Miles needed? How many hill miles?

This is my first full week of ragbrai, wondering how many miles people normally do to prepare for it? Also how many of those miles would you recommend are hills? I have been doing a variety and have logged over 300 in the last two weeks just trying to make sure I’m ready.

21 Replies

Cory Rood, June 17, 2018 at 6:54 pm

Get in at least 1000 miles and you’ll be good. Learn how to be able to get up hills and you’ll be fine. If you can’t keep the bike moving and feel like you’ll fall over, get off and walk.

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Kathy Wander, June 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm

I am decent on the hills. Been working on using my lower gears and have been able to sit and pedal to the top without a whole lot of issue we have some pretty large hills here in Iowa LOL

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KenH, June 17, 2018 at 8:08 pm

RAGBRAI’s coach Ertl publishes a training plan each year. You can check that out if you like. I think he recommends something like 10,000 to 20,000 miles of training. But then he’s a coach! Seriously though you can look at his plan. I think his plans started out fairly modestly and have gotten more intense over the years but he is a coach and he probably had people asking for harder plans. So I doubt you will be able to match his mileage at this point but you might find some useful ideas in in there anyway.

When I first did this ride in 2012 I believe a common recommendation was to ride at least as many miles as the route as in any given year and double that if possible. If you can get in 400 to 1000 miles you should be good to go. Sounds like you have Iowa hills to train on so make sure you train on them for a quarter of your mileage or so or more if you like. Don’t avoid hot days, don’t avoid windy days, and if you are not familiar with riding in the rain do ride some in the rain so you can figure out how best to deal with that.

People on here have said that they have friends who do the whole week on 30 miles training or so. I believe one of us is a runner who claims to ride a bike only during RAGBRAI week each year. Clarence Pickard, an 85 year old farmer, did the first RAGBRAI on a ladies Schwinn bike he bought at a garage sale and rode around the block a few times for his pre-ride training. If you are physically fit and possess an inner toughness you need very little time on a bike to do this ride. And you are probably unaware of how painful saddle sores can be!! Most of us put in a thousand miles or so as much out of concern for toughening up our sitters as for any other reason.

At the pace you are going you will be ready for RAGBRAI.

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Nico ZZZ, June 18, 2018 at 8:21 am

Saddle time will toughen up your “sit bones” and confirm you have the right saddle and bike fit for the ride. Miles helps you gain confidence, get your cycling form down, helps you recognize your body when you feel that cramping in your left foot or a tweak in your right knee or a weak hamstring. It also helps you learn what pre-ride and post-ride routines help you be prepped, and recovery. Seven days in a row means some possible stretching, ointments, etc that helps you be at your best every morning.

Short of mileage you can help yourself immensely for the ride with off the bike training that strengthens your core: planking, crunches. Leg strength can be squats and lunges. I don’t think core strength or basic stretching is emphasized enough. Check out Youtube exercise videos for riders. It isn’t just your butt and your legs that suffer. Your hands, shoulders and lower back need to be strong and ready.

You sound like you will have plenty of miles. Ride On!

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Gthomp0419, June 18, 2018 at 2:47 pm

I agree with Nico ZZZ. Don’t neglect the gym time. Squats, deadlifts, lunges and core work. There is a girl in our group who has maybe 100 miles in every year but is in great shape from Cross-fit. Kills all of us on the hills. The only problem she has is that her butt gets a little sore. (BIOTCH)!!! 🙂 🙂

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Mike Howe, June 18, 2018 at 3:45 pm

10,000 to 20,000 miles of training? Whomever is saying that obviously has RAGBRAI confused with the Tour De France.

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KenH, June 18, 2018 at 4:05 pm

That was a joke, son, a joke! As I recall coach Ertl recommended 1200 miles the first year I noticed his training schedule on this website. That grew a little each year and this year and last he’s recommending 1700 miles. Kinda, he admits it is a guide not a requirement. If you are fit and your sitter can take the punishment then the heat and humidity are more likely to defeat you than the hills and miles. You can see the coach’s training schedule here. It may be too late to match his mileage even if you want to but do what you can and keep it in mind for next year if you like to have a plan to work to. I’m on track to hit about 1000 miles, just as I have every year and that has been enough for even a sixty-something like me.

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Kathy Wander, June 18, 2018 at 9:16 pm

Thank you guys so much for all the good advice. What a relief to know nobody actually tries to 10,000 miles LOL I am very confident I am going to get 1000 not sure I can get much more than that with the time that I have but on the flipside I have been in the gym since January and I have done a lot of swimming, Running and stationary bike. I am only counting what I’ve done in June to get to the thousand if you counted back to January I’d have a whole lot more

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Brian Wallenburg, June 18, 2018 at 9:25 pm

You’ll be fine with 1000 miles. You will also find that your butt, shoulders and neck require as much training attention as your legs.

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John Bilsky, June 19, 2018 at 1:29 pm

I did my first RAGBRAI in 2015 at age 62. I had about one hundred miles training over 4 rides. I had no issues whatsoever and even did the century part of that ride. Hadn’t biked in about 4 or 5 years prior to then either. BUT here’s the catch. In the past I have biked the perimeter of the USA for those 10,000 miles. The body remembers how to ride once it learns. The key IMO is knowing little tricks with spinning, using the right gears, having a good bike and staying hydrated. It’s not a race and if you can bike 20 miles non-stop and are in relatively ok shape, you should be able to do 75 miles in a day. Just my opinion based on my experience and knowing how my body works. And yeah… my friends tell me I’m a freak… lovingly of course.

I hope to get 250 miles in this year since the ride will be flatter and shorter. LOL

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trek2300, June 19, 2018 at 3:25 pm

I’m very lucky. After lengthy discussions, my wife now firmly believes that I have to follow the RAGBRAI training plan to the letter, unless I feel the need for even more miles. So, I have a bike kitchen pass for all the miles I want.
But I feel obligated to paraphrase Michrider: You can probably walk up any hill on RAGBRAI without any training.

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Chad Frana, June 19, 2018 at 3:35 pm

in 2016 I did one day of the ride, about 50 miles. Before that ride, the longest I had spent on a bike at any time was 3 miles. So I did 50 miles with no training, on a mountain bike, with knobby tires, bought from Wal-Mart. Last year I did the whole thing with 300 miles on the seat. So, if you hit 1000 miles, you should do great!

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Geoff Butland, June 21, 2018 at 9:54 am

From the Too Much Information Department:
By the time I left for Ragbrai 2017 I had accumulated 1686 miles and 39743 feet of elevation gain. So far in 2018 I have accumulated 1251 miles and 16354 feet of elevation gain.
Last year was my first RAGBRAI and I found it was a LOT easier than I had imagined it would be.
tl;dr You’ll be fine!

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Van, June 21, 2018 at 10:04 am

All the info above should be enough to get you through RAGBRAI without any issues. The only other thing I’d offer up would be to get a long ride in at least once if not a couple times. Doesn’t have to be a century but a 60-70 mile day will prepare you for how your body reacts to being on the bike for 4-5 hours. You should be in good shape.

See ya in 30 days!!!!!

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Michaela Minock, June 21, 2018 at 3:09 pm

It’s very reassuring to hear some of these stories! I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to be prepared enough for the ride, especially after I started talking with a friend from my home area who does a lot of bike riding; she seemed a little shocked when I was telling her about doing RAGBRAI. I’ve never done anything even remotely long-distance before, just some 10 or 15-mile rides on local trails. Then, with the long winter we had, I didn’t ride at all between December and April. However, since I finished school a month and a half ago, I have put in 250 miles, and I’m increasing how long I ride each day so I should be doing over 100 miles per week starting next week. So by the time RAGBRAI comes around, I should have over 700 miles logged. I’m young, tough, and a little crazy so I think I’ll be able to make it! 🙂

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