RAGBRAI LI Registration is Now Open!

RAGBRAI Training: It’s Time to Get Those Wheels Turning for 2021

  • 3 March, 2021

Greetings RAGBRAI’ers!

Welcome back for another year of training blogs. Hopefully this year will go better for all of us.

This year’s route will cover 426 miles.  It has a total of 11,481 feet of total climbing.  That may sound like a lot, and it is quite a bit for a ‘flat’ state ( 39% of the height of Mt Everest!)   But don’t let that scare you. I will help give you training tips on how to conquer the mountains of Iowa.  But look at the bright side, on average this ride is all downhill, both in terms of overall elevation and latitude!

As in past years, I have put together the ever-popular RAGBRAI training plan.  This is a guide to help you determine how much riding you should be doing to be ready for RAGBRAI.  Now keep in mind, this is a generic plan and may not fit your riding ability.  It is designed more for the novice RAGBRAI rider. If you’ve ridden RAGBRAI previously, you know the drill and what works (or doesn’t) for you.  This plan lists the suggested ride lengths for given days within each week, the distance of your longest ride per week, and the suggested total weekly mileage. You will notice this gradually increases the distance throughout the 16 weeks leading up to RAGBRAI.

Now you don’t necessarily have to ride exactly the number of days listed, or even the exact mileage, it’s more to give you an outline of approximate number of miles to be aiming for.  You can of course do more, but I would suggest this as a minimum.

This plan is available as a PDF document that you can print off and hang up for your handy reference, and it is also available as an Excel file in case you want to download it and enter your own mileage in it electronically.

Check back here often for additional training tips to help you prepare for a pleasant and successful RAGBRAI in 2021.  We know its going to be a great year. What could possibly go wrong?

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com.


  1. Brian Reed

    FYI the link to David’s website is wrong it takes you to a USA Today site that requires registration.

  2. cannontandem

    If you open the PDF the link at the bottom will take you to David’s site

  3. Kathryn Rauch

    Are the links working to download the full Ragbrai Training Plan? I don’t seem to be able to print the full training plan.

  4. Andrea Parrott

    Should be fixed now, sorry about that!

  5. trek2300

    Oops, now both links go to the pdf version; can’t seem to get to an Excel version. Thanks for your attention.

  6. Greg Buntz

    Both links still go the pdf version.

  7. Jeff Backert

    Participated in RAGBRAI XLV11 and followed the very same cycling coaches training schedule – that year (2019) was the southern route across Iowa. IF YOU FOLLOW THIS COACHES SCHEDULE BASED ON MILEAGE ALONE YOU WILL HAVE A VERY DIFFICULT TIME COMPLETING OR MANAGING RAGBRAI DAY TO DAY. First, you have got to train hills: that is your key to managing and succeeding and completing the RAGBRAI route. I estimate better than 80% of the riders who had to bail were wiped out by the hills, and that was completely unnecessary if they had trained correctly. This coach maintains that hours in the seat and road time are the keys to success: yes that is true regarding endurance but it is a perfectly incomplete answer. Specifically, how you spend those hours in the seat is much more critical to your success at RAGBRAI – this is not a boondoggle across a flat Arizona or Texas desert.

    Get your hours in the seat? Yes, but you better incorporate decent size hills into all your training days and perhaps devote entire training days to just repeatedly hitting the hills over and over again – this is the very best conditioning you can give yourself and will build your endurance and your speed for the route. Physical conditioning is absolutely key for success on these routes, and you absolutely better supplement his training schedule with physical fitness training: hiking, running, incline training, lifting, aerobics, etc. Don’t carry extra body weight into this event – it will beat you up on the road and you already have enough gear to carry.

    Critical item: most of you have good trails to train on that are well paved or have decent gravel. The roads in Iowa are dangerously unpredictable regarding serious pot holes. Although they did an amazing job marking most of the post holes many were not and I saw some very serious accidents. Also, although marked, the frequency of large post holes was actually shocking. So, you have to be able to climb well and not lose time so you have it to go slower on the downside.

    Lastly, RAGBRAI is as much a logistical challenge as it is a endurance challenge. That said, time is key to everything and getting the very most our of your RAGBRAI that you can. Set your goal to increase your speed on the trail as much as you can, so you can take advantage of as many attractions as you can in all the towns along the way. Try to get as close to 20 mph as you can to save the hours to enjoy all the special interests each day. All the lines around camp are a total time suck and out of your control. Waking up and packing up all your gear in the morning, standing in line for KYBO, standing in line for water / coffee / food in the morning, food and Kybo lines along the trail, endless lines for showers and Kybo’s and food in the evening: you can’t control any of these but you can go faster on your bike to have more time to manage logistics and have fun.

  8. Andrea Parrott

    I think the links are fixed. For real this time!

  9. Michael Bodaken

    Andrea; for some reason, I cannot open it. I have an old 2020 version and I can just use that. Without agreeing to all of the details of Jeff’s comment above, I agree that hill training is key. Also, as a 71-year-old rider, think I’ll add about 10% to Dave’s suggestions.

  10. Kevin Mahoney

    I’m confused. nothing seems to open or go anywhere. I see a picture of the training plan up to the end of may, but nothing to download.


  11. Kevin Mahoney

    Got it! the links are embedded in the text. I was trying to click the image and the Title…

  12. Timmymech

    In addition to Jeff’s soliloquy, yes hill training is always essential. Insofar as gear is involved; many Aduax and Randonee race, as well as ‘tour divide’, folk pack gear as a matter of course. Training with gear will just make you stronger. A great example is the Paris-Brest-Paris ride, well over twice the distance of the RAGBRAI and many participants camp and carry all their needs. Train for 80 mile days in the mountains with two cases of beer and you’ll be fine.

  13. Timmymech

    Addendum: Also who cares about maintaining 20mph average. Just enjoy yourself and make a point of finishing the mileage of each day without gassing yourself. Training is essential.

  14. Jenny Jacobsen

    I agree that you don’t need to be able to ride fast. I am a 50 something female who loves this ride. I am not a fast cyclist. But I train, a lot.
    It’s important to train hills. Unlike what those of us not from the midwest thought, Iowa is not flat.
    It’s important to train endurance. Your sitter will thank you daily.
    The better prepared you are the more you will enjoy the ride and the rest of the event.
    I have also learned that weight training is very beneficial. Especially on the hill climbs.
    This is not a race.
    If you ride RAGBRAI like a race, you will miss the event. The overnight towns are great. They will have a lot going on, but every ride through town will be celebrating this rolling carnival and will also have much adieu! Stop and enjoy it! Eat the food, play the games, sit in the shade, meet the people, don’t hurry.
    If you ride RAGBRAI like a race, you will miss the people. Every person on this ride is on a weeklong vacation. If you are in a hurry during the riding part, you will miss riding with others. The music, laughter, and comradery here are like nothing I have ever found on an organized ride.
    Get fit, be prepared physically and plan to have a ton of fun

  15. jeffreydennis

    20mph? Please, spare me. I’ve done this 11 times so this year is 12. My fastest years I’d average 15. I was usually one of the first 10 into camp each day. Age is catching me and right now I’m good to average 13 mph with hills. My goal is 1500 miles before the ride and drop another 15 lbs, Covid weight.

    No, I’m not in the best condition I’ve ever been in but don’t get scared off. Respect the ride but enjoy the ride. There is no hill on RAGBRAI so steep that you can’t walk it.

  16. Donna Heska

    Thanks Jeffery D & Jenny J for your thoughts on training! Jeff B had me a little nervous about not putting enough hours in to make this ride.
    As a Tri-Athlete, since 2010 I have done Half Ironmans, Olympic, & Spirit distances. I have, also, raced for USA Worlds in 2018 & 2019. I am behind 80 miles of the training plan because of cold weather in Michigan. Even though it was too cold to ride outside I continued to run, spin, & do strength workouts at the gym. (All winter I snowboarded almost every weekend & the gym 2-3 days a week).
    This week I got 2 days of 30 miles each & today 40.5 miles in with a total of elevation of 1,450, west wind advisory, & an average speed of 15.1 mph. (Tomorrow 25 miles)
    I do work out at the gym 2 times a week & run 6-8 miles a week. I am following the training plan & adding miles to make up for the miles I am behind on.
    I hope I can make it the week?

  17. William Lamb

    Donna, you will make it easily. Your training regimen over the years make it easy to ride RAGBRAI. A group of Triathletes from Florida will be riding this year also. It seems most of them have not completed this ride before and are looking forward to the chance to do something different. On one previous ride, 2012, my 14 year old grandson rode with me.

Submit a Comment

Related Articles
No results found
Friends of RAGBRAI