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RAGBRAI Training: RAGBRAI L – 500 Miles – Yes you can do it!

  • 24 February, 2023
  • Andrea Parrott

As I’m following some Facebook RAGBRAI groups I am seeing a recurring question – Can I do it? Can I ride 500 miles in one week!? I’m here to tell you, yes you can!  Notwithstanding any misadventures, lost bikes, or injuries, any able-bodied person should be able to complete 500 miles in seven days. The RAGBRAI organization isn’t out to make this a survival of the fitness competition. They want you to finish. They also want to make it challenging (even epic?) enough that you feel like you’ve had a transformational experience by completing RAGBRAI.  Try not to focus on the 500 and instead focus on the daily distances. There are a couple of 80 mile days. If you can ride 80 miles in a day, you can do RAGBRAI.

So here’s why I believe you can do it, without even knowing your particular situation. I’ve been involved in coaching groups for many years, some of which (JDRF Charity Ride program, Pedal Off The Pounds program) were starting out with some true novice cyclists. Some of these people didn’t even own a bike at the beginning! They started training and by the end of the summer were able to ride a century (100 miles) in a day. They would never have believed they would have been capable of doing something like that. It was beyond their wildest dreams. But by sticking with it, doing the training and having others supporting them, they far exceeded what they thought they could physically accomplish.  This is probably true of us in most aspects of our lives if we think about it.  So 500 miles in a week is something you can do. You just gotta believe (and train).

Here’s another reason. Because RAGBRAI is not a race (I hope that isn’t news to you), you can ride at your own pace. When you do that, you are able to eat and drink to keep the energy and fluids going in, you can rest periodically, you don’t overexert, and you can keep going all day. And some days may feel like you are going all day. But consider this. On the 80 mile days, if you ride 8 miles an hour which is quite slow, you will be out there 10 hours. That’s a long time but it isn’t all day. Most of you will ride faster than that. Of course you have to wake up and ride again the next day and that can get hard, but that’s why training properly is necessary.

The key is pacing. You may go out and do a 60 mile training ride and it may take you 4-5 hours. But at RAGBRAI, you have all day to complete the ride, even with all the stops along the way. So break it down into smaller more manageable chunks and it will help make it seem doable. If you start building up your mileage now, you will be surprised how far you will be able to ride by the time RAGBRAI rolls around, even if you are new to cycling.

For additional information on preparing for this year’s ride, check out what I have to say on this week’s JustGoBike podcast. JustGoBike Podcast – Episode 242: Coach Ertl’s 2023 Training Plan for a Successful RAGBRAI

For more information on training for RAGBRAI, check out my last 14 years’ worth of training blogs here.

Also, if you have questions about training that you would like me to address in future blogs, please send them to me at

Thanks for reading.

-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: He can be contacted

News Flash: David is the proud recipient of the 2023 Newbies Award.

1 Comment

  1. Rob Fuller

    It not so much the miles on the road but the hours in the saddle. The bike saddle can be the best seat in the house for the week’s fresh air tour of the countryside.

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