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How much will the crowds effect my average speed?

I fully expect Ragbrai to be a slower ride, mainly because of the crowds. I’m also not planning on being in “attack mode” anyway, and plan to smell the roses a bit and have lots of fun. But in trying to set my speed expectations, I am wondering how much the crowds will effect my overall speed. Example – I typically cruise on flat or mostly flat rolling terrain at a comfortable 15.5 mph. If I push it, I can average 17 mph, but I don’t plan to push it. Running at my exertion level of 15.5 mph, how much should I calibrate down to account for the crowds? And I’m not factoring in the typical bunch-up near pass through towns – just open road cruising? So, on the open road – if I can “ride all day” at 15.5 mph, what’s a good ballpark speed that I should expect when factoring in the crowded conditions? Should I expect to average 14 mph moving speed, or should I calibrate even lower?

48 Replies

Davy Sprocket, May 4, 2012 at 7:04 am

How fast you ride is dependent upon what time you take off. After about 6:45am, the first 25-miles is pretty congested, but typically will spread out as the day progresses. You should be able to run 12-15 mph pretty easily. If you want to fly you should leave early 5-6am or late 8:30-10am.


Michael Knapp, May 4, 2012 at 7:06 am

If you’re worried about your average speed you’re going to have a hard time enjoying RAGBRAI.

Better to figure an average speed of 12 mph, then you’ll be happy when you do anything over that.


Jboz, May 4, 2012 at 7:17 am

BigBird – I’m not “worried” about average speed. I’m just wondering what to expect.


giantron, May 4, 2012 at 7:24 am

As Davy said, there are peak times for crowds and also a lot of packs that’ll form up. So your speed will vary a lot in the beginning (unless you get out REAL early or REAL late). Then as the day goes on it’ll spread out, with bunching up along big hills as well.
But as a reference, we were able to hold a 16mph avg for a long stretch (20 miles) with 3 riders trading the lead last year. But that’s about the best you can hope for if leaving within the “normal” hours. We usually ride slower, for a lot of reasons (tired, beer, enjoying the scenery, crowded, etc). 15.5 avg will be a okay, but I think you’ll be closer to 13 or 14 just to be safe and enjoyable.


jwsknk, May 4, 2012 at 7:26 am

15 sounds about where we run, like Davey said, depends on time of day. Also the wind can play havock with average speed. If you are using a computer decide if you want to know your real miles or average speed on ther road. Walking through a lot of those pass-through towns can bring that average way down.


RonB, May 4, 2012 at 7:33 am

Agree with all comments above. You are going to have to slow considerably on hills of any size due to wall to wall huffers & puffers; plus, takes time to get thru intersections, etc. In my opinion, you’ll lose a couple mph average due to these reasons. And the IHP has been known to totally close the route for quite a while due to accidents requiring ambulance or air evac. Average speed should not even be considered on Ragbrai. In fact, other than using a computer to know where the upcoming towns are, it would probably be more enjoyable not to even have one!


michaelosterhaus, May 4, 2012 at 9:25 am

I agree with RonB on this one. I completely took the computer off my bike last year because I tended to look at my computer more than look around. I am doing it again this year with the intention of enjoying the “touring” aspect of the ride. The first year I did the ride in ’99, I spent more time in pace lines (highly discouraged) than I did enjoying the sites of the towns. You can have three totally different rides based on the time you leave town. No one compares avg mph, however, people do say, “did you see that huge waterslide” or “did you check out the 4H tent”, which is what RAGBRAI is really about.


Kentucky Husker, May 4, 2012 at 9:34 am

The crowd will have the effect of making you not care.


kicks9, May 4, 2012 at 11:24 am

I usually dont expect too much until past the first town or two. Once past the initial couple of towns it spreads out. I went 2 years ago and we were riding 20 all day and not running people over, we slowed down when needed of course but usually got through the traffic in a few minutes and were back up to 20. People were still passing us all day too, so if you ride 16 normally ride 16 and slow down when you cant.



Iceman, May 4, 2012 at 11:52 am

Jboz: BigBird – I’m not “worried” about average speed. I’m just wondering what to expect.

Well, most people (myself included) always profess not to “worry” about our speeds, but the fact is that more often than not I ride at about the same pace on RAGBRAI as I do at home with my buddies. It’s just a habit and a comfort level. And that’s ok – I don’t find that it’s any better watching corn and soy beans at 15 mph versus 18 mph, plus I enjoy finishing a bit early if the day will be a hot day after lunch and I can find a nice place to take a nap. I wish I would stop in more of the small pass through towns – failure to do that is my biggest offense – but I grew up in the country so there’s not all that much there to attract me. Iowa is just a pretty place to ride and the chance to go brain dead on my bike for a week attracts me year after year. So don’t give your speed a second thought.


“Bicycle Bill”, May 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Kentucky Husker:
The crowd will have the effect of making you not care.

What Husker said.

Besides, to use Billy Crystal’s line from ‘City Slickers’, “You’re on vacation”.



CyclingRoberto, May 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I leave late and average about 16 MPH. Of course you dismount at every pass-through town, and leaving the overnight town is always slow and congested. But once out on the open road, generally you can maintain a comfortable pace without too much traffic.


jeffreydennis, May 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm

depends, do you talk yo anyone?


David Elkow, May 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I have no idea what my average speed is on RAGBRAI. I’m guessing its average or so.


knees36, May 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm

This will be RAG #32 for me. In all those years I have averaged about 7 mph when I figure in crowds, eating, street dancing (when I’m lucky enough to find good dance music), making cornfield pit stops, hitting the kybos, talking, taking a nap, etc. I usually leave about 7am (give or take an hour or so) after a good breakfast somewhere and get in about 4 pm regardless of the mileage that day (give or take an hour or so on that end.) Essentially, I just don’t worry too much about what time I get in. My motto: Enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Cheers. 8)


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