How Far Can I Cycle in a Day? 10 Things to Consider
SPOILER ALERT: The answer is that you can probably cycle 100 km in a day. On a supported cycling tour on mostly paved roads with moderate climbing, this is an achievable distance by any able bodied adult. The average distance on our Touring and Adventure level tours is roughly 100 km per day and we have seen people of all sizes and shapes, ages and fitness levels complete this distance. Of course, there are many factors that effect this…
Top 10 Factors Affecting Daily Cycling Distances
- Terrain – Is it hilly, or flat? Is it smooth paved roads or bumpy tracks in the bush? Terrain is a major factor and could mean the difference between averaging 25 km/h or 5 km/h.
- Weather – Do you have a headwind or tailwind? Are there moderate temperatures or hydration sucking desert heat? A strong headwind can feel like cycling with your brakes on. Riding in extreme heat may slow you down over the course of many hours in direct sunlight and likely means taking more breaks and requires more hydration.
- Gear – Are you carrying everything with you or is there a support van for that? Did you pack light or prepare for every eventuality? Though maybe not as large of a factor as weather and terrain, the weight of your bike is inevitably going to slow you down and drain your energy more quickly.
- Your plans – Are you trying to go far or wander at a leisurely pace? Do you like to have long lunches and do side trips or mid-day activities along the route? This is a factor that you control and can change from day to day or even hour to hour. You can enjoy the world around you or choose to put your head down and put in some serious kilometres.
- Solo or Group – Are you cycling with a friend? Cycling alone? Or in a tour group? There is a wonderful solitude in solo cycling but the flip side, cycling with friends or in a group, can help you to cover more distance than you thought you were capable of.
- Fitness – Have you trained hard? Are you an experienced cyclist? On a long tour, you may find this becomes a smaller factor over time as you will get in shape if you keep cycling daily and keep pushing through the physical fatigue. But starting a tour in good shape is a great way to jump start your trip.
- Location – Are you cycling in familiar regions or foreign lands? Sometimes you spend more time navigating the route and finding food and housing in unfamiliar territory.
- Navigation – Is the routing complex? How likely are you to take the odd wrong turn? One wrong turn could add lots of kilometres and hours to your day.
- Motivation – Did you wake up feeling sluggish? Are you motivated to reach the next town and visit a friend? Your goals and motivation can certainly be a small factor in daily distance.
- Health – Have you overexerted yourself the last few days? Do you have a cold or food poisoning? These might slow you down or even mean putting your trip on pause.
What Would My Average Speed Be?
Does 100 km still sound like a lot? Well, think about this. Even if you cycled at 10 km/h you could still manage to cycle the 100 km before sunset if you got an early start. A below-average cyclist can usually cycle comfortably on a flat paved road at 15 – 20 km per hour.
Here is a great chart (in miles not kilometres) from our friends at the Adventure Cycling Association quickly summarizing how much distance you can cover (while carrying all your gear) in 5 hours in a variety of situations. Note that on a TDA tour you only carry the basics, so your gear weight would probably be more like 5 lbs (or 2.5 kg) – meaning your distance covered might be even greater.
What speed do you average on a full day ride? How many hours are too many for you? What are some of the things that are key to covering these long distances? Share your thoughts and comments below.