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Couple Questions for a First Timer

Hey Friends!

I’ll make this short.

1) I’m nervous about the lottery. Should I be? What are the chances that the three of us (I’m going for the first time, with my wife and best friend; the three of us have never been.) won’t get in? Are there things we can do to increase our chances?

2) Should I register as a ‘team’ for the three of us? Is there any reason to?

3) Any reason NOT to consider Brancel Charters?

19 Replies

Uncle Kraig, January 10, 2019 at 10:42 am

Welcome to the time of your life!
1) Do not worry about the lottery, you will get in. If for some obscure reason you do not. You can ALWAYS buy credentials later. Just check past forums, you will see hundreds of credentials for sale.
2) Team or not, doesn’t matter much I dont believe.
3) I have not used Brancel but always heard good things about them.

See you in July. You are going to love it!


John Hampton, January 10, 2019 at 10:51 am


Okay, a follow up question as I navigate these confusing charter websites.

It seems like there’s a BIG cost discrepancy between using the charter camp amenities, and just getting the bus ride.

I’m inclined to just pay the $155/pp to take the bus to the start town, and camp with the ‘main group’ at RAGBRAI. But I’ve never been. Am I going to regret not spending the ~$200 more to ‘camp with the group’?


kicks9, January 10, 2019 at 11:50 am

So a couple of things. 1 I’ve heard if you register as a group you will get in for sure, groups get preference, at least that’s the rumor.

2. the main camp site is huge and can be loud and is usually close to the fireworks and concert of the night. If you use a charter you are likely to be away from the “hostilities.” The charters usually make it worth the extra money and you can find your bag(s).

2a. If you use the main site and truck I think you are limited to one bag per person. Most charters allow 2. Most charters have a dedicated shower truck and you might be able to get in and out easier.

So it depends on how you want to do Ragbrai. Right in the mix and enjoy the evenings or get some sleep and enjoy the ride?

Up to you. Everyone does it different, that’s why it is fun.

I personally recommend an RV, a few buddies and a dedicated driver for the week, but not an option for a solo rider.

I think I am doing team bus or charter this year. I have done charter and RV in past years.


jelly0317, January 10, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Don’t be afraid of the main campground. The beer garden, usually the site of the nightly entertainment, is often downtown, while the campground is at the fairgrounds or high school. Fireworks will probably be limited to one night a week, if that. In 34 years of using the Register baggage truck, it’s never taken me more than a few minutes to locate my bag. It helps to have something on the bag to set it apart visually from other bags, and to remember what time you loaded it on the truck in the morning. Yes, you are limited to one 50-pound bag, but why would you need more than that? Showers are located in fairly close proximity to the main campground, but the lines may be longer than with a charter.


Luv 2 Ski, January 10, 2019 at 12:41 pm

The one thing registering for a team does is that if one of the members of the team is chosen everybody gets in. It ups your chances.

I ride with a team now but I have used Brancel in the past and they are excellent. I highly recommended them, use them with confidence. I recommend spending the extra $ on a charter your first time. It takes a lot of the logistical issues out off your plate.


Geoff Butland, January 10, 2019 at 4:19 pm

You only “need” a ride back, or from, your car. I’ve never used the Ragbrai truck but haven’t really heard anything that would scare me off.

But if you want a bit of comfort and convenience a charter will:
1. Help you out if you run into problems. Last year my daughter over-did it one day and the charter carted her to the next town, along with her bike. When my own bike broke and found to be unrepairable they carted it to the end town for me, no questions asked.
2. Charter has reserved campsites and toilets. Last year Brancel had dedicated shower trucks. THAT is a big benefit in my opinion. By the time I rolled into the public showers in the afternoon the hot water was just a memory.
3. Brancel had drinks and snacks, and coffee and breakfast items for sale in the morning…

Charter – not necessary by any stretch. But definitely nice to have.



trek2300, January 10, 2019 at 7:33 pm

I’m not associated with Brancel but I have used their services for six RAGBRAIs with no complaints. In fact, I chartered with Brancel for my first RAGBRAI and every other. I like the size of their charter, not too big and not too small. Most of their crew is family or friends of family so you see the same staff faces nearly every year. You also see a lot of repeat riders on their charter so they must be doing something right. Other charters also have histories of excellent customer service so if a charter has been around for a few years, you can probably be confident that they deliver a quality product.
Have fun on the ride.


STEVEN FARMER, January 11, 2019 at 8:27 am

Hello all! I’m considering riding in 2019. I likely will come from CT alone. How do I workout the logistics? Should I rent a bike? How do I get from the airport to the start and from the finish to the airport? Should I join a group? Camp with the majority, stay with a host family? Who shuttles your belongings to the next sight? God, I have so many questions. I really need my hand held. Help.


John Hampton, January 11, 2019 at 8:33 am

Hey Steve,

Good luck!

You might have better luck getting your questions answered if you create your own thread rather than putting your questions in the reply to someone else’s questions.

I wouldn’t recommend renting a bike personally. I’m sure lots of folks do it, but there’s a higher risk of strain injury on a bike you’re not used to riding. Your own bike that you ride every day is going to be a much better option for RAGBRAI. Some of the charters work with shipping companies and you can have your bike shipped to them.

The rest of the questions, I think, would be more aptly answered by the experienced folks!


mootsman, January 11, 2019 at 11:02 am


I have to agree you should start your own thread. But logistically you might consider a charter with a tent service. Then there is one less item to haul through the airport. And some offer charters from multiple locations. PBV has a charter that leaves from outside the airport in Des Moines each year. If the end or start towns wind-up being near a regional airport that could be an option as charters have buses in both locations. Most charters have at least recommended ways of shipping your bike if you don’t want to put it through baggage on your flight. And most charters have arrangements to get you to and from the airport. Most charters have these details on their website. Email the contact for a few charters to find out how they handle the details if you have questions after visiting their website.


Ken Reed, January 11, 2019 at 11:44 am

Another advantage to riding with a team would be that they usually camp at a house in their yard. In my 12 RAGBRAIs with two separate teams, I’ve never had to camp at the main campground. Some people will actually let you sleep inside with your sleeping bag and stuff. It seems someone on the team always has a connection in an overnight. I know, I sound spoiled but that’s the way it’s worked out for me.


Geoff Butland, January 11, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Hi Steven!
I’m also from CT and I have done two RAGBRAIs (so far). Both times I actually DROVE to Iowa. Can’t say I recommend it – but I ride a recumbent and shipping it was going to be a hassle (or so I thought). First year I was solo, last year my family went with me and if we go again this year they are 1000% against driving.

For logistics I second the recommendations for a charter if it’s in your budget. They make it simple, covering all the logistics for you. But I’m biased having only ever gone with a charter.

If you do decide to drive you would reserve a parking space in a long term lot in the end town. Details on how to do that will come out later in the year closer to the ride date. If you don’t go with a charter you would need to arrange transport from the end town to the starting town….several charters offer this “transport only” service.

On the RAGBRAI main page the menu has links for FAQs, Charters, just tons of useful/helpful info. Give yourself a couple of hours to read through the website info – it is time well spent. You will probably find out some things that haven’t even OCCURRED to you yet about what to bring, what to expect… get the idea :).

It’s even more fun than you think – have a great ride!


bmyoungberg, January 11, 2019 at 8:46 pm

I save the $$ and use the free truck. One bag is plenty. Very convenient. Showers are no longer lines than charters. Main campground is not loud as someone suggested. Usually early risers there so quiet early in evening. Only heard the music or fireworks a couple of times over the years.


Chris, January 12, 2019 at 8:29 am

To add to that: We use the RAGBRAI truck and typically camp within 100′ of it. That may sound nuts, but we’re early to bed, early to rise, and so it just about everyone around us. It’s usually quiet early on because of this. We sometimes can hear the music, depending on which way the stage is facing, but most nights we have no idea there’s a concert going on. Usually it’s 1 night that’s a bit loud, but out of a week, it’s not much different than being home :)

The sound of the very dedicated, super-awesome (I can’t compliment them enough) guys and girls setting up the truck for loading at, eh, 5am, serves as a backup alarm clock, too. Doing it this way isn’t for everyone, but it works for us.

See you in July,


Andy Jelagin, January 12, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Me and two buddies were first-timers last year:

1. You shouldn’t worry about the lottery
2. Registering as a team won’t make a difference
3. We used Brancel and had zero regrets – made everything easier – will be using them again this year. Bob, Debbie, and their staff were fantastic; no question too dumb or problem too large (all with a smile).


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