First timer

Should I book with an outfitter or just camp on my own
Experienced cyclist plus bike packer
Not really sure how crowded the towns are for camping

7 Replies

czysk, March 24, 2019 at 8:04 pm

First timer, Your registration allows you to put your bag and tent on the Register’s truck and camp in the main camp ground. A charter has a smaller camp ground and may be less crowded. You will make a whole bunch of new friends either way. Enjoy the ride.


Charlie S, March 25, 2019 at 12:23 pm

First timer: I’m a relative newbie (this will be my third RAGBRAI) but I’ve always used a charter. What drove my decision initially was the one bag, 50 lb limit for the Register truck. You can easily keep to 50 pounds total but I found it hard to get everything (tent, sleeping bag, cycling gear, clothes, etc) in one bag. Most charters allow two bags, making things much easier.

As czysk says, the charter groups and campgrounds are much smaller than you’ll find with the RAGBRAI masses. This makes it easier to find your gear at the end of the day, and to find a place to pitch your tent. Most charters offer shade tents and chairs, water, sports drinks morning coffee, a place to dry your gear, charging stations, etc, another plus from my perspective.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to charters. Some, like PBV, offer tents (which they set up for you), pick-up of your gear, meals and on-site shower facilities. Others, like the charters run by local clubs, have more basic offerings. Of course, there is a large difference in cost depending on your choice of service.

I’ve used Riverbend Bicycle Club’s charter service (a local IA cycling club) each of the past two years. They are great to deal with and have everything I need. I’m sure this is the case for many of the other charters as well but I’m only familiar with RBC. One other thing to keep in mind, is that you are likely to need a shuttle to the start town (or from the end town). The charters offer this service as well.

I can safely predict that you’ll have fun and meet lots of new & interesting folks whether you camp and travel with the masses or use a charter.


Jose Medina, April 2, 2019 at 8:45 pm

Hi This will be my 30th Ragbrai. You will have more fun going with a Charter. I go with Bike World Charter out of Des Moines , Iowa where Ragbrai all started . Very friendly group and always helpful. They have different levels of support. I get the large dome tent and have them put it up and take it down.It is worth it specially if it rains. All I do is ride.I met my wife on Ragbrai 20 years ago and she was not even a rider. Have a safe and enjoyable ride.


Brian Wallenburg, April 3, 2019 at 9:12 pm

I’ve been on all or part of a dozen or so RAGBRAI’s. I’ve never used a charter and have always had a great amount of fun. If you’re a bikepacker you already know how to pack, so the 50 lb limit wont be a problem for you. There’s plenty of room to pitch a tent, along with plenty of places to charge your devices. Your bikepacking experience will prove to be valuable if you decide to not pay for a charter.


KenH, April 4, 2019 at 1:02 pm

A small charter like Riverbend (who I have used and would use again) is a fine and affordable way to go, if you want to go with a charter. They will provide everything you need and even though you will do more of your own work than you would would with one of the more expensive charters you still do less than a bikepacker is used to doing so I think you would be good with that. I think that Riverbend does a great job, no qualms about recommending them. And a team motorhome is my RAGBRAI charter most years so I was doing way more than normal and living much more primitively than I am accustomed to the year I went with Riverbend. Plus, I am a mid sixties baby boomer who had not tent camped in decades. And I still loved it!!

On the other hand I think you would be fine with just using the Register truck and the main campground too. If the 50 pound, one bag limit is a little too constraining for you there is always the option of carrying some of your gear on the bike and letting the Register truck handle the rest.

Big charter, small charter, no charter, club/team SAG, there really is no bad way to do RAGBRAI. It’s up to you really, do what your heart and your wallet tell you to do!


Brady Bisgard, April 4, 2019 at 1:34 pm

I’ve ridden twice.

2017 was my first time. Dad and I did Pork Bellys and it was wonderful. I didnt have any tent equipment so we paid for their tent service. Showers there, free beer, shade tents. It was wonderful for a full week.

Last year I did 4 days of riding. Bought a tent decided to try RAGBRAIs complimentary service. It was very nice and convenient but it wasn’t consistent. I mean that by saying in Newton the park we camped at was gorgeous with shade trees, picnic tables, etc. In Sigourney we were in an industrial park and there was no shade, no water source, and no where to sit.

If you are doing the full week I personally find RAGBRAI’s to be too spartan. You dont really want to hang around your site as theres no where to sit and no shade. I will be doing Pork Belly’s again.

If you are someone who plans to hang out with a friend’s team each night and won’t be at the site much – you’ll be 100% fine doing RAGBRAI’s camp site. There’s no bad choice its whatever you prefer/budget/have for gear.

This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by Brady Bisgard.


mootsman, April 5, 2019 at 9:06 am

One other option is to join a “RAGBRAI Team”. They are really small self contained charters and very on what they offer but for a low price handle logistics very well. I have been on a couple and you instantly get a new group of people to hang with on RAGBRAI. And they are small so locating your luggage & tent is easy rather then searching what a semi-truck dumped off the back each day. Some teams only have a dozen riders and others over 100 which are more charter like. There may even be one leaving from your home town but Iowa based teams are nice. You stage to and from the same Iowa town so parking is a non-issue. There will be chores to do as they do not pamper you like charters but you all pitch in to take care of them. That actually makes it easier to get to know the other riders. Many have the classic RAGBRAI converted school bus. Those buses have pluses and minuses but always promote group togetherness.

Keep an eye on this form for teams looking to fill out their 2019 roster. And search this forum under the sub-link for teams and charters.

This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by mootsman.

This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by mootsman.


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