Father-Son Time?

I am planning my second RAGBRAI. I did my first last year and I did it solo. I used Brancel which turned out to be perfect for me. I’ll probably use them again.
This year my son wants to join me. I am a new-old dad at 57 and my son will be 7 1/2 in July. If we do this, he will be on a Trek Superfly 20, which is a 20 lbs. mountain bike. I will also be on a mountain bike (same as last year) but will probably carry a pannier of necessary stuff.
I also just ordered a “FollowMe” tandem apparatus to tow him if necessary.
Last year I talked to a guy who had a homebuilt apparatus for his grandson. The guy looked worked on day one, but when I saw him later in the week he looked better.
Thinking this could be super fun or not. I’ve been a cyclist my entire life, it is one of my passions, my son knows that. I think he is starting to have an interest. BTW, There would be no mom to bail out to. She is staying home.
Posting this for feedback. Pros, cons…

10 Replies

cmparsley, February 11, 2018 at 9:40 pm

I would suggest having an exit strategy. Some of the longer days could possibly turn into more than a 7 1/2 yr old can handle. I know that at 42, and this being my 11th RAGBRAI, that there were days where I thought about throwing in the towel. I was able to push through and I have not missed a single mile. Only you know your son and his ability to get to the next town.

Consider also what time you would need to start each day in order to get through each passthrough town before they “close.”

Maybe you could have someone waiting in the meeting town on day one and start with your son just doing half of the first day this year. Then he can ride home with them. If all goes well, perhaps he does a full day or two next year, and so on and so forth.


Barin Beard, February 11, 2018 at 10:24 pm

Yes…it is what I am thinking as well. The logistics of this is somewhat complicated. I am an international school teacher and in the USA for a only few weeks in the summer (we leave for my next gig in mid-August). Home is southwest New Mexico, so it is a long way to Iowa (1400 miles).
It would be nice to have a bailout plan, but my wife has stated she is not up to the long drive to Iowa, then driving the car to meet us each day. I am thinking this type of adventure might have to wait a couple of years. I am not getting younger, but I am trying to build a foundation of goal setting for him, as well as an appreciation of cycling, and of being outside, instead of constant screen time (like I see in so many of my students)
I think this could be a very rewarding undertaking, but it could also be disasterous. Really thinking I might stay closer to home this year, teach him some mountain bike skills, take him on some overnight bike touring locally where his mom could be waiting at the end of the day.


Sandaltan ., February 12, 2018 at 10:28 am

Preparation is key. When the youngster can bike three 60 mile days consecutively and smile at the end of each day then I believe he can conquer RAGBRAI. I would not rush a youngster into long distance biking before he is ready AND willing, that can dampen and even kill any desire for any future rides.



montestaples, February 12, 2018 at 9:47 pm

I think the RAGBRAI recommended minimum age is 11 but I have seen a 7 year old ride his own bike but only once that I remember. It was a road bike and he was exceptional. Training on long rides on consecutive days is absolutely required for anyone especially someone so young. In 2006 on Monday of RAGBRAI it was an 80+ mile day, over 100 degrees, and with a stiff south wind. Of course we rode straight south almost all day. I remember going down mile long hills and having to pedal to keep from being blown over and going only 13 mph down what I call a 40 mph hill. I have never heard the word brutal more times in a day before or since. I will never forget the looks on a young boy’s face coming into camp that night. He was exhausted. He was beaten. He was done. Then someone walked through camp and said this was one of the top 5 toughest days in the history of RAGBRAI. He had beat it. He was victorious. If your son can experience something like that he will know he can do anything.


Luv 2 Ski, February 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm

I have some experience with taking a son on Ragbrai but he was 14 his first time, and he rode on the back of my tandem. In addition he had been my stoker from age 3 so he was very familiar on the bike and riding long miles. I may have taken him at seven but only on the back of my tandem, not on his own. With that being said someone on the team I ride with has been riding RAGBRAI since age 10 and he is in his mid thirties now. He has ridden every mile on his own bike from day one.

I would agree with Sandaltan. Go ride consecutive 60 mile days and see how he does. Most 7 year olds would probably struggle with that. I also think riding the complete ride on a 20 inch bike also adds to the difficulty. If you really want to do this get him a small road bike.

So I suggest start riding with your son now and see how it goes. Increase your miles like we all do in our training for RAGBRAI. Better to find out whether your son is ready for it a few miles from home than not ready for it in Iowa in July.


Luv 2 Ski, February 13, 2018 at 4:16 pm

BTW my son and I had a great time on his first in 2014, so if it works both of you will have memories of a lifetime. My son loves the ride and now at 18 will go every year if he can. In fact he has always tried to recruit local friends to do it but to no avail, so instead he started creating RAGBRAI friends to share the fun with.

Good luck to you and your son.


timf, February 13, 2018 at 8:01 pm

I took my 7 year old grandson on a homemade tow along fatbike rig. We had a great time. I also have taken him on a ride across South Dakota twice. He , his sister,and their cousins are some of my best biking buds we have a lot of fun. If you do this you will find that this is their ride NOT YOURS leave your ego at home and have fun. We stop a lot and look at dead animals(mostly bead covered) and playgrounds.
We are not the first in in our group but we get there. Last year he rode the first and last day.
My exit strategy is to register and use the sag if needed. We never needed it but was good to know it was an option. We use an r.v. and the option of not riding some days can and is used for the kids.
My advice take him slow down enjoy the ride and talk to your son you will have a ball.


Corey, February 14, 2018 at 9:23 am

I say do it, but you might want to invest in or rent a tandem. My daughter started riding with me on a tandem at age 9 until competitive softball took over her life. Last year, my 10 year old son rode on the tandem with me. They both did just fine as the tandem allowed them to work and rest as needed. Both of them told me about a week after RAGBRAI that they thought the first day was harder than they expected. My son told me he was ready to give up but he didn’t. Once he got through the first day everything was fine. Both had great experiences and immediately couldn’t wait until the next year.

This year, my son is determined to ride on his own bike. I found him a small road bike that he has been riding on a trainer this winter and will have to commit to riding on the road as soon as it gets nice outside. He is also a competitive ball player, so it’s going to be difficult for him to find time to train. If he doesn’t, there is always the tandem. I like the 60 miles for three days in a row with a smile goal (Thanks Sandaltan). That will give him something to shoot for. We also do have a bail out plan (taking the tandem just in case) and we ride with a charter that will provide SAG if we need it.

I have ridden RAGBRAI with my buddies, my wife and now my children. While each is a unique and fantastic experience, riding with your kids is really what it is about. Memories that last forever.

Keep us posted on your plans and progress Barin. Maybe we’ll see you out there this summer.


Bill Graham, February 17, 2018 at 4:02 pm

I took my son when he was 14 and we had a blast. I was 56 at the time. I think 7 1/2 might be a shade too young for him to really enjoy it rather than endure it. I’m now 69 and planning to ride this year, so you have time to wait a little longer.


Dizzy, February 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm


What a gift to give yourself and your son.
I love timf’s comment about looking at “dead animals”. Yes, you’ll need to think like a 7 year old.
Another thought is if you’re going w/a Team or join a team, you could possibly just decide to do 7 half-days this year. Both of you could then ride your Team transport from the meeting town to the end town. Your son would get the benefit of the experience w/o having to decide whether to ride all the way each day (avoiding any guilt for failing Dad).
I would definitely go tandem or tag-along.
Lastly, a poster consulted and wrote about a huge family RAGBRAI project in one of the previous year’s forums. You may find some interesting thoughts there. Look at the thread “Kids on RAGBRAI” in 2016. You can also enter “kids” in the search bar and get lots of feedback/stories that may help you and your son come to an agreement.
And practice, practice practice. Sandletan’s suggestion is great.
Best of luck.


The forum ‘RAGBRAI XLVI – 2018’ is closed to new topics and replies.





Gatherings & Meetings

Lost and Found


Clubs, Teams & Charters

Friends of RAGBRAI