RAGBRAI Training: Rule #2 : Ride Far
by Coach David Ertl
Rule #1 is Ride Consistently. Rule #2 is built upon Rule #1. Riding consistently will prepare your body for the daily rigors of riding on RAGBRAI. Rule #2 will help build endurance so you can more easily make it through the long miles each day on RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a long distance bike ride, if you haven’t already figured that out. I don’t care who you are, 400 plus miles in a week is a long way to pedal a bike. Each day ranges from 50 to 75 miles (although 97 is available if you take the Karras Loop). Therefore you should build up to enough endurance to be able to ride 75 miles.
One thing I usually tell people who are preparing for a long ride is that they don’t actually need to do a 75 mile training ride to be able to ride 75 miles in a day. If you can ride 50 miles at a time in training, chances are good that you will be able to knock off 75 in RAGBRAI. For one thing, you can take breaks throughout the ride on RAGBRAI. You also have all day (14+ hours of daylight) so even if you ride at 10 mph, you will have plenty of time to make it in. So it isn’t so much the question of whether you will be able to ride the distance, but really comes down to how comfortable and enjoyable your ride will be. The more prepared you are to go the distance, the more pleasant the ride will be.
Therefore, if you can work up to 75 miles as your longest ride in training (or 97 if doing the Loop), you will be better off because of it. But it isn’t required. On the other hand, if you come to RAGBRAI with 20 miles being your longest ride of the year so far, all bets are off as to whether you will even be able to make the distance. Even if you grind your way through it, you will be very tired and sore. As a fellow cyclist once said, ‘You can’t fake endurance’.
Training for endurance is fairly straightforward. You basically just have to ride a little further each week, and make your longest ride of the week a few miles farther. You should be able to add 5 miles per week to your longest ride without much difficulty. If you have been riding RAGBRAI or have done other long distance cycling for the past few years, you will probably find you can bump up your longest ride distance by 10 miles per week.
When you do long training rides, you are building endurance in several ways. Obviously you are building leg strength and stamina. You are building cardiovascular improvements which allow you to exercise more efficiently. But you also are building stamina in other ways. Your hands, arms and shoulders have to hold you up all day on the bike and will get stronger and more used to this as you do longer rides. And then there is where your seat connects to your bike seat. This interaction is often the once that needs the most getting used to and probably causes more discomfort than any other aspect of cycling. So if for no other reason, get out and ride to help toughen up this tender area.
By now, with just a little more than a month remaining, you should be building up to longer rides by now. But wherever you are on your training journey, remember to increase gradually and not try to jump on a bike a go 50 miles the first ride.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.