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I'm currently planning roughly the stages of a 1400 km long bike tour in order to book trains to the starting point and away from the destination. I have planned 24 days (including rest days) for the 1400 km now. How do you estimate the duration of your tours?

In my question before I learnd so much! Thanks!!!

To my Knowledge: I did 4 large trips >1000 km before however I never looked at the time and often used the regional transportations to take a shortcut.

To the Trip: Due to the fact that it is mostly EuroVelo Tracks I think the infrastructure is good and the elevation would not be more than 10 000 m

The thing is that this will only be the first part of the bike tour, after that I will take a break for a week and then go out again with another person (who is completely rested). So I don't want to arrive completely finished. Because I know from other cycle tours that if you don't take any breaks, you can hardly manage 50 kilometres from day 20 onwards.

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    How much long distance experience do you have and is that in a comparable hilly/flat area?
    – Willeke
    Mar 25 at 16:45
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    Three other data points that may be useful to provide a good answer are: elevation, the kind of surface you're aiming for (asphalt or gravel) and the time you want to spend on the bike per day (some like to bike from sunrise to sunset, others want to visit the landmarks they'll encounter).
    – Rеnаud
    Mar 25 at 17:12
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    Your plan for 24 days for 1400 km sounds feasible for a proper tour with time to enjoy stuff off the bike, in most conditions, but I'll hold off answering and support the call for more info on riding conditions and prior (laden) experience for now
    – Chris H
    Mar 25 at 17:43
  • ~60 kilometres a day seems reasonable. That's 70 km/d with 4 rest days, also reasonable.
    – Criggie
    Mar 25 at 18:06
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    Travel time depends a lot on fitness, luggage, elevation change, surface, weather, day length, off-the-bike activities (sightseeing), ambition, equipment and so on. Not to mention unplanned hiccups like equipment failure, sickness, injury. I’ve seen retirees doing a leisurely 40–60km/day with 40kg of luggage along the Danube. And then you have other people cycling from Linz to Lake Garda (540km, 3400m elevation change) in a single day. Personally in Central Europe I’d calculate with 120km/day.
    – Michael
    Mar 26 at 9:53

3 Answers 3

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One thing I'll add from my experience is that just because you can do 2 days back-to-back at a certain distance, that doesn't mean you can do 3 or 4. Camping also imposes time penalties that eat into your rest. In the case I describe below, a persistent headwind made it worse, costing me time and making me work harder than I could maintain.

I've done plenty of 300km days, and a few 600km weekends, but starting a trip with 300km on the first day, and 200km on the 2nd didn't leave me capable of another 300km day. The plan was a fast few days then slow down in the more interesting area. With a rest or minimal-distance day I could have made it, but in the end I had to cut out a section. All was well and I really enjoyed the tour made up of roughly 100km days after that.

So build in some flexibility in case things go wrong. This could be illness, weather, or a major mechanical, for example. You could break a wheel right outside a typical bike shop, and still have to wait for them to order in parts, as these days stock in a warehouse has largely replaced stock in shops.

From the same trip, one lesson I would also take is that you should plan rest/non-riding days when they're well-located. I didn't build in a rest after the first 2 long days because there was nothing interesting in the area. However had I camped an additional night 20km earlier, I could have spent a whole day riding that 20km, eating, and strolling round a small town, and been in a far better state for the next big bit.

In addition, you need to consider how long you're willing to spend on the bike at a realistic speed, for several reasons. Of course there's simply your personal maximum enjoyable saddle time. If you want a nice dinner near your overnight stop, you need to arrive in time to do that (check opening hours in advance if you might be pushing it). Similarly if you want to buy breakfast before or shortly after setting off, you may not be able to make a very early start. You may also be limited by lights, especially if you're camping with limited charging options (my camping tours have usually been with a dynamo). I use a timing estimate and notes spreadsheet* for touring, one sheet for each major leg, which normally coincides with Audax/Randonneuring time cutoffs.


* The link is to a slightly old version, from my Scotland tour/ Lands End - John o'Groats attempt a couple of years ago that I discuss in this answer. LeJoG4 Loch Moy is the one to look at; the other sheets show how it developed. More recent developments have added columns to note climbing and for the lat/long of stops, which I import into my GPX files using another tool I wrote.

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    One should also consider the typical speed when biking and hence the number of hours on a bike. Even with 30 km/h a 300km day comes to 10 hours pure biking. With a more leasurely 20 km/h a 100km day means 5 hours on the bike so you also get an idea how much time for resting you have and what you could be doing the rest of the day.
    – quarague
    Mar 27 at 10:54
  • @quarague yes, my 15 moving hours in a day (300km at a more realistic 20 km/h moving average) is pushing the definition of a tour pretty far. When I wrote the answer, the highest-voted answer already made that point, and I was writing a supplementary answer. But I think I can add something without taking too much from the other answers
    – Chris H
    Mar 27 at 11:05
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When planning for a long ride, I look at a few of things:

  1. Surface Type
  2. Elevation and equipment weight
  3. Time spent riding
  4. Overall fitness

It then becomes a guessing game trying to figure out how each of these variables affect how far you can go in a day. If you aren't sure how much riding time you want, it helps to break the day down into morning, afternoon, and evening segments. Similarly, if you don't want to look at each individual day to find the elevation change, breaking the route into sections (Mountain climbs, rolling hills, flat, downhill, etc) can sometimes help.

Once you get an idea of what you think you will run into, take your loaded bike out for a day and see how you fair on a similar course. Adjust your guesses as necessary based on how the ride felt and how you feel the day after. Average speed is a good indication of how far you can go, but steep climbs or bad roads can cause that number to shrink rapidly.

Time off the bike is important too. Account for a rest day (zero or a half day of riding) every few days. I'd plan for at least a day and a half per week, but that might be too much for some people. Also look at attractions along the route. Is there a big city you want to explore? A nice lake you want to camp at? Short days with more leisure time can be the best part of a long trip if you stop at the right places.

If you are in remote sections, resupply options and camping spots can also affect your daily mileage; you may opt to take longer or shorter days than normal depending on how much water is available or if there is a particularly tempting resting spot in an otherwise desolate area.

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  • Don't forget length of daylight. Unless you like to ride in the dark, evening is out for much of the year in most of the world.
    – gerrit
    Mar 27 at 8:48
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Frame challenge: Don’t book the return journey in advance.

It’s damn hard to estimate travel time accurately since it depends on so many factors. Bad weather, a minor cold or some mild knee pain can delay you by several days. Instead of gambling on a best case scenario or planning a week of margin for a worst case scenario I recommend booking the return journey just a day or two in advance. This should be easily possible since you mention traveling by train.

Even if no seats (or bicycle spaces) are immediately available and you have to wait for a day or travel at some odd hours or in regional trains it’s still better than feeling pressured during your trip or being 5 days too early.

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    Hi Michael thank you for your answer however since im still a studend and last minute reservations on long distance trains are quite expencive I can´t do that :(
    – Weiss
    Mar 26 at 8:11
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    I've also had to book the return journey in advance, both for costs (not booking well in advance would have more than doubled the train fare, which was already the biggest single cost) but also for availability of bike spaces. Waiting a day or two is a complete impossibility for those of us with jobs and families to get back to. I had to adjust my route to cut out a section, which I wouldn't have had to do if I'd designed in a well-timed rest day to give up. My preferred equivalent is to get the train out and ride back, where possible.
    – Chris H
    Mar 26 at 9:17
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    @Michael with only 9 consecutive days for a holiday (that's doing well for me), I wasn't going to bank on spending the last two sitting around waiting for a train with bike spaces, all so I could spend an extra £200 on the ticket. The fact that my last night's best camping option also required advance booking didn't help either.
    – Chris H
    Mar 26 at 9:27
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    If it is possible to do it might be easier to cycle home. That takes pressure off.
    – Willeke
    Mar 26 at 11:29
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    On German long distance trains, bike spots in summer on some routes sell out months in advance. On regional trains, one might be simply unable to get on. You're not looking at waiting a day or two — you might have to wait a month if unlucky. However, this might work if you ship your bike home rather than taking it on the train.
    – gerrit
    Mar 27 at 8:50

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