The Ideal Distance

I like riding long enough to feel as though I’ve done some riding.  That means being in the saddle for at least two hours.  I enjoy easy rides with my wife, but 15 miles is about as much as she cares to ride.  When we finish, I often head out and tack on another 10 miles or so.

Twenty-five miles is a good distance, and it’s what I normally do for my Saturday morning ride.  That doesn’t meet my two-hour requirement, however.  I just like it because the route I usually ride provides a nice mix of some moderate hills, good fast downhills, bikes lanes or shoulders, and the Veloway.

Sunday morning is when I go for my long ride of the week.  It’s at least 30 miles, and often quite a bit more.  I recently enjoyed a 58-mile ride, even though I had to sit out a cloudburst for 30 minutes in a convenience store.  A couple of weeks later, I rode 67 miles, and was pretty knackered when I finished.

That got me thinking: Just how long is a good distance?  The 58-miler was relatively flat.  The 67-miler had some challenging hills built in.  In both cases, I was on the road for quite a while — maybe longer than I wanted to be.

Perhaps what I’m looking for is something just a little shorter.  My on-bike time for the 58 miler was about three hours, 45 minutes.  That’s plenty.  I’m thinking my ideal ride would cover about 50 miles.  That’s long enough for a decent workout, and to cover a substantial amount of ground.

I’ve been compiling a list of rides from my house that fall into the 50-miles (plus or minus) category.  It’ll be fun to ride them all in the coming weeks, and see if my guess at an “ideal” distance is borne out by the results.

What about you? Is there a distance that feels “just right” for you?  What is it, and what do you like about it?


  1. KK says

    If I want to commit half a day to the bike (I do that a lot in the nice weather) I go for 4 hours. For a more typical “get out and back then take care of weekend stuff” ride, 2 hours plus a few, or about 40 miles, is perfect.

  2. Mel Hughes says

    Right now, about two hours does it for me. In fast company on relatively flat roads, that can be about 30 miles. On our more normal hilly roads, the mileage drops considerably.

    Interesting question though. Recently, one of my flight nurses asked me if I would be interested in riding in an annual EMS memorial ride that takes place in the spring. It starts in NY and ends up in VA, a total of around 600 miles ridden in one week. When I asked him how much they were riding in a day, he said it varies between 80 and 110 miles.

    I was impressed that he wanted to take part in the ride. But I told him that I didn’t think I could do it. I don’t see any way that I could build up to that kind of mileage in the next five months or so. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to (unless I was 28 or 29 like he is.)

    But I don’t really know what is possible. Five months ago, riding 30 miles seemed impossible. Maybe I need to readjust my ideas about my own capabilities.

  3. Tim says

    Unless I’m doing a special ride like the Livestrong or Tour de Cure, I like a 50 to 65 for a “long” ride.

    My version of the dam loop is 52 miles. I also have a variation that takes me through Austin for about 65. My house to Andice and back is in the 60 range.

    I like a route that is 3 to 4 hours. Then I feel like I’ve done something.

  4. says

    I’m more like the 30-35 range for a “just a ride”. I agree that 15 miles seems to short and like your wife, my wife Jo likes the 15-20 miles but will do more if I “whine” a bit, LOL!! 50 miles seems like a long day but we’ve done it several times over last summer.

  5. johnt says

    If I’m alone I like to go about 30 miles or about 2 2.5 hours. I really enjoy the big group or charity ride events for the longer rides of 50+.

  6. says

    I don’t always have time to ride as long as I’d like, but for me, a good distance is anywhere from 20-35 miles. When all I have time for is 10 miles, I feel like a kid who’s not ready to quit playtime. I really want to increase my weekly mileage, but have just been having a hard time scheduling that time. I need to rearrange priorities, I guess.

  7. joe says

    A metric is a nice round ride when 4 – 5 hour are avail. To grab some quick miles on a sat am .. 30 miles works fine, depends on WX also , warmer more!

  8. Rick says

    Ray, any ride of any distance is a good ride. But put me down in the 25-30 mile category for routine rides at a brisk pace during the week, and 45 or 50 when riding the hills around Austin on summer Saturday mornings. Late in the season, am partial to metric centuries on the weekends at leisurely speeds. Am fixing to saddle up for a 75 mile loop from Alpine to Marfa to Fort Davis in far West Texas as soon as the thermometer rises above 40 degrees, which is the long way of saying that the the best distance on a ride is the ride you’re fixing to do next.

  9. says

    It’s around 30 miles for me. I usually go for a lunch time ride in the summer. By that I mean, ride somewhere for lunch. 15-18 each way is just about perfect.

  10. pickspub says

    My usual ride is about 28 miles. It’s long enough that I feel like I’ve gotten a work out, but not so long that it takes up my entire day. A nice mix of hills and flats. Usually around 2 hours. I rode my first 50 mile ride a few weeks ago. Although I enjoyed it, I felt the amount of preparation, time on the bike and post ride recovery were a bit more than I would want to do on a regular basis.

  11. says

    It all depends upon the day, the motivation and the group.

    My favorite rides are mixes of pavement and dirt roads, in the 40 mile range, with some steep hills thrown in to add a bit of challenge. That said, the 28 mile shop ride on Saturday morning is pretty great too, and that’s a very flat ride.

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