RAGBRAI XLIX registration is now open!

RAGBRAI Training: The Route is Out, So Let's Get Ready!

  • 30 January, 2012
  • TJ Juskiewicz


The 2012 RAGBRAI XL overnight towns have been announced. While the detailed course will be announced a little later, this gives enough of an idea on the difficulty of the course for this year’s ride.   This year the ride is 471 miles, which is reported as the 18th shortest ride.  However, because there have been 40 of these rides, 18 means about the median so it is average length.  Still 471 miles is a lot any way you look at it and it means you should have plenty of miles in before your RAGBRAI journey begins. 

A good rule of thumb is to ride at least twice as many miles in preparation as you plan to ride during RAGBRAI, so if you are expecting to finish the entire ride, you should get in at about 1000 miles in training.   More is better.  Keep in mind that RAGBRAI isn’t something you can just come and do like an ultra endurance event without any preparation.  A week on the bike is just too long to go without training and expect to be fine.  As one of my cycling friends says “You can’t fake endurance”. And I’m not just referring to be able to do the ride without your legs giving out.  I’m referring to other body part too.  Sitting on a bike seat for 6-8 hours a day takes some getting used to, also.

And how about the hill situation?  This route is ‘relatively flat’.  It’s the 11th flattest out of 40.  But there is still a total of 16,125 feet of climbing (that’s over 3 miles straight up!). So don’t leave some hill climbing out of your preparation.  Despite rumors to the contrary, Iowa is not flat. 

So while this promises to be a gentler ride than some (according to RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz only 8 RAGBRAIs have been easier),  it still will require preparation for long days in the saddle, the ability to make it up and over hills and dealing with the heat, humidity and long days.  But have no fear.  You can do it with proper preparation and remember that the better you are prepared, the more enjoyable the ride becomes.   I will be providing training tips through the next few months to address your questions and to offer training tips to help you have a very enjoyable experience.   So check back often to this website.  All training articles will be saved on the Training tab. 

You’ve already given me some great ideas and please continue to ask questions and provide your ideas for what topics you want me to address.


David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and Personal Trainer. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, the Iowa JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes Team, the Above & Beyond Cancer RAAM Team, and he coaches individual cyclists.  He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com



  1. Nancy pedersen

    We live in_Cave Creek,Az. Riding in the heat is a challenge. Any suggestions? We have done 2 other Ragbrai,s before…….very grulling. But fun.Thx. Scott and Nancy

  2. Monte Fuller

    I live in Scottsdale AZ, glad to see other AZ friends coming to RAGBRAI!!!!

    I worried about the consecutive days riding, I can do the distances but have not done consecutive days with distance, I want to try a mini tour before July, how long should I ride each day on the mini tour to give me a good idea that I’m ready?

    -Monte Fuller

  3. Mark

    The beginning and the end of the route has the tallest hills with the rest fairly level rolling prairie. The stretch between our town and the previous sleeping town is 81 miles, nearly flat with a couple spots that have a valley of about 500 ft drop and right back up.
    If you ride 70-80 miles a day you will be ready.

  4. Jonathan

    Last year was my first, and I was worried about this aspect as well.
    By the time spring hit here (Colorado), I was trying to get in at least 150 miles a week, in the form of a few shorter 20-30 mile rides, and two back to back 50 mile rides on the weekends. This seemed to be adequate training for the butt, the back, and the shoulders to sit on the bike all day.
    I didn’t do a mini-tour to get ready, but tried to use weekends to do back to back longer rides, and I think that strategy worked well.
    My first RAGBRAI was difficult – but totally doable, especially with all the extra O2!

  5. Bill

    For people with exercised induced asthma are there any tips? The heat and humidity contribute to the issue. Of course I am working on this with my doctors. Sometimes there are additional strategies from a training coach working with cyclists based on experiences with riders though. Last year I had trouble but was using my inhaler incorrectly. That will help. I’m also planning on riding real early to miss as much heat as possible.

  6. Coach David Ertl

    Great questions and I will be addressing these, especially how to prepare for back to back to back days of riding, and riding in the heat.

  7. Blumblebees

    Whoo-hoo I’m so excited for this year! One of my concerns has to do with training when you have a cold. Last week I was sidelined from training because of being sick. I was wondering there were any tips on training while you are sick. Obviously there are some cases where it is better to just not train but for simple things like colds should we still hop on our bikes?

  8. Cherioh

    Usually, I ride for cardio exercise about 50 miles a week. Since our weather this winter has been so nice I have been able to increase to 75/week and hope to hit that 1000 mile mark before mid July. I also workout with weights six times a week for 45 min per session. As the mileage I need to ride increases, this will require not only a significant increase in the amount of time I spend cycling, but also energy. I am not sure how I need to adjust to not overdue it and wear myself out. I would hate to miss out on the great ride because of injury caused by ignorance.

  9. Bridie

    I am super excited about Ragbrai! My friend and I are training now for Ragbrai. We live in LA, so have lots of time to get our training in outside. Last year you posted a 15 week training schedule in March. Is there a way to adapt that so that we can start now? This is my first big ride- the most Ive ridden in a day is 15 miles. We want to be in the best riding shape possible and are committed to making that happen. Any tips for the extended training period? And cross training tips?

  10. Lyle Calease

    Bikes of choice, mtn or road,fixie or greared ?

  11. JD

    You can ride anything, but something on good working condition with skinny tires and 20 gears or more will be the easiest. A fixie only has two gears. Standing and sitting. Most importantly, make sure your seat is broke in. The one connected to your legs.

  12. Eman

    It’s all about the saddle. RAGBRAI is a social ride with plenty of time to sit. What is comfortable and flat on Sunday can have a real edge by Wednesday if you have not spent the proper time on the bike. That’s not a snivel, but a fact!

  13. atxfireman

    I live in Central TX, where it gets pretty hot during the summer. I start my training rides in the early morning hours, usually around 6 AM.

  14. Kendra

    Was on the 2009 one and loved want to go again

  15. Riley

    I live in an extremely hilly area. For one ride on the weekend I can go about 30 miles. It’s very difficult because of the hills. Could this be a problem in the event?

    For context: I rode the cape cod bike trail from one side to the other (60 or so miles) in 6 hours.

  16. Coach David Ertl

    Great comments and questions. I will attempt to address as many of these as I can. Please keep watching for my articles on this blog.
    Keep the questions (and answers) coming.

  17. VaBikeQueen

    Bill – I have exercise induced asthma. I have one word for you: Singulair! I still use my inhaler 30 minutes before exercise, but Singulair has changed my life!

  18. Mipp

    This will be my first Ragbrai,only going to ride the last two days. How many miles a week should I be riding a week to train

  19. Roger

    What’s the best way to keep your bike safe? Has there been any stolen bikes? My first time.

  20. Patricia

    Last year was my first Ragbrai, I followed the training tips that were posted, and felt great during the ride.
    I rode about 120 miles a week .
    20 miles every other day and a longer ride on the weekends of 40 to 50 miles.
    I heard from my biker friends just get on the saddle and clock the time, it worked.

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