By Coach David Ertl

This is one of the most common questions I hear about riders who are preparing for RAGBRAI, especially first time riders and I heard it again yesterday.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my rule of thumb is to try to get in 1000 miles of riding prior to RAGBRAI.  That may sound like a like, especially for a rookie, but if you have been riding now for several weeks getting in 50-100 miles per week, your mileage will be adding up.  There is nothing special about 1000 miles.  RAGBRAI this year is 418 miles if you do the whole thing.  So I use 1000 as roughly twice the number of miles you will ride in RAGBRAI this week.  Of course the major difference is RAGBRAI is ridden in 7 days whereas your training miles will be spread across many weeks.  But the neat thing about bike riding is that once your legs and butt get used to riding, you can increase the mileage and do just fine as long as your ride within your abilities and take care of yourself.  If you take breaks and keep the food and liquids coming in throughout each day, you should be able to make the entire distance.  Yes, you will be tired but you shouldn’t be exhausted or unable to finish.

Here are a few things that will cause trouble and may jeopardize your ability to finish each day’s ride and the entire week.  One is riding too fast and burning yourself out before you finish.  It is tempting to start out especially the first day or two when you are fresh and go fast and try to keep up with others.  This will end up hurting your legs and can make the remainder of the ride tough.  A second problem area is the seat area.  Make sure you have a few pairs of cycling shorts with you on RAGBRAI so you have a clean, dry pair to put on each day.  You may also want to investigate using some of the chamois creams that are available to help avoid chafing and saddle sores.  Nothing like a saddle sore to stop you dead in your tracks.  An important way to avoid saddle sores is to get out of your shorts as quickly as possible after each day’s ride and take a shower as soon as possible.  Another thing that can wreck your week is to get sunburned on the first day. You will be miserable the rest of the week, so protect yourself appropriately with sunscreen or even long sleeve jerseys if you are particularly sensitive.  Also, don’t get dehydrated during the day or you will find it difficult to catch up.  Finally, if you are concerned about completing the entire ride, make sure you get plenty of sleep and avoid the late night partying!

Finally, what happens if you don’t have 1000 miles in by the start or RAGBRAI, or not even close.  Here we are about a month away from RAGBRAI. You still have time to get in 400 miles or more of training before RAGBRAI, so even if you don’t have many miles in yet, you still have plenty of time. If you have done a lot of riding in past years you may be okay even with limited training this year.  Your body remembers and endurance comes back from previous years.  But what if you still haven’t gotten in more than a couple hundred miles by the time July rolls around? Then you may want to start reassessing your goals.   But you may decide not to ride every day of RAGBRAI.  If you are with a team, you might opt to catch a ride some of the time in a vehicle.  The less prepared you are, the more important it is that you ride well within your abilities.  If you are riding 70 miles in a day, you have more than 12 hours of daylight to complete this.  That means an average speed of 10 mph will get you there in 7 hours, so you have plenty of time even if you take it very easy and stop along the way.

So I want to encourage you to 1) get out there and get those miles on your bike in the final month and 2) even if you can’t prepare as much as you would like, chances are you will be able to ride the entire length of RAGBRAI or a good portion of it if you pace yourself and take care of your body.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised how well you can ride even if your preparation leaves something to be desired!

– Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and is a national head coach for the the JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and he coaches individual cyclists. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: . He can be contacted at