How many kilometers are you cycling a day?
I guess we long term cyclists have all heard this question many times before and I also guess most of us will reply with the short answer that it all depends.
It depends on the weather, the altitude, the mood, your age, the road surface and the terrain. How much food and water you are carrying or if your bags are full of warm winter clothes and the heavy load slows you down.
Sometimes there is a time pressure where you need to keep going or you might be on the road for years on end and cycling is just the way of getting from one place to the next and you already slowed down a lot.
You might sit on a tandem, you might cycle in a bigger group, maybe your bike is a trike or you would like to cycle faster but your partner is not able to speed up a bit.
And quite a few other reasons which influence your daily distance.
But in all honesty, I would say it also depends on your character.
- Are you out to prove something?
- Do you feel bored if you are not sitting in your saddle all day long?
- Are you a romantic person who likes to stop often to smell the roses or are you sporty and not happy if you haven’t done your 100 km for that day?
- Do you like to interact with people a lot?
- Do you prefer the more adventurous roads where you carry your bike more than you can cycle, or are you sticking to the paved, flat roads where cycling is easy?
- Or you might feel pressured through your followers and have the feeling you need to perform and satisfy their expectations?
There are some out there who are doing 150 km every day and others who do not even carry a speedometer any longer. We all call ourselves touring cyclists.
On one hand, it is somehow a funny question we get asked from strangers, on the other hand it makes total sense.
I asked five other world cyclists about their thoughts to this question and I will tell you my personal experiences at the end.
Mirjam Wouters Cyclingdutchgirl (37) Netherlands
Mirjam you are calling yourself the slowest touring cyclist around and you cycled about 90.000km in 13 years before you became a mom just recently.
You obviously like to travel slowly. Why?
Yes, I do like to travel slowly because I am not in any hurry. I don’t want to be the fastest person to go around the world (I didn’t necessarily want to be the slowest either, but I think it might work out that way).
I get easily side-tracked. The cycling is all fun and nice but the unexpected things that happen along the way are what you remember.
So, if I stop somewhere to fix a tire and someone comes along and offers me a job…. I take it (Australia). Or when someone tells me there is a wedding/festival/rodeo coming up in a few days, I’ll hang around and join in. Either by volunteering or as a guest. It’s just more fun this way. (For me)
Or when you meet a nice guy and you have a baby, it slows things down a bit…
But it all happens and I still love the open road and can’t wait for what kind of adventures are ahead!
John Butcher (41) Australian
John cycled in 3 years 38 000 km and counting. He posted recently a quote on his FB page.
John, can you please explain this a bit for us?
This quote, which won’t resonate with everyone, came to me while riding in the Baltic States, having then cycled around 36 000 km through a range of not only different countries but more importantly to me, a range of different cycling mindsets.
In general, I’m the guy who likes to average around 100 km per day, give or take. Middle of a European winter, probably not going to happen, likewise high up in the Andes, otherwise at other times it’s a done deal, if left alone I’ll clock up 150 km plus days.
“The slower you ride the more you learn about the country”
The latter is important to me especially when I’ve just entered a new country or city for the first time. I take the time to notice how the locals are looking at me, observing me, this’ll give me a safety heads up.
Once you’ve slowed down, soaked it up, have an understanding of your new environment you’re much more likely to get involved or be invited to be involved. You’re able to learn about the country!
“The faster you ride the more you learn about yourself”
In all honesty, going slow bores me, at least it has done (I’ve ridden thousands of kilometers in some amazing parts of the world, and only ever saw the road surface, head down bum up!).
I’ll wake up one morning with a need to prove something to myself. I’ll pick two points on a map, then just gun it from one to the other regardless, and I mean regardless! The climate, the terrain; it doesn’t matter, really, I could ride past all Seven Wonders of the World and I wouldn’t care one little bit.
My most memorable point to point experience was in Argentina, I picked a 1200 km stretch and decided to nail it in 10 days, however on day 2 having ridden 290 km I decided to cut that back to 7 days!
All this in 40 plus degree heat, limited towns for water and food, through a dust storm, headwinds daily and all while crisscrossing through the Andes. I truly pushed myself to the outer edge of my comfort zone, then some and then way beyond out into the darkness of pain, discomfort and a hatred for life.
Through this I learnt not only the true extent of my craziness, but too, to the measure of my physical capabilities and to the depth of my mental toughness. I really never thought I had it in me to push and ride so damn hard. The faster I rode the more I learnt about myself. And it pays to know yourself!!
Annika Wachter (30) German Roberto Gallegos (33) Mexican
The couple cycled 5 years, 32.000 km and crossed 30 countries and got married just recently while touring.
Annika When travelling as a couple, are there frustrating moments because of different fitness levels and different travel habits?
We have been travelling together for over five years now. Still that doesn’t mean we’re hungry at the same time or exhausted at the same time or comfortable on the same speed.
So, we found a way in the middle. I usually cycle in front of Roberto, because it is easier for him to adapt to my speed than it would be for me to try and keep up with him. He could do a faster average, but he is somewhat limited by my speed.
On very rare occasions I’m feeling stronger than he does. But then usually it turns out his wheel was loose or his tire was a bit flat.
We usually try and have at least a short five-minute break every maybe 25 kilometers, but we are not too fuzzy about the exact number of kilometers.
I’m a late sleeper, he is an early riser. I like Nutella and he likes peanut butter. We tried for a long time to find a way in the middle. In the end, we just bought both.
About most things, we have adapted to each other without even noticing.
In the end, it’s all communication between each other and finding compromises that work for both sides. Sure, there are frustrating moments. But it’s the positive moments that really count.
Roberto Your slogan is cultivating empathy by bicycle travel. To me it sounds like, the bicycle was always more of a transport system to fulfill your goal to bring the world closer together instead of seeing the bicycle as a piece of sport equipment.
Yes, the bicycle for me is definitely a vehicle for getting to know people, places, cultures and food in a closer way. This has been a big reveal for me. The only reason we started the travel with the bicycle was TO SAVE MONEY!
Then as we were travelling we figured out how special this form of travel was for us. We like meeting new people in different context rather than just hostels or hotels, and cycle travel for us fulfilled that. You can go to remote places with the strength of your legs. It is incredible for me where the bicycle can take you.
Concerning distance…. well for me it is really not important.
Beat Heim Betzgi (50) Swiss
Betzgi cycled 200 000km in total in about 70 countries.
He loves mountains and high passes and cycled 70.400 km + 620.000m elevation gain in 1133 days on his last trip.
Beat, can you tell us about your way of cycling the world? How do you enjoy the road?
For me, it is not so much about how far I cycle every day. It is more how long do I ride. As I am often in mountainous regions, progress is often not measured in kilometers but rather in altitude gain.
As an average I probably cycle about 6 hours a day. That can be anywhere from 40-140km. That may not sound like a lot. And it really is not. On the other hand, if you look at my yearly mileage (about 23’000km) most would probably say that is a lot.
It’s because I ride almost every single day. On my last tour, which lasted over 3 years I never stopped anywhere longer than 3 days (with one exception where I had to wait for a visa).
I just love to be on the road and I am always curious what lies behind the next mountain range. If you travel for a long time like that, you have to find a rhythm that works for you. For me it works best if I ride not too long but daily. That way I can keep going for years. Then every now and then I throw in a little challenge for myself. But those challenges are never about distance. It is more about cycling a remote route or a high pass. Just cycling kilometers, I get bored quickly.
The more I ride the more important it has become not only in what country I ride, but what route I take. A challenging, remote route through a great scenery beats kilometers anytime.
Me, Heike Pirngruber Pushbikegirl (45) German
I cycled in total about 68.000 KM in 47 countries in 5,5 years.
At the beginning of my current trip I mainly wanted to get “THERE”. Even if I didn’t really know where “THERE” was. But I had this constant pressure to keep going, to not lose out on anything. I had the feeling, it is a once in a lifetime possibility and I need to see as much as possible in one day, because my life might end very soon.
Looking back, I am a bit sad, to have missed out so much in a lot of countries, because I didn’t give myself the time to stay in places far longer to soak it all in. But having said this, it was also very often the Asian countries visa pressure which pushed me forward every single day, because I didn’t want to take any other transport system to make things a bit easier.
After about 2.5 years on the road I finally understood, that there is still enough time ahead of me. I got up one day and thought that this is totally silly what I am doing. Slow down Heike said a voice coming from “THERE”.
Now, another year later it seems like I finally know how to enjoy the road and especially my life. Time is mine now – I finally soak it all in.
The longer I was on the road, the slower I got and the more adventurous and remote my roads became. And I like it that way!
As you can see we are all different and if you are concerned about your fitness level or your mileages you want to cycle the best advice I can give is not to copy someone else’s pace, someone else’s way to cycle or someone else’s life on the road. Try and find out what’s best for you – that’s all that matters! Happy riding!
Feel free to share how you like to cycle the world…..questions are also welcome 😉
I am torn up between settle down life and go out and ride. For 20 years I substituted this by racing bikes, working and helping kids to grow up. Now, racing is past, kids are gone and work is long past memory, and I am still like sitting duck. Once a while I get those urges that I must get out, I do, and then I am back and playing house man again. I envy you all in good way, wishing you long bicycle miles, and the most, happiness.
Miro, I am sure you are not alone…..I can only encourage you to go out and do it. It doesn’t have to be the entire world! The area around home is a good place to fall in love with touring. Thanks for all your wishes and all the best for you…..Cheers Heike
I agree. Kilometers/miles doesn’t matter. Everyone has to find his/her own limits. When I started traveling by bike in 2011 together with my wife, I planed 70 km/day on mostly flat terrain between Cologne and Barcelona. It worked and has been a good compromise. 2013 on a journey to the north cape I did the same math and it worked again. 500 km/week – easy to calculate. When I crossed the alps 2015 alone I was a little bit faster, 2016 on Iceland in 8 weeks I just made 3000km but it was pure fun, as before. So in the end – just numbers.
If one has to cycle more then 300 km/day or how much to be happy, do it. Comparing the numbers for me doesn’t make sense. What counts is the experience.
Thanks Dirk for your thoughts! I totally agree with you! Happy riding…Greetings from Mexico, Heike
Thanks Heike, interesting to hear the experiences and perspectives from a group of tourers with so many kilometers behind them. Nice to read them side by side and to see the different approaches and personalities. Well done, I’m guessing putting something together while on the road yourself is not the easiest thing to do but I for one enjoy and appreciate it.
P.S. The new site looks great.
Thanks Ronald for your nice feedback!
Heike, What a great post with these thoughts of touring cyclists. I do not have any epic cycling stories to share. I am just a working stiff and my cycling tours are limited to my summer vacation time. I am looking forward to retirement years that are approaching in a few more years and I can go on a tour that is open ended time wise. I am always trying to cycle from point A to Z in X amount of days of vacation and that kind of sets the mileage per day standard that I have or I have to be somewhere to catch the airplane ride back home to get back to work. I am really yearning to go on a tour to get from point A to Z in any amount of days. That will be my first tour, post retirement!! Meanwhile, I keep my foot in the door and enjoy my short 7 to 15 day tours every summer.
Thanks for sharing and posting.
Jim, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your insights….enjoy your rides 😉 Cheers Heike
Very nice article! I cycled 10 years ago from Germany to Turkey, actually I didn’t count the kilometres per day or in total. It took me almost 8 months, doing a lot of dirt roads, hiking, rock climbing and as well a little bit of working at a Greek island. The plan was cycling to India but finally I ended up here in Turkey… My opinion: The slower the better and sometimes a personal challenge if you are in the mood
Yes, that is also the way I like it, thanks Sebastian for sharing your experiences….Cheers from hot Mexico, Heike
Like you Heike, I like slow starts in the morning.
Wait till the temperature has risen a bit after sunrise, take my time for breakfast, read a bit and not hurry breaking down my camp.
This results in late starts.
When riding my touring bike on small paved routes are rideable gravel roads, I average about 75-85 km a day.
Riding my mtb bikepacking style with often steep climbs and lots of hike-abike sections, I’m happy with 50 km a day.
That way, I see more then just ‘the white line’.
Happy travels 🙂
Sounds great Koen….happy riding and thanks for your comment!
great idea, to give us all a common discussion platform to the question of kilometers. I am cycling East Tibet right now, snow and minus temperatures slow me down. I startet cycling the world as Young man, participating in bicycle-competitions at home, therefor cycled the first weeks of my tours like crazy, then more and more calmed down and more and more became part of the wonderful world outside there. I have alltogether cycled 46.000 km in lots of countries ( didn’t count yet), although cycled much much more on my racing-bike (but you cannot compare these things…). With now 52 I travel differently, often I can help as a medical doctor ans then stay a while, that brings me very close to the people and I can combine my three passions: doctor, scientist and adventurer on bike.
But what is with the more complicate and psychological question to us, the question WHY? – Why do we leave our comfortzone? I very often hear this questions: Are you seeking something? do you escape from something?
Well, however, there seems to be a point of no return, where you are addicted to that kind of travel….
Hi Karsten, I think we all do the mistake to ride too much at first.
Yes you are right, the question WHY is very common too. And yes there is hardly a point of return, it is just great to be out here….keep up your work as a cycling-doctor that’s superb! Cheers Heike
Don’t count the miles
Don’t count the altitude
Don’t count the days without a shower,
Don’t count the bad days
Don’t count the mad days
Don’t count the pain by the hour
Count the landscape WOWs, the culture WOWs, the sunrise WOWs, the freedom WOWs.
Count the BIG day WOWs, the slow day WOWs, the solitary WOWS and the company WOWs. Count the hot day WOWs, the tail wind WOWs, the high WOWs, the big sky WOWs.
The best memories are made of WOWs
Well said Alan…..but you know as much as I do that people are competitive and therefore some might feel pressured and feel like they have to perform to cycle many kilometers a day. Or John said it in a very honest and nice way that proving something to himself is sometimes very important to him – we are all different! And each way to cycle the world is unique and as long as the person has fun nothing else matters.
I have just finish a 3 months ride in Sri Lanka, Lao and Australia. In Australia my odo meter was stolen when charging on a petrol station.
That was the best that happened. After that I felt totaly free. I did’t have to look at the awerage speed all the time.
The odo meter is some kind of a tyranny.
Hi Kenneth, I actually love to have an odometer. I love to know how much further it is where I might get water and food. Which is often very important if you are cycling far away from civilization. But I get what you mean and I totally agree with you. Cheers from Mexico, Heike
Here’s a quote from the INTRODUCTION of my book, “The Cyclist’s Mind Goes Everywhere” (Google the title if interested in getting a copy):
“I was on a long climb on a road in France cycling towards
Switzerland. I leaned forward out of the saddle and pushed hard
on the pedals. Is it a hill? I could not see the summit. Is it a
mountain? With legs and arms straining, I was barely moving
faster than walking. It became a race between split personalities:
one cycling, the other wanting to walk . . . both racing against
time . . . my time . . . my continuity.
“You’re crazy . . . you’ve lots of time . . . no need to hurry . . .
there’s no one in front and no one behind; however, push that
pedal once more!”
Good one Louis !
You’re conclusion is so right Heike. Every one has to find out for themselves what’s feels good to do.
Enjoy cycling & live.
Thanks Gert, you too! Happy riding…..Heike
Please, check my statistic on my webpage:
The average is just 65Km!! Without rest days!
I am surprised myself. I usually ride at least 100km a day if possible but it makes u more tired which makes no sense at all.
Thanks Stephan, yes it makes you tired and at the end of the day everything is too much. But sometimes we need to push the pedal – to get to the border, to get resupplies, to find shelter…..etc.
Happy riding, Heike
Traveling by bicycle is the best way to learn ‘What is Life’ ….. Distance covered per day is not that much important …. It depends upon your urge for learning ….. Your subject of interest … Ujjal from India
Yes, true Ujjal! Thanks and greetings to India – one of my favourite countries 😉
My longest tours were 7.5 weeks. I cycle more than 200 km on some days but that is rare on typical vacation situations. Typical would be 100 to 160.
Thank you for reporting! With 30 I made my only distance trip solo 1200+1800 km from Austria to Spain and back via passes in Switzerland. 4 kg luggage on my pretty heavy 10-speed-Peugeot semi-racer. 180 km a day, but pausing one day in CH. In Spain/France we (up to 3) hiked 4 weeks, mountainous 25 to 35 km a day, from the Mediterranean to the 3400 m top of the Pyrenees. In my recent 3 “everyday-inline-skating years” with nearly no cycling I got to know that already 40 km solo overland on skates is exhausting – especially at 37°C, although spraying my body with water. To combine it with hitch-hiking is fine. Since 2 months I (60) cycle again: A two wheel transportation bike (Bullitt) and enjoy the efficiency. 50 kg wood or crosswise (170 cm) a 50-L-Helium cylinder to fill balloons are easy taken behind the front wheel. Distances possibly will come …
Very nice article! In my opinion FREEDOM is most important motif in cycle touring .So i must to be free of the miles/kms,free of the speed and free of the destination.Just enjoying enroute and feeling freedom.before i heard somebody said me “Beyond of every ghaut is a treasure trove that profuse me” Regards Shirang
Yes Shirang, Freedom! I love my freedom more than anything else and this is why I am out here. It includes far more than only the distance it is the entire life style. Thanks for your comment! Cheers Heike
This is very interesting, thank you! My respects to the people that live that kind of life. As for me, my butt (not my feet) starts hurting after about 100 kilometers. 😀 I like to do combined train & bike traveling, also I use my bike for photo tours around the country.
Great article !! It really has to do with the moods , adaptation to the companion and to discover a lot of things that people in general are loosing , simple things as just listening to each other .The people you meet are the teachers of the university of life . So at the end … Speed doesn’t matter , distance doesn’t matter , what matters is to enjoy and to thankful that you can do it .
People ask me all the time, “how long did it take you?” I reply, i’m not sure…. I measure my tours in smiles. But like previously stated, at times you have to make it somewhere for provisions or a visa. It is an adventure not a race, ENJOY THE MOMENT! LIVE THE MOMENT!
VERY TRUE – thanks Phil!