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New Rider Trying to Decide on Ragbrai

I’m a new rider. Only biking since last year. Just completed 35 miles for first time. Lower back on fire and neck hurt after 35 miler. Wondering with more seat time if Ragbrai is too much and should wait a year. I’ve read all kinds of advice, but looking to decide if this is doable or should wait for next year when I’ve had more seat time and mileage. Thoughts?

11 Replies

jwsknk, May 24, 2016 at 1:07 pm

besides more seat time 2 other things to consider, Core muscle /ab work and going to a bike shop the have then check the fit.


Amanda, May 24, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Keep riding. You will be ready by end of July. Go for it!


Jboz, May 24, 2016 at 7:28 pm

I had a similar problem 4 years ago when I was training for my first RAGBRAI. For me it was a catch 22, where I knew I needed more time in the saddle, but the more miles I put in, the more it hurt. In my case, it was neck pain due to an old sports injury, and my wrists/hands would kill me due to carpal tunnel syndrome. I tried getting professionally fitted, didn’t help. My training rides were ok for the first 20 miles, then agony as I approached 30, and then 3 days to recover from the physical soreness. And putting more time in the saddle didn’t help…more time on the bike just meant more pain. Finally, I tried a recumbent. My first weekend, I did rides of 40 and 50 miles respectively. Absolutely no pain! Recumbents aren’t for everyone, and I envy riders who can crank out 70+ mile days pain free on an upright…but for me it came down to it was either go recumbent or not go at all. I chose recumbent. So, as others have said…get your miles in. But if over time it’s getting worse, not better, you may want to consider a ‘bent.


alliwant58, May 25, 2016 at 12:17 am

Lots of factors to consider. Aside from the obvious good advice like making sure your bike is a good fit, and that you are in shape, also keep in mind that each RAGBRAI stage is a jaunt through several small towns, so you get to take breaks. Also, if your neck is bothering you, you might try raising your bars a bit so you are a little more relaxed. Might help your back too. Or try spinning a little quicker in slightly lower gears to reduce the stress on everything below your ribs. Something endurance riders commonly do.


Houdini, May 25, 2016 at 7:22 am

Raise your handlebars, a lot, like six inches. Your legs would fall off before your neck and back hurt if you were riding a Dutch cruiser.


Nico ZZZ, May 25, 2016 at 10:54 am

Sounds like a bike fitting is in order for back, hand, arm pain. If the legs are hurting you should ride a faster and easier cadence – avoid mashing on the pedals.
Saddle time helps the sit bones. Also research bike seats – I upgraded to a Adamo ism Typhoon and I was in heaven – two teammates did the same and felt an immediate difference on the down-belows.
I rode for one year before my first Ragbrai, about 1,000 miles before, and it was fairly easy. (I was 54yo, 6’0″ and about 190 pounds and in decent shape at the time.) And it is so true that Ragbrai is about 5 or 6 10 to 15 mile rides each day with breaks as long as like in each town.
So YES! You can do it. Read more about cycling, bike fit, how to correct your form and bike to correct pain issues. Watch cycling on TV if you can, and of course on YouTube.
Ride On! And best of luck!


jnlyoung@comcast.net, May 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm

I would need to know more about you like age, weight, height, general physical condition, etc., before giving you any advice. If you are “average” in all of the appropriate categories, then, just keep riding and your conditioning will develop.
I did my first RAGBRAI at age 60 on a heavy mountain bike with minimal training. I am a bit overweight, but in generally good physical condition and no known health issues.
It is not a race and a slower pace suits a lot of riders. Take your time and enjoy.


Lodie, May 28, 2016 at 10:00 pm

I am looking forward to my 5th RAGBRAI and like so many people, wish I had started so much sooner. Some critical points:
1. A ride, not a race! Start early in the day and take many breaks. Be a tortoise not a hare in your first year.
2. Do a few days rather than the whole week. Some logistics might be easier depending on where you live.
3. Everyone is a dork the first year. I greatly appreciate the man who gently informed me that I didn’t need to lock up my bike while I got a milkshake that first stop.
4. This is nothing like you have ever done before. Jump in and love it.


navychief01, May 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Lots of great advice given here. Bike fit is important. But one thing that wasn’t mentioned is that sometimes you just have a bad day on the bike. If you rode 35 miles without getting off the bike, I’d say that’s a pretty decent stretch for a touring rider, especially one starting out. RAGBRAI isn’t a 420-500 mile ride. It’s 31 15 mile rides. You may just need to get used to that amount of time in the saddle (although I do think you should start incrementally modifying your fit to zero in on the most comfortable riding position). You’ll do fine. And if you have a bad day use the SAG wagon and be ready to go the next day.


Den, June 1, 2016 at 8:13 am

Lots of good ideas and encouragement above. All I will add is just don’t burn yourself out such that you may not enjoy the ride or may never want to ride again. It is pretty ambitious to start your first year of biking with a week long ride across Iowa. But ambition is good. If it helps motivate you and enhances your introduction to a wonderful lifelong activity then do it. Know yourself and consider the risk. It can get real lonely in the middle of 10,000+ riders if you are physically miserable. Waiting for help isn’t fun either. But if you can anticipate that the challenge will drive you to accomplish what many people think is impossible, then definitely do it. Like they said above, the ride is doable. Once you have done it, you will understand. Definitely resolve your neck and back pain before making the commitment. I have the longest stem in the peloton, due to previous neck pain. The bike shop employees (love y’all) typically do not understand. Great people, but they don’t understand. Raise your bars, move your seat, stretch, talk to the bike shop, do a bike fit, but read about your symptoms and how to modify your position on the bike. I go to a chiropractor. You can survive saddle sores, fatigue, and soreness. Don’t be in a hurry. Orthopedic back and neck pain can mess you up for a long time after the ride. Resolve those issues and you can expect to successfully dip your rear tire on Sunday in the Missouri and the front tire in the mighty Mississippi on Saturday. Everyone is a VIRGIN once. Wear it proudly on your calf.


pchopsSS, June 3, 2016 at 10:06 pm

My daughter and I had just started biking in April of last year, and trained for RAGBRAI. We figure that we got about 600 miles of training in prior to the event. Some of those hills kicked our butts, but we never got off and walked our bikes. A man actually had to teach us how to fill the tires on our new TREK bikes on the second night of the ride : ). Now thats a new rider !!! Looking back, we felt so proud that we had accomplished getting through the week. Of course there will be riders so much more experienced than you. We still consider ourselves beginning riders, but we will grow every year, and are thankful to all of the experienced riders that we learn from. Go for it! You won’t regret it!


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