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Is weeklong charter support necessary?

It’s my first time riding RAGBRAI and I’m not riding as part of a group. Is it necessary to pay for a weeklong support service or will I be ok with the services included in the regular $175 RAGBRAI registration? How much time/effort/$ is involved in going it alone and finding my own campsite, my own shower, my own place to charge my phone, my own breakfast and dinner, etc.? How far are the showers/food/charging stations in a typical overnight town if they’re not provided especially for a chartered, supported rider? Thanks, any advice is appreciated!

16 Replies

BillSpriggs, May 23, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Jayna, If its your first time I would use a charter. I use PBV but I hear good things about the other charters. PBV allows you two bags, has showers and charging stations. Dinner is available every night which breakfast items every morning. I use their tent service so my tent is set up when I get into camp with my bags in the tent. If you don’t use a charter you have to deal with finding your bag, set up and take down your tent and getting you bag to the baggage truck before the cut-off time.


BillSpriggs, May 23, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Jayna, Another good option is to find a team to ride with. Several teams are posting on the forum looking for new members. Typically the teams will transport your baggage and will have arranged for a place to camp in each overnight town.


Brian Wallenburg, May 23, 2016 at 8:06 pm

You do not need a charter. There are thousands of people that do RAGBRAI every year only using the services that you pay for (RAGBRAI). It’s not rocket science by any means, the truck with your gear always parks close to most everything you need. For anything other, the overnight towns have a bus service or ride your bike a few more miles. However you decide to do it, you’ll meet great people.


jwsknk, May 24, 2016 at 8:41 am

The $175 you paid the Register does include them hauling your bags, you don’t need a charter or team to do it. some like all the extra services you can buy with some of the charters. Most teams started off as groups of friends that were from the same area and were all going to do the ride. We tell people “it’s a car pool that got out of hand”, that is we would if we had a motto, Motto? we don’t nee no stinkin’ motto!. The Register trucks unload at the main campground, remember the time to load to help find your bag faster. Showers are usually nearby, the bike shops will be close, as well as shuttle bus stops into the downtown area where most food vendors will be. The Register gets those main spots picked out first, before charters and teams. Dinner and breakfast most everyone on their own. Need a charge probably can do it at a church if that’s where you end up eating. Or a town library.


KenH, May 24, 2016 at 9:07 am

I’ve always done the ride with a personal support vehicle, a small motorhome, and that works fine. Last year after RAGBRAI I bumped into a couple about my age (think old!) who did their first RAGBRAI last summer in a tent, relying on the Register truck, and they had a blast. Planned to do it again this year the same way. This year my motorhome based team is falling apart and I was going to do the Register thing. That scared my wife however. She wanted me to be with a group who would know me well enough to miss me if I didn’t show up one evening and call the authorities — and her. She has a point. So this year I am probably going to ride with the Riverbend club/charter unless my motorhome team magically resurrects itself at the last minute. You can get charters for under $300 at least, maybe even less, all the way up to $1k and the level of service and pampering pretty much goes in line with the price you pay.

Most charters offer a bus ride from the end town where you can park your car for the week for a fee to the start town and typically you can buy just that service from them for around $100 to $150. Even if you want to use the Register trucks for luggage transport during the week the start of the ride bus ride/bike transport that you can get from a charter might be something you would want to take advantage of.


sdickes, May 24, 2016 at 10:37 am

Going with a charter is not necessary, I have done it both ways. The RAGBRAI truck parks next to the general campground and finding an open space to pitch a tent is no problem at all. There will be signs directing you to where the showers are located and they are oftentimes a very short walk away if not right next to the campground. There are numerous options for food in overnight towns – lots of schools and churches have great dinners for around $8. I prefer to wait to eat breakfast until the first pass through town the next morning. A lot of time I will find an outlet in the school/church while I’m showering or eating and charge my phone during those times which is convenient.


Stephen Paine, May 24, 2016 at 11:13 am

This question comes up year after year and usually multiple times each year.

In my opinion, a first timer – especially a first timer riding alone – ought to use an outfitter the first time. The structure will allow you to decide for yourself exactly how, in subsequent years’ rides, you want to experience RAGBRAI. Not using an outfitter for your first ride is a little like going to a large city overseas – I always spend the first day orienting myself to the city via a common tour bus and then I know how I want to go about exploring the city in the remainder of my allotted vacation time.

If it is your first time and you are riding with friends that have done RAGBRAI before, you should be ok if they decide to not use an outfitter although you will be experiencing RAGBRAI through their perspectives.

An outfitter does a lot of the work for you and it is, after all, your vacation. Remember that – if you don’t use an outfitter – when you have to sort through thousands of bags at the DMR (Des Moines Register) luggage truck in the heat of a 95 degree afternoon and then have to drag your bags/tent/bike all to some random spot and then have to wait in some horrendously long line for a shower. You’ll begin to appreciate that one of the purposes of a vacation is to relax and let someone else do at least some of the work.

If you use an outfitter, some of them – like PBV – offer different levels of service. Using PBV as an example, all their folks get basic service (i.e., a few meals, luggage hauling, etc.). You can add on bus services (at the beginning and/or end of RAGBRAI) to/from your car or airport, more meals, tent service, etc. Some outfitters, like Bubba’s, are a little less expensive and perhaps don’t offer as many add on services to their basic services, but are still very good outfitters.

Teams are good if – BIG IF – you fit into the culture of the team with which you ride. That’s important to find out before you go with a team as some are big time party goers and drinkers, some are sedate to the point of being boring, and everything in between. That’s harder to really determine ahead of time.


Matt Dembrow, May 24, 2016 at 11:52 am

PBV is generally a rip-off. Use Brancel or Out of Staters, much more economical and user friendly.


Tracey Doe, May 24, 2016 at 4:28 pm

I actually left the forum for years based on the lies told about this question.
Simply, no.
You dont need one. You will have a great time overcoming these easy obstacles. The non-team people keep track of each other and have tons of fun doing it. One year, I saw the best live musical performance of my life. The next day I asked a guy if he caught it. He hadn’t even heard of it because he was sitting around with his team.
Sure you may find that you want luxuries (a gross exeration) but you will pay dearly and miss the chance to be more self sufficient.
Don’t buy into the biggest lie told on Ragbrai. You dont need a team. Some want a team but no one needs it.
My bias also includes the belief that you should be strong enough to ride 7 days before you do ragbrai.


Sexton, May 24, 2016 at 8:31 pm

What Wallenburg said. Everything you need will be near the trucks, showers charging stations, towns operate shuttles, or you can ride or in most cases walk into town. Churches host suppers, fire departments serve up breakfasts, complete strangers are happy to help you. See you there.


Sandaltan ., May 24, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Maybe you should listen to Lou Reed’s advice and “take a walk on the wild side”.
You can charter next year.



KenH, May 25, 2016 at 8:20 am

For those who have a wild side Lou Reed is absolutely right. You can safely indulge your wild side first time out on this ride without the safety net a charter provides. If you don’t have a wild side or you have already satisfied it and want to try something more sedate, there are charters. I have never used PBV but I have studied their operation and have had a few helpful and pleasant email exchanges with them. It is absolutely wrong to characterize them as a “rip off” as Matt D did. Their prices are at the high end but the level of service they provide is also at the very high end. Given what they do for you they are probably as much of a bargain as any other RAGBRAI charter. Every charter I have looked over appears to offer more for your money than you would expect, PBV included. There are excellent options to fit every budget on RAGBRAI!


hnschipper, May 25, 2016 at 9:39 am

In my opinion, charters are not necessary, even for first-time riders. If you use the RAGBRAI truck to haul your gear, they always park in the main campground, where there is plenty of camping, and close to showers and a shuttle stop.


mclousing, May 25, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I view this as this is my vacation and I will spend it how I like. For me that means I use a charter and I think about is riding the bike, others view it as a team to hang out with every night, still others want to do it looking for saving some money where they can and view teams and charters as an extravagance (It is but it is one I choose). Finally there are those that go completely self sufficient and carry everything with them from day to day.

Some people want to go to the concert every night and be in the thick of things, I prefer being a little outside the chaos (I am usually in my tent with my eyes closing at 9 p.m.).

So is weeklong charter needed, absolutely not, depending on what type of vacation you want. For me the costs of the charter is worth the benefits it gives me.

As A side note, I was originally going to do RAGBRAI just using charter services, but 6 months before the ride my heart decided to have other ideas, which got my Fiance to buy me charter service that first year. I have never looked back and I have developed a relationship with the people running the charter where I can walk into camp and they know me by name, and almost everyone on the crew also knows me.


Nico ZZZ, May 26, 2016 at 8:16 am


A charter is not necessary, it is an option. I chose to use a charter, and will continue to use a charter, as I feel it works for me. I have the money, it is a vacation for me, and I choose to experience this way.
I understand others who want to ride with a team. I ride with a team, but we use a charter to handle all the logistical things so we can just ride. We are all from out of state and even out of country, so a charter smoothes out the process for us. I understand just jumping in and doing it low cost; twenty years ago when I lived in Omaha I would have probably gone that route.
I find it humorous the amount of vitriol spewed forth by some who abhor charters. Some claim that charters have ruined Ragbrai, as if they are some kind of historical and moral expert. They definitely need to use more butt butter, ’cause that rash is making them cranky. If you don’t use a charter that is fine, but claiming charters are rip offs…aw, c’mon…Hahahaha.
Ragbrai can be experienced in so many ways, there is no right way or wrong way (OK, drunken debauchery is probably on the wrong side of the scale). I prefer to let PBV handle shipping and busing and tents, etc, so I can spend a leisurely day riding and lounging in the pass through towns, knowing the tent and showers will be ready when I get to the overnight town.
Ride On!


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