RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

Advantages/disadvantages to starting or ending early or late

Hi all,

This is my first ragbrai and I am not part of a charter. I am curious if there are certain advantages to getting going right at 6:00 am or can it be nice to leave later, say 8:00. Same with getting to the host town. Is it best to get there first to get a “good” campsite, first in line for a shower? But then do you end up missing out on the fun in the towns between?

I assume its in that gray area of just depends….


26 Replies

Fox Mulder, March 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm

It just depends on the individual rider. The first couple of years that I rode, I knew nothing about Ragbrai other than what I read on these forums. I was worried about the heat so I was up every morning at the buttcrack of dawn and on the road by 6:30. I rode hard and was generally done by noon. Seemed like the right thing to do at the time…..and maybe it is for some people.

My third year on Ragbrai I join a team of near do wells with a really ugly bus and discovered a whole new side of Ragbrai. The last five years, I generally get up about 8:00 and try to be on the road by 10:00. I have found that I really dont like riding shoulder to shoulder in a crowd but instead just tooling along at my own pace. Sometimes fast and sometimes not so fast. I generally try to get in before dark these days if possible (sometimes it’s not). There are things to do early and things to do late. My friends all ride later so I ride later also. Early people seem to be more of a “Tyep-A” personality and later riders are anywhere from “Type-B” to “stick a fork in him to see if he’s alive”…..pretty laid back.

This year will be my wife’s (Type-A) first year on Ragbrai and she is not a big fan of heat so I imagine that I will be back on the early schedule and meeting up with my team as they come straggling into camp long after the cows come in. My beer gardens and street dances will be replaced with sight seeing and antique stores (sigh :P). I’m sure that I will be on a rigid schedule also but for her Ill gladly avoid the “Fringe Element” for the 3 days that she rides. Love is a powerful thing.

Do what works for you. Ride early a couple of days and ride late a couple of days. The experience is vastly different. Find out what works for you


jwsknk, March 2, 2016 at 12:48 pm

6-8 the roads will be crowded, the first or second pass through town will be wall to wall, block for block, get off and walk situations, longer lines for food.
I usually leave camp around 9:00, sometimes we eat breakfast in the overnight town before leaving. Some days we “catch up” to the main body of the ride but that doesn’t last long, most seem to be about ready to leave when we show up.
When I run into T.J. in the towns it’s about time to move on, the Highway patrol will be there soon to keep people moving. (the Register figures the closing time for the pass through towns at a 10 mph pace, so a town 20 miles from the end town closes at 4:00. Days with severe weather they will alter that especially if most of the riders get a later start due to a storm or it’s really hot)
Later you may not fine the food you would like but sometimes find better deals on what’s left. Church dinners in the overnights are usually out if you get in later, go set up and shower then come back.
Sometimes I think it feels cooler to keep moving on the bike even if it’s slower than what you normally ride than to sit in a overnight town. Don’t know how some people can put up a tent then nap inside during the day.
Good campsites change during the day. I can get into our camp at 6:30-7:00 and find people all crowded together in one spot because that is where the shade was 3 hours ago. I don’t care about setting up in the shade, just not under a streetlight.
Are you using the register truck for baggage? They pull out at 8:00 and I think they only monitor the pickup until 6:00.


Stephen Paine, March 2, 2016 at 12:52 pm

I generally like to ride when it is cooler even though I ride in the heat at home quite often (we have no choice; it’s hot all the time).

My suggestion is to keep an eye on the temperature forecasts. I don’t care how much heat you ride in at home, if the temps are in the high 90’s or 100’s for three or four consecutive days, you need to ride early for a couple of days. Heat effects are cumulative and if you ride three or four days in 100 degree heat – and then drink lots of beer at night – it’s going to catch up with you no matter who you are. Plus, I like to get in at noon, have a beer and a shower and then explore the overnight town before the bars & restaurants get too crowded.


Juan Medium Moose, March 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Last year was my second RAGBRAI. I got up fairly early, but would leave any time between 6:30 and 8am. I didn’t have any trouble with crowds. The party is part of the fun. Even starting at that hour, I would typically not get in to the next overnight town until later in the day. I like hanging out in the pass-through towns.


jeffreydennis, March 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

There are (at least) two different RAGBRAI’s. The early go-getters and those who are no so much. Try both at least once. I pull out about 6:30 or 7 to beat any heat and I’m really not much of a partier except at the Craft beer stops where I will have a pint or two.


KenH, March 2, 2016 at 10:06 pm

I generally find it difficult to sleep past about 6 when the rest of the campers start to wake up and move around. So we typically get on the road about 7. Yeah it is crowded but that is part of the RAGBRAI experience that I would not want to miss, really. On century day we try to get up by 5:30 and on the road by 6:30 or before since we are not part of the young and fast crowd and don’t want to get in too late at the end of the day. I got well behind the curve one year on century day and got to several towns as they were closing down. Personally I did not care for that at all and I would want to leave early enough to prevent that but I don’t know how late you could sleep and still avoid that. Leaving before sunrise seems to be somewhat dangerous so I would avoid that too.


Stanford, March 3, 2016 at 10:39 am

Basically as many people have mentioned, it is up to the individual or individual group to decide hat works for you. Are you a daybreak person normally or do you like to sleep in at home. We love to leave at first light around 6:00 with only a granola bar for breakfast. Then about the second pass-thru town we will stop at a church, fire station or VFW and enjoy our first long stop with a great breakfast. Lunch usually ends up being a smoothie and pie. Smoothies are the greatest for a midday pick-me-up and cool-down. We always arrive in the overnight towns before 2:00 and head for the showers right after setting up camp. This gives us plenty of rest time and wondering around town time before supper at hopefully a school or church, etc. But we like hitting our tents by 9:30 and rarely have a beer all week.
So look at what you like to do and pattern your riding around that. We are not partiers so like “early to rise, early to bed”. That is what always worked for us. (and don’t put your tent too close to the band)


shortykorte, March 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Thanks all for the advice.

I am typically a early riser (during the week, 5am) and I am a Minnesota boy at heart and I prefer 60 degrees over 80 (let alone 90s) so I think I will do the early morning rise for the most part. But I like the idea of mixing it up a day or two, maybe on a shorter day. I think I will dig exploring some of the smaller towns especially for unique local food takes (loose meat sandwich I am looking at you) and some good (hopefully great) local beer.

Can’t wait.


Amanda, March 3, 2016 at 4:02 pm

In the past, the group I rode with was always up at 5AM. Leave by 6 – 6:30. This year, I am riding in a new group and we plan to sleep in a tad. Going to mix things up this year just because we can. We are even staying overnight in Muscatine! But we will need housing (yard) in Muscatine. Hoping the town will have hosts willing to let us stay. Guess I will wait until May when we can apply for yards. :)


Nico ZZZ, March 3, 2016 at 8:09 pm

I rode my first in 2014 w Pork Belly. Three in the team and we were up by 5 and riding by 7. We rode easy but physical. Hung out in every pass through sometimes napping in the shade while enjoying the live music. Always hit first Bloody Mary stop! Enjoy the towns and what they worked so hard to offer us. Campsites are not so much fun, so why rush to get there?
Don’t just ride, but groove baby! Enjoy Iowa!


shortykorte, March 4, 2016 at 9:45 am

Do a majority of people leave early (like 6am) then? I assumed that a majority left later (like 8 or so).


IndianHillsTed, March 4, 2016 at 10:09 am

I start whenever I feel like it. RAGBRAI is a vacation for me. I don’t bring an alarm clock. The heat of the day is tough, but I would rather be riding my bike than hunting for shade. In my opinion, finishing early sucks. I’d much rather be on the route than the overnight town.

I have used the Register’s trucks before but felt I needed to finish too quickly to get a good camping spot. This was the main factor for me to go with Brancel’s charter. I was able to finish whenever I wanted knowing there was always a good camping spot for me.



jwsknk, March 4, 2016 at 10:37 am

slightly different the way they framed it, but most out before 8:00 when the Registers trucks leave the campground.


Michrider !!!, March 4, 2016 at 11:10 am

Start early or start late? I like to take my time on the route and have fun! No need to get in early and search for shade, eventually we are all in the shade!!!!


shortykorte, March 4, 2016 at 1:28 pm

I like the stats. In 2014 survey, two thirds left before 7:00. So thats a big chunk that get going early.

These two stats surprised me a lot. I thought there would be a lot fewer first timers and a LOT more people using the ragbrai baggage truck. And a lot less people using personal vehicles.

“35% were first year riders”

“11% used the RAGBRAI Baggage Truck to transport gear, 50% used a personal vehicle, and 33% used a charter.”


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