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Going alone?

After too many years of trying to find people to go to RAGBRAI I am now thinking about trying it on my own. This will be my first RAGBRAI although I have done one other week long ride. I was wondering about the experience of others who have gone to RAGBRAI on your own. Is it possible to join a group and how does own go about this? Any issues with safety? I am definitely going to join a charter and will rent a tent. Any advice is appreciated.

46 Replies

LawnchairMan, February 11, 2018 at 9:01 pm

Hi Karen,

I too was apprehensive about my first Ragbrai. Brancel Charters made it easy. About the only thing they didn’t offer was tent service, but tenting was one way I met people. It’s hard to set up a tent next to someone without saying hello. Usually by the time I get to camp, there are canopies and chairs set up with snacks available. It’s fairly easy to talk about the day’s ride, or where to get supper. In a group limited to about 300 people you can get to know several throughout the week. My problem is remembering names: there were so many. And chances are that you will see these people from year to year. I’m assuming you too will get the Ragbrai bug. Once you ride it, you WILL be back!

I had a mechanical problem on the road that first year, and a couple of riders from the charter stopped to help. Of course we were all recumbent riders, so we tend to stand out.

At Ragbrai 2015 I crashed the first day, and was on crutches for the rest of the week. As soon as I got to camp the Brancels treated me with TLC. They set and struck my tent, got me food, and transported me and my bike from town to town. Even the other charter riders helped me with all kinds of things; from tying shoe laces to buying me drugs and fresh fruit. They all made a bad situation enjoyable!

I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the charters, but I always go with Brancel. Hope to see you there!


Anonymous, February 11, 2018 at 9:37 pm

So some questions for the people who have used Brancels services.

1. Do they offer meals? If so,, what is it like?
2. About how many people can Brancel accommodate?
3. Where do you go to shower?
4. What is the typical distance from their area to the main RAGBRAI camping site?


montestaples, February 12, 2018 at 8:55 pm

I have gone on RAGBRAI the last 12 years. My daughter went twice and her fiance (now husband) went once. Other than those 2 years I went alone but always with the same charter, Lake Country Cyclists out of Ankeny, Iowa. I much prefer to ride alone because it is so hard to ride with anyone if you don’t ride the same pace. When riding, you are never alone. You have thousands of friends that you haven’t met yet. If you have a flat or any mechanical problem with your bike someone will stop to help usually within seconds. If you are persistent and keep saying you don’t need help, probably 30 or more people will offer assistance (I have counted). With a charter, you camp with the same people every night and unless you are really weird, you will always find someone to go eat supper with and maybe even ride with the next day. RAGBRAI is a wonderful experience often best when riding alone. Talk to people, especially locals, or you will miss a lot of rewarding experiences. Almost nobody locks up their bike, especially during the day, and you almost never hear of any bike theft. Just remember that if you are talking while riding you will likely average about 2 mph slower than your normal pace. Have fun.


Carl, February 13, 2018 at 6:45 pm

As a relative newbie by RAGBRIA standards, my first ride was 5 years ago and like others I finally got it off my bucket list at 55. I have ridden solo using the RAGBRIA trailers each year and will again this year. Which are free to use as part of your registration fee, although they have a 50 pound limit, and they weight the bags.
I agree with comments from other riders your never alone. On Saturday July 20th they will have a meeting setup that is directed towards first time riders if you can go to that.
The one thing that no one else mentioned is that RAGBRIA riders remind me of campers no one bothers your stuff and most riders will offer to help you at the slightest sign that you may be having problems whether it’s with your tent or your bike during the ride (plug here to the Air Force team from a Marine that they helped one year). So like many others no matter how you decide to go come along and enjoy the ride. After all where else are you going to find 15,000+ people riding bikes for seven straight days?


jelly0317, February 13, 2018 at 7:28 pm



Barry Schnoor, February 15, 2018 at 9:45 am

I’m reading a lot of going alone…but with a charter.

I hope to go alone without a charter. Here’s my question: How difficult is it to find my pack and my tent from the Ragbrai Truck without the charter? I’m considering going unsupported, but since my entry fee pays for the SAG wagon, I’ll use it.


tdubya500, February 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

[quote quote=1282041]I’m reading a lot of going alone…but with a charter.

I hope to go alone without a charter. Here’s my question: How difficult is it to find my pack and my tent from the Ragbrai Truck without the charter? I’m considering going unsupported, but since my entry fee pays for the SAG wagon, I’ll use it.[/quote]
I’ve used the main campground the last 5 years and have a really plain black bag that I use and I never spend more than 5 mins looking for it, the bags are loosely arranged by the time theyre dropped on the truck. Some people add neon ribbons to their bags to makes them easier to spot in the piles, but as long as you remember close to when you dropped off you shouldn’t have a problem finding it.


LawnchairMan, February 17, 2018 at 10:38 pm

Hi Sloop,
Brancel offers at least one meal during the week. The time I had it, it was chicken with baked beans.
They also had fee popcorn one night and another night free root beer floats.
Morning cupcakes, bananas and coffee were available for a small fee.
So were the cold drinks after the ride.
They try to keep the group between 3 and 4 hundred cyclists.
Shower trucks are always with them. So are the massage therapists!
Not sure how far from main camp ground, but usually an easy walk to town square.
Staff is eager to help.

I recommend that you don’t plan on using the SAG service. It’s there for those who really need it, not for riders who didn’t get in shape. I had to use it after a crash, and learned how they operate. I crashed about 6:00 and had to wait a long time for them. They don’t start until 8:00 and travel at 15 mph. They go slow so they can look for people in trouble. I would have been in the wagon for most of the day, but when my leg swelled they got an ambulance to take me to the hospital. My right patella was cracked. So, if you SAG be prepared to spend all day in the SAG wagon. Better to get in shape, and earn bragging rights of riding all of Ragbrai.


LawnchairMan, February 17, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Muffins, not cupcakes.


jelly0317, February 17, 2018 at 11:56 pm

I thought that he was referring to the Register’s baggage truck, but mistakenly referred to it as the sag wagon.


Kenneth Imboden, February 19, 2018 at 10:21 am

I live in Chittenango, NY. I was going to drive to Davenport with my bike and gear. Plan on arriving 5 days before the start. Then I was going to pedal to the start with my tent and gear like I’m on a touring ride: US 6 out of Davenport, US 30 West to IA 141 to IA 37 to Onawa. Google Maps says that is about 315 miles. Google Street View doesn’t show a decent shoulder or berm but traffic is light most of the way. I tent camp and cook my own meals. This isn’t ideal but could not figure out how to drive to Onawa with my gear, ride the RAGBRAI to Davenport, then get back to my car. I’m on this forum ’cause this is my first RAGBRAI and I don’t know how other people do it. Also, I will be alone for this. I am 75yo. I have toured alone in the past.

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jelly0317, February 19, 2018 at 11:35 am

You’ll probably get a lot of suggestions, so here’s mine: Locust Street to Walcott/old US 6 (F58) to Iowa City/6 to Newton/F48 to Altoona/Gay Lea Wilson Trail S to Scott Avenue/W to E 30th St/S short distance to MLK Blvd (wide sidewalk on S side)/cross river at Principal Park (baseball stadium)/W on trail at Mullet’s (bar)/various trails to Waukee/Raccoon River Trail diagonal to Perry/141/M55/E53/M36 to Dennison/141/183/37/175 to Onawa. E-mail me at with mailing address, and I’ll send you a Central Iowa trail map.


Uncle Kraig, February 19, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Ken – Welcome to RAGBRAI, you will have the time of your life for sure. If you do not want to ride across the state twice (west to Onawa then the east route of RAGBRAI) I might suggest the following.

There are multiple ways to get to Onawa from Davenport, other than riding. The easiest would be to drive to Davenport like you planned and arrive on July 19 or 20. Then catch a ride with one of the charters right to Onawa. You can ride with PBV, Brancel or probably several others. You will get the added benefit of spending 4 hours or so with fellow riders and probably meet some great people to hook up with through the week. This is the easiest and most straight forward.

You could also post in the “looking for rides” section of the forums a little later in the summer and my guess is the fact you are 75 and riding your first RAGBRAI will yield you a ride in short order. Hell, I hope to be alive at 75, let alone be willing and able to effectively ride RAGBRAI twice in a week or so :) Whatever you do, enjoy your time in Iowa this summer. It is an experience of a lifetime!

EDII – Or you could do the opposite and drive your car to Onawa, ride RAGBRAI and then catch a ride back to Onawa with one of the charters or someone else heading back at weeks end.


montestaples, February 19, 2018 at 12:35 pm

To: Kenneth Imboden, 10:21 AM 2-19-2018: Some of the routes you are planning are busier than you may think at times and with some hills so getting hit would be likely, especially riding alone. A group of cyclists is way more likely to be seen. There are way too many distracted drivers out there. There are Charters that haul you and your gear from the end town to the start town and then you are on your own. Lake Country Cyclists out of Ankeny (near Des Moines) will take you from Ankeny to start town and then from end town back to Ankeny. They will also transport your gear during the week but some people just use them for getting to the start and back from the end town which is very reasonable (I think about $150). In 5 days of cycling you could spend that much on food and drink. If you do opt to ride the 5 days to the start town, high visibility clothing plus a really bright flashing rear light are a must. Years ago, before cellphones, I used to ride state and county highways quite a bit and was nearly hit a few times. The worst was a semi 2 inches from my left hand at about 50-60 mph. It blew me off the rode and I broke both derailleurs but somehow was not injured. The comment above describes a route with a lot of it on bike trails which, in my opinion, would be 100 times safer. Maybe I’ll see you out there.


AmyWallingford, February 19, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Karen, you are welcome to ride along with us! We are family group that uses Pork Belly Ventures for our charter. My hubby & I (early 40’s) have done 3 previous RAGBRAI’s. Last year his mother & godmother (early 60’s) joined us. This year, our oldest son and niece (mid-teens) along with hubby’s godmother’s husband and a handful of her friends will be joining us. There is a vast array of skill. The teens are new to road biking – we just did their first 10 mile ride this past weekend. Hubby’s godmother has done multiple double centuries and PBP twice! So, you should be able to find someone within the group that rides your pace.


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