April 9, 2011
It's that time of year at Adventure Cycling when we're starting to get a lot of phone calls from cyclists wondering how many miles they should ride per day on their upcoming tour. If I were asked this by someone I knew well, and had ridden with on many occasions, I would feel pretty comfortable throwing out a ballpark figure. Talking to someone I have not even met, on the other hand, makes guessing a number not just incredibly difficult, but irresponsible on my part.
When you're trying to budget your time for a long trip, such as cross-country trek, not being able to arrive at a solid number to gauge your pace at isn't super comforting. This is why I like to talk this question out, and give the rider some tips on how they can nail down a number for themselves. Following are some of the suggestions I offer.
1. String together a two- or three-day test ride. If you are thinking 40 miles per day is a reasonable daily mileage, go out and ride that distance for a few consecutive days and see how you feel. If you find yourself pretty worn out by the end of the rides, you may want to back off a bit. But if you feel fresh and energetic at the end of the trial period, maybe you can bump the number up a bit.
2. Keep topography in mind. If you're a flatlander heading to the mountains, chances are you won't be riding as far per day as you would back home.
3. Err on the conservative side for daily mileage when planning your full agenda. It's a lot better to get ahead of schedule than behind. This can provide time for unexpected sick days, inclement weather, mechanical problems, and/or side trips.
4. Talk to your riding companions to find out what they think. They might know your riding style and abilities fairly well from an outsider's point of view, which can be very useful.
In the end, there is no perfect formula for figuring daily mileage. Everyone has different physical abilities, time limitations, reasons for touring, and weight of gear they are hauling along. The important thing is that at the end of a day on the road, you're looking forward to more of them.
Photo by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.