Registration for Great Iowa Fall Ride Open!

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.

26 Replies

Heriberto Arroyo, June 21, 2018 at 3:44 pm

I’ll add one little advice.
You should taper off your training on the week of if not 10 days before the RABRAI.
The week of is not time to gain fitness. By all means get a few rides in but short and slow will be best.

That’s my 2 cents


Roy Trent, June 21, 2018 at 7:25 pm

This will be my second year at Ragbrai so I am much more confident than last year. I was well over trained last year(with about 2500 pre event miles) which made the week very easy, even the last couple of days with a fair amount of climbing. I even went and climbed Hosmer on the last day.
I have not done a lot of hills so far this this year, so last Saturday we went and did a 45 miler with 3100 feet including a couple of short 12% hills. We will not have anything like that this year but that gave me a good baseline of my climbing ability. I need to do a little more work so the week is enjoyable. I only have about 1000 miles in so far this year.
Work hard now and enjoy Ragbrai. I also agree with the advice above about resting before the ride. I usually take my bike in for an overhaul 2 or 3 weeks before major events and then just do easy rides for several days after I get the bike back.


John Bilsky, June 22, 2018 at 5:42 am

Young tough and a little crazy huh? Put some celestial miles on that bod of yours. You’ll then be old, tough and a LOT crazy.


ESchiers, June 23, 2018 at 5:34 pm

There’s a saying that works in the situation…

Train for the ride or the ride trains you.


Derek Fye, June 23, 2018 at 5:59 pm

My wife and I rode last year for our first time. She only rode 40 miles leading up to the event and she rode the whole week. She does strength training and she did not have any problem and got stronger throughout the week. I wouldn’t recommend it but it is possible.


Keith Lippincott, June 23, 2018 at 9:50 pm

This will be my first RAGBRAI. I have done several 40 mile rides. I am going to do hill training next week. I think learning how to gear was my biggest concern with the hills. I have ridden on windy days and that seems to have helped me to understand how to use my bike gears. I have 1100 miles on the bike. Still working on getting my undercarriage in shape.


Jeff Backert, December 8, 2022 at 4:10 pm

I am fortunate that I live in an area with ubiquitous hills – that I traverse to get to the excellent trails in my area that are relatively flat. In preparing for the Southern route in 2019, I did not specifically concentrate on hills other than the few I encountered getting to or on my normal trail ride. Just not that many. So when I started the 2019 route the hills became my biggest challenge for the entire week: perpetual up and down in southern Iowa and every pass through town was coincidentally at the top of a protracted hill.

They post a training schedule on this website every year and it appears to be unchanged from what i have viewed so far. Once you have downloaded it, you will see it has the same weekly training format: riding 2 week days of your choice and both Sat and Sun. The schedule steadily increases the distance from the beginning of March until mid July just before RAGBRAI starts. No problem – you gain time in the saddle and endurance on the bike.

However, and everyone just kind of breezes over this aspect of the ride: the hills are a game changer for your training preparation. BUT DON’T PANIC! I found by dedicating just one day of training out of the four to just hills it completely changed my riding ability: in a very short period of time I got much faster, much stronger, more comfortable in my saddle, and struggled less with endurance on 100 mile days. The hill training paid a huge dividend for a comparatively small amount of effort.

Specifically I find a hill or series of hills and just ride up and down those hills repeatedly. I would not worry about how many miles or time you spend doing this training. You will be amazed the next time you hit the trail at how much stronger and faster you are – and it happens very quickly.

This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Jeff Backert.

This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Jeff Backert.


Mike Murphy, December 10, 2022 at 5:25 pm

I have done Ragbrai eleven times, this will be my 12th and probably final ride. I alway have a goal of 1200 miles from April 1st till the beginning of Ragbrai. The reason I feel that you need at least 1000 miles is that will ensure that you can enjoy the week. I know people that only got in a few miles, yes they might complete the ride however I see pain in their face throughout the week. I get the proper amount of training in and have a great week. In regards to hills, I try to get some hill training in however where I live that is a challenge. Do the training and enjoy the ride, don’t do the training and it can be a struggle for you.


Rob Fuller, December 14, 2022 at 10:36 am

Echoing Nico ZZZ, “saddle time” should be `your focus. Second, might be to pay attention to your food and water intake so you know how much “is in your tank”. With that, the miles and the hills will come and go.


Joe Chavis, January 8, 2023 at 5:46 am

There is no one singular formula for prepreation for a bike ride.. RAGBRAI or any other. IF you are 18 yrs old, just ride. Miles, plus more miles does give you some idea of your riding condition. Hills, plus more hills will give some idea of how to ride the hills you just rode. Each RAGBRAI and every ride is different. Ride as many miles as you can before July, ride as many hills as you can… then show up and suffer with the rest of us. BE Fun HAVE Safe.


garywilk, January 8, 2023 at 8:59 am

It has a bit to do with miles but anyone with a bit of riding, and a reliable bike can do it. The other pluses are equipment. Good seat, tires, pedals, and shoes. If the bottom hurts, just stand up and start stepping.


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