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Century Days

I see the century day is 105 miles this year. The article said the last year they had a century day was 1984 but it was 1985 which also went to Mason City. The first year they called it a century day was 1978 but there were 100 mile days before and after 1978-1985.

88 Replies

Joseph Schlau, March 28, 2022 at 6:30 am

That section of U.S. Rte. 18 can be extremely busy, even when RAG isn’t around. There are sections that are poorly maintained. Maybe they’ll fill in the cavernous potholes in the segment ‘twixt Wesley and Britt, but I think it would be a mistake to ride Rte. 18 all day.

I’m not so sure the routing advice for Route 18 was meant to be helpful since the author of the post could not reasonably believe he is the only one with access to Google Map. Rather a way to tell those who voice concerns to stay away.

But you are, it seems an experienced self supported rider, familiar with this highway. Along with the normal traffic and poor maintenance, this will probably be the designated support vehicle route as well as the route for all of those extra sag wagons.

While there are a number of off route options, RAGBRAI discourages this practice. Riding on route is safer in numbers, better maintained, has readily available food and water, and most important the emergency services for rider and bikes. Something this experienced RAGBRAI rider with Google knows as well.

Britt is both a meeting town and is positioned at the 58 mile mark. This will probably be one of the ideal locations for RAGBRAI to place a “SAG Station”, a central location where you can call it a day, and have lunch while waiting your turn for transport. Doing so will at least allow more riders to try and a safe way to exit if 105 isn’t for them.

Rather than Google a straight vehicle route down 18, I calculated a hybrid route on Ride With GPS. So it would retain much of the on-route ride and bypass the 2 U shaped loops, which are there only to increase miles. A savings of 20 miles and little use of Route 18. One of several options I will consider as the time draws nearer.


HughAinATX, March 28, 2022 at 9:53 am

I do not understand the consternation for a century on a bike tour. To have fun on a tour, you need to be in shape. This is not a race so pacing and effort are not important. Really, everyone should have at least 1 80 mile day under their belts before showing up in Sergeant Bluff. I do remember my first century ride many years ago in Wichita, KS. I rode it with almost no saddle time. And yes, I was sore for days.

Flash forward 15 years and I completed my first “century without stopping” (an Ironman triathlon) in Washington with over 4,000 feet of climbing. This time, I trained.

My point is this ride is an undertaking whether you race or just picked up your first bike last week. It will be way more enjoyable if you even only get 3 hours a week of training done.

Enjoy the pass through towns. Drink a lot of fluids. Practice what calories are easier for you to digest as you WILL need to be taking in calories all day long.


garywilk, March 28, 2022 at 11:43 am

This is a ride across Iowa and there will be hard days and easy ones as there has been in years past. This will be one of the flattest 100 miles in Iowa and should not be any harder than several other days as years past. For a larger rider, the first day may even be harder. Just train for it. I have done it several times and hoping to do it many more. Please do not water it down just so everyone can do a shorter or easier ride.


Robert, March 28, 2022 at 2:32 pm

I completed my first full RAGBRAI last year. I started road biking at the age of 57 in 2018. I have completed three 100-mile rides in the past 4 years in moderately hilly Johnson County. I enjoyed the century rides but was wiped out the day after. I also had the benefit of sleeping in my air-conditioned house after my century rides and did not face three more days of long distance riding. Although I am confident that I will be able to complete the century on this year’s route, I believe it is a mistake for RAGBRAI to have not offered a shorter route that day. For many of us the point of riding RAGBRAI is the sense of accomplishment of riding from one side of Iowa to the other. One of the great things about RAGBRAI is that riders of almost any age, size and shape can do the complete route. The offer of extra SAG wagons defeats that principle.


David Rutherford, March 28, 2022 at 3:15 pm

My team and I could not agree more. I am trying to get more people out on their bikes. I have a couple that are going to ride e-assist bikes just to be part of the fun and get out there. The sag wagon will be a big defeat for many that will train their hardest. The extra 20 miles is two extra hours in the heat of the day.


Guodan, March 28, 2022 at 7:36 pm

With Garywilk on this. If you are prepared, 100 should not be too far out of your comfort zone. If you are weather bound maybe a local spin class is available. You will need more duration on the bike later but a big bump in cardio will give a head start. With the 100 mile president set by Karras you have a max for the days ride. For those who think it’s too far, what number would you pick? If 100 is 20 extra miles, than should 80 be the max? Do we tell folks that think 80 is too far to pound sand or drop the double cheeseburger and train harder? Those who don’t like 80 miles might enjoy metric centurys. Do you go to 62 mile days and nothing further? Did the folks who created Ragbrai say “now here’s a ride for everybody, no matter their age, size, or conditioning” ? I was a kid working my first job, in a bike shop, when the first ragbrai happened. I know and love those old bikes but what we have now is light years removed from the gear Karras had. Given the bikes, the training videos, the spin classes, and other amazing resources, maybe after 50 years the ride should get longer, not shorter.


maddog, March 29, 2022 at 12:28 am

I’ve never ridden a century, but it can’t be harder than running a marathon so I’m not worried at all. If people don’t want to ride 105 in one day, an easy solution is bike 25 miles from Emmetsburg to Algona on tuesday afternoon. Then your day 3 and day 4 mileage would be roughly 80 each day. Yes you would need to find a creative solution for your gear, if not self supported.


David Rutherford, March 29, 2022 at 11:15 am

I think the best question I was asked is, “why did they stop doing them in the first place”? Has anyone researched it? I hope this has had a little more thought than it is a tribute. An earlier comment mentioned how big a tribute is it having so many have to SAG in and feel discouraged even though they could have completed the task of riding across Iowa. When 80% of participants said no thank you and you force it any way what is this saying to your riders? Why is everyone forced to do it, they have had the loop for those interested and all were happy. Could be a huge mistake. As far as one person said – don’t water it down…well I am hearing from my people, you can still do your loop and wear your patch proudly no need to ruin the experience for the masses.


dalebob, March 29, 2022 at 11:35 am

I am sure I am not the first one to gaze upon the map of pass thru towns and think,” A person could skip Emmetsburg and just go on to Whittemore and camp there. Still a long day but no backtracking and you could avoid the crazy early start logjam that is bound to happen that day. Not saying our team is considering this option, we will probably hit Emmetsburg, stay out too late dancing and get a late start and be pooped by the time we finally get to Mason City. Might be a two chocolate-milk day for me.


Joseph Schlau, March 29, 2022 at 1:02 pm

This year the early registration fee was $175 dollars. Ragbrai is finding it necessary to add vehicles and staff to cover for the anticipated increase in SAGs on day 4, some of it coming in from other events in the nation.

With the increase in fuel prices and costs overall, who do you think is going to foot the bill on this? Next year’s riders of course.


Joseph Schlau, March 29, 2022 at 1:11 pm

I think the best question I was asked is, “why did they stop doing them in the first place”? Has anyone researched it? I hope this has had a little more thought than it is a tribute.

My first Ragbrai rides were in 04 and 05 on a mountain bike. Part of the route was on gravel roads. Another tradition that went away in 06 and beyond. From the number of riders on road bikes crashing on the gravel and ambulances, I see why. Now maybe Ragbrai can return to this mandatory gravel tradition and call it a tribute too.


Surlyman!, March 29, 2022 at 1:49 pm

I think most are looking at it wrong…. you paid for a 65 mile day and you are getting a bonus 40 miles for FREE!!!! WHAT A DEAL!! Man up or stay home..


Guodan, March 29, 2022 at 2:14 pm

Speaking of man up…..Amanda, in the other thread, pointed out that she did 3 consecutive days of 95+ in the 2001 Ragbrai. Makes 105 followed with a 40 mile recovery day seem like a walk in the park. Wonder how that 2001 route would be received today……


David Rutherford, March 29, 2022 at 2:25 pm

You know this is a for profit organization right…? (Stay home?) I’m going to assume you are not the spokesperson for the group… lol


Mark47n, March 29, 2022 at 4:31 pm

I’m a bit surprised at the complaining about a century day. No one promised a still through the garden, it’s 450 miles, or so. The length of the days are based on the towns, available services and whether or not they’re willing to play host, overnight, to thousands of cyclists. The solution that the planners came up with is increased SAG support for that day, which is an eminently reasonable solution.

For those of us that registered prior to the route being announce, we all knew that this was a possibility, despite how long it’s been since the las mandatory century day and we have nothing to complain about since we bought in blind. For those that are registering after these numbers were announced, well, you have no excuse. All that said, the day before and after the century are short, 56 and 48 miles respectively so there’s a decent build for mileage in the 3 days before the century.

This event is not a public service, it’s a for profit venture. If that offends you then don’t participate. Why someone would begrudge someone a little cash in their pocket at the end of this venture is beyond me. Many such events are for-profit, or are for special interests groups that support cycling. That said, I’d say that this event supports cycling.

I’m going. I plan to train so that I’ll be in shape for this event and so that I don’t feel like hell every night.

For those that are spending there time worrying about it, well, there isn’t anything I do that will convince you that this is more of a mental barrier than a physical one. Every year (except, perhaps, that last two) more than 10,000 cyclists complete the STP, or the Seattle to Portland a two day ride covering 208 miles and 5000’+ of elevation gain, and the RSVP, of the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party, 186 miles and 6330′ of gain. I’ve watched all sorts of people do this on all sorts of vehicles. Unicycles, skates, skateboards, velocipedes, double stacked bikes, etc. While not all finish, for a variety of reason…I helped out a guy who busted the rear derailleur mount off of his very expensive frame, to simple exhaustion.

Finally, cycling is an individual activity. No one can get you through it but yourself. Yes, a good team can form up a fast peloton, perhaps someone’s carrying some extra stuff for others but really it’s about what you can and can’t do. You have to train for it. You have to ride it, and you have no one to blame but yourself…for anything.


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