Eighteen days out and I’m as excited as a high school boy on his first date. Well, actually this is my first date with Ragbrai.
My questions are solely based on my inexperience, but what can I expect on day 1? Is there some sort of official start or is it ‘get up and go’? What time will most people be on the road?
Thanks in advance
Welcome to RAGBRAI! There really is no official start time – ride when you’re up and ready! That being said, this is what RAGBRAI says about start/end time:
Designated RAGBRAI hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. when support vehicles will be on the route. We recommend that no biker start out before sunrise or finish after 6 p.m. On the final day, Saturday, the route closes at 2 p.m.
We usually try to be on the road around 7:00. Bike traffic is usually pretty heavy between 6:30 and 9:00 am, I’d say.
I last rode in 2012, which was very hot. A lot of riders were getting on the road early to avoid the heat. I often started at 5:30, and there were bikes as far as I could see in front and behind me.
Day 1 of my first RAGBRAI 10 years ago started at 4:30 AM when a nearby wise a$$ camper decided to shout for everyone to wake up and get going. I had spent the whole winter before looking at the RAGBRAI web site and just knew the route did not open for at least anther hour or two and thought I would get lost if I got out there too early. But not being able to go back to sleep, I packed up, dropped my gear onto the truck and headed to the route. I could absolutely not believe my eyes. For as far as you could see in either direction, both lanes of the road were packed with cyclists. Brought tears to my eyes! I just stood there dumbfounded. Truly an amazing sight first time out….
My impression of the first morning on my first Ragbrai was basically: This is crowded and these people don’t have control of their bikes. I need to make sure I have a “bubble” around me to protect myself. Nobody seemed to have the skill to take a drink without swerving 18 inches or was aware that anyone else was around them. Keep in mind my sample size was small and I’m exaggerating ( a little).
It was tightly packed stop and go to get out of town, everyone was wobbly and unable to hold a line and not communicating well. This problem just seemed to fade as time went on, the crowd spread and people kind of tuned in to each other. There is not a time to be on the road alone. Even off the route you will not be the lone cyclist.
If you want to dip your tire be prepared to wait as everyone thinks it’s a photo shoot and they need to take 15 selfies. You do not need to dip your tire and you definitely don’t need to do it in the exact spot everyone else is. Walk down 25 yards and create your own spot or be prepared to stand around.
I clearly remember my Day 1 in 2014. Coming out of Pork Belly campsite, standing on the gravel shoulder of the road, overwhelmed by the insane mass of cyclists on the road, not sure how the heck I was going to mount and blend into this sea of cyclists. It was about 7am.
Kwog is right about the unsteady riders at the beginning. It took a couple of pass through towns for the mass to thin out a bit, as riders take various amounts of time in each town. Eventually the “peleton” sorts itself out, and most riders become predictable, steady and communicative riders.
Just go easy, keep your line, not a race (as you have heard/read countless times), and ease into the breakfast town. Set your bike down, enjoy your first road Kybo break, munch on a breakfast burrito perhaps, wash it down with a magical Bloody Mary!
BTW, get ready to walk your bike a lot. That was probably my most surprising “discovery” that first day. Every town, as you come in, you will hear a wave of “Rider Off!” as bikers dismount as they hit town. Make sure you yell out the same for those cyclists behind you – you will need to be belting out your moves throughout the week.
Your excitement for Ragbrai is well-founded: A Week in the Corn is Truly Magical. I’ve been waiting for two years to get back, I talk about Ragbrai like a religious fanatic to anyone that will listen. I can talk for hours about butt butter, saddles, training, PBV, pass through towns, all that beautiful Iowa pork, even Kybos!
I agree that your first morning at RAGBRAI is likely to be a magical/mystical experience. It is unlikely that you have ever been on a ride like this one. I got up that first morning with my buddies, we got our bikes and gear adjusted, and as we pushed off into the crowd I just basked in the wonder of it. These are my people, I thought, this is where I belong.
On a more practical level, no, there isn’t an official start. There is a safety meeting, a support driver’s meeting, and some kind of opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon. I’ve never been to any of them because we have always arrived too late to catch them but I recommend attending the safety and driver’s meetings if you can. Sunday morning you will likely just wake up with the crowd noise, whether some overenthusiastic clown intentionally wakes up everyone within earshot or not! Get dressed, stow your gear, give your bags to whatever support vehicle crew you have chosen to go with, and join the party!
Of course you can try to sleep in if you prefer. Just be sure you know the schedule of the support crew you use so that you get your gear to them in time. Some like to travel behind the crowd to avoid it but still get the town services and so they leave late. Some like to leave early because they like to avoid the heat even if the first few pass through towns aren’t open for business yet when they reach them. Or because they are unreformed Type-A people! Do bring lights for you bike if you have any intention of riding before dawn or after sunset. Almost all the reports of car-bike accidents that I have heard of during RAGBRAI have involved riding when it was dark and more so in the morning than the evening. Very few of them end well for the cyclist….
Most of leave between 6 and 8 because the crowd woke us, our gear needs to be on the truck by 7, we’ve nothing else to do really, and gosh-darn-it it is just a glorious day to ride a bike in the wonderful state of Iowa! Ok, some mornings it is pouring down rain but what else can you do??
I’m sorry but the dip site is a place where you are supposed to take 15 selfies!! You need to have an attitude adjustment to enjoy this ride. Be patient, be kind, be helpful, be patient, be joyous, be the person you have always striven to be, and of course be patient! Everything is going to take more time than you think it should, that just gives you more time to chat with the friends you met 15 seconds ago. The lines at Chriscakes, Beekmans, Mr. Porkchop, Farmboys, … may be long but they are worth waiting in. If the wait to dip bothers you then you can always volunteer to take pictures for those in front of you while you wait.
There is no real dip site at the start this year. One hears that they will be spraying Missouri River water on the route for us to ride through in lieu of a real dip site. If that is true then no problem and no pictures at the start. Some of us are considering taking the 20 mile round trip ride to the actual river, on Saturday in my case, but do that at your own risk. I doubt there will be much of a crowd even if we each take 100 selfies. I’m even considering taking the bridge to Plattsmouth, NE and dipping on the wrong side of the river. Just because. If you hit the Mississippi with the crowd then there will be a long wait there but most of us will have successfully adjusted our attitudes to RAGBRAI normal time by then!
You are going to love this week, trust us!!
kwog is spot on with his assessment of the majority of riders. I have 16 years of RAGBRAI and the morning of Day 1 is certainly the most stressful. People are excited – rightly so! – people are careless, people think they’re faster than they really are – there is always someone faster behind you – and they clog those hills getting out of the river bottom. Every year I see people stopping or falling over on the morning hills of Day 1. Keep your wits about you, downshift before you need to, learn how to efficiently and effectively shift gears whilst riding uphill and get used to the crowds as it is part of the like-minded experience we’re all there for. We’ve found that leaving 8ish in the morning helps with avoiding the most popular departure time of around 7. Cheers and have fun!
I understand that pictures will be taken but it can be taken to an extreme, if the dip site is not wide enough to get the job done you should be courteous and think of others. Keep it short and keep the line flowing, if everyone took all the pictures they wanted it would have taken the whole week to funnel people through that dip site. My point “without being condescending” was that it is not necessary to dip your tire or to wait in line and use the official location.
“I’m sorry but the dip site is a place where you are supposed to take 15 selfies!! You need to have an attitude adjustment to enjoy this ride. Be patient, be kind, be helpful, be patient, be joyous, be the person you have always striven to be, and of course be patient! Everything is going to take more time than you think it should, that just gives you more time to chat with the friends you met 15 seconds ago. The lines at Chriscakes, Beekmans, Mr. Porkchop, Farmboys, … may be long but they are worth waiting in. If the wait to dip bothers you then you can always volunteer to take pictures for those in front of you while you wait. ” by Ken above
No better words can be said. Be kind. I fell in love on my one and only ride of Ragbrai in 2014 because of the overall kindness. It is a true display of human bonding and instant friendships that’ll amaze you as much as seeing thousands of red taillights in front of you no matter how early you leave. Go out of your way to say high and interact with others, don’t make anyone take 15 selfies, ask to help and take the picture for them.
My only suggestion for your first date with RAGBRAI is go slow (pace out your day). Everybody is anxious on Sunday and not yet experienced at riding in the big group. As a result, my team will attempt to leave Glenwood no earlier that 8 AM. If you get caught in the big crowd, feel free to stop in Malvern for 2 hours or more and watch the crowd go by.
Although you can ride straight through and arrive in camp before noon, resist that urge. You can ride that way at home. Stop in each town. Talk to the locals (see if you can find the mayor of each town!). Visit a food stand out in the middle of nowhere. Try to meet riders from many different states & foreign countries. Eat a new flavor of pie that you have never tried. Take a nap under a tree in the middle of the day. Note your bags will still be waiting for you even if you do not claim them until 6 PM.
RAGBRAI is a big beautiful week-long date. Every day of the week is an unique “first date” experience. It will be Friday night before you know it. If you do it right, you will be more than anxious for your 2017 week long “first” date!
There is nothing wrong with the average RAGBRAI rider on day 1 or any other day. They are not club racers. They are not paceline riders. They are decent, ordinary people riding their bikes to the best of their abilities and experience. If you expect them to hold their lines while you pass them with a couple of cm to spare you are going to cause an accident because they ain’t gonna do that! Leave plenty of room, slow down when you have to, and stay alert and you will have no problems. Between all the registered newbies with day bands starting today and the hey-let’s-ride-RAGBRAI-today-on-a-whim bandits you can meet a fair share of unschooled riders on any day of the week. Some days have more bandits than registered riders if the Register is honest about their 10k limit on wristbands. You cannot count on what you consider good road manners from other riders at RAGBRAI so you need to rely instead on your own good judgement and restraint. If that puts a dent in your average speed then so be it, better to be safe than to be quick. There are plenty of other rides where you can light up the afterburners.
The first day will be more crowded than the rest of the week. Expect to take off bumper to bumper, curb to curb. Ride Right. Preach Ride Right, practice Ride Right. If there is room to the right, move over. Don’t hang out near the center line on an open road. Think of each side of the road as three lanes. Signal intent, be overly vocal so people behind you can hear.
The biggest rookie mistake is riding too fast. Stop and walk thru every town. (You’ll have to walk thru several anyway). It gives you a chance to stretch your legs, and you’ll find all kinds of neat things you never expected.
Support the people who come out to support us. It’s what makes Ragbrai so great and it wouldn’t be the same without them.
first day many are not in vacation mode yet. still get up at O darky thirty and think they need to be dressed and out the door by 7:00 or sooner. Relax, it’s vacation time, you have all day. That little spot of shade in the campground everyone it crowding into? it will change later in the day. It will be dark when you are sleeping anyway, unless you pitch under a streetlight :-)
Day 0: For me, RAGBRAI really starts that first day at the start town when I get to the campsite, set up my tent, head out to the Expo, and spend some time in town. Let yourself ease into it.
Day 1: @gringonick talked about the morning of Day 1 2014. That was my first RAGBRAI. Thousands of cyclists in the quiet residential streets of Rock Valley. Local folks sitting on their porches or lawns to watch the spectacle. Some cyclists were going ahead, but most of us just waited for the “official” start. Then we rode out along a road lined with flags and covered with chalk art on the pavement. There was some wobbling and jostling, so we went slowly despite bellies full of anticipation.
Last year, a buddy of mine rode for the first time. It was already my second RAGBRAI, but he taught me more about how to “do” the ride than I had learned on my own. He said that there was a sort of “zen” to riding RAGBRAI. It took him a little while to find it, but then everything kind of flowed into place and he started to enjoy each day more and more. Even when it rained.