The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

A newbie from California

I wanted to do it for a long time, and I finally made up my mind to sign it up for 2014 a few months ago. As soon as it opened up for registration, I signed up for 2014 as an individual. I just realized that there are tons of unknowns even after I read the FAQs on the site. It’s going to be my first multi-day bike ride.

1) Team
It might be better for me to join a team. Is there a team from the Pleasanton, CA area that I can join?

2) Family members
I will be the only one to ride it. Will my family members be able to join me there? How do they move from city to city? On a chartered bus?

3) Check list
Is there a check list for a newbie to get prepared?

Thank you for any info to spoon feed a newbie


44 Replies

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Michrider !!!, November 19, 2013 at 5:04 am

Every year about this time, people start searching for a team to join. Do you want to join a team? Or, are you looking for a charter? There are many good charters on RAGBRAI but I think Pork Belly Ventures (PBV) is the best!!! I’ve traveled with them for years! They offer a lot of extras that you may not be able to get anywhere else. RAGBRAI will announce the Route for 2013 on January 26, 2013. Soon, after the route is announced, PBV will send out their invitation letter. To be added to the list for that invitation, contact Pete: or Tammy: . PBV runs a big bus every day, from city to city, for non-riding family, or just riders who want the day off. I had problems with my knee last year and rode the bus several days. I’ll meet you under PBV’s big circus tent!!!! You can check out PBV at



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Pdiddly, November 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Well welcome CA NEWBIE! Keep checking out this forum for one thing. There are plenty of riders from CA that attend the ride. Michrider’s advice is pretty good for a charter service. The great thing about using the charter service is they take care of alot of the details so you don’t have to worry about them. In my opinion they are worth the money. You will meet folks you can ride with and share your adventures with at the end of the day. Mich may even let you share a curb or two with him!



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dp, November 20, 2013 at 1:44 am

I’m looking for a team for myself, and a charter for my wife who is not riding. Thank you for the info, I’ll definitely look up PBV.

Looking forward to meeting great people there.




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mootsman, November 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

If your wife is going as a week long non-rider and wants to be in the over-night towns with you, a team for your wife might be the only option. I’m not positive charters have daily buses for non-riders. Many teams probably would accept week long non-riders also. You might consider both going with the same team. Teams have a central staging location usually so they start and end in the same small town. If you both go with a team one based in Des Moines might be best. Des Moines usually has better connections also for flights, maybe even direct flights.



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CyclingRoberto, November 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Double post



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CyclingRoberto, November 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

First off, congrats on the decision. This is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Think combo of State Fair, bike ride, camping trip. To prepare, ride a ton of miles, then go ride some more. As for charters, also consider Brancel. I’ve used them six times, and they are top notch family owned and operated, and I’m quite sure Bob and Debbie Brancel will be more than happy to accommodate your non-cycling wife. Much smaller operation than PBV. A bit more personal attention. Joining a team might be fun if you want to ride with others who know the ropes. I’ve always ridden as a solo act, but that’s just how I roll. As for the checklist, refer to my suggestion of miles. After that, the rest will be easy. Have fun!

See you on the road!



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“Bicycle Bill”, November 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm

OK, time for me to stir up the old hornet’s nest again.

CA newbie, RAGBRAI started out some 40-odd years ago as a bicycle ride.  Those people who came on it were assumed to be capable of riding their bicycles (not a minivan or a converted school bus) across Iowa, taking in stride whatever Iowa, the Register, and Mother Nature decided to throw at them; and if you weren’t able/capable to do this, then you didn’t go.  Sure, there were glitches and problems, but we (again) took things in stride and dealt with them.  We didn’t sit around and whine like spoiled brats about the fact that someone ran out of pancakes, there wasn’t enough hot water for showers, the beer wasn’t cold enough, or we couldn’t find enough power outlets to recharge all our electronic gizmos and gadgets; we accepted it as part of the event. Ask anybody who survived “Soggy Monday” on RAGBRAI X, or the ‘Spencer Flood’ on RAGBRAI VII. We were the bicycling equivalent of King Henry’s men at Agincourt; “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers” — and damned right we considered ourselves better than anyone who hadn’t shared our experiences!

In the early years the towns were also more willing and able to accommodate the riders.  My first year was in 1978 (RAGBRAI VI); there were estimated to be around 5K people making the ride that year.  By the time RAGBRAI X or XI came around that number had at least doubled.  Today, if one counts all the non-essential people that are tagging along like a tail on a comet, there are probably close to 20K people converging on the roads of Iowa for that one week.  In many of the smaller pass-thru or overnight towns we have become less and less an event to be looked forward to and more like a curse to be endured, like a plague of locusts — either that or we are a horde of tourists to be shorn like sheep and then sent on our way.

Bringing a non-rider along and expecting someone else to provide for them for a full week is, to me, not what this is all about.  I don’t think it was ever meant to become what it seems to be now; a week-long vacation spent meandering across Iowa in which the bicycle is completely optional.  It’s like employing a Sherpa to give you a piggy-back ride up Everest so that you can claim that you summited the mountain. You haven’t really done anything yourself; instead, you’ve just added to the congestion that is rapidly killing RAGBRAI as it was intended.

And if you don’t want to take my word about it, I suggest you check with Grandpa RAGBRAI (John Karras) in order to get his take on the matter — although I think you will find that he and I are not too far apart on this.  He might be just a little more tactful about it than I am.




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Michrider !!!, November 21, 2013 at 5:37 am

BB, I should have expected your righteous RAGBRAI sermon at some point!!! Beebs, exactly how long has it been since you’ve ridden on RAGBRAI??? Would you recognize he ride???? dp, Beebs means well, he’s really a good guy, he just gets carried away sometimes!!!! Take the advice that works for you and ignore the rest!!! It’s your RAGBRAI, do it your way!!!



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dp, November 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Hi. BB,

Thank you for the reminder. My wife wants to see all those beautiful small towns in Iowa on her little Brompton bike. She is new to bicycling, I hope that seeing RAGBRAI in person will convince her to bike more, and some day to take part in RAGBRAI.

Dp Deng



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dp, November 22, 2013 at 2:14 am

Thank you all for the feedback and suggestions. It feels great, it’s going to be fun. I will continue to put in more mileages on bike. When RAGBRAI announces the route, I and my wife will make a trip plan. We are looking forward to it.

Dp Deng



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Michrider !!!, November 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Anyone else out there looking for information, check out these sites!

As far as bike shipping: PBV uses

PBV’s info: You can find a lot of good info on their site, including a packing list!

Charter info:



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“Bicycle Bill”, November 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Mike, I sure hope PBV gives you something, or pays you by the word for shilling so hard for them.




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Michrider !!!, November 22, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Thanks Beebs but I’m just trying to provide a little info to new riders. There are lots of good charters on RAGBRAI! I talk about what I know and that’s PBV!!! Pete and Tammy, my friends, are great people!!!! I get a lot of satisfaction, meeting people under the big tent, who chose PBV based on my advice. I even buy a few beers!!!!



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CyclingRoberto, November 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Wow. So now there’s an official way to “do” RAGBRAI. Nonsense. As for the towns looking at RAGBRAI as a “horde of locusts,” I don’t think so. They realize the financial boost plus the opportunity to show off their town. I’m not a big fan of people signing up for RAGBRAI with no intention of attempting the ride. However if somebody’s non-riding spouse wants to tag along, I say, “The more the merrier!”

See you on the road!



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John, November 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

OP, if your wife already has a bike and you live in sunny CA, there is plenty of time to start training before the last week in July.

As far as bike shipping, I’d look at, they handle all bike shipping for kinds of events and seem to have it down to a science.



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