I’ve gone on bike rides with people from a wide range of experience levels, and I’ve personally done 10, 20, 50 and 100+ mile rides.
Based on this experience, here’s my general rule of thumb for what’s considered a “long” bike ride:
A long bike ride is about 20 miles for people of average fitness. How far you can ride will depend on your cycling experience, type of bike, the terrain, and your level of physical health. For intermediate cyclists, 40-60 miles would be a long ride. And for advanced cyclists, a long ride would be 70-100+ miles.
Now, for some folks, even a 20-mile bike ride would be a huge challenge. And for other people, it’ll just be too easy. So, to help you get a clearer idea of what is a good distance goal for YOU, I’m going to cover the following topics in more detail.
Let’s get started!
“Long” Bike Ride Distance for 3 Experience Levels
As I mentioned above, what is considered a “long” bike ride depends on your experience level. So, let’s break down common ranges for 3 experience levels: beginners, intermediate riders, and advanced riders.
For Beginners, 10-30 Miles is Long
Most beginners would find a 10-30 mile ride to be challenging, but still achievable.
If you’re just getting into biking, then doing a solid ride that’s in the 10-30 mile range is a good goal to work up to, though you should start with some shorter rides (e.g. ~5 miles).
A 10-30 mile ride is also a good goal, because you should be able to complete it in 1-3 hours, at an average cycling speed of 10-12 mph, which is a pretty normal speed for new bicyclists.
As inspiration, you might find it useful to know that this mileage range is typical for the cycling segment of triathlons. For example, a Sprint triathlon is 12 miles (20km) and an Olympic triathlon is 25 miles (40km) so these are popular distance goals.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a buff triathlete to ride ~20 miles, since you don’t have to do the additional running and swimming segments that are included in all triathlons.
For Intermediate Cyclists, 40-60 Miles is Long
If you’re an intermediate cyclist with significant experience with 20-30 mile bike rides, then a good goal would be for you to do a ~50 mile ride.
Of course, the same principle applies here, you should work up to this distance by doing shorter rides (for example: in that 10-30 mile range) until you’re ready to try something longer.
The more that you ride, the more your endurance will increase, and you’ll also increase your average cycling speed, assuming the terrain and conditions are the same.
As a rule of thumb, I’d expect an intermediate level cyclist to be able to ride at about 13-16 MPH, which would allow you to ride 50 miles in roughly 3.5 hours (not counting breaks, which you should definitely take).
For Advanced Cyclists, 70-100+ Miles is Long
What’s next you wonder? How do you get to the level where you are breaking triple figures in a single day? Or, maybe, you are considering training for bigger and better things such as completing a full Ironman triathlon which includes a daunting 112 mile (180km) ride!
If you can ride 70-100+ miles in a single day, then I’d call you an “advanced” cyclist. However, to ride that kind of distance, you don’t need to be a professional or a bicycle junkie, but you do have to be in good cycling shape.
Likely, at this stage, you’ll probably be able to ride at a sustained pace of 15-18+ MPH, and/or you’ll have the endurance for a longer day or cycling.
For example, if you can ride at an average pace of 17 MPH (which is actually quite difficult), it will take you about 6 hours of non-stop riding to go 100 miles. If you take a more leisurely pace of 15 MPH, then it would take you 6-7 hours of non-stop riding.
As you can probably imagine, riding that far requires substantial endurance and considerable core and leg strength. It’s not something that you should attempt without sufficient training in advance, but I think it is something that most people can accomplish given enough time and effort.
How Far an Average Person Can Bike in a Day
A person of average fitness can typically ride a bike 10-20 miles in a day, depending on the conditions, the quality of their bike, and their physical condition. If there are strong headwinds, if the cyclist has a slow bike, or if they are in poor physical shape, then a 5-10 mile ride might be more reasonable.
With that said, it’s also possible for relatively average people to ride much longer in a single day. And that’s because cycling distance has a lot to do with time.
Most people are capable of riding a bike at a speed of 10-12 MPH. So, if you have the determination and endurance to continue pedaling for 8-10 hours, then you could theoretically ride 70-100+ miles (after you take out some time for stopping and breaks).
However, I wouldn’t recommend you attempt a 70+ mile ride if you haven’t trained for it, as you could get injured in the process. It’s usually best to start small (like a 5-10 mile ride) and then to work your way up to more challenging distances.
How Far Should a Beginner Bike?
Above, I mentioned that a “long” ride for beginners would be 10-30 miles. If you’re not yet ready to hit a long ride, then you may be wondering how far you should actually ride:
Beginner cyclists should start with short bike rides of around 5 miles, and work their way up to longer rides (e.g. 10, 20, 30+ miles). Rather than measuring your first few rides by distance, you may also find it helpful to simply bike for 15-20 minutes to see how far you can comfortably ride.
If this seems like too short of a ride to you, then you can try it out and then increase your distance on the next ride. But in either case, I think it’s helpful to begin with a short ride.
How to Prepare for Your First “Long” Ride
For your first step, you will need to find an appropriate exercise plan, prioritize safety, set your route, and gather your gear!
There are many guides online on slowly building up for a “long” ride so feel free to search around for one that seems to match your schedule; also, many gyms, YMCAs, and even some bike shops will offer professional coaching advice on how to best customize a plan to meet your fitness goals!
Safety is the most important consideration when planning your first, or any, “long” ride!
Whether you pursue your own personal coach, speak to professional athletes or find a training plan online, it will be vital for you to make sure you give your body time to recover. Many guides available online will have you alternate training days (such as cycling M-W-F). This allows your body to recover and repair those muscles which also helps prevent injuries.
I personally find these days to be especially beneficial when I can work on other muscle groups since this helps me keep the same routine throughout the week. For example, completing core training, cross-fit, weight lifting or yoga have been some of my favorite activities to keep a consistent week of workouts!
How about recovering after a long ride? Check out our separate article for tips to help you recover faster after a long bike ride.
What is a “Long” Mountain Bike / Trail Ride?
Up to this point, we’ve been talking about distances for riding a bike on the road. However, if you’re planning to do mountain biking or trail rides, then your mileage will vary.
10-20+ miles would be a long mountain bike ride, depending on the terrain and your level of experience. Trail riding is generally more challenging and more time consuming than biking on the road. As a result, even if you can ride 30 miles on pavement, you may find a 10 mile trail ride to be very challenging.
Just like riding long distances on the road, for trail riding, it’s usually best to start with shorter and easier rides, and then to work your way up to longer distances and more challenging trails.
Also, if you want to gain some additional information on getting started with mountain biking, check out the following articles by Rob Marlowe: