this one: http://www.roadcyclinguk.com/bike-reviews/assos-chamois-cream/2160.html.  You use a little cream every day on the padded insert in your sorts and on your nether regions and you will be a lot more comfortable! I would also consider taking a pair of leg warmers and arm warmers.  These are light weight, made of fleece lined lycra and can be put on/taken off as you warm up or cool down (http://pearlizumi.ecomm-search.com/search?keywords=leg+warmers&search-submit.x=0&search-submit.y=0)

Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for biking.  If you've used them before (or are happy to get used to them this summer before your trip) I would recommend clipless pedals and shoes like these:  http://bike.shimano.com/publish/content/global_cycle/en/us/index/products/pedals/mountain/product.-code-PD-M520-L.-type-.html and http://bike.shimano.com/publish/content/global_cycle/en/us/index/products/shoes/mtb/product.-code-SH-MT60.-type-.html.  The benefits of using SPD pedals/shoes is that they are much more efficient and they allow you to pull up and push down on the pedals whilst cycling so using your leg muscles work much more efficiently!

I would recommend you chat to your local bike shop to get some advice about which ones are suitable for you!

Most people want to carry certain items with them during the day while cycling, for this we recommend a large bum-bag or small close-fitting daysack. 

Extra bike bits: You may also like to bring your own saddle (excluding the seat post) -  if you have your only saddle that's comfortable, I would definitely bring it!  I use Selle Italia saddles (http://www.selleitalia.com/) but they're quite specific to your particular shape and size!  I do lots of mountain bike racing and use a Selle Italia SLR XC gel flo, which is light, comfortable and looks good!  They're pretty expensive, but I find them incredibly comfortable, so worth the expense!

If you are hiring a bike, and have access to the following, we suggest you also bring: mini-pump, tyre levers, small universal bike tool. Having these to hand will aid speedy roadside repairs for simple issues such as punctures or saddle adjustment, when the leader or support vehicle is not close by.

2. Altitude

The trip goes pretty high (5220m/17,126feet) so it's worth giving some careful thought to the possible effects on altitude on you.  There's some useful advice in the links below, which it would be worth you reading.  I would recommend you talk to your GP about bringing Diamox with you - there's some good advice in the BMC links below about the benefits of using it to help you to acclimatise.

http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,6610,s1-4-41-18190-1,00.html

http://www.thebmc.co.uk/Feature.aspx?id=1746

http://www.thebmc.co.uk/Feature.aspx?id=3158

3. Pre-trip training schedule

This is quite a tough one to discuss without meeting clients or knowing what their lifestyle is like, but essentially try and ride your bikes as regularly as you can - ideally 2 or 3 times a week - even if just for 40mins or an hour.  Try to do at least one longer ride each ride (4 to 6 hours if possible) so that your body gets used to sitting in the saddle for long periods.  The pace on the trip will be steady rather than racey, but you will be riding for quite a few hours each day, so the fitter you are, the better!  Perhaps try and include some general fitness training too - maybe some swimming or running and if you wanted to be in perfect shape, maybe some Yoga or at least daily stretching too!  If you have a local cycling club nearby or belong to a gym where they have a personal trainer, it might be worth you getting some personal advice from an expert too!

4. Food supplements

I would recommend that you bring some energy bars or gels or powdered energy drink from home with you, rather than trying to buy it in Lhasa.  Although this will add to your weight to carry, it will mean that you can find the type that your used to (it's worth eating/drinking the same energy products occasionally before you leave home just to make sure you like the taste and your body can tolerate them!) I use products from two British brands, Torq (http://www.torqfitness.co.uk/) and Mule bar (http://www.mulebar.com/), but everyone has their own personal preferences.  Generally when I ride, I try and just use water in my camelbak but cary a drinks bottle on my bike too, which I put energy drink in - that way your camelbak doesn't get all furry from having too much sugary liquid in it! 

 

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