Be Kind

I’ve thought about whether or not to post anything but in the hopes that someone who participated in rather unsportsmanlike behavior reads this and thinks twice next time here it goes.

Saturday morning, my legs weren’t feeling those hills. I’m a runner and so I know that despite great training, nutrition, sleep, etc, there are just days when things aren’t hitting on all cylinders. Rather than kick yourself for having an off day, you pull it together do the best you can and move on knowing that a day that you will feel like you’re flying is just around the corner. Despite not walking one minute of those southern hills last year or any of the first six days, I jumped off and started walking about half way through the second hill.

Imagine my surprise when I started getting “rider shamed” for walking. The first was “Hey Duckie (I was wearing my Zero Ducks jersey), I’m 69 years old and if I can, you should be able to too” That’s awesome! I hope I’m still moving that well when I’m 69 yrs old. I also hope you’re retired and can train thousands of miles and rest up versus the 8 planes and 60 hours of work on about 30 hours of sleep that I experienced the week before the ride. The next was “it’s a lot smoother on the pavement, this isn’t a walk” Well, thank goodness you told me because pushing my bike through four inches of sand and poison ivy up 400 ft seemed like a much easier alternative up to that point. There were more but perhaps my favorite was after I nearly crashed because the person still trying to pedal directly in front of me was weaving over all three lanes and was down to a speed that doesn’t let me keep my bike upright, I jumped off to walk a bit. That’s when I heard “you should have done some hill training” Here I was trying to keep those who were having a good day safe by not falling over or failing to hold my line and I got scolded for not having enough training in. I can assure you, unknown and uninvited critic, that my regimen included hill training sometimes after 10 hour work days in just a sliver of the day’s remaining light.

I know the challenges I beat and the accomplishments I’ve achieved over my lifetime but seriously, the other 40 or so people pushing up those hills on the sidelines with me at that point may not have had that same confidence. I’d like to believe your misguided comments were meant to be inspirational but at that point in time, they were not. Perhaps you were overwrought with hill climbing giddiness or maybe you’re just insensitive but please think of the people who might have been truly deflated by your unfiltered commentary. One woman, a mother of a 2 yr old and 3 yr old, told me as we walked that she had just gotten on a bike for the first time in decades this past January. When she heard some of the comments tossed our way, I assured her that she was rocking that ride for just 7 months of experience and that whether we cover it on foot or wheel, we were still doing better than the person sitting on the couch at home.

So, if you have something educational to say to me when we are riding, great! If you have something motivational to say, bring it on. But if you feel the need to criticize, degrade or shame another rider who is riding or walking safely and with courtesy, go shove some extra pie in that hole.

34 Replies

Cory Rood, August 1, 2017 at 9:13 pm

I am truly sorry this happened to you. Please don’t let those jackasses ruin your week.


Jack in VA, August 1, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Hi JLVP! I was likely one of those pushing my bike up several of those hills too – last year I knew it was going to be considerably hillier than other routes across the state and I brought my road bike (with gears). However, I’ve ridden my fixed / single speed bike on every RAGBRAI since ’08, and didn’t see why I couldn’t do it again this year!!! HAHAHAHA. The first 5 days weren’t too bad – although I did ride fixed the 1st day, and switched over to the freewheel about 30 miles into the 2nd day so I could coast downhill and stretch occasionally. The last 2 days had some kick a$$ hills though – some just a bit too steep for me to muscle my way up to the top. I did have a Bluetooth amp on the back to keep the tunes rocking me on, whether riding or walking, and with my personal “noise” envelope, maybe people were making comments to / about me, but I’ve just got two words it they felt the need to do so: “F” ’em! I’m out there on my vacation for ME – not them.
Hill training in SE Virginia is practically non-existent, so I practice when I can, ride when I can, SPIN when I can, and hope for the best once my tires meet Iowa roads. I’m not out to WIN anything – just make it to the Mississippi river a week later. It doesn’t matter to me whether I ride every single mile or walk a few – nor does it matter how anyone else manages to get from west to east.
Keep on doing what you’re doing, and disregard the comments and snarkiness of others. They have NO IDEA about who you are, what you’ve been going through in your life, how much or little you’ve been able to prepare for RAGBRAI. Unless someone is paying my way, buying my food and beer – I have no interest in whatever snide comments they may feel they need to make.
See you again next July on the way across IOWA!


Sunflower, August 1, 2017 at 10:43 pm

There are times when a good old fashioned, “go eff yourself” is the right thing to say.

You were at one of those times.

I was towing a trailer with a 3 year old in it and had a pace line come by with some middle aged fitchick yelling at me that if I didn’t get out of the way they were going to split me in the middle.

I and my riding mate offered to beat all of their asses. They demurred.

Don’t be a pxssy.


Carl Anderson, August 2, 2017 at 5:32 am

There is no shame in walking up those hills. Or when ever you need too. Those people that are in pace lines that yell out those things ,I laugh at. Because sooner or later they end up crashing because of big egos and not realizing that iowa roads are not in the best conditions to do that. I did walk up a little than got back on when I had a clearing that allowed me to be safe.
In my opinion it is better to be a slow and safe rider at Ragbrai then a,fast and stupid rider.


Ryan Flugge, August 2, 2017 at 7:27 am

It would be nice if it was a requirement somehow that people had to go do the “ride right” training/video.. I feel like so many people this year rode center of the rode, didnt care about others, cutting people off, draft lines, and overall rudeness. In 6 years, this might have been the worst. It was the girlfriends first full year, and sadly as rude as people were she has decided that she wont do another full one. Sorry that people were rude to you, thats not what the ride is about. Its supposed to be a fun ride for everyone to enjoy themselves doing something that we all love to do. People seem to forget there are others out there than themselves.


Geoff Butland, August 2, 2017 at 9:07 am

This was my first RAGBRAI. I’d been on a couple of rides with a lot of bikes, but I was not really prepared for the continuous vigilance required to ride this safely. For anyone I absent mindedly cutoff, I am so sorry. For the folks who cut me off, no worries.
For the hyper cyclists in pacelines who got prickly when a column of bikes 8 wide across two lanes couldn’t immediately oblige your barked ON YOUR LEFT…you guys need to lighten up. If you want to run a criterium then sign up for a criterium. If you have room to let the clutch out, hammer away. But if you need to “Beat Yesterday” every single second in the saddle may I respectfully suggest a different venue next year?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not defending 8 wide taking up both lanes. That was a mistake. But a bigger mistake is charging at this knot with the expectation that it will clear the way for you if you holler loud enough.
I think I read somewhere that RAGBRAI is not a race….


Jboz, August 2, 2017 at 9:45 am

I freaking hate pace lines on RAGBRAI. What exactly are they trying to accomplish?

Best possible time in the mistaken belief that there is a timekeeper and a podium at the end? Are they trying to live out some TdF fantasy? Are they getting some smug feeling of satisfaction by being “so much better” than us commoners? Or is it something else that I just don’t get?

Pace lines on RAGBRAI make as much sense as lowering the basketball hoop to 7 feet and doing slam dunks in your driveway. Might feel good to your fragile ego, but it’s not reality, and all the neighbors think you are a complete tool.


RoyBoy, August 2, 2017 at 10:05 am

It has been a few years since I had nothing left to ride up a hill on RAGBRAI but if I had nothing left, I’m not too proud to get out and walk. Still happens occasionally on training rides. Like it’s been said, “I’ve never met a hill I couldn’t walk up”. Don’t let it get you down.


CyclingCyclone, August 2, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Agreed. We got buzzed by a 20+ person paceline the day into Charles City. There was a rider near the back riding no-handed.


Bob Kidd, August 2, 2017 at 2:23 pm

JLVanPelt, when you get this many people in one place you are going to have a few assholes. I’m sure you had tons of people telling you good morning, have a great ride, etc.. Those are the things I will remember.


Luv 2 Ski, August 2, 2017 at 2:36 pm

There is no room for the rudeness you experienced while walking on the climb. Probably a lot safer than those that were weaving all over the road trying to make it up. There are jerks everywhere in life and that includes RAGBRAI as well.

On another note the whole pace line debate has entered this tread and while I agree that not all the pace line riders know what they are doing I do not agree with some of the comments or observations some of you have. I am one that rode in a pace line for many of the miles of RAGBRAI but I did it with people I knew that are all very accomplished bicycle riders. First not all pace lines are racing or trying to prove anything. They are just riding a pace that they are accustomed to and comfortable with. Those that really know what they are doing do not bull their way through the crowds of RAGBRAI. They slow down when there is traffic and speed up when the roads are clear. With that being said yes they still do go faster in most situations but there is nothing inherently wrong with that IMO. Why should they have to change? Isn’t it their RAGBRAI too? It is a fact that the less time you spend between your stops the more time you have to hang out having fun in Iowa’s towns and spend money on stuff. What is wrong with that? Not all pace line riders are speeding to the overnight town which is a misconception of many that hate pace lines.

No matter how fast you normally ride if you slow down from your normal pace to a much slower pace it actually feels like more work. If you normally ride a 12 MPH pace but take a long ride at an 8 MPH pace you may actually feel more worn out after your ride from so much more time in the saddle. To ask those that are more fit and normally ride at a faster pace, say at a 18-20 MPH clip to slow down and ride at 12-14 MPH is just not going to happen.

The problem I see is the large pace lines made up of people who do not know each other, and those that jump on pace lines that go by faster than they can actually ride and they try to hang on. Inexperienced riders not used to riding in pace lines or large groups is where all the trouble lies. Those that are experienced can easily spot those that are less accomplished. Let it be clear I am not saying those that ride pace lines are better, but I am sure some of you that hate pace lines will take it that way. We are all just cyclists that have different riding styles, and have fun in different ways.

My son and I did pull a few at times when not with our normal group but we always stayed in the front and did all the work. We were happy to help those that needed a break, and typically got thanks and had conversations with those folks when we stopped in the pass through towns. I typically asked those following to keep their space.

In addition we were always polite when stating “On your Left” and I probably said “Thank You” at least the same number of times and probably more.

What I do have a problem with is the amount of people that do not “Ride Right”. I cannot tell you how many times there was someone left of the center line when there was all kinds of room to their right. Or when there are 6 or more bikes across all riding the same speed and creating a jam. That to me is as much of a problem as pace lines. If everyone was more aware of their surroundings those going faster on the left would have more room and may not be seen in such a negative light.

CYDUKE, My son and I were not in that group of 20 you referenced. We were a group of 4 trying to stay ahead of the rain as much as we could. Still got rained on heavily before Rockford though. That was a fun day, except for the long lines at the Laundromat that evening.


KenH, August 2, 2017 at 3:59 pm

There is no call to taunt people for walking up a hill. There are so many reasons why one might do that, that assuming you know why someone is doing that and taunting them just makes you look like an idiot.

Unless you know the person you are taunting and you know for certain that they will not take offense at it. But it is very hard to be certain about that even with people you know quite well so it is best to just not taunt anyone. Instead you might spend your spare breaths making jokes and encouraging those who are still fighting their way up the hill on their bikes. One ad hoc group I was riding with on the last hill before Lansing did a bit of a Monty Python skit to distract ourselves from the pain. Seriously, I AM NOT dead yet!

I am one of the few (I assume) who was razzed a bit by a walker! I was making my way up the first hill between Harper’s Ferry and Lansing when my chain dropped on a downshift. I made my way over to the shoulder and waited for gap in the walking traffic to work on it. A few people passed without comment but just as I was about to get it back on a woman walked past me and said “You had to give up too, eh?” “Nah, ” I said, “I’m gonna try to restart once I get this chain back on.” “You’re so hard core” said she.

I get the impression from the blog posts and videos that I have seen this year that RAGBRAI is backing off a bit from the no paceline stand. Not all the way but some. If every paceline treated slower riders with respect whether they are riding from shoulder to shoulder or not no one would care about pacelines at all. Everyone who rides in a paceline and posts here claims that they do slow down and respect slower riders and they may be right. All we know is that there are plenty of pacelines who show respect for no man and that is why pacelines get so much hate on this forum. Pacelines are not incompatible with a ride like RAGBRAI in principle. In practice too many pacelines act too disrespectfully to other riders to garner many defenders here.

If I ride at my natural pace I will be passing most of the other riders most of the time, although with a low relative speed. And I will arrive at the overnight town feeling pretty spent. If I rode in a paceline I could keep up with for a day I would spend less time on the road and feel just as spent because while pacelines give you an aerodynamic advantage over a single rider, you will spend that advantage on going faster and end up at the same level of spentness at day’s end. If I slow down and ride with the crowd I will arrive later and arrive at the end town feeling like I could have gone for many more hours without distress. That is how that works for me, YMMV.


Groeny82, August 2, 2017 at 5:45 pm

For the speed I ride, I find just left of center or just right of center to be where I spend most of my time. I had a couple instances where there were 4-5 riders riding abreast and taking up the hole right lane and half the left lane and they were only going about 7-8 mph so they could talk. Nothing wrong with going slow and talking, but get to the right and ride in two rows of two. They just created a traffic jam and an awkward/dangerous situation for people trying to get around them. And only a couple people weaving all over one hole lane going up a hill. I witnessed many more situations with a rider having plenty of room and moving way to the left to pass and then a paceline comes barreling down on their rear wheel angrily yelling out “ON YOUR LEFT” and then cursing out the rider for being in their way and slowing them down and to move to the right if they were going to ride “slow.” Granted, one or two of those riders on the left could have easily been 6 feet to the right when the paceline approached, but almost all of them the rider way on the left had nowhere to go and had to push the riders he was passing to the right over so the paceline could squeeze by on the white line, and by pushing over to the right almost caused a couple of wipe outs. I’m not a fan of pacelines, if one person hops behind me to draft I’m not going to create a fuss about it as long as he keeps a safe distance, if more people hop on I get over to the right and slow down and let them pass. And for the reason that “this is how we usually ride,” that might be true when it’s just your group on the road training, and I don’t take it as a snobbish thing to say that you are better riders than other people, but you also don’t see a NASCAR driver driving 150 mph down a crowded interstate, drafting, and honking their horn at other drivers and say “It’s ok, I’m a NASCAR driver, I know what I’m doing.” It’s just not real safe.


Sexton, August 2, 2017 at 8:04 pm

JLvanpelt, Remember this; You don’t have to justify your actions to anyone. The people giving you crap in the hills are compensating for something, arrested development, low self esteem, small body parts, a dependency issue, trapped in a dead end relationship, something. They are not worthy. I think it took more courage to get off and walk when you did than try and stay on and maybe dump your bike and get hit by one of those losers.


Melinda Blankenhorn, August 2, 2017 at 8:10 pm

That is incredibly rude and inconsiderate of anyone that would criticize a walker. We all have our own motivation, training, and stories. I am 90 pounds overweight, my husband died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in December and I just started riding in January. I trained in hilly Tennessee, but still had to walk the big hills on Friday and Saturday. I will not let anyone stomp on me for that, as it took courage, persistence and passion to even get out of bed each day this spring. Be proud for what you accomplished! You tackled the same miles as those that rode.


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