Can I do it on a BMX Bike?

First time rider, I only own two BMX bikes. I am 26 and in good shape. Would I be able to do this on a BMX bike? Basically this exact bike

12 Replies

Gypsy Rose, April 15, 2017 at 6:14 pm

BMX bikes are not uncommon on RAGBRAI. One of the guys that I ride with did his first RAGBRAI on a BMX bike back in 1981, ending the ride by riding off the dock into the Mississippi.

Another rider on my team rides a unicycle. There are those who do it via longboard, and even running the entire length. Whatever way you want to do it!

~ Kevin


lpprice, April 15, 2017 at 7:13 pm

There are many people who can complete RAGBRAI using a BMX bike. Can you?

Are you comfortable riding BMX 60-80 miles in a day?


SFC JKL 2, April 15, 2017 at 8:23 pm

You could, but my question would be why would you want to? It’s so much easier on a road bike. Rent, borrow, buy a used one off craigslist.
If you’re going to try it, do a couple long practice rides to make sure it’s what you want to do.


genefruit, April 16, 2017 at 7:31 am

If you can get the seat extended high enough for long distance comfort, then I’d say yes. If it was me, I’d put a bigger sprocket (32t) on it. Go for it.


“Bicycle Bill”, April 16, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Short answer is sure it could be done, but you’d never catch me doing it.

Because distance traveled per pedal revolution is a function of 1) front sprocket size (number of teeth), 2) rear cog size (again, number of teeth), and 3) wheel diameter, doing this ride on a BMX bike would be comparable to driving a car but only using first gear.

The equation goes like this — number of teeth on front sprocket divided by the number of teeth on the rear cog, then multiply that number by the wheel diameter; now multiply that number by ‘pi’ (the mathematical constant — π; not pie as in what you eat with ice cream).

So, take that bike you showed us.  The specs say it has a 25-tooth front sprocket, and a 9-tooth “driver” (which I assume is the rear sprocket).  25 divided by 9 gives us 2.77; multiply that the wheel diameter (20 inches); this give us a 55.6-inch gear.  Now multiply 55.6 by π — 3.14 — to get 174.58 inches (or about 14½ feet) traveled per pedal revolution.

Compare that to the road bike I used when I rode on RAGBRAI.  It had 12 possible gear combinations and I generally was able to cruise comfortably with a 50-tooth front gear and a 17-tooth rear sprocket; 50 ÷ 17 = 2.94, and because I had a larger wheel (27-inch), 2.94 x 27 = a 79.4 inch gear.  Now multiply 79.4 by π and you can see that I am moving forward 249 inches (more than 20 feet) per pedal revolution.  And I will freely admit that I was already coming up on 50 years old and was not the strongest rider on the road; there were people pushing gears that moved them as far as 30 feet down the road per crank revolution — twice as far per pedal revolution as your bike can take you.

So to repeat; sure it could be done, but like a couple of other people have said you’ll have a lot more fun if you’re not pedaling twice as hard as the guy alongside of you.



Austin Teagarden, April 16, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Thank you for the feed back everyone. The reason I want to do it on a BMX is because I think I would enjoy the challenge. I intend to train properly for it and hopefully be ready. I just wanted to make sure it was possible.

Grew up in Iowa and this next fall is when I officially move away so I want to partake in the tradition.

Excited to see how I can do. I am sure it will be a real struggle haha.

Look forward to meeting new people and just loving Iowa together.


Gypsy Rose, April 16, 2017 at 4:59 pm


Ride it however YOU want to ride it. Challenges are good. Yes, there are those who look for the easiest way to cover the route under human power, but that’s not always the point. You’ll be just fine. Enjoy!

~ Kevin


KenH, April 16, 2017 at 9:11 pm

People do this ride on a variety of single speed bikes. Unicycles, high wheelers, and conventional looking single speed and fixed gear bikes. BMX bikes? I’m sure the others are right, I’ve just never noticed. One year I did noticed one regal looking young woman on a Brompton or Bike Friday which had 20 inch wheels but multiple gear ratios. If the gear inch calculations above are accurate then you could be pedaling a lot on the flatter portions of this ride and you would be at a disadvantage compared to single speed riders with higher gear ratios. But then on those hills the last day they would be looking over at you with envy in their eyes!

Can you do this ride on a BMX? Undoubtedly! Can YOU do this ride on a BMX? We can’t answer that! But I suspect that if you think you can then indeed you can. As someone said above if you can ride your BMX 80 miles a day in typical Iowa terrain you should be able to complete RAGBRAI on it.


John Fontaine, April 17, 2017 at 5:02 am

I’ve seen a number of BMX riders. I do not know if they rode the whole thing. We always see a number of kids on them. I assume they are day riders. Yes you can do it. Best of luck. See you out there!


Scott Wertz, August 20, 2020 at 10:49 am

So, did you do it on the BMX?. I just bought the 2021 version of the Whip. I am getting back into BMX myself after a 25 year absence. It is the only style bike I am comfortable with.


KenH, August 21, 2020 at 4:37 pm

Who knows? Like many people he never reported back. RAGBRAI could be done on any kind of bike. It appears that the Whip has about 56 gear inches. Bicycle Bill calculated that above on his way to calculating the wheel circumference. Most people just stop at the gear inches which sounds odd and gives you the equivalent size wheel you would have if you were riding an old fashioned ordinary/high-wheel/penny-farthing bicycle instead of one of these modern chain driven contraptions. Not many people ride high wheelers at RAGBRAI but some do and I am sure some have done the whole thing on one. People still make high wheel bikes and one of them says a 56 inch front wheel would be suitable for someone with a 38 inch inseam, taller than many of us. So in high wheel terms the Whip is a good choice for long distance road riding.

There are many more folks who ride single speed and fixed gear bikes on RAGBRAI. The Whip would be a modern single speed bike. I don’t ride single speeds so I am not familiar with the gearing that people commonly use. Here’s an article from Surly that discusses it without giving you any feel for what people use either. If, however, we assume that the two “700c” bikes at the end have 29 inch wheels/tires then the range in gear inches they recommend for a good starting point is 51 inches on the low end and 67 gear inches on the high end. The Whip is right in that range, another indication that it would be suitably geared for RAGBRAI use.

My Trek 920 has 20 speeds, although some of them are not terribly different from some of the others. It will run 19 inches for climbing hills up to 110 inches for downhill dashes. That is the power of multiple gears and the reason that most of us use them. But you don’t have to be like most of us. Most of us ride road bikes in full Spandex kits and don’t carry much of anything on the bike beyond a water bottle. Many of us don’t do any of that so you will have plenty of company. And we all get along together just great all week long, so don’t be afraid to come and express your individuality!

The most important thing is that your bike is comfortable for you to ride for up to 120 miles in a day. The 100+ mile day every year is typically 65 to 85 miles if you ride the direct route and 100 to (last year) 120 miles if you take the optional Karras Loop. So you don’t have to ride 100 miles but you will have to ride several 65 to 85 mile days in a typical year. If you are not riding that far now, get out there and start working up your mileage. There is plenty of time to get up to 80 miles before winter sets in. If you can comfortably do that on your Whip then you will be good for RAGBRAI. If not, then you might want to consider a more traditional geared or single speed bike. They are built to be comfortable over the long haul and you might find yourself liking a single speed road bike as much as your Whip if you tried one.


Jboz, August 24, 2020 at 10:28 am

This is an old (but recently revived) thread, and I’m sure the OP has moved onto other “adventures”. Maybe I’m cranky from no RAGBRAI this year, but the premise of the original question has been bugging me and I feel the need to comment in case others down the road have the same or similar question.

#1. This was supposedly going to be the OP’s first RAGBRAI. So while riding a novelty bike might be an interesting challenge after you have a few under your belt, your very first foray into the world of RAGBRAI really should be on something you want to ride 75 miles a day for a week. I could theoretically ride a road bike on a BMX dirt track, but it would suck. A BMX bike is simply not designed for long-distance touring, and thus would not be a great choice to ride 450+ miles across Iowa on.

#2. Why bother to ask “Could I ride (fill in the blank) bike on RAGBRAI?” on this forum in the first place? I could answer for myself (hell to the no BTW), but it is impossible for me to provide a valid answer for someone else. If you are considering riding anything on RAGBRAI, be it a road bike, a BMX bike, a Penny Farthing, a beach cruiser, a unicycle, a mountain bike, a fixie, a vintage Schwinn Stingray, a $100 Wally World special, or the Big Wheel you had when you were 5, the only way you can get a valid answer is to try it. So instead of asking on a forum, it might be a good idea to take the bike out, put in a 60 mile day, get up the next day and do it again. If you had a good time, then the answer is YES. If you had to quit after 30 miles because it sucked, then the answer is NO.

OK, rant over. I need to get out for a ride :)


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