Going Off Route

So what are your opinions and experiences going off route?

I have gone off route with small groups and by myself and find it really enjoyable at times. Really peaceful at times and adventurous at others. Especially when I do it as a “soul” rider.

Any other thoughts?

42 Replies

BillPierce, May 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

After 33 RAGBRAIs, I admit the temptation of going off-route gets stronger. It’s getting harder to find Iowa roads I haven’t cycled on, so sometimes I will deviate from the route just to ride somewhere new. After a few days of sharing the road with thousands of cyclists, sometimes it’s a joy to be alone and not feel hemmed in by bicycle traffic. Occasionally, frankly, the official route seems silly, although I realize most of the time there are good reasons for it.

I’ve done more than 150,000 miles of bicycling, so I’m less in need of the support some riders require. I carry sufficient tools and spare parts to take care of 98 percent of the problems I’m likely to encounter (yes, I’ve had to limp on in a couple of times).

Sometimes a shortcut can be just as difficult or even more so. Last year was a case in point. I rode to Boone by going backward along part of the century loop through Dana. It was quite a ways without services (they were giving away water and selling energy bars at the loop stop in Dana), and I had to climb Water Works Hill in Boone, which is now steeper than Pilot Mound since they re-engineered the hill there. So I’m not sure there was really any advantage, though I had a lot of road virtually all to myself. Daytime traffic counts on many Iowa secondary roads are very low if you stay off the official vehicle route.

#198815

Greg, May 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I’ve got some family I don’t see often in Gilman, about 18mi south of Marshalltown, so I’ll likely press on & stay there that night. I don’t think anyone would mind. I’m more concerned about getting hit out on some empty road.

#198820

GetAClue Blue, May 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

BillPierce: After 33 RAGBRAIs, I admit the temptation of going off-route gets stronger. It’s getting harder to find Iowa roads I haven’t cycled on, so sometimes I will deviate from the route just to ride somewhere new. After a few days of sharing the road with thousands of cyclists, sometimes it’s a joy to be alone and not feel hemmed in by bicycle traffic. Occasionally, frankly, the official route seems silly, although I realize most of the time there are good reasons for it.I’ve done more than 150,000 miles of bicycling, so I’m less in need of the support some riders require. I carry sufficient tools and spare parts to take care of 98 percent of the problems I’m likely to encounter (yes, I’ve had to limp on in a couple of times).Sometimes a shortcut can be just as difficult or even more so. Last year was a case in point. I rode to Boone by going backward along part of the century loop through Dana. It was quite a ways without services (they were giving away water and selling energy bars at the loop stop in Dana), and I had to climb Water Works Hill in Boone, which is now steeper than Pilot Mound since they re-engineered the hill there. So I’m not sure there was really any advantage, though I had a lot of road virtually all to myself. Daytime traffic counts on many Iowa secondary roads are very low if you stay off the official vehicle route.

So, first time rider here. What type of bike do you ride and what type of tires on RAGBRAI?

#198850

GetAClue Blue, May 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm

BillPierce: After 33 RAGBRAIs, I admit the temptation of going off-route gets stronger. It’s getting harder to find Iowa roads I haven’t cycled on, so sometimes I will deviate from the route just to ride somewhere new. After a few days of sharing the road with thousands of cyclists, sometimes it’s a joy to be alone and not feel hemmed in by bicycle traffic. Occasionally, frankly, the official route seems silly, although I realize most of the time there are good reasons for it.I’ve done more than 150,000 miles of bicycling, so I’m less in need of the support some riders require. I carry sufficient tools and spare parts to take care of 98 percent of the problems I’m likely to encounter (yes, I’ve had to limp on in a couple of times).Sometimes a shortcut can be just as difficult or even more so. Last year was a case in point. I rode to Boone by going backward along part of the century loop through Dana. It was quite a ways without services (they were giving away water and selling energy bars at the loop stop in Dana), and I had to climb Water Works Hill in Boone, which is now steeper than Pilot Mound since they re-engineered the hill there. So I’m not sure there was really any advantage, though I had a lot of road virtually all to myself. Daytime traffic counts on many Iowa secondary roads are very low if you stay off the official vehicle route.

So Bill, what type of bike do you ride and what type of tires on the bike? First timer here from a long way from Iowa.

#198854

longrider42, May 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Was just looking at Day 5,of this years ride and am thinking of taking a short cut straight across from Cluiter to Shellsburg. Looks easy enough when I look it up on mapquest. Also, does any one know what old 30 is like down that way, or what the vehicle route will be for day five?

#198861

jwsknk, May 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Don’t see the straight way you speak of on the Iowa map. dropping down to Vining or on 21 to E44? About the only shortcut I see that day is Garrison to Vinton could shave off 3-4 miles. Vehicals probably 30 to 219, Vinton is the meting town. But that map probably won’t come out until July.

#198894

BillPierce, May 2, 2012 at 4:39 pm

getaclueblue: So Bill, what type of bike do you ride and what type of tires on the bike? First timer here from a long way from Iowa.

For the record, I ride a Vision recumbent I’ve had since 1996, and the tires are 26 x 1.00 (rear) and 20 x 1.35 (front).

However, what kind of bike to ride on RAGBRAI is only a semi-relevant question. The real answer is a bike on which you are comfortable riding on paved roads in a variety of terrain for 70-90 miles per day. It doesn’t have to be a bike Lance would ride that costs $5000; if you’re a dedicated bargain hunter, you might be able to find something used for $300-$400.

No, I wouldn’t recommend a standard hybrid bike with semi-off-road tires and a large padded seat, although such a bike could likely be modified to work for RAGBRAI with the thinnest road tires that would safely fit on the rims and an ergonomic saddle. And I wouldn’t recommend a bike that you haven’t already ridden at least a few hundred miles. RAGBRAI is not the time to break in a new, unfamiliar bike.

The important thing is to have a bike that handles paved roads (there is little if any gravel anymore), and can climb at least a 7-8 percent grade as well as flat ground with a tailwind. RAGBRAI is definitely not a race, but you don’t want to feel like you’re on a tractor when it seems everyone else is in a sports car.

Take a look at your current bike. If you have questions about it, go to a competent shop and tell them what you’re doing. They’ll recommend possible modifications if they think you need any. And then get out on your bike and ride it regularly, so that by July you’ll be experienced and in decent shape. Lance had the right idea when he said, “It’s not about the bike.” It’s mostly the rider.

#199000

Michrider !!!, May 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Lowrydr:
If you register you should stay on the route. No deviance should be tolerated in any way. You should loose you registration # and be banned from RAGBRAI for a period of 5 years at the least. STAY ON ROUTE!!!!

Lowryder, Keep it “Cumming”, LOL!!!!!! :)

#199003

Anonymous, May 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm

off route, on route ..it’s a semi-free country..Go anywhere you want.
just stay off the SUPPORT VEHICLE route..

#199158

GetAClue Blue, May 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm

BillPierce: For the record, I ride a Vision recumbent I’ve had since 1996, and the tires are 26 x 1.00 (rear) and 20 x 1.35 (front).However, what kind of bike to ride on RAGBRAI is only a semi-relevant question. The real answer is a bike on which you are comfortable riding on paved roads in a variety of terrain for 70-90 miles per day. It doesn’t have to be a bike Lance would ride that costs $5000; if you’re a dedicated bargain hunter, you might be able to find something used for $300-$400.No, I wouldn’t recommend a standard hybrid bike with semi-off-road tires and a large padded seat, although such a bike could likely be modified to work for RAGBRAI with the thinnest road tires that would safely fit on the rims and an ergonomic saddle. And I wouldn’t recommend a bike that you haven’t already ridden at least a few hundred miles. RAGBRAI is not the time to break in a new, unfamiliar bike.The important thing is to have a bike that handles paved roads (there is little if any gravel anymore), and can climb at least a 7-8 percent grade as well as flat ground with a tailwind. RAGBRAI is definitely not a race, but you don’t want to feel like you’re on a tractor when it seems everyone else is in a sports car.Take a look at your current bike. If you have questions about it, go to a competent shop and tell them what you’re doing. They’ll recommend possible modifications if they think you need any. And then get out on your bike and ride it regularly, so that by July you’ll be experienced and in decent shape. Lance had the right idea when he said, “It’s not about the bike.” It’s mostly the rider.

What made you choose a recumbent? I’ve heard they are harder to get up the hills. I’ve been riding a road bike a couple of years. I just finished the MS150 two weekends ago. Two day ride from Houston to Austin. I ride a fuji road bike with carbon front and rear wheel stays and a carbon seat post. It was prestty comfortable until I got on a section of rough pavement. There was a noticeable difference in the ride quality from what I had been used to. I’m sure it was because of the Gatorskins I had just put on for that ride. My old tires were puncture resistant but still softer rubber contact surface. The Gatorskins or allot harder and I air them up to 115#’s. No flats tho. I’m also debating putting on 700 x 25mm verses the 700 x 23mm I currently have on. I’m thinking a little wider,softer tire with less air pressure might improve the ride comfort level. Any ideas?

#199213

BillPierce, May 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm

getaclueblue: What made you choose a recumbent? I’ve heard they are harder to get up the hills.

Yes, recumbents don’t climb quite as well as an upright bike, primarily because you can’t stand up. But the lower profile makes them much easier to ride in headwinds. Into a 15 mph headwind I’ll pass most upright riders, and I’m 64 years old. The recumbent is also more comfortable overall, and for me more fun. In 1994 I borrowed a friend’s recumbent, intending to give it a 30-40 mile test ride. After some initial difficulties starting off (indeed it is a somewhat different experience at slow speeds), I was off. I ended up riding 60 miles, although my back felt like I had ridden half that distance.

After 16 years, my best calculation is that my average speed on the recumbent is half a mile per hour slower than on an upright bike (which I still ride on rare occasions), assuming neither extensive headwinds nor really hilly terrain. At 15 vs. 15.5 miles per hour, that’s an extra 8 minutes for a 60-mile ride. I’ve done double centuries on both types of bikes, and I can say I was less sore on the recumbent. However, the differences are subtle and in the end it comes down to a matter of personal preference.

As for your tires, if you want you can try 700 x 25s, which may be a little more comfortable on some of the Iowa pavement that is in less than ideal condition. Otherwise the differences are minor. What might matter in, say, a competitive time trial, will very likely be lost on an event like RAGBRAI. As I said, it’s not really about the bike. What you will remember about RAGBRAI will not be what size tires you chose.

#199247

GetAClue Blue, May 3, 2012 at 7:40 am

BillPierce: Yes, recumbents don’t climb quite as well as an upright bike, primarily because you can’t stand up. But the lower profile makes them much easier to ride in headwinds. Into a 15 mph headwind I’ll pass most upright riders, and I’m 64 years old. The recumbent is also more comfortable overall, and for me more fun. In 1994 I borrowed a friend’s recumbent, intending to give it a 30-40 mile test ride. After some initial difficulties starting off (indeed it is a somewhat different experience at slow speeds), I was off. I ended up riding 60 miles, although my back felt like I had ridden half that distance.After 16 years, my best calculation is that my average speed on the recumbent is half a mile per hour slower than on an upright bike (which I still ride on rare occasions), assuming neither extensive headwinds nor really hilly terrain. At 15 vs. 15.5 miles per hour, that’s an extra 8 minutes for a 60-mile ride. I’ve done double centuries on both types of bikes, and I can say I was less sore on the recumbent. However, the differences are subtle and in the end it comes down to a matter of personal preference.As for your tires, if you want you can try 700 x 25s, which may be a little more comfortable on some of the Iowa pavement that is in less than ideal condition. Otherwise the differences are minor. What might matter in, say, a competitive time trial, will very likely be lost on an event like RAGBRAI. As I said, it’s not really about the bike. What you will remember about RAGBRAI will not be what size tires you chose.

Thanks BillPierce, I’m really looking forward to RAGBRAI. I plan on taking my time and treat it like what it is “an event” and not “a race”. I was thinking that with spending anywhere from 8 to 10 hours a day for 7 days the tire rubber density might make a big difference at the end of each day. You know, hard rubber tire (Gatorskin) verses softer tire. I wouldn’t mind investing in a softer tire just for the RAGBRAI. I would still use the Gatorskins for training since I tend to get allot of flats around here. I would put the softer/ 25mm tires on for BRAI.

#199642

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