How Long Is A Bicycle Marathon? Distance & Duration Explained

A bicycle marathon is the ultimate grueling event for a cyclist. This article answers the question: “How long is a bicycle marathon?”. It also includes helpful insights on the topic.

One of the major highlights of my cycling journey has been completing a bicycle marathon. I won’t lie. I didn’t get a podium finish. But, I did just good enough to be proud of myself.

Now I spend most of my time coaching other pro cyclists. Bicycle marathons are one of the most challenging events so it takes grit and some effort to complete them. 

The distance of a bicycle marathon can vary depending on the event and location. Most bicycle marathons are long-distance races that typically cover a distance of 100 to 150 miles. The average bike rides at speeds of 12 and 18 mph. Cycling at 12 mph, you will cover one mile in 5 minutes. For pro cyclists, who ride at 65 mph or more the time they take is significantly reduced.

I’ll delve into the details of how long they are and how long it will take for you to finish. If you’re preparing for a race you’ll be much more prepared after reading this. 

What is a Bicycle Marathon?

How long is a bicycle marathon

A bicycle marathon is a long-distance cycling race that typically covers a distance of 26.2 miles or more. It is a test of endurance and requires a high level of physical fitness and mental focus.

Marathons are usually held on open roads or designated cycling routes. They can also be held in urban areas, rural landscapes, and mountainous terrain. The courses can be flat or hilly and may include challenging climbs and descents.

A marathon is mostly a competitive event. Participants race against each other to complete the course in the shortest amount of time. 

But, the race can also be non-competitive. In this case, participants ride at their own pace and simply aim to complete the course.

Some of the most well-known bicycle marathons include the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España. These races are multi-stage events that cover hundreds of miles over the course of several days. They are considered some of the most grueling cycling events in the world.

Tour de France
  • 8 flat stages
  • 4 hilly stages
  • 8 mountain stages (with 4 summit finishes)
  • 1 individual time trial
  • 2 rest days
  • 3600 km
Giro d’Italia
Either 20 or 21 stages
  • Includes an individual time trial under 8 km in length
  • 3448 km
Vuelta a España
21 stages
  • Flat race
  • 3280 km


Average Length of a Bicycle Marathon

The length of a bicycle marathon can vary depending on various factors. They include the terrain, altitude, weather conditions, and the level of competition.

On average, a bicycle marathon can range from 100 to 150 miles (160 to 240 km) in length. The duration of the race can also vary depending on the speed and skill level of the participants. 

Some of the top cyclists can complete a bicycle marathon in less than 5 hours, while others may take up to 12 hours or more to finish the race.

Factors that Affect the Length of a Bicycle Marathon

Several factors can affect the length of a bicycle marathon. Here are some of the key factors:


The terrain of the racecourse can have a significant impact on the length of a bicycle marathon. Races that take place on flat terrain can be completed faster than those that involve steep hills or mountainous regions. 

The incline of the terrain affects the speed and energy levels of the cyclists, making it more challenging to complete the race.

The Tour de France is the race with the hardest terrain. Riders have to keep an average daily speed of 25 miles per hour to finish. 

Over the course of 21 days and more than 2,100 miles, that speed must be maintained every day. The intense effort pushes the body close to the lactate threshold.

b) Altitude

Races that take place at high altitudes are more challenging due to the thinner air, which can make it harder to breathe.

High-altitude racing reduces the oxygen levels in the body. This can affect the speed and stamina of the cyclists, making it more difficult to complete the race.

c) Weather Conditions

Also, weather conditions such as wind, rain, and extreme temperatures can affect the length of a bicycle marathon. Strong winds can slow down the cyclists and make it more challenging to maintain their speed.

Even for seasoned cyclists, the wind may be fairly challenging at 30 mph. Gales are winds that are greater than 40 or 50 mph.

Rain can make the roads slippery and increase the risk of accidents. Extreme temperatures affect the energy levels and hydration of cyclists.

Types of Bicycle Marathons

There are two main types of bicycle marathons: Road Bicycle Marathons and Mountain Bicycle Marathons.

Road Bicycle Marathons

Road Bicycle Marathons are long-distance races that take place on paved roads. These races are usually held on courses that are at least 100 miles long. 

Road Bicycle Marathons are often divided into stages, with each stage covering a specific distance. The Tour de France is the most famous road bicycle marathon in the world. This race covers more than 2,000 miles and is divided into 21 stages.

In Road Bicycle Marathons, cyclists use lightweight, aerodynamic bicycles that are designed for speed and efficiency. These bicycles have narrow tires and drop handlebars that allow cyclists to ride in a low, aerodynamic position. 

In these marathons, speed is everything. Cyclists have to maintain a high average speed over long distances, which can be challenging due to wind resistance and fatigue.

Mountain Bicycle Marathons

These marathons take place on off-road terrain, including mountains, hills, and trails. These races are often held in remote locations and require cyclists to navigate challenging terrain, including steep climbs, technical descents, and rocky terrain. 

They range from 50 to 100 miles in distance. Cyclists use rugged, durable bicycles that are designed for off-road use. These bicycles have wide tires, suspension systems, and disc brakes that provide traction and control on rough terrain. 

These marathons call for a ton of skill. If you want to race in this marathon, you need excellent technical skills i.e. the ability to climb steep hills and navigate technical descents.

The UCI only classifies the Cape Epic, an eight-day mountain bike stage event in South Africa, as “hors categorie” (beyond category). It is easy to understand why. 

The 16th edition covers 624km of trails, single tracks, and mountains spanning eight days, with 16,650m of elevation gain from the famous ascents of Table Mountain’s National Park.

Training for a Bicycle Marathon

Training for a bicycle marathon requires a well-planned and structured approach. Being a coach, there are several things I need to focus on when training a rider for a race. Here are some of them:

Training Schedule

Training schedules should include a combination of endurance, strength, and interval training. Endurance training involves cycling at a steady pace for an extended period of time to build up your cardiovascular system. 

Strength training involves exercises that focus on building leg muscles to improve pedaling power. Then interval training involves alternating between high-intensity cycling and periods of rest to improve the cyclist’s speed and endurance.

Cyclists should gradually increase the intensity and duration of their training sessions over time to avoid injury. 

Nutrition and Hydration

Proper nutrition and hydration are important for a cyclist’s performance and recovery during training and the race. A good balanced diet includes carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. 

During training and the race, you should also drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and replace electrolytes lost through sweat. It is recommended that cyclists consume 16-20 ounces of fluid every hour during training and the race.

Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are essential components of a successful training plan. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night to allow your body to recover from training sessions.

In addition to rest, incorporate recovery activities such as stretching, foam rolling, and massage into your training plan. These activities help alleviate muscle soreness and prevent injury.

Preparing for a Bicycle Marathon

Preparing for a bicycle marathon requires a combination of physical and mental preparation. Here’s what you need to prepare:


Participants should ensure that they have a reliable bicycle that is suited for long-distance rides. The bicycle should be properly fitted to the rider’s body to prevent discomfort and injuries. 

Other essential equipment include:

  • Helmet: A properly fitting helmet to protect the rider’s head in case of an accident.
  • Cycling shoes: Cycling shoes with cleats as they provide better power transfer and prevents foot fatigue.
  • Clothing: Participants should wear comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing that is suited for the weather conditions.
  • Water bottles: Staying hydrated is crucial during a bicycle marathon, so participants should carry enough water bottles to last the entire race.
  • Nutrition: Participants should carry enough energy gels, bars, and other snacks to fuel their bodies throughout the race.

If you want to check all my recommended gear, you can see them here.

Mental Preparation

“Embrace your sweat. It is your essence and your emancipation” Kristin Armstrong: She’s a badass working mom who doubles as a pro cyclist

Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation for a bicycle marathon. Some tips for mental preparation include:

  • Visualizing success: It sounds corny but it works. Visualizing yourself passing the finish line builds a mind-muscle connection. This connection increases the chances of success. 
  • Setting goals: Goals are important. They help you get a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Set realistic ones and you’ll be more focused and motivated. 
  • Managing stress: Stress and anxiety can negatively impact performance. So practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.
  • Staying focused: Stay focused on the present moment and do not let your mind wander to the finish line. Don’t think too far ahead into the future, just think of your next step.


How many km is a cycling race?

Cycling competitions fall into a number of categories, each with a unique typical distance. For instance, road races in professional cycling might be anywhere from 100 and 300 kilometers long. The distance can change depending on the race’s difficulty level, the course’s location, and the preferences of the race’s organizer. There are also shorter competitions like criteriums that typically cover 30 to 60 kilometers in length. 

What is a bicycle marathon?

A bike marathon is a long-distance cycling competition that tests competitors’ ability to ride a certain distance fast. It mixes the excitement of cycling with the physical stamina and endurance requirements of marathon running. Longer, ultra-distance races that can cover several hundred kilometers can be held in addition to shorter rides of about 40 kilometers in length. These marathons draw cyclists of all skill levels, from casual riders to professional competitors.

How many km cycling in a day?

The distance traveled by cyclists who ride for enjoyment or who commute by bike might range from a few kilometers to as much as 50 kilometers each day. It is normal for more seasoned or long-distance cyclists to travel 100 kilometers or more in a single day, particularly during organized rides or multi-day cycling competitions. 

How many km cycling in an hour?

On level ground, a leisure bicycle can travel 15 to 20 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) in an hour on average. Cycling at speeds averaging 35 to 40 kilometers per hour (22 to 25 miles per hour) or even quicker during intensive efforts is common among professional cyclists or really talented amateurs.

What is 200 km cycling called as?

It’s usual to refer to a 200-kilometer cycling event as a “double century” or “200K ride.” It is an important point in long-distance riding and frequently acts as a test or a goal for many cyclists. Since cycling 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) in a single journey is a significant distance, these rides often need a lot of endurance and training. 

Can I cycle 40 km a day?

Yes, you can cycle pedal 40 kilometers a day. It is a distance that people with different degrees of riding expertise and fitness may be able to complete. However, while organizing a 40-kilometer bike trip, consider your present level of fitness, the terrain, and your available time. Make the experience enjoyable and sustainable.  Gradually increase your endurance and distance, eating well, staying hydrated, and paying attention to your body. 

Before You Go…

Mark Twain said: “ Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.”

If you do get a chance to compete, give it all you got. You’ll love it when you finish!

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