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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

Carl Anderson, August 3, 2017 at 4:49 am

I guess I understand the pace line ,but I have to chuckle to myself when I see them crash. Most of iowa roads are not in good enough shape to do them. I wonder if very many people know about the other bike ride across iowa. They have bike iowa in a day.Just my opinion, but that would be a better venue for pace line. There are also the OK 200 which is a ride from Des Moines to Okaboji. They specifically states they ride between 18 to 22 mph.
While I have no problem with pace lines because I like to ride right and take my time at 10 to 13 mph .I do think maybe those that like speed on a bicycle the other 2 rides would be a better ride for them. But under no circumstances in Ragbrai is there a cause for rude behavior. After all it is a ride. And it is not just pace lines that have rude people I had seen it with single people also. All I do is shrug it off it is my vacation. I am not going to let a few rude people ruin my time off from work


Barin Beard, August 3, 2017 at 6:09 am

My first RAGBRAI. I’ve been a cyclist for a long time. I’ve done long distance tours both by road bike and by mountain bike, raced both road and mountain, done gran fondos and centuries, but never have experienced anything quite like RAGBRAI. There were a few times I got barked at, mainly for my squirrellyness. At least once, on a righthand turn, I went into criterium/mountain single track racing mode and took an inside line that made another rider nervous. Sorry about that whoever you were.
No shame in walking hills. We have all done it. It is part of game when single speeding on mountain bikes, but I’ve also been forced off my bike on my road bike. No shame.
BTW, I saw your Zero Ducks jersey on that last day and wanted to ask what it meant.


Michrider !!!, August 3, 2017 at 10:23 am

As Jerry Springer likes to ask,
“Can’t we just be nice to each other”???


Sandaltan ., August 3, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Good for you Sunflower!! When those people get behind a semi in a passing lane do they lay on the horn? Of course not.



Craig Parson, August 3, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Carl Anderson, that attitude reminds me off the comments I hear when someone is hit by a car “serves em right”. That comment may be slightly humorous to you, but not to me.

Riding fast is fun for some, so let us. Riding slow is just not fun to me, I don’t enjoy it but people can do whatever they want. I feel off balance like I am going to fall forward when I don’t put lots of effort in and any speed that doesn’t create it’s own breeze makes me miserable. It can be done safely, sorry if not everyone has the brainpower or common sense to do it but that doesn’t mean everyone in that category deserves physical harm.

I also think people confuse a loud “on your left” with anger somehow. When you are trying to give ample warning to someone so they have time to safely move over you need to be loud. There are radios and wind noise to overpower, just in case. I got a “F*$K YOU” response from a guy this year to ‘on your left” that I said loudly to someone far ahead. This guy was right next to me as I said it and not at all who I was calling out to. I said on your left a lot this year along with lot’s of thank you sir’s, thank you mam’s and good mornings. I rode on a tandem this year and there were a few hills where we really had to grind up slowly, I moved right. If everyone did this then it would not be a problem having people of different speeds.

The most dangerous thing this year was people not leaving room on the left on the downhills. Ragbrai obviously chose those hills because they would be fun to coast down but people all assumed they were the fastest thing out there since they had their head down and went far left. There was a 4×8 ft yellow sign that said “move right”. We were a 400lb tandem team and even so I left room downhill because you never know when a velomobile may need through on the left.

I just do my best to be safe myself and let people ride their own ride. If you thought I was “yelling” at you I wasn’t. I was just making sure people got clear signals so everyone was safer. Just curious would a ridiculously loud stereo be a better warning?



Carl Anderson, August 3, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Craig I did not mean to insult you, I wish no one harm on Ragbrai, But being from the area, I have ridden on some pretty rough Roads. Semis tend to buzz by you at 65mph. You really don’t know what’s out there. I have have deer run beside me , and skunks come out of nowhere land. You add 20000 people to that mix plus a few angry drivers because they don’t like taking a different route one day, because of the mix of experience riding fast in a pace line could be a recipe for disaster. I should not have said chuckle, but more wondering why with that mix would you want to. But you explain that. With that being said I did enjoy this year,but the next time it is a northern route, I think I will work one of the stands or just sit and watch. I like a southern route lots better with fewer people on it so I can find space to go go at my speed up a hill,instead of getting off when it got to crowded and then make anothe run. Ragbrai is fun, but so is exploring with a group or by yourself through these town before or after Ragbrai.


mclousing, August 4, 2017 at 8:20 am

[quote quote=1275629]I also think people confuse a loud “on your left” with anger somehow. When you are trying to give ample warning to someone so they have time to safely move over you need to be loud. [/quote]

Out of Curiosity when did the quote “ON YOUR LEFT” change from Hold your line we are passing on your left to you need to move over to make room. It is always the responsibility of the overtaker to verify there is room, when I hear on your left I hold my line with the assumption they have a path they want to take. You need to adjust your attitude if you want On your left to mean move over I am more important than you.


Niles, August 4, 2017 at 9:00 am

As much as I dislike pace line, esp. double pace line, I have to be with Craig and disagree with mclousing. “Hold your line” is the right way when you are in the right line. When the road is not crowded but a cluster of riders occupy the whole width of road in slow speed and get absorbed in chatting or whatever, you need to hear that “On your left” to move over to open the passing path on your left, for the common good of all riders.

Also “slowing down and enjoy the ride” is the right slogan but you can’t assume everybody to ride as your own pace or slower than yours is the best/only way. Craig makes the point that someone need to ride faster (as sometime/section) to be enjoyable and I agree. I usually ride slow (very slow) in the morning with my group’s “socialites” to stop everywhere and long period. But after the meeting town in the afternoon, even with the stimulation of my caffeine gel, I have to get away the social part of my group and right faster to catch up the fast part of my group to keep me awake. Otherwise, I just feel there was no energy left. But as soon as I speed up, I become awake and more alert to my surroundings — it’s safer to me and other riders. Being said “speed up”, I don’t crash into crowd. I ride faster when the road is open. As soon as I pass from left and get a comfortable distance from the riders I passed, I move onto the center and let my left side open — because I know there are always people rider faster than me and I don’t “hold (or hog?) my line (the mine? we share)”.


mclousing, August 4, 2017 at 9:41 am

We have always ridden as far right as possible, there were many times we actually passed on right because people sitting in the left. But I will always disagree with the on your left with you, it is HOLD YOUR LINE. Every group ride I have ever been on has that philosophy. Now there were many times I wanted to yell out “Hold Your Line Sommers” but that is part of riding with 20,000 people all of disparite riding abilities. I personally can hang with the 20+ mph people and the 8 mph people I disagree with the philosophy that the 8 mph is harder because I am used to the 20, but you can ride the way you want.


Niles, August 4, 2017 at 10:18 am

If “HOLD YOUR LINE” in capital case means “hog the whole width of road” or “stay (long) on left while space available on your right”, I’ll beg for difference. You can pass from right, from middle. But it doesn’t mean it’s the more reasonable way all the time. When there are multiple paths and you are holding your line without swing, do you hear people call “on your left”? At least I don’t call. I’ll just pass and live your highness undisturbed. As matter of fact, I said exactly in another time that I prefer people not being so polite to call. But the the pass path become narrow, the LEFT is my preferred path, and I believe it is also “the” path in the common sense for majority (did I just make redundant use of common and major? But I feel like to be preemptive). In the crowded launching section of in/out town or beer/food stop, I never hear “on your left” call either.

It is a paradox to say “you can ride (run/eat/drink/enjoy/do) in you own way” — as the way I acknowledge your opinion.


Geoff Butland, August 4, 2017 at 11:19 am

This is an interesting discussion. From what I recall from the Ride Right video it was assumed you would always move as far to the right as you could based on your speed. So if you were going faster than the folks on your right you could move left to overtake. Common sense obviously (I would hope) demands you look to your left to see if there is anyone a) there or b) approaching. Basic Interstate etiquette.
The “On Your Left” warning was described in the video more as “Hold Your Line, I’m coming through” when overtaking a slower rider so they don’t unexpectedly merge into you. I often heard it when I was boxed in and looking to overtake when there was a rider in my blind spot letting me know they were riding past.
There is no reason slow and fast riders can’t peacefully coexist. And there is no reason to frown upon how somebody is riding their bike IF THEY ARE BEING SAFE. If a paceline has room to come through 10-15 mph faster than the larger group then that should be fine, and an “On Your Left” will help ensure their lane remains open. My sole complaint against a couple of pacelines was when they were getting riled because the slower riders were not making room for them. That isn’t safe. Now you have high(er) speed riders merging with low speed riders. You have the potential for something to go wrong which can domino into a big mess. Yes, in those situations the slower riders were clearly at fault for clogging up the “passing lane” and not “riding right”. But trying to teach Ride Right lessons to errant 12mph riders as you approach at 30 mph is just a bad idea.


Jboz, August 4, 2017 at 11:32 am

I’m not a slow rider, but being on a recumbent trike, I tend to do uphills fairly slowly focusing more on my heart rate than my speed. On uphills, I’m always far, far right with my right front wheel literally on the edge…and being on three wheels, it’s exceptionally easy to hold that line no matter how slow. There were a few times when I was all the way right, plodding my way up a hill, and nobody else around me except one other slow rider, but who was slightly faster than me up the hill. And I always thought it odd to hear the “ON YOUR LEFT” cry when a) I was all the way right and clearly holding my line, and b) there was nobody to the left of the overtaking rider. Seemed pretty unnecessary, considering that the rider could have given me easily 10 feet of clearance if he/she wanted to. I chalked it up to the fact that the rider probably had been hearing ON YOUR RIGHT quite a bit that day, and it was a momentary ego trip to call it out to someone else for a change. I wasn’t offended by it, but I thought it was kind of comical considering the circumstances and coming from a rider who was very slow overall relative to the majority of the pack.


Michrider !!!, August 4, 2017 at 6:53 pm

RAGBRAI 2017 is in the past. I’m not happy to have missed it. However, I’m working on getting back into riding shape with the Big Orange Trike! I plan on being in Iowa in 2018. Feel free to say “On your left” or just say hello!!!
BTW, RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


Roy Trent, August 8, 2017 at 7:30 pm

this was our first Ragbrai and we are sorry to hear there were some rude comments directed toward slower riders on the hills. My wife walked a couple of hills and I just waited for her, on the far left shoulder, at the top. we had a great time and are recruiting people for next year.

We rode at a pace higher than the average speed the first six days but went out of our way to let people know our intentions when passing. I would also follow up “on your left” with “you are good, just hold your line” and “Thanks” as I went by. We would also move back right towards center as soon as we were cleared to allow faster riders to pass us. There were plenty of people who were clueless about Ride Right. We had to constantly look out for people riding left of center at 12 mph on the flats but I get it, it’s Ragbrai and i have some responsibility to look out for those unaware riders.

My closest call was with the hard shell yellow bullet bike. I wish he had a bell or horn to substitute for “on your left”. His cockpit shell prevented him from being heard and his low profile allowed him to sneak up on me under the normal vision of my mirror. He startled me on one occasion but I was able to hold my line without any incident as he passed. That bike was really quiet and fast! I have no problem with him and the bike but he has some responsibility since he is not a typical bike.

Lastly, just a reminder to riders that “biker on” does not give you the right of way to just jump on the road, especially when there is no hole in which to jump. “biker on” simply lets the approaching riders know your desire to enter. However, often there is no room for the far right riders to move left safely to create a hole for you. This was a particular problem after snack stops and pass thru towns. Also, when you do see an opening and enter the flow, PLEASE stay within the first couple of feet of the right shoulder. PLEASE do not drift/weave/wobble 6 feet to the left while looking down to find your pedals. The pedals are right where you left them when you got off the bike, there is no need to stare at them – just get up to your speed and watch out for other bikes.

Seeya next year!!!


KenH, August 9, 2017 at 7:41 am

People use “On your left” in all sorts of ways, unfortunately. Far too many fast riders think that it means “GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!” and if you get a bad reaction when you use the phrase then that is what they think you are meaning by it. I’m perfectly fine with people riding as fast or as slow as they like on this ride. I am perfectly fine with people riding alone or in groups on this ride. But if you are a fast rider (and we are almost all faster than some folks on the road) you need to know that “On your left” means “hold your line, I’m going by you in a space that is clearly wide enough to allow me to do that safely”. If there is no space, or if it is too narrow to safely use then you need to slow down and wait. Sorry.

No one has any fundamental right to pass anyone else on this ride. No one. If there is space, if it is safe to use, then sure, you may pass as many people as you like. You need to respect other riders however, whether they are doing what you think they should be doing or not. You need to respect them to the point of slowing down and waiting when that is necessary. If all fast riders and all pacelines were willing to do that you would never hear another bad word on this subject.

We need another term to use when other riders are in our way and we would like them to move out of our way when it is safe and convenient for them to do that. I’d suggest “Waiting” or “Waiting on your left/right”. It would convey accurately to the people in front of you what your intentions are and it would send yourself a subliminal message that you do in fact need to be polite and wait in some situations on this ride.

And we all need to keep in mind that the person in front of us or off to one side or the other may be deaf. No amount of shouting is going to convey your intentions to a deaf person. But if you treat everyone as if they were deaf and if you give everyone the same consideration and the same clearance you would give a deaf person, then you are truly RIDING RIGHT!


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