RAGBRAI LI Weeklong and Day Passes available until 7/5!

Reply To: Do I really need a new bike?

cmparsley, June 24, 2018 at 3:17 pm

Simply put Michaela, yes. You should find a different bike. I ran the service department at a local bike shop for a few years. I am certified as a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, and I am the former president of our local bicycle advocacy group. I list that stuff to lend credibility to my advice.

A person who is going to do RAGBRAI should take steps to give them the best experience possible. My first RAGBRAI was in 2009 and I rode 2 days and I did it on a mountain bike. The second year, I rode every single mile on that same mountain bike. I have ridden every mile, every year since then on a road bike. What a difference! Yes it took a little getting used to, but now I won’t ride anything else.

Now I am not saying you NEED to ride a road bike to enjoy RAGBRAI. What you need is a bike that is comfortable and FUN to ride. You don’t want to wake up in the morning and think, “Ugh, I have to ride this thing all day.” The mountain bike I rode was aluminum. My guess is your mountain bike is steel. I changed the drivetrain on my mountain bike making much more like a hybrid bike. I also added clipless pedals and slick tires. I loved that bike and I loved riding it, so RAGBRAI for me was awesome and life changing.

The Mongoose you have has derailleurs that are finicky to get adjusted properly and they rarely stay adjusted. The department store bikes might have drivetrains that say Shimano on them, but that doesn’t mean it is Shimano’s best or most reliable product either. The department store level of bicycle is not built to be a long lasting, quality bicycle.

So what is a broke college student to do? You have options. And some mighty good one’s too. First thing is to go to your local bike shop and look at their used bikes. Many LBS’ will take bikes in on trade towards new bikes. The trade in bikes where I worked got full on overhauls before they were resold. New cables, housings, tubes, tires, etc… While you are there have them help you determine what size of bicycle is best for you. Take notes. You will need to know the sizes later. Ask if they rent bikes. Maybe they have a decent rental bike you could get for the week.

Get in touch with you local bike clubs and advocacy groups. Maybe one of them has an extra bike you could borrow?

Craigslist is another place to find deals on good used bikes.

Finally, There are bike vendors that will let you “try” one of their bikes for a day on RAGBRAI. You will need to know the right size, and you will have to go talk to them at the expo in each overnight town, but this is a way to hop on a brand new bike each day of RAGBRAI. This option is not guaranteed, and you should make sure you are comfortable on whatever style of bike you borrow.

Whatever route you go with, make sure you have the bike checked over and tuned up like soon. You really should have your bike serviced with enough time to put 50-100 miles on it before taking on RAGBRAI. Cable housings seat into place and such in those first 50 miles after a tune-up and you want to catch those things now rather than out in the middle of Iowa trying to sort it all out.

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