The average individual conducting a long-distance bicycle tour will cycle between 40 and 60 miles (64 – 96 kilometers) each day. However, distances both shorter and longer than this are quite common.
40 to 60 miles is the average daily distance recommended for most bicycle tourists. But there is so much more to say about the distances you should plan to cover when conducting a long-distance, self-supported bicycle tour.
Your First Day On The Road
Take for example, the first day of your bicycle tour. On the first day of your tour you will be either starting from home or from some foreign location that you’ve reached by either car, bus, plane or train.
If you are starting your bicycle tour from your home and cycling on roads that you’re familiar with during your first day on the road, then covering a good 40 to 60 miles on the first day is entirely plausible.
But if you are starting your bicycle tour from a location that you are unfamiliar with, then you should drastically cut down the distance you expect to cover during your first day on tour.
Therefore, if you are planning to cycle an average of 40 to 60 miles each day on your bicycle tour, you should plan to cover only 20 to 30 miles during your first day on the road.
There are a number of different reasons why you should plan to cover so little ground during your first day on tour.
First of all, simply getting to your starting location may take some time. Because you will be beginning your bicycle tour in a foreign location, simply navigating to your starting spot may delay you significantly at the start of your tour.
Second of all, you won’t be in your best physical shape at the start of your bike tour. Unless you’ve done a massive amount of training before your bicycle tour has begun, you will likely be much slower on your first day of bicycle touring than, say for example, on your 10th day on the road. The longer you bicycle tour, the faster you will become. But your first day on the road is not the time to be covering record distances!
Finally, something always seems to go wrong on the first day of a bicycle tour, and you should schedule in some time to deal with any mishaps that might occur during your first day on the road. Maybe you’re bike’s tire will burst during the first few hours and you’ll need to find a replacement? Maybe you will have forgotten to pack a toothbrush, so you’ll need to hunt one down? Or maybe you’ll have trouble navigating your way out of a big city and the time you spend getting back on track will delay you significantly.
Whatever the case, you should plan to cover only a small amount of ground during the first day of your bicycle tour. Even if you plan on cycling more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) on each day of your bicycle tour, I suggest you not plan on cycling more than 40 miles on your first day.
For most bicycle touring participants, the goal is not to reach the destination in record time, but to simply reach the destination in a safe, enjoyable manner. So, do yourself a favor and don’t push yourself too hard on your very first day. Not only could planning to cycle too far on your first day push you far behind schedule right from the very start, but it can be extremely demoralizing when you think about the fact that after only one day of cycling you are already behind schedule.
Set a goal for your first day of cycling that you know you can easily achieve, and then be proud of yourself for having achieved that goal on the first day of your tour!
Increase Your Distance As You Gain Experience
Your second day on the road will likely start with soreness in your legs, hips, back, neck and arms. Don’t be surprised to find yourself using muscles you have rarely ever used before.
As you continue to cycle each day, slowly increase your daily distance. If you covered only 30 miles (48 kilometers) on the first day of your bicycle tour, increase that distance on day two to somewhere around 40 miles (64 kilometers). The following day, try to cycle 50 miles (80 kilometers). Slowly increase your daily distances until you hit a distance that you are both comfortable with and that allows your to meet your own personal bicycle touring goals. Some people will be happy with covering only 20 miles per day while others will be happy with the average 50 and some will want to cover more than 100 miles each and every day of their tour.
Set Other Goals For Yourself
My one big piece of advice when it comes to planning your daily distances is this: Do not plan on cycling more miles/kilometers than you know you are capable of covering.
I’ve been helping people all around the world plan, prepare for, and conduct their own self-supported bicycle tours for more than a decade and I can tell you that planning to ride too far on day one, and on every subsequent day, is the number one reason why people quit their bicycle tours and go home prematurely.
If you want to have a successful bicycle tour and actually enjoy yourself along the way, I recommend you keep your daily distances low and set other goals for yourself, besides how far you can cycle in the shortest amount of time.
The temptation amongst many people who are new to bicycle touring is to try and cover as much distance in as short a period of time as possible. This could be because many individuals only have a limited period of time in which to conduct their bicycle tours each year, so they want to cover as much ground as they can. Other times, people simply want to show off and think that covering massive distances on a bicycle will somehow impress their friends or family back home.
But the truth is, planning to cycle too far each day is the number one reason most self-supported bicycle tours are abandoned. And not only will you enjoy yourself more if you slow down and stop to see the sights along the way, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and discomfort along the way. Plus, your friends and family back home don’t really care how many miles/kilometers you covered during your bicycle tour. No matter the distance you cycle (whether it is 1,000 miles/kilometers or 100,000 miles/kilometers), they will be impressed and you should be proud of yourself.
When it comes to planning the distances you should expect to cover during your bicycle tour, the answer will vary from person to person. This is why it is so important that you spend some time right now thinking about what your goals are for your bicycle tour.
- Do you want to cycle as far as you can in as short a period as possible?
- Do you want to try and impress your friends and family back home with your bicycle touring adventures?
- Do you want to enjoy yourself, learn something new about the areas you are passing through, or meet new people along the way?
There are so many different reasons to conduct a bicycle tour… and the distances you plan to cover each day are very much dependent on what your goals are for your travels. If you want to cover a lot of ground, you may find yourself planning to ride 80 – 100 miles each day. If you want to really get to know an area and stop to enjoy yourself along the way, you may only cover between 20 – 50 miles on average. The choice is up to you, but I suggest you plan some time to enjoy yourself along the way, otherwise you may reach your destination and realize that you didn’t really get the full bicycle touring experience.
Planning For Periods Of Rest
Finally, when it comes to the distances you plan to cover each day (or each week for that matter), it is suggested that you plan in at least one rest day per week. While you may be tempted to cycle every single day of your tour, a rest day not only allows you to stop and recoup, but if gives you time to catch up, should you fall behind from your planned itinerary.
If your goal with your bicycle tour is to really enjoy yourself during your travels and take it slow, you might plan in two, three or even four or more days of rest each and every week. Remember: there are no rules with bicycle touring! You can make your self-supported bicycle tour however you want to make it.
Summary Of Important Points:
- The average bicycle tourist will cycle between 40 to 60 miles each day. However, there is no rule that says you must cover this same distance each day. You may choose to cover fewer or more miles/kilometers
- You should plan to cover only about half of your average daily distance on the first day of your bicycle tour in the event of a navigation error, physical breakdown, or other planning error.
- You should plan in at least one day of rest for each week of cycling. Planning a rest day is a great way to let your body recoup and catch up on lost mileage should you fall behind on your planned itinerary.
- Many bicycle tours are abandoned each year because the tour participants planned on covering long distances they were unable to actually complete. The demoralizing effect of not reaching your goal each night is one of the biggest reasons people quit their bicycle tour.
- Unless you are trying to set a speed record, I suggest you go slow and cover shorter distances, rather than longer ones. You will enjoy yourself more if you have the time to stop and “smell the roses” along the way.
- The distances you plan to cover each day should be in alignment with your overall goals for the tour. If your goal is to cover a lot of ground, you will need to cycle long and hard, but have little time to stop and enjoy yourself along the way. If your goal is to enjoy yourself and learn a little bit about the areas you are passing through, you should plan shorter days, allowing you to stop whenever an opportunity presents itself. Determining the goal of your bicycle tour will help in determining how far you should plan to cycle each day.
Got questions? Want to learn more about planning, preparing for, or executing your own bicycle touring adventures? Be sure to read “The Bicycle Traveler’s Blueprint” – the world’s best how-to book about bicycle touring!