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RAGBRAI Training: Some Common Questions from RAGBRAI Newbies

  • 11 March, 2022

Some Common Questions from RAGBRAI Newbies

This year I’ve been following a new RAGBRAI Newbies group of Facebook. It’s been a really good group to follow if you are new to RAGBRAI. A lot of good questions are being asked and these are being answered from some RAGBRAI  veterans who are also part of this group.  I’ve seen a number of questions related to training being asked repeatedly and I thought it would be good to discuss those here because obviously many people probably are having the same questions. So here goes.

  1. How fast do people ride RAGBRAI?

This is a tough question to answer because people ride all different speeds. There are probably some who just race through the ride each day, hardly stopping. In my opinion, these people don’t get RAGBRAI as they are missing out on some of the best parts – what the towns along the way have to offer.  Other people may ride fairly quickly but then stop and hang out in every town.  Yet others plod along and spend the whole day on the road.  The answer is, your speed should be based on your level of fitness, how much you stop in towns, and when you want to arrive at the overnight town each day.  If you spend a lot of time stopping at each town, you will need to ride a little quicker to get in by dust. If you ride slowly, you may need to limit how long you spend at each town during the day.  But there is no right or wrong speed to ride. So ride your speed!

  1. What kind of bike should I ride on RAGBRAI?

Again a tough question because you see everything out there, from traditional road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, e-bikes, and even unicycles and skateboards.  The best answer is to ride a bike that you are comfortable on. You will be spending many hours on your bike during RAGBRAI and the most important thing is to have a comfortable bike, even over have a fast bike. The second most important consideration is a bike that is in good running condition. You don’t want breakdowns during your training or during RAGBRAI. Now if you have an old heavy clunker, you might want to consider getting a lighter bike to make your riding a bit easier and faster, but that’s not a requirement.

  1. I hear there is gravel on this year’s RAGBRAI. Will my road bike handle this?

Yes, there is an optional gravel day again this year, but it’s optional, meaning you don’t have to ride gravel if you don’t want to. You can do 100% pavement if you wish.  So a road bike is perfectly fine.  But if you want to do the gravel section, you should come with a bike with bigger tires (35mm or wider recommended).  The new gravel bikes would be perfect for this and would also work perfectly well on the rest of the paved roads as well, although with a bit more rolling resistance. If you come with a road bike with skinny tires (28mm or less) I would recommend against planning on doing the gravel sections.

  1. I hear this year there is a day that’s 100 miles long. How can I prepare for this?
    Yes, in past year’s there was always an optional ‘century’ loop (century meaning 100 miles) that RAGBRAI riders could choose – the Karras Loop. However, this year there is a day which has everyone doing 100 miles.  So short of catching a ride, you will have to be ready to ride 100 miles on your bicycle in one day.  Now while that sounds daunting to some of you, especially if you have never done a century before, let me help talk you through it.  First of all, every year on RAGBRAI there is at least one and sometimes multiple days of 80 or more miles. So if you have done RAGBRAI in the past, most likely you know you can ride 80+ miles in one day.  Doing another 15-20 miles is of course harder (these extra miles do come at the end of the ride, obviously!), but I would say if you can ride 80, you can ride 100, it will just take longer. Longer, because it’s farther but also because you will probably ride it more slowly than you would on a shorter day.  But you can prepare for 100 miles the same way you would normally prepare for RAGBRAI, however you may want to build up to a longer ride in training than you may have for an 80 mile day. This doesn’t mean you have to ride 100 miles in training before you get to RAGBRAI (although more power to you if you can), you should probably target riding as many as 80 miles on your longest ride in training. In past years I recommended being able to ride 70 miles.  The thing is, you have all day to do this 100 mile ride.  And days are long in Iowa in the summer, so even if you poke along at 8 mph, you can get the 100 miles covered, along with ample stops, before sundown.  100 miles sounds big, and it is, but you can do it (with some preparation).  And once you do, you will be a member of the century club. A century bike ride is cycling’s equivalent of a marathon.

These are just a few of the questions I have seen. If you have other questions you would like me to address in upcoming blogs, please send them to me at

Thanks, and get out there. Spring is coming!

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


1 Comment

  1. sjlouden

    Not sure you’re familiar with Rouvy or not but if you are any recommendations on routes that would be good for Ragbrai? I’m a newbie for 23. Thanks for your help.

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