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1st Ragbrai

Just Wanting advice on everything. Do i Join a group or go as individual? What all should I pack? What can I expect in the towns you go through? How easy is it to find a spot to set up your tent? And Just any other general information on what to expect my father-in-law got me into cycling a little over a year ago and i’m hooked and am super excited but just don’t know what to expect here.

16 Replies

Don Raatz, January 30, 2018 at 5:07 pm

The best way to get the answers to a lot of the questions you asked is through the RAGBRAI website…you can look through “The Ride” tab and find out about charters, packing, etc. I went with a charter last year and probably will again, but am keeping an eye on teams with openings. You’ll get plenty of advice also through the Forum.
The town experience is generally great, both overnight and walk-through. People are excited to have you there and roll out the red carpet. No lack of food or drinking! Having some college towns this year for overnight towns will enhance the experience…
What to expect? Expect the unexpected; expect to have a stupid amount of fun and memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t overthink it and go with the flow…my first RAGBRAI was last year and I’m ready to go again!


Nico ZZZ, January 30, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Trevor, Congrats on making one of the most intelligent and magnificent decisions of your life! RAGBRAI is a mad and wonderful addiction; welcome to the club.
Pork Belly Ventures is a great charter that can provide darn near everything for you but actually ride your bike. Whether you use them or not, their website has some great first timer info, such as a suggested packing list. Cycling supplies are everywhere: butt butter, energy bars, tubes, mechanics. Food and drink are everywhere. Pack few clothes, as you only have to be “RAGBRAI Fresh” every day. Pack quickdry clothing so you can rinse and dry the same couple of shirts and shorts for non-riding clothes. Pack smart for the tent as these supplies are harder to find along the journey: pad or inflatable mattress (w/ battery powered pump), pillow, light sheet and blanket or sleeping bag (can have chilly nights), battery powered fan and light, ear plugs, eye mask perhaps. Obvious sunscreen, lipbalm, rubs/ointments for pre and/or post ride recovery. Before getting to RAGBRAI know what food/drinks, medicines and potions work best for your ride and recovery from the ride. Remember you will also be eating a ton of food on the daily ride that you probably don’t eat during your training: pie, ice cream, burgers and pork and beer etc. So realize your digestive system may act “erratically” from your training ride routine. Bring Prep H wipes to keep the under carriage sparkling and those KYBO experiences as pleasant as they can be!
Enjoy! That first day of your first RAGBRAI when you take that first pedal stroke…Woo Hoo!


Groeny82, January 30, 2018 at 6:25 pm

I would try to find a team to join personally. I was going to use the RAGBRAI trucks and services when I first started but luckily I found a local team that took me in. I know a lot of people are fans of charters and if you have the money to spend on one then that would probably be a very good option. I didn’t/don’t have the money for a charter so the team experience has been great. Everything is set up when you get to the end and you just have to shower and change. With the RAGBRAI trucks you have to find your bag, find a camping spot, set up your tent, and take everything down the next day. Not a big problem either, thousands of people do it that way. It all depends on how pampered you feel like being or how independent you want to be. The way I found answers to a lot of my questions was going to Google and just type in key words to your question followed by RAGBRAI. For example, wondering what to pack? Type in “packing list RAGBRAI” and a bunch of forum discussions should come up.


Roy Trent, January 30, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Last year was our first Ragbrai also. We had a great time and are returning this year.
We had a 3 person team and one non-rider support vehicle driver. We had some family along the way so we stayed with them a few nights and in host housing other nights and only had to camp one night, the last night. Having the support vehicle removed a lot of decisions about what to take or leave. We just kept our supplies in the vehicle and grabbed what we needed each day.
Food(both good food and jun food), water, energy drinks are readily available in all the towns. I liked having my Gatorade Recovery drink available (from the support vehicle) each evening to keep me refreshed for the next day.
Be in shape before you get there. Most sources suggest at least 1000 miles. When you can focus on fun and people and not on “surviving” it will be a lot more fun. Last year, I had about 3000 miles in before the ride. I was strong the entire week and was fine pulling lines of people behind me. I pulled some older people on tandems for several miles giving them a much needed rest.
Like one of the other replies, don’t overthink it. Just be prepared for normal things and just deal with strange things. For me, one of the worst things was not having much cell service(AT&T), but I just accepted it and kept going.



Aaron Norgrant, January 30, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Last year was my first RAGBRAI…..the insane part about that is I was 38 and was born and raised in Iowa and didn’t even think about RAGBRAI growing up. I got into cycling when i moved to Texas in 2015 due to the military and rode in the Hotter N’ Hell Hundred. I spent my first 19 years of life not even thinking about RAGBRAI, now it’s all i think about lol. I rode RAGBRAI by myself with my dad and two sons driving/tagging along in our support vehicle. I never felt alone or anything, i had a blast by myself in the pass through towns and usually had a tent set up when i got to the overnight town. I will definitely not bring as many clothes this time, i wore pretty much the same thing every night. I only took two showers, heck, i sweat so bad anyway it’s not even worth taking a shower since i would just get sweaty again anyway…..didn’t bother me one bit, nor anyone else for that matter. My dad is going to ride with me this year, he said if 80 year olds can do it, he can do it at his age. One thing we are thinking of doing as far as the sleeping arrangements go are to use his gooseneck horse trailer. It has a sleeper part up front and we can just power wash out the back real good and throw cots in the back, no putting up a tent every night. Who cares what it looks like, if it works, it works!!!!


Geoff Butland, January 31, 2018 at 10:02 am

Last year was my first, and coming from way out of town alone I went with a charter. Prices vary considerably as do amenities. The benefits? They put up signs in the overnight town guiding you straight to your campsite. Your bag is readily available. They have a map to the showers, cold drinks for sale, and there were always KYBOs nearby. They probably will have charging facilities for your electronics. This year the whole family is going (fingers crossed) and we’ll be using a charter. Prices vary a lot so check out a few before deciding.


Barin Beard, January 31, 2018 at 10:06 am

Last year was also my first RAGBRAI. It had been on my bucket list since the early 1980s. I was not disappointed.
I was a solo rider and will be again. I parked my car at the end, joined a charter service and took their shuttle to the start. The charter made it easy. No worries, just enjoy the ride. Signs guide you to the camp sites.
Riding solo is how I enjoy riding these days. On RAGBRAI I could be alone in my thoughts or I could talk to someone till the next town and then never see them again. Had a lot of fun conversations last summer while eating Beekman’s ice cream.
On the last day, I teared up a little under a tree in Harpers Ferry because I didn’t want it to end. I felt so good physically, I wanted to keep riding for another month. RAGBRAI rocks!


CyclingCyclone, January 31, 2018 at 10:43 am

Congrats! RAGBRAI is what you make of it. It’s an unbelievable experience so enjoy.
It may be hot, humid, windy, rainy, and you’ll have to deal with a fair share of crowds, but you’ll leave with a sense of accomplishment.
I can’t speak for the rest, but even after 34 RAGBRAI’s I still get goosebumps once the Mississippi River finally comes into view after a week of riding.
There’s no other place I’d rather be on the last week of July.


Ken Reed, January 31, 2018 at 10:55 am

Trevor, think you have made a decision that will change your life. RAGBRAI is more than a ride. It’s a way of life and I think you will understand that once you’ve completed your first one. This will be my 12th RAGBRAI. I also turn 40 on RAGBRAI which is an extra little treat. The biggest mistake I made on my first RAGBRAI was trying to make it a race. I tended to be the first one on my team to get into town so I didn’t enjoy the pass-through towns on the route as much as I should have. I guess I was trying to prove something to myself over attempting to have fun. My 2nd RAGBRAI I adjusted and let loose a little bit.
I also tell people that RAGBRAI is what you make of it. If you don’t have fun, it will be the most miserable experience. However, if you have fun, it will be life-changing. I would suggest finding a team to hook up with. They will haul your stuff and usually provide places to stay. A lot stuff has been said already in this tread so there isn’t much to add.


Joe Cona, January 31, 2018 at 11:54 am

I am also registered for my first RAGBRAI and was wondering if people camp the Friday and Saturday night in the host town before Sunday’s ride, or just Saturday night?


Bob Kidd, January 31, 2018 at 7:04 pm

This was a good read for me for my first year last year.


Christopher York, January 31, 2018 at 8:04 pm

this is also my first year, I have A team I’m trying to get started looking for fellow rider. My parents are coming along with me bringing a fifth wheel and will be moving our team equipment between overnight towns. I am from Michigan, If anyone is interested in joining my team its the back peddlers.


Ken Reed, February 1, 2018 at 6:13 am

A friend of mine created a guide for rookies. Here you go:


W Fanning, February 1, 2018 at 7:07 am

2017 was my first year.. what a phenomenal time I had.. it lived up to all I read about.. now I’m hooked.. I’ll be doing it again this year.. I read a lot of advice on this forum.. all were spot on.. even still I packed to much.. double check your list.. it is easy to over pack.. less is best.. this is the number one tip.. there’s lots of great tips.. another good tip is bring a extra external battery to charge up electronics.. another is take your time.. enjoy all the small towns you go through.. you’ll be glad you did.. Having fun on 2 wheels.. Be Safe..


jwsknk, February 1, 2018 at 1:18 pm

most people roll into the start town on Saturday, a few come in Friday.


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