The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

Charter recommendations

I am a first-time Ragbrai rider. Spent a lot of time reading what I can about the ride.

I’m convinced that a Charter is the way to go for me. I want one that will supply a tent & set it up & take it down. I know people will say that is not the “real” Ragbrai experience, but oh well.

I am looking for recommendations / reviews. I know waiting in line is part of the deal but it seems to me that the Charters that have their own Potties & Showers would solve at least some of that.

Any thoughts?

21 Replies

Groeny82, January 10, 2019 at 4:30 am

Pork Belly Ventures will be recommended often. I have never used a charter but people seem to really like them. Sounds like they do everything for you and have everything you could ever need. Sounds like what you are after.

#1297936

Chris, January 10, 2019 at 7:00 am

I’ll add to that: Check out Brancel Charters. I’ve used them for transport for years and have nothing but good to say about them. Smaller charter, family run, fantastic people!

Indeed, though: Pork Belly Ventures (you’ll also see them simply called PBV) might be what you’re looking for. Bubba’s Pampered Peddlers is another that has a solid reputation.

Complete aside: ” I know people will say that is not the “real” Ragbrai experience, but oh well.” … RAGBRAI is what you make of it. Real for some is sleeping under the stars, for others is in the Pork Palace with the air conditioning on high watching TV. We’re all just happy to have another rider along that’s having a good time. 🙂

See you in July
-Chris

#1297938

kicks9, January 10, 2019 at 7:49 am

I think I am going Brancels this year, and have done PBV in the past. PBV was great had entertainment in camp and lots of extra goodies. The down side is they are usually pretty far away from the main events. Extra miles when you think its a 70 mile day and it ends up being 75 for the extra from and to miles to PBV camp. They do have their own shower truck. Ragbrai has a shuttle in most towns so you can get into town and back to camp if you don’t want to ride the bike anymore after a shower etc…

Do Ragbrai your way, honestly no one cares how you do it when you are there.

#1297939

Scott Matter, January 10, 2019 at 10:16 am

Bike World (https://www.bikeworldiowa.com/events/ragbrai-pg936.htm) offers a fantastic charter service. I’ve done RAGBRAI with them for several years and would enthusiastically recommend Bike World.

#1297945

Jeff Hansen, January 10, 2019 at 11:10 am

All the above do good I think. I have heard that PBV is really big and far from events in the town. With that said my wife, friend, and I us Bikes To You out of Grinnell Iowa. They have shower truck, porta pooties, tent service, and I hear that they are going to have some kind of washer to do laundry this year

#1297949

George A, January 10, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Charters are great. I have used Brancel in the past and I would recommend them highly. For First Timers I highly recommend going with a Charter. There are many good ones it just depends what services you want and based on what you have said I think there are only a couple that “do it all for you.” PBV is the biggest and provides the most amenities. I have never used them to camp but I have for airport transportation. They know what they are doing and are very well organized. A lot of happy people do use them for the full boat so they must be doing something right.

I personally prefer setting up my own tent and the family community of my current 20-30 member team.

What ever you decide have fun. Be aware that you may get hooked and have to block out the last full week in July for years to come.

#1297956

Mike Howe, January 11, 2019 at 8:53 am

Ive used PBV the last two years and they are great. Friendly people, great amenities, and provide excellent service. They do tend to be far away from the downtown events but there is always a shuttle service to take you to and from town.

As stated above… be very careful what youre signing up for because youre going to have a blast and want to keep doing ragbrai for years to come. My only regret about ragbrai is not doing do it sooner!

#1297967

mootsman, January 11, 2019 at 10:47 am

I liked PBV also for the same reasons mentioned. Additionally I used their tent service which not only put up a tent of theirs for you each day, they deliver and pickup your luggage to/from the tent each day. That saves a daily search for luggage in a big pile. Included are 3 dinners during the week and you can purchase from PBV dinners the rest of the evenings. Did anyone mention their flush-toilet trailer you can use too….

#1297970

Geoff Butland, January 11, 2019 at 3:07 pm

I’ll add another plug for Brancel. The only thing they don’t offer on sign up is tent service, but they do say you can negotiate that with the staff directly. Their staff is just extraordinarily friendly and helpful – I am sure you will be able to work out the tent situation.
Brancel had shower trucks last year and for me that is the #1 reason to use a charter. My first ride I used the public showers and they got the job done, but for similar money a shower truck gets you a private shower stall, all the hot water you want, and if it’s associated with your charter, shorter lines.
And as far as “not the real RAGBRAI”….bah! You’re on vacation – make yourself as comfortable as you like!

#1297985

KenH, January 13, 2019 at 10:08 pm

If you can easily afford Brancel or Bubbas or PBV I have no recommendations, from what I hear they do a fine job for their customers. If you cannot afford one of the big boys but you would still like to have the help of a charter, or if your loved ones back home want you to go with a charter so that they know who to contact if you fail to report in some evening then my recommendation is to not be afraid of the smaller, lower cost charters. The one year I went with a charter it was the very reasonably priced Riverbend Club charter. They provided services that made my life easier and added to my enjoyment of the ride as well as giving my wife confidence that she could contact someone who would know something about my status if she needed to. Every other year I have traveled with a small team that shared the driving of the team vehicle among themselves and that is the plan this year too. Next year, if there is a next year for me, I want to go with Riverbend again however so that I can do the full ride again.

#1298038

Jason Stoller, January 14, 2019 at 9:35 pm

PBV or Bancells are both good choices

Jason

#1298100

AlwaysaHawkeye, January 30, 2019 at 12:45 am

This will be my 4th year in a row riding RAGBRAI.
I am from Iowa and live in Atlanta, Georgia. Friends in my local cycling clubs ride with me.

Our 1st year we used Pork Belly Ventures.
They were great for a first timer and I had a really good experience.
They are BIG which means they require a bigger footprint for all the campers and their trucks so they often can’t get as close to the Main Street of events in the overnight towns.
BIG as in 1,000+ campers.
They run things like a well oiled machine and everything is taken care of.
They have lots of lines. Lines for tire pressure pumps, lines for toilets, lines for food, lines for showers (not uncommon for shower trucks but they allow outsiders to pay and PBV campers do not get priority so it’s a first come first serve which is frustrating).
They give you free beer but charge you for water.
Their tents options are smaller than other charters.
They do not have bike racks.
I found they really encourage you to stay in their camp, eat their buffets and listen to their musical performers which takes away from the experience of RAGBRAI IMO as the overnight towns put in a lot of hard work to welcome you to their town.
Because they offer more like a few buffets and entertainment, they are more expensive.

The next year we tried Padres Cycle Inn.
WE LOVE PADRES CYCLE INN!!!
Jimmy and Dave/Susie are awesome hosts!
Very organized set-up.
Reasonably priced.
Only 100 campers so they often are able to set up camp closer to Main Street attractions than bigger charters.
Tents are bigger than PBV! You can stand up in their bigger tents too.
Inflated air mattresses included and your luggage transported in and out of your tent for you. If it’s cold at night, they will even bring packing blankets from the bike van to your tent.
Bike racks! No turning your bike upside down or laying it by your tent.
They brew great coffee each morning and it’s ready early.
Water and Gatorade jugs to refill your bottles.
Their own Porta-potty’s- not all smaller charter have their own.
Hand washing station.
Large social tent with chairs.
Table with snacks at end of day.
Electronic Charging Station
Bike repair stands
They do not have their own shower trucks but always try to camp close to a school/facility with showers or shower trucks. They can call for a golf cart to pick you up from camp if the shower trucks are too far. They provide disposable towels (like giant body paper towels and they work!).
Their workers are often high school kids they hire for the ride and campers give a nice tip at the end that is shared between them.
Sodas and beer provided in coolers in camp. Padres has some beer and encourages campers who like to indulge to pick up more and share. I like to bring a nice selection of local IPA beers from Georgia to share!
They charter out of St Louis but you can just meet them at start of ride if you don’t need transportation.

We used Padres Cycle Inn our 3rd year!
Part of the GA group used Brancel the 2nd year and switched to Padres the 3rd year too.

We are ALL using Padres Cycle Inn this year.
With only 100 campers, it feels like family!!!

#1298955

genefruit, January 30, 2019 at 7:33 am

Great writeup for Padre’s. Unfortunately for those who haven’t signed up with them already, their page says they are sold out. I’ve used Bubba’s for the last four years and most of the Padre amenities are also available with Bubba. Smaller footprint than PBV and the service has been good.

#1298964

bricycle Rothberg, February 18, 2019 at 6:25 pm

Well, thanks for all the great advice. Much appreciated!

I am interested in the “Bikes to You” charter. They seem to have a lot of what I am looking for. I know they are an Iowa bike shop & sponsor the Podcast. That seems admirable.

But I see very little in the way of reviews. Does anybody have any experience using them?

#1299875

PHIL LANZAROTTO, February 20, 2019 at 6:37 pm

I have used Bikes to You on 2 occasions. Great group of people. They are a small charter, maybe 100+- in the group. Hot showers,porta potties,drinks and snacks at the end of the day.Also have tent service, provide transportation to and from the start and ending towns. I used PBV last year for the sole reason that along with there tent service they also put your bags in the tent. I’m in a position now because of age and back issues that carrying my gear is just too much for me. PBV is a outstanding organization . With that said, if my bags weren’t an issue I would choose Bikes to You over PBV simply because of the smaller amount of people in camp. Either way you can’t go wrong.

#1299950

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