Planning how many miles you are going to cycle each day on a bikepacking trip can be confusing, and getting it wrong can be disastrous. Spending a whole bikepacking trip pushing yourself too hard, in an attempt to stick to you’re planned route is never fun, so how many miles do bikepackers actually cycle each day?
The majority of bikepackers plan to cover between 40 and 50 miles per day. Beginners should aim for 30 to 40 miles per day to account for their lack of experience. The terrain you are cycling on, the gear you are carrying, and how long you are cycling for will impact how many miles you should expect to cycle each day.
So, we’ve established that the average bikepacker is traveling 50 miles per day, but how do you actually work out how far you personally will be traveling on your bikepacking trip?
How many miles a day does the average bikepacker travel?
The average cyclist cycles at 10mph (9.7 to be exact), this means that you will be going 43 miles per day if you cycle for the average 4.3 hours per day that bikepackers spend on their bikes, (for more details on where this figure came from, take a look at our article on how many calories you burn while bikepacking).
However, this average cycling speed does not take into account the type of terrain that bikepackers travel on or the extra gear that they are carrying.
The pace chart from “The bikepackers guide” gives a much better estimation of how far you can expect to cycle each day on a bikepacking trip and helpfully splits it up into different categories.
|Bikepacking experience and Terrain||Estimated Miles Per Day|
|Novice Bikepacker on Road||50-70|
|Novice Bikepacker on Single Track||25-35|
|Novice Bikepacker on Rough Terrain||20-28|
|Experienced Bikepacker on Road||77-111|
|Experienced Bikepacker on Single Track||42-60|
|Experienced Bikepacker on Rough Terrain||35-50|
Personal experience and estimated numbers can only take you so far, so we asked a range of bikepackers how far they planned to cycle on each day of their bikepacking trips and then compared this to how far they actually cycled using data from Komoot.
As you can see, the most common planned and actual distance traveled per day was between 40-50 miles. However, of the people who planned to travel this distance, only 70% actually ended up cycling this amount. Some of this group ended up cycling more while others cycled less.
This is a good example of how you should build some leeway into your bikepacking plans, even a large proportion of experienced bikepackers will adjust their route as they go and fail to meet their expected distances each day.
We asked this same group how far they would suggest a beginner bikepacker aim for on their trips and the answers varied greatly. Obviously, a majority of these bikepackers noted that their answer would be based on a variety of factors we will look into later, but overall the most commonly suggested range was 30-40 miles a day.
In reality, quite a few bikepackers added the caveat that they would presume a beginner bikepacker would actually cycle further than this but felt that planning a shorter amount of cycling each day was safer.
What factors impact how far you can cycle each day on a bikepacking trip?
Fitness and experience of bikepacking
As we’ve already established, how experienced you are at bikepacking will have a large impact on how far you cycle each day. This comes through a combination of factors such as better pacing, better fitness, and often better gear.
By looking again at the chart from the bikepackers guide, we can see that cycling as a novice can result in you cycling only 64% of the distance that some more experienced bikepackers will travel.
How much weight you are carrying
The overall weight of your bikepacking set-up will also have an impact on how far you can travel each day.
Weight has less of an impact on speed than most people think, with studies showing an extra 8.8lb (4kg) of weight on your bike will only add 30 seconds to a 27-mile cycle.
However, there are other reasons that extra gear and weight will impact how far you can travel each day. Handling of the bike will be affected by the amount of weight you are carrying, this can put extra strain on your forearms and may be a limiting factor on how far you travel each day. Wearing you out faster than if you were riding a bike with no extra gear attached.
On top of the extra gear, it is essential to consider the type of bike you have and what it is made of. Certain kinds of bikes such as mountain bikes weigh much more than gravel bikes, and the material the bike is made from has a huge impact on its overall weight.
If you want to look more into bike frame materials take a look at our article on the lightest bikepacking bike frame materials.
The terrain you are cycling on and the weather
Obviously, the type of terrain you are cycling on will have a huge impact on the speed and distance that you can travel each day. I’ve had particularly tough sections of a trip where I was happy to cover 15 miles due to the number of water crossings and how often I had to spend pushing my bike through the rough ground.
This personal experience is backed up by the adjustment that the bikepacking guide makes for the terrain you are cycling on. With the miles per day that you can cycle on rough terrain being less than half of that for road or tarmac routes.
On top of this, in certain situations such as when bikepacking on snow or sand, you will have to reduce this even more.
How many hills you have planned on your route
I’m sure all of us realize that going uphill can impact how far you will cycle each day. In my experience, I plan to cycle at half my normal speed when travelling up any inclines of more than 5%.
This may seem slow, but I’d much rather take a hill slowly than push myself and end up having to push myself and my bike up the last 100 meters.
How long you have planned to cycle each day
The length of time you will spend cycling each day will have the largest impact on how far you travel each day.
The average bikepacker will travel for 4.3 hours per day. If you are only cycling for 2 hours per day you can’t expect to be cycling as far as the average cyclist.
There are a few key factors to take into account when deciding how long you will cycle for each day.
Firstly where you are staying each night. If you plan to camp you will need to allocate a few hours a day for setting up camp and packing up the next day. On the other hand, if you are “credit-card-bikepacking” where you cycle from hotel to hotel you don’t need to account for this.
On top of this, you need to make sure you account for any time you plan to take off from cycling, for example, if you have planned any site seeing or rest days. Riding for 8 hours a day leaves very little time for shopping, dinners out, or having a beer – Make sure to remember why you planned this trip in the first place.
The final area to think about when planning how long you will cycle for each day is how much daylight you will have. If you are cycling in mid-winter you may only have 8 hours of sunlight total, whereas in summer you may have up to 16 hours. Also, make sure to take this into account when bikepacking in other countries.
Nutrition and sleep
The final area that will impact how far you are cycling each day is the level of nutrition and sleep you will be getting.
I for one am a bad sleeper, particularly in cold weather. I’ve learned that if I’m bikepacking in winter I need to knock 5-10% off of the miles I plan to ride each day to account for the extra time it takes me to wake up and the general tiredness/grumpiness I have when I haven’t slept well.
On top of your sleep is your nutrition. If you aren’t eating properly (aim for a snack at least every 45 minutes when on a long cycle), then you are going to find you don’t have as much energy as you are used to.
Runners call this “hitting the wall”, but for some stupid reason, cyclists call it “bonking”, just make sure that you are replenishing your calories and electrolytes as needed to ensure you don’t run out of steam.
How to plan your daily bikepacking mileage for a first trip
Planning how far you can cycle each day on your first bikepacking trip is very confusing. We’ve been through all the separate factors, but what should you actually do?
The first thing to remember is it’s always better to underestimate how far you will cycle each day. I’d much rather arrive at my destination an hour early than be cycling late into the night when it’s dark and I’m more likely to have an accident. After all, you can always go for a bit of extra cycling around your campsite if you really want.
Another tip is to try and pick a flat route for your first trip. This makes it easier to estimate how fast and for how long you will be cycling, reducing the chance that you are going to be completely off with your estimate.
Make sure you are using a bike that is suited to the terrain that you plan to cycle on. It’s all fine to estimate you will be cycling 25 miles a day on rough terrain, but if you’re doing it on a road bike it’s going to take you 3 days to tackle that 25 miles, as you’ll be pushing your bike the whole way.
A good easy estimate is to aim for 5 hours in the saddle per day and for 30-40 miles for the average bikepacking trip. This puts you under the average of a typical bikepacker, but for a first trip that is the right choice. You need to remember that when bikepacking people tend to take more breaks for eating, seeing the sites, or just taking a breather than they would for normal cycling.
There are a wide variety of factors that impact how many miles you should plan to cycle each day, with the most important being the length of time you plan to cycle for each day as well as the terrain you will be cycling on.
Remember, if in doubt underestimate your distance instead of trying to push yourself too far and getting stuck somewhere in the dark.