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A Beginner's Guide to RAGBRAI

I’ve been on 7 RAGBRAI’s so far and always wanted to help out virgins with tips about RAGBRAI before they ride. I’ve learned a lot over the years and wanted to share this information with others. I finally got it all typed up and posted to a blog. Hope this helps out some people!

30 Replies

KenH, January 8, 2016 at 10:18 am

Have you ever watched the movie Field of Dreams? Well if you have then you should know that old baseball players, corn bears, and corn bats are not the only creatures one could have a close encounter with in the corn fields of Iowa. I for one never venture off the road without my alien tool close to hand….

Love the cartoon but training for pie eating is no laughing matter. I did what was only my second non-RAGBRAI century last year only a few weeks after RAGBRAI while I was still in peak riding form and just like my first century which was an early season 2011 ride I had some serious trouble finishing it. Just ran out of steam at about 80 miles. I can’t really see any reason for that given how much I rode the first three days of RAGBRAI last year with only a little trouble early in the afternoon of the first day which disappeared an hour or so after it began. So my new working theory is that I just don’t typically eat enough on these stand alone century rides. They do have rest stops with good food to eat but I don’t consume anything like as much as I do on RAGBRAI. I probably had a little trouble with all those hills on Sunday this year because I don’t eat enough on Saturday to fully fuel the next day so I had to wait until Sunday morning’s meals were digested enough to kick in mid afternoon. After that each day’s intake helps to fuel the next day’s effort.

So don’t discount the pie, it is serious business!


Alan_50501, January 13, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Good information to now…I did one day last year…thinking on doing the whole week this year undecided yet..


Sunflower, January 14, 2016 at 12:52 pm

I bring along some Cytosport Monster Milk in case I’m hungry later in the evening and there’s only snackfood around the tent. Sometimes you just eat yummy garbage all day and end up hungry before bedtime. A good source of protein at bedtime makes a real difference the next day.


zabo, January 21, 2016 at 1:41 am

I think that one of the biggest things to bring with you are safety habits. That means that your bike needs to be brought to your favorite bike shop for inspection. You need to be sure that your wheels are trued and your brakes are okay so that you don’t get hurt. This is incredibly important.

Check your tires too. I made the rather stupid assumption that my tires were okay last year because they were only a year old….but I had racked up a lot of miles on them in a short amount of time and they gave out on me. It’s not the time, it’s the mileage.

Train a lot, but not too much during the week before the ride. Do different terrains with different amounts of sunlight and weather (including wind and rain).

Hydration is a personal topic since everyone’s body reacts differently. You can actually drink too much water if your electrolyte levels get diluted. Too many electrolytes are also an issues. I personally thought that I had this one licked, but had trouble last year and had to drop in Cedar Falls due to a high fever. Last year was relatively easy compared to the three years before, and I drank more water this year. I haven’t figured this out at all.


dalebob, January 22, 2016 at 9:54 am

Maybe I missed it, but has anyone mentioned bringing dental floss? If you are planning on taking advantage of all the sweet corn for sale along the way floss can be a real life saver.


lhansen, January 23, 2016 at 8:27 am

Be sure you stop at the 2 small children selling cookies for 50 cents, take a few minutes to talk with them, it makes their whole day.
Stop at the care centers when you go through the towns, quite often the route goes right by them. Talk to the residents sitting outside, they love talking talking with you.


tacook, January 24, 2016 at 6:28 pm

I would remind folks to inflate their tires in the morning. We’ve helped many riders with blown tires early in the morning. The cooler temps cause air pressures to decrease overnight.


jelly0317, January 24, 2016 at 6:36 pm

It’s impossible to predict which day would be “best”. I would avoid the last day, however. The two days closest to Interstate 35 might be the way to go. All of the bike shops have t-shirts in the overnight towns, insuring a good selection.


jwsknk, January 25, 2016 at 8:05 am

Bike shops get the logo contract from the Register. Most all of the overnignt towns do some sort of shirt without using RAGBRAI or the logo on it. Day 1 will be “scenic” but it seems everyone is nervous and leaves at the same time. it’s shoulder to shoulder wheel to wheel for the first several miles. After that people start to stagger starting times more. If I could only do 2 days, Glenwood to Creston, or Centerville to Washington


Carl Hoover, January 24, 2019 at 5:42 pm

I really like that idea. Thanks


trek2300, January 25, 2019 at 3:00 pm

As Larry mentioned, talk to the kidlets. One of my fondest memories was stopping at a lemonade stand and hearing a munchkin yell out “Mom, we got one!” I guess sales had been a little slow that day.


Walter Jones, January 26, 2019 at 11:19 am

I can’t see how to start a new topic so I will ask here. Is our dog going to be a big problem or not allowed? He will be riding in our support vehicle and kept on a leash at all times in the campgrounds if we can bring him.


jelly0317, January 26, 2019 at 1:29 pm

I would be shocked if any RAGBRAIer complained about a dog in the campground. I’ll bring along a few biscuits for him!


Susan Zvacek, January 31, 2019 at 9:06 am

To those thinking about bringing a dog — please do! I will be suffering from dog-withdrawal that week and would love to skritch some ears and boop some noses (canine ones, that is).


Jboz, January 31, 2019 at 7:17 pm

Stop and talk to the locals. And not just the folks selling something, talk to regular folks sitting in their lawn chairs watching the bikes go by. You will be amazed how hospitable they are. I was riding through Clear Lake and saw a woman sitting out by her garage in a lawn chair with a thermos full of coffee. I stopped under the guise of “mind if I rest here a bit?” I was really hoping she would offer a cup of that coffee, which of course she did. She even brewed a new pot because all she had left was about 1/3 of a cup. We chatted for almost 30 minutes, she told me all about her grandkids, showed me her husband’s vintage Corvette, and she even let me use her bathroom. Those are the moments you will never forget, and the ones you would completely miss if you raced ahead to beat the crowd.


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