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RAGBRAI Training: Extend Your RAGBRAI Fitness

  • 17 August, 2019
  • Jared

by Coach David Ertl

So RAGBRAI is over for this year.   Hopefully you are basking in the thrill of completing this ride and feel good about your efforts. And hopefully you followed my blog and gained some good advice from it which helped you.  I’ve had several people tell me how it helped them and only one person who cursed me for making her do all that training! I hope she found it was worthwhile in the end.

I was out on our local bike trail this weekend.  Unlike the weeks leading up to RAGBRAI where the trails were packed, yesterday looked like a barren wasteland. I only saw a couple of people out riding (but one was in a 2019 RAGBRAI jersey so that cheered me up).  I don’t really understand it – riders do all that work getting ready for RAGBRAI, riding and/or training, then they ride hundreds of miles in one week on RAGBRAI, and then when its over, they hang up their wheels and let all that hard-earned fitness go to waste (or perhaps to waist!).  OK, I get it. Once the ride is over you don’t even want to look at your bike for a few days or maybe even a few weeks, but hopefully not for the rest of the season. But you’ve had a couple of weeks to recover. Why not get out there and hop on your bike and enjoy the great fitness you accumulated over the past few months?  Fitness is easier to maintain than it is to build in the first place. If you keep riding, even a couple times per week, you will maintain much of the fitness you have. But if you don’t ride at all, in a few weeks it will mostly be gone.

I also get that some of you just do RAGBRAI and that’s all the cycling you want to do. If that’s the case, good for you, at least you did it and improved your fitness.  But if you are more committed to cycling than that, you should want to keep riding to enjoy your fitness and to enjoy the great cycling weather.  Some of the best cycling weather is yet to come. Here in Iowa, September weather is the best, in my opinion. Why hang up your wheels when you have both fitness and great cycling weather to enjoy? So keep your bike handy, and use it and enjoy it.

See you next year!

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at cyclecoach@hotmail.com


  1. Larry Ritland

    Actually I did keep riding following RAGBRAI and before. Today, Sunday August 18 is Day 73 of my 73-day cross-country ride. Commemorating the American Legion’s 100th anniversary. I am a 71-year old Vietnam vet and 37-year AL member. After today I will have completed five RAGBRAI’S, six century rides, the Alaska Highway and today coast to coast, Ocean Shores, WA to Washington, DC . . . . all after the age of 67. You got this!!

  2. danwaterloo

    Guilty as charged! This year I did commit to riding 3 times a week, figure that would be doable, and sustainable. So far so good.
    And the math looks good, too… 25 mi x 3/week = 75/week = 300mi/month=about 1k more miles before winter.
    Now I need to think about how to continue through the winter… clothing, change of route? visibility, etc.
    3x/week give me a chance to do some other exercise, too. Need to do complementary excercise.

  3. Kelly P

    Confession: for about two months AFTER RAGBRAI I stay on Zillow, looking for an Iowa home. Why? Because I’m back in Texas, where it’s ungodly hot until October. Hotter N Hell is a definite no, so anticlimactic after RAGBRAI. But I do ride: early ride, off the street by 10A. There’s just such a disappointing difference between the fields of corn and soy in Iowa and brick, concrete, trucks and traffic in hell–I mean Texas. Can’t wait to see you next year! #stillpedalung

  4. jerry1975

    Congratulations Larry on your cross country ride.

    Jerry Greif

  5. John Holliday

    You are inspiring! I turned 55 this year, completed my first Ragbrai, and want to ride across the country one day.
    Keep on peddling!!


  6. Michelle Hook

    Signed up for my first Century ride this Sept 14 in DoorCounty, WI. Specifically did this to utilize all the persistent training accomplished by using your plan (1200 miles from Jan-PreRagbrai in the Midwest Ice Age 2, mind you). I did 90 miles on Day 4 of Ragbrai this year which was my farthest to date. Confidence went way up after completing Ragbrai and now 100 in a day doesn’t look so bad. Even easy. I am not fast but can complete the work with my 1991 Trek. What a great year to celebrate turning 50!!!!! & Thank you thank you for the training and continued advice!!! Ragbrai virgins like me really needed it!

  7. John Richardson

    Great advice! I’ve always found it much better to stay in shape than repeatedly trying to get back in shape. I also feel that cross training is a very important part of any training plan. I do more running than cycling now. Some form of impact training is so important for maintaining strong bones especially as we age.

  8. loujgibbons

    David, I have been known to cease riding again for the rest of the summer after doing previous RAGBRAI’s and I’m mad at myself for the rest of the summer and my friends always give me crap. This year I purposely signed up for sponsored rides after RAGBRAI, in the greater Philadelphia area where I live, so I have some more events to train for the rest of the summer into early Fall.

    My question for you is….how long does it take to begin losing your fitness after doing RAGBRAI if you stop riding? I took two weeks off after RAGBRAI to begin riding again. That seemed a bit too long. And I felt sluggish getting on my bike again.

    Thanks for all your support this year. I followed your training plan as best as I was able from March to the third week of July before heading out to Iowa. It was good to have some structure to my training and I felt it was really helpful for me

    Be Well,

  9. Mary Groves

    love this! I purchased a smart trainer last December in anticipation of having a foot surgery and as soon as I could, I started using that with Zwift. That helped my rehab tremendously and by the time RAGBRAI began, I had about 2000 miles on my bike (since Jan). I rode the entire route and felt great! Probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made and it will definitely keep me motivated to keep riding over the winter. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in better physical condition….in fact, last Sunday at church, someone told me I had AMAZING calves…………..LOL, have never heard that before! I now advocate biking to everyone. I work in an ER and when I see people my age or younger with multiple health issues, I thank God that I am still able to stay active and do what I do. BIKE ON!

  10. Thanh do


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