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  1. #1
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    Estimating Your Touring Pace

    Let's say that a cyclist wants to go touring for the first time. As they do their planning, a lot of the logistics will be based on what sort of pace they ride right? (Note: When I say pace, I'm including actual cycling pace, average time riding per day, and frequency of rest days. Basically how far on average a cyclist will have gone over a certain number of days.) How can a cyclist who hasn't toured estimate this? What factors about the style of tour they intend, their current fitness, etc. can they look at to aid in their planning. I'm especially interested in how current fitness can translate into pace, daily mileage, and required rest days. This has personal relevance but I want to keep the discussion generalized.

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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Depends on the winds, hills, road surface, gearing.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/l...c_id=4767&v=6n

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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Depends on the winds, hills, road surface, gearing.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/l...c_id=4767&v=6n
    Ok, lets say that our touring neophyte has ridden with similar winds, hills, and road surfaces outside of touring so they have adequate gearing and an idea of how these have affected him. I think this is a safe assumption for a moderately experienced cyclist. Does this translate well into the effect during the tour?

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    10 mph all things counted is a good ballpark figure for most people. Make it 9 if you think you are slow. So if you want to be on the road for 6 hours a day, you could aim for 60 miles. If you want to make more miles in a day, it is much much easier to add extra mileage by just biking for longer rather than biking faster if that makes any sense. 30 minutes isn't a whole lot of time out of your day, and at a moderate pace it doesn't take a lot of effort to bike for 30 minutes at the end of the day, but it can easily add 5 miles more to your daily distance.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    In general, when my bicycle is all loaded up for touring, I seem to travel about 3/4 the speed I travel when I'm just out riding a normal 100K or so.

    So if I normally ride 100K at about 20 km/h, my touring speed seems to be about 15 km/h. Approximately and depending on a lot of things.

    Also, on a normal 100K, I will rarely stop for more than maybe a 30 minute break in the middle (and often not even that), whereas on a tour, it is much more likely that I'll stop for as much as a 60 minute break in the middle of the day. So that needs to be factored in as well.

    As for rest days, I like an approximate 3-5 days of cycling then 1 day off kind of pace. I know others who can just keep going and going and going day after day, but I seem to need a break. Part of that is physical, and part of it is just the desire to stop moving and have a look around a particular area. Planning regular rest days can keep you on schedule and make the tour more comfortable if you're faced with things like bad weather, bicycle repairs, etc. If you wake up to a temperature just above freezing with the rain pelting down ... you might opt to stay where you are for that day rather than going out and cycling in that.

    As for: "What factors about the style of tour they intend, their current fitness, etc. can they look at to aid in their planning. I'm especially interested in how current fitness can translate into pace, daily mileage, and required rest days." ........... I'd look at what the cyclists currently does for daily and weekend rides.

    If the cyclist currently rides 10 km rt to work and back during the week, and gets out for a 50 km ride on the weekends, I wouldn't suggest planning a whole bunch of 100+ km days all in a row, especially not at the beginning of the tour. But if the cyclist regularly rides 25+ km during the week, and knocks off back-to-back centuries on the weekend, maybe 100 km a day would be reasonable and comfortable.

    I strongly encourage all cycletourists to get out and ride lots in preparation for their tours. I know that a person can get fit while on tour, but that can make for an uncomfortable first week or two of the tour.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    10 miles an hour is a decent general guideline. 50 miles a day is a decent pace, though 70-80 or more is not unheard of.

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    Thank you for the informative post Machka. Do you, like Dan The Man, advocate going for increasing duration over added intensity for those looking to add mileage? (I know it won't be a hard rule.) How long do you like to ride most days? How do you spread your riding out through the day?

    I'm used to lower mileage (150miles/week) and higher intensity type riding. Rarely do I have all day to go ride my bike, but I've noticed I can handle longer distances (100miles+) if I dial down the intensity and keep up with my eating and drinking. I'm normally fine the next day, but hey, I'm 23 and seem to bounce back from everything pretty quickly. Right now I'm worried about doing something silly like ride 200 miles one day because I feel great and then realizing later that I've just cashed a check that my fitness can't pay.

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Thank you for the informative post Machka. Do you, like Dan The Man, advocate going for increasing duration over added intensity for those looking to add mileage? (I know it won't be a hard rule.) How long do you like to ride most days? How do you spread your riding out through the day?

    I'm used to lower mileage (150miles/week) and higher intensity type riding. Rarely do I have all day to go ride my bike, but I've noticed I can handle longer distances (100miles+) if I dial down the intensity and keep up with my eating and drinking. I'm normally fine the next day, but hey, I'm 23 and seem to bounce back from everything pretty quickly. Right now I'm worried about doing something silly like ride 200 miles one day because I feel great and then realizing later that I've just cashed a check that my fitness can't pay.
    In general, I'm a distance over intensity person ... put me on a bicycle, and I can comfortably be there all day.

    A number of people have asked me what to do to make a century (100 miles) more comfortable, and my response is ... ride a double century. Once you've done twice the distance, all of a sudden the first distance doesn't seem daunting.

    So in your case, whatever you are thinking of for your daily distance, ride more than that once or twice a week in preparation for the tour.

    Also do some back-to-back distances ... like ride back-to-back centuries, and see how you feel. If you've got a long weekend, do a back-to-back centuries on the Saturday and Sunday, and then a 100K to wrap the weekend up on Monday. I did a lot of that type of thing in 2003, and would have to say I was at my peak fitness level then.

    During the week is intensity time. If you're working or in school or whatever, you probably don't have time during the week to go out and ride centuries, so do shorter, more intense rides. Do intervals, practice hill climbing, practice more hill climbing, load up the bicycle with the approximate weight of what you're carrying, and practice more hill climbing .... (Hills + loaded bicycle are what gets me on a tour.)

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    Take your unloaded average speed, and subtract 3 km/hr.

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    Good comments, above. I agree with the 10mph average. We (my wife and I) generally do 12-14mph on the flats, but take rest stops frequently. Doesn't matter how fast we try to go, after six hours we've covered about 60 miles. Mountains and headwinds notwithstanding...

    Of course it depends on the terrain and weather, but also a lot on your fitness and philosophy. I've met tourers on the road who have ambitious goals of 100-mile days and almost always meet them. But I'd guess at least half are "smell the roses" types, stopping for wildlife, bakeries, swimming holes, or naps, as long as they cover a few miles.

    After a few tours, I've found that future "planning" goes out the window. All you can do is prepare. Any schedule you have loses about 50% of its probability for each day in the future -- meaning you've got about 25% chance of meeting your "schedule" three days from now. The answer is to be prepared, have a Plan B.

    I also found out early on that if we want to cover more miles, we leave camp earlier. The road-racing side of the sport may take it as heresy, but going faster just doesn't work. Once you've discovered your normal touring pace (whether it's 12-14mph, or 16-18mph), try to exceed that on a loaded bike for more than an hour and you'll need two days to recover (Lance Armstrong not included...). As the tour progresses, you'll get more fit; but I've found that this translates into longer days, not faster.

    General guidelines, everybody is different.

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    Last edited by EmmCeeBee; 05-19-09 at 01:16 PM.

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    IMO, the best way to get an idea of what to expect from touring is to ride loaded. It will get you familiar with your panniers, bike handling, and abilities in a safe way.

  12. #12
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    Last summer with good base miles before leaving... 70 miles per day for 60 days. Did not take a full day off but did do some short mileage rest days of around 35-50.

    A rider with a decent base before leaving is going to have more fun the first few weeks and also cover a lot more ground. Not saying that you can't ride yourself into shape though on a longer trip.

    50 miles a day would drive me crazy.... To much time not riding. I tend to have ants in my pants.
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyakdiver View Post
    50 miles a day would drive me crazy.... To much time not riding. I tend to have ants in my pants.

    You should ride with the guy I did my 3-month tour of Australia with. Before we got to Australia, he suggested we might do 80 km a day, and would take days off here and there. When we arrived, he announced that he wanted to do 100+ km/day every day.

    That is just NOT the way I like to tour. I like to stop and get off my bicycle, and walk around, and look at things, and take whole days off to go hiking or swimming, or to take in museums etc. etc.

    But it sounds like you and he would be compatible riding partners!

  14. #14
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    Do you, like Dan The Man, advocate going for increasing duration over added intensity for those looking to add mileage? (I know it won't be a hard rule.) How long do you like to ride most days? How do you spread your riding out through the day?
    The best callibration for some of these sorts of questions is experimenting on your own previous (mini) tours - since preferences and styles will definitely differ.

    However, with that said. For me, I've found out the following aspects of my touring style:
    1) A 10mph average including stops is a good base estimate that works in my own planning.
    2) I'm much more into increasing duration than intensity on timing.
    3) Unless it is really interesting, I get bored with rest days. I'm much happier riding some each day and perhaps abbreviating a day to stop early but otherwise riding most all the days on tour.
    4) I've reduced my mileage some as I've gotten older. 25 years ago as a college student, my ideal trips were to start at sunrise and ride until sundown. Having 120-150 mile days was fun. My first cross USA trip was ~10 years after college and I averaged 95 miles per day including my one rest day. I'm now happier in the 70-80 miles/day range. I don't go particularly fast and take breaks but I like riding most of the day and will do that day after day.
    5) I like to leave very early in the day. Particularly during summer months, gives me lots of daylight at end of the day to adjust actual destination if necessary.

    I'm not necessarily in top shape starting a long tour but after two weeks on the road, I'm much more so.

  15. #15
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    Ive found that though my average loaded speed, including large hills and such, is around 15 mph- but in a day, my overall pace will be more like 10mph or so., because I'll typically take at least two good breaks in a 50-70 mile day (probably one hour and one half-hour) and the occasional stop for shade, water, conversation, scenery, etc.

  16. #16
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    for loaded touring on pavement cast another vote for about 10 miles per hour including breaks. it always seems to average to about this, maybe 70 percent of that if its packed gravel, and half if its sand.

    lightly loaded touring on pavement, 12 miles per hour of bike time. credit card touring, i've never tried that..
    Last edited by Bekologist; 05-19-09 at 08:14 PM.
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    Senior Member RepWI's Avatar
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    It's not about pace. It's about what you want to do.

    I am in the process of, "dialing in" what I want to become as a bicycle tourer.

    So far I have found that:

    1) I need to remind myself to stop and smell the roses.
    2) That I can bike 80 miles a day fully loaded if need be. (ie....I need to plan my routes better as I do not want to do 80 miles each day.)
    3) To be decided.......

  18. #18
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I don't worry about pace. I only worry about how far to ride each day. I ride at a pace that feels comfortable and sustainable. In the morning this tends to be fairly slow. In the afternoon as I approach the campground I tend to go a lot faster. I'm like the horse returning to the barn; I just want to get there and I no longer worry as much about conserving my energy.

    I think daily mileage depends as much on your personality as anything else. Some people are driven to accomplish a certain amount of progress each day. I like to make progress, but I also like to enjoy myself and not suffer too much, so I'm not averse to stopping after 30 miles if I find a nice place and the circumstances are right. My daily average is around 50 miles, and 80-mile-days aren't unusual.

    How much load you carry and the terrain also are important factors in your pace, obviously.

  19. #19
    Tinkerer since 1980 TheBrick's Avatar
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    All measurements in cm and center to center apart from foot size which is in uk sizing so you US boys need to take one off

    (((stem length x seatube length) / crank length) - foot size )x (number of days of tour/iso wheel size converted to cm) mod 26

    Gives a fairly good estimate. in kmph.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBrick View Post
    All measurements in cm and center to center apart from foot size which is in uk sizing so you US boys need to take one off

    (((stem length x seatube length) / crank length) - foot size )x (number of days of tour/iso wheel size converted to cm) mod 26

    Gives a fairly good estimate. in kmph.
    Hahaha, the exact answer I was hoping for! Your rigorous scientific method miraculously predicts a pace of 33.1kmph or 20.5 mph for me. A bit better than I was planning but who's gonna argue with science!

    Your advanced formula also tells me that I need to use some 20" BMX wheels while ditching my touring frame for a pursuit frame to increase pace.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I don't worry about pace. I only worry about how far to ride each day. I ride at a pace that feels comfortable and sustainable. In the morning this tends to be fairly slow. In the afternoon as I approach the campground I tend to go a lot faster. I'm like the horse returning to the barn; I just want to get there and I no longer worry as much about conserving my energy.

    I think daily mileage depends as much on your personality as anything else. Some people are driven to accomplish a certain amount of progress each day. I like to make progress, but I also like to enjoy myself and not suffer too much, so I'm not averse to stopping after 30 miles if I find a nice place and the circumstances are right. My daily average is around 50 miles, and 80-mile-days aren't unusual.

    How much load you carry and the terrain also are important factors in your pace, obviously.
    I'm normally 100% in agreement with you on pace. Unfortunately, I now have a week less to complete the distance I was planning so I need to determine what sort of pace I can expect to handle so I know if the tour is still viable. Thankfully I enjoy riding hard just as much as I enjoy wandering and taking it easy. Riding is still fun, just in a different way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I'm normally 100% in agreement with you on pace. Unfortunately, I now have a week less to complete the distance I was planning so I need to determine what sort of pace I can expect to handle so I know if the tour is still viable. Thankfully I enjoy riding hard just as much as I enjoy wandering and taking it easy. Riding is still fun, just in a different way.
    Well then rather than asking cryptic questions why not just say that in the first place? Tell us where you are riding from, where you are riding to, how far it is, and how much time you have.

  23. #23
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    I dont really know if this helps you, but when I took the computer off of my Recumbent touring bike, it had 16,000 or so miles on it. The bike had been used ONLY for fully loaded touring, over all sorts of terrain, much of it mountainous. The average speed was right at 14mph. What that means, I have no idea. My standard non recumbent touring bike only has a few thousand miles on it and it's closer to 15mph, however I use it to commute sometimes.
    Mmmm, bicycles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
    Well then rather than asking cryptic questions why not just say that in the first place? Tell us where you are riding from, where you are riding to, how far it is, and how much time you have.
    I prefer the term generalized to cryptic. If I post my singular example I'd get an answer but the thread would lose some potential usefulness for others in a similar position. I'm trying to learn to fish instead of being whopped in the head with a salmon.

  25. #25
    imi
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I don't worry about pace. I only worry about how far to ride each day. I ride at a pace that feels comfortable and sustainable. In the morning this tends to be fairly slow. In the afternoon as I approach the campground I tend to go a lot faster. I'm like the horse returning to the barn; I just want to get there and I no longer worry as much about conserving my energy.

    I think daily mileage depends as much on your personality as anything else. Some people are driven to accomplish a certain amount of progress each day. I like to make progress, but I also like to enjoy myself and not suffer too much, so I'm not averse to stopping after 30 miles if I find a nice place and the circumstances are right. My daily average is around 50 miles, and 80-mile-days aren't unusual.

    How much load you carry and the terrain also are important factors in your pace, obviously.
    This sums it up for me too... well written BigBlueToe!

    hihi, makes me chuckle though, we're all different, all on different bikes/components/gear etc, we argue and have opinions about the tiniest of details... and we're all pedalling along on this planet of ours at an average of 10 mph... beautiful!

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