The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

2018 Recap

Just want to report that this, my sixth year, was the best ever! Not exactly sure why, but I think it had something to do with just rolling with the flow. I kept a positive attitude for most of the week. Last day flat was a bummer.

Saturday evening in Onawa I saw an indicator that the week would be good. I was walking back from supper when I saw the tractor pulled shuttle coming toward me. On the sidewalk was a kid on a Big Wheel trike racing the tractor. And he was keeping up! The kid raced across five houses and then did a spin-out. It was so cool. All the people on the shuttle were cheering. It set the tone for the whole week.

My mourning armband handouts at the mile of silence could have gone better, but still worked out. I expected people to stop, but most were able to grab them from my hand. You guys surprised me with your agility.

Saw a lot of riders I’d met on previous Ragbrai’s and met several new ones. I know we are creatures of habit, so we tend to start each day at the same time, but with so many riders I am still surprised to see many of the same riders on the road. I fell in with three others on day three and we all missed the turn at Dana. We recognized each other on following days and joked about sticking to the route.

I was true to my goal of patronizing lemonade and Mom & Pop stands. Stopped in Charter Oak for pulled pork sandwich, and watermelon at a stand a few miles out from there. Must have hit four lemonade stands through the week. Would have stopped for more if I’d seen them.
Also stopped for postcards, sweetcorn and pie. Stopped for the free postcards and bananas on the road, and had the pleasure of talking to and getting directions from the locals in town. (directions to where to buy the cards)

Might seem like a little thing, but I thought of new preps for the next day. I used to pump my tires in the dark each morning, but realized I could slightly over pump them the night before. Also pre-filled my Camelbak, prepaid for my morning in-camp snack and pre-loaded one of my bags onto the truck once I got my kit for the day. It just made mornings go more smoothly. Should have thought of it earlier!

One morning, though, I was pulling the tent stakes from my rain-fly tie downs and found one missing. I thought “Who would do that? Was my guy line out too far? Who would steal a tent stake?” Then, once I got the whole tent down, my count of stakes was correct. I’d just missed putting a stake in to begin with. I had to chastise myself for mentally blaming others, but my faith in fellow campers was restored. Sorry guys! (no pun intended)

Through the week I was able to ride my own speed and stop where I wanted. Only three problems with riders not riding predictably. Let it go for the most part, but one was with Ride Right Ambassadors. They weren’t staying to the right! Oh well!

The weather was great! The food was great! Had two or three challenging hills, and saw lots of great friends. So, all in all it was a really good trip. I’m looking forward to next time!

15 Replies

KenH, August 26, 2018 at 9:36 pm

I’m sticking with 2013 and 2016 as a tie for my favorite RAGBRAIs but this one was great too! I also had a flat the last day, only my second one in seven years of doing the ride. I was rolling along and not paying enough attention to the road surface (and that is always a bad idea) and looked down just at the last moment to see something disappear under my front tire. Made a sound but I did not feel a bump. It must have gone under the back tire too because a few hundred feet later my rear tire was completely out of air. Don’t know what it was, all I have have is the impression of it being white and rectangular.

I am from Illinois so I do not know Iowa cycling law in detail. In Illinois we have the same rights, duties, and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators when we use public roadways. In particular we have the right to use the left lane to pass slower traffic when there is no oncoming traffic and we are in a passing zone. That is the policy I use at RAGBRAI when I am wearing the Ride Right jersey. So, if you see me in the jersey and you see me in the left lane you should check to see if there is any oncoming traffic that I should be yielding to and you should check to see if I am in a passing zone before you accuse me of not “Riding Right”. I think you will find that I am very careful of that but if I err you have every right to call me on that! I am quite certain I followed the traffic code to the letter this year although I misjudged a few passes and did not get back to the right lane by the end of the passing zone by less than fifty feet in a couple of cases.

I had a ton of business helping people with mechanicals and in one case a crash on Sunday morning this year. Normally most of the people I pass are already being helped by someone from the Air Force team. This year it seemed like they hit the road a little late on Sunday morning. Maybe they had something to do first thing Sunday morning before pushing off?

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mootsman, August 27, 2018 at 8:38 am

If your only downside was a flat you can minimize and likely eliminate those by going tubeless. I’ve gone as many as 14,000 miles without a flat since converting. I did have issues with wider rims, wider tires and tubeless but that was a badly (cheaply) designed wider tire. Hutch had made their 23mm tires wider at the beads to make a 25mm instead of making the flat resistant center area wider. So we were riding on a portion of the side wall. Their latest iteration fixes that. You’ll need tubeless compatible rims of course, sealant, valve stem core remover, tubeless levers and a floor pump with a pressure chamber. Plus a tubeless specific installation procedure. A more particular process but worth the learning curve. And you don’t have to pump up your tires every day either.

Glad you had fun. The big thing you brought to enjoy a great week is your great attitude. No expecting RAGBRAI to make everything perfect for you. Instead enjoying what RAGBRAI has to offer. Others should pay attention to your post if they want to improve on their experience.

This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by  mootsman.

This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by  mootsman.

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LawnchairMan, August 27, 2018 at 7:36 pm

Ken,
I thank you for your comments. I too enjoyed ’13 and ’16, but my vote for best is still 2018.

I’m sure you were one of not the ambassadors that I saw. They were a guy and gal riding next to the yellow line while there was plenty of room at the right side where they should have been. It annoys me to have to choose between the wrong side of the road or passing on their right. I get out early, so I almost positive it wasn’t you that I saw.

Mootsman,
I have considered going tubeless. I already have the rims. They scare me when filling tires. The beads snap in place with a bang! I run with Conti Grand Prix 4000’s and latex tubes. I don’t get flats often. But please tell me about the pump with pressure chamber. I assume that is only for the initial inflation?

Yes, the positive attitude makes all the difference! I may not seem like it on this forum, but I am really a shy guy inside. This year I tried to open up to more people. I saw a lot of repeat Ragbraiers on the road or in camp, and met several “new” people. I think I remembered most of the names, but I’m sure I didn’t catch them all. I did cheat by writing some down in my journal. It’s taking me a long time to say that I felt like I was welcomed and that I belonged. After that I just took it easy.

Mitch Riders says “Ragbrai don’t care”. I think that applies to bad attitudes. Ragbrai is what it is. And it is what you make of it. In reality, most Ragbrai participants do care. So do most Iowans. If you get into a jam, there is usually a small army of people to help you out. This is why I choose to do this ride as apposed to others. So, yeah, come to Iowa with a good attitude. More than likely it will be reflected back to you!

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jwsknk, August 28, 2018 at 10:34 am

There was a north route several years ago with temps and wind like this years, might have been the one that overnighted in Northwood. That was one of the best ever. This year could of had a few more roadside stands, missed a couple of the favorites that decided they were not doing it this year. And I rushed through Jefferson to Ames to try to get home before 80-100 or so people showed up at my house. I stayed at home and didn’t even get to use my own shower. How did that happen? So how did Ames go for others? besides the insect chorus at Brookside (that’s about the only thing i’ve heard)

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hnschipper, August 28, 2018 at 3:05 pm

We camped at a park in Ames where there wasn’t a single other person. It was the best. Had the whole park to ourselves.

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KenH, August 28, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Shortly after returning from Iowa I made my final decision and bought a Trek 920. Wish I’d had it for this year’s gravel loop!! But it came with tubeless compatible rims which in Trek-speak means that the bead hooks are tubeless compatible I guess. I still have to get tubeless rim tape, valves, tires, sealant, and whatever else a noobie finds out at the last moment. I don’t know if tubeless would have saved me from fixing a tire this year or not. It was a pretty large caliber hole that drained my rear tire in a farily short time. Would sealant have caught that? No way I will ever know. I think I had about 6k miles/3 seasons on my tires at that time of this puncture so I can hardly complain. I am not wasting a lot of my life fixing puctures.

The Bontrager standard issue knobbies that the 920 comes with are kind of a drag on the road. I put the Vittoria’s from my other bike on the rims to test the rolling resistance and even without data it is immediately obvious that the Bontrager’s are sucking Watts. And, even with tubes the beads will not seat fully until you get them up to about max pressure. If you do not hear two loud, disconcerting pops, one for each side of the tire, as you inflate them you will quickly notice an out of round spot on one or both sides of the tire as you ride. I guess the noobie needs to get bead lubricant too??

I’ll run what I’ve got for the rest of this season but next year I will be choosing a nice, tubeless, road and gravel worthy set of tires for the Trek.

Highlights for this year? Loved riding the “tracks” at Jack Trice and the Iowa Speedway! Loved the showers at the ISU rec center! Loved the little town of Wilton! Loved the burger and cider in some pub in Iowa City — don’t know why the waitress apologized for the cider being a “rose”! I always love the gravel loop, even this year’s which I hated! Loved all the little town and school bands, all the fine people (riders and townies) who took the time to share part of their stories with me, and all the fine church and community organization meals I ate! Loved the tour of Sig Manufacturing in Montezuma!

It was a great ride. My only regret was spending too much time driving the team motorhome. I think it may be time to leave it home and ride the whole week next year. How much would I have to pay one of you to give this news to the rest of my team?….

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jake d, August 28, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Skunky, glad to see Ames focused on downtown instead of having everything around Jack Trice. I’m not a big fan of towns that set up everything in a big parking lot. Show off your town. Take note Council Bluffs.

This reply was modified 3 weeks, 3 days ago by  jake d.

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Bob Christy, August 28, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Just wondering how people feel about all of the portable speakers people are using. I was worn out by the third day. Much to loud and far to many to escape for me. I’m rolling through the countryside enjoying being out of the office surrounded by beautiful views. Last thing I wanted was to be sandwiched between dueling playlists. I’m a music lover, but I really prefer some quiet time on my bike.

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KenH, August 29, 2018 at 7:22 am

I would prefer that people did not play music on their bikes. I would rather hear the sounds of nature and the ride. It is particularly sad that folks won’t even silence their precious tunes during the mile of silence but then I don’t feel like RAGBRAI marks it very well at all so they may not realize what they are doing. On the other hand the commuter rail service I take to work every day has quiet cars where you are supposed to be completely quiet or very close to that. I hate those cars! They attract every would be petty despot, librarian, and Barney Fife in Chicagoland. I don’t want to be one of those people so I am willing to tolerate bicycle sound systems even if I would rather do without them.

Speaking of noise, what was the ” insect chorus at Brookside” in Ames? Are we talking cicadas? Were people complaining of them? I love the late summer cicada chorus!!

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Michrider !!!, August 29, 2018 at 12:28 pm

It sounds like 2018 was another fun year! I’m still hopeful to return in 2019. My current knee surgeon (3rd MD, with 4 surgeries) has referred me to another surgeon. My appointment is in September. Right now, I could not do the walking necessary, much less the riding needed for the ride! I’m working out in the pool and the weight room, at my health club. I am scheduled for shoulder replacement in September. More rehab after surgery. I hope to be recovered enough for 2019!

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mootsman, August 29, 2018 at 2:08 pm

LCM,

I bought a Bontrager chamber pump but there are others by Blackburn and Lezyne also. You pump up the chamber to more then the desired tire inflation (I go about 50 lbs over) and pull a lever to blast the air into the tire fast to get it to cede more easily. Yup, the loud pops are normal.

Ken,

Big cuts still flat a tubeless but there are no pinch flats and most punctures seal. The tires I had punctures in though over a few rides developed rips in the cord around the puncture even if I patched the tire when I got home. I replace the tire now if it punctures and seals after the ride.

This reply was modified 3 weeks, 2 days ago by  mootsman.

This reply was modified 3 weeks, 2 days ago by  mootsman.

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Brian Wallenburg, August 29, 2018 at 8:48 pm

I can sum up my 2018 with few words… Kidney stone on day two, not a pleasant experience to say the least!

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LawnchairMan, September 1, 2018 at 5:45 pm

Mootsman,

I am tempted to go tubeless to test a theory. To refill tires on a seldom used hand truck I put a belt or tourniquet around the tire to squeeze it into the rim. Do you think that would allow a standard pump to inflate the bike tire? I also saw a video of a guy using just a tire lever to seat the beads. That might be even easier, and wouldn’t need the chamber pump.
I’m just thinking that chamber pumps would be hard to find at Ragbrai. It could also make mid-ride repairs possible without bringing a tube.

Your thoughts? Thanks!

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mootsman, September 3, 2018 at 7:23 pm

LCM,

I used a standard pump for a while and just had to pump super fast. It worked but was not fun. On RAGBRAI just take out the stem and use a tube if you get a flat. That’s what I do on the road after draining the remaining sealant. Also I use a boot on even a small puncture. Ceding is tire is easier by first heating the tire in hot water after letting the folds straighten out for a day. Also brushing the rim with soapy water. And levers would not work as both beads need to be in the center of the rim before inflating to get the tire to cede.

This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  mootsman.

This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by  mootsman.

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Luv 2 Ski, September 4, 2018 at 2:14 pm

This year was fantastic in so many ways. The weather was as close to perfect as you can get.

Some vivid memories will be spending more time at the evening concerts than in the past, Johnny Holm got the week started off on the right foot. Riding with different team members on different days and rolling with how they do RAGBRAI. Having Nelson Vails sit on my 18 year old son’s wheel as I pulled them both for about 5 plus miles into Keswick and half way in my son whispering to me “Hey dad we can be his lead out men for the sprint”. Not everyday you get to ride with an Olympic Champion. Going all out in Iowa City and having a great steak dinner with 10 other team members. That blew my daily food budget. LOL Taking hose showers all week and loving it even though the initial dousing is somewhat difficult for me every time. Hearing more Pink Floyd music than I can ever remember. Riding with a Garmen and power meter for the first time and never having dead/tired legs. Hanging with the strong young kids on the road as well as at the evening festivities. And along those lines a comment I made to a strong 34 year old female teammate about how awesome our new bus is and that I will probably be the driver when I am 75. She looks at me and says “I do not think you will ever be driving the bus.” Funny.

Lastly to once again spend a week in Iowa with my son who when we started doing this together 5 years ago he was a boy and he is now a man.

Can’t wait till next year to see what special memories the week brings.

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