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Off route rides

Will the police drag me back to the course if I don’t follow the exact route?

21 Replies

T. Gap Woo, April 30, 2016 at 3:53 pm

: Will the police drag me back to the course if I don’t follow the exact route?

Unless you do something illegal, I doubt you have anything to fear from the local constabulary. However, why would you want to go off-route? Think of the MINOR items you’ll miss — SAG wagon and medical aid, for instance. Then think about the MAJOR items you’ll miss — Mr. Porkchop; Beekman’s ice cream; pie; the local charity food stands; and, most important of all, THE BEER GARDENS! Unless you have a compelling reason, why go off-route?

See you along the I-O-Way in July.


“Bicycle Bill”, April 30, 2016 at 3:59 pm

They never have in the past.  That’s one of the lesser-known advantages of RAGBRAI being on a non-closed course; just as someone can jump on at any time, so too can someone jump off and go elsewhere as well.

I remember one year (1996?) when we were going from Sibley to Estherville and passed through Milford in the Okiboji Lakes region.  I forked off the route and went north through the Lakes area (Arnolds Park/Spirit Lake) to explore the area a little, and then rather than turn around and retrace my route I just kept on going until I hit Hwy 9 and then took that east into Estherville.  Easy-peasy, no problems; but then I am somewhat self-contained (tubes, patch kit, pump, small took kit, etc) when I ride and had something like 25 years of cycling experience under my wheels by that time so I knew that if anything — other than being hit by a car — were to happen I would probably have been able to deal with it.

Other times we were given a choice of two routes.  Back in 1985 the ‘road’ route paralleled (after a fashion) the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, running from Waterloo to Center Point before turning east through Alice, Central City, and winding up in Monticello — so there were many riders (myself included) who took to the trail for the first half of the day; and on what turned into a rainy Saturday in 1993 some of us opted for the Heritage Trail between Dyersville or Farley and its endpoint at Sageville north of Dubuque rather than taking the paved route and facing off against Asbury Hill (and I probably would have done the same thing a few years ago rather than get caught in the clusterf**k that was the walk up Potter Hill).

You just need to realize that by going off-route you are not going to have the marked route or support (repair or medical aid, broom wagon, ISP control at some of the more problematic highway crossings, roadside stops and vendors, etc.) and must be self-sufficient or have a fall-back number to call for help.

Or, should worse come to worst, a few extra bucks to give someone along the way to haul you and your bike to your next stop.



Dockat, April 30, 2016 at 6:58 pm

There are a couple of places I want to explore along the course that are not on the course. I just did not want people pointing and shrieking. I have always fixed my own bike besides building them, so not to much worried there.

Good to know . Not trying to miss anything , just want to add a couple of places.


Nico ZZZ, April 30, 2016 at 9:49 pm


Two years ago a teammate and I discovered a bit of a diversionary route one day, and enjoyed some time in a beautiful oasis of Iowa. Ragbrai is truly whatever you want it to be: charter support, individual, teams, massive wicked drunken debauchery, gluten-free tree hugging teafest – whatever you want, that is what truly makes Ragbrai magical – no one defines what it is. You ride for seven days across a beautiful state with lovely people who open their towns and hearts to you, feed you great food, and are just so darn nice! And you are with 10,000 plus riders who are there to help you if things go bad. A flat tire is not a bad thing in Ragbrai because you make five new friends who stop to help you fix it.
They have mis-named passthrough towns, as you should never just “pass through” – but stop and linger in the town square and listen to the band, drink a beverage, enjoy the food and the people and the shade of a maple or oak.
Michrider describes it best: “Ragbrai don’t care.” It sounds cold, but what it really says is: Enjoy it how you do. No one can judge how you enjoy the week. (At least that is how I interpret the Ragbrai sage.)
Ride On!


RDaryl Daryl, April 30, 2016 at 11:41 pm

Still trying to beat our “stop and linger” record of 13 hours 23 minutes for the distance of 46.6 miles from Thursday of RAGBRAI 26……….
I always say RULE #1: THERE ARE NO RULES !!!

Or as our friends at Pork Belly Ventures say….. What’s the key to RAGBRAI? Not training. Not gear. Not money. The key to a successful RAGBRAI is attitude. Lower your expectations, dust off your sense of humor, and roll with it. Things will go right and things will go wrong. You’re going to have a great time.


SFC JKL 2, May 1, 2016 at 9:36 am

We have a couple crazy people on our team who think the ride is just too short. They come up with some trails and loops along the way so they can do a century almost every day. No one will stop you from riding your own ride. I just like to make sure I ride the entire route so that I can support the people who have gone out of their way to come out and support us. Their support is a big reason Ragbrai is the greatest ride there is.


Houdini, May 1, 2016 at 11:59 am

Not to rain on this parade, and there are plenty of viable off-route options, consider that the good people of Iowa, who must do business regardless, are sufficiently inconvenienced by the 10,000 of us on the route without off-route riders further impeding traffic. Please also consider that law enforcement and medical services are stretched to accommodate on-route riders and less available for other cyclists.

In addition to being self-sufficient, your off-route excursions should not besmirch the good name of RAGBRAI.


Sandaltan ., May 1, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Be aware of the vehicle route, some of those drivers are not experienced in piloting their RV or vehicle with a trailer. Bicycling the vehicle route on a road with no shoulder is quite unpleasant even in the afternoon.



Fox Mulder, May 2, 2016 at 9:34 am

There’s nothing wrong with going off route. Sometimes its actually preferable. When Ragbrai goes across the center of the state, especially along the I-80 corridor, there are plenty of trails to hop onto. This year, not so much. The first day does offer a great opportunity though. The Wabash Trace runs from Council Bluffs to The Missouri border at Blanchard (about 65 mile) but you can jump on at Malvern and ride right into Shenandoah. Its shady and has quite a few bridges, very scenic, and you can stop in Imogene at the Emerald Isle for “refreshments” and great food. I’m sure they will be planning something for the riders that choose to go that route. The route is very small gravel. Ive ridden it several times on my roadbike……Do not attempt it after rain. Quicksand!


Ken Reed, May 2, 2016 at 10:30 am

There are times when going off route is fun. If you are the parting type, there are usually off route parties along the way. Stone City going into Anamosa, back in 2012, comes to mind. That was very fun.


jwsknk, May 2, 2016 at 11:02 am

Beside the vehicle route also be aware of road closings, a few years ago a group went off route to find the bridge they need to cross gone due to construction. The Wabash is unpaved, some crushed limestone some dirt almost single track the farther away from CB you get (at least a few years ago it was)


Thoreau, May 2, 2016 at 2:50 pm

If we are near the border of another state, my group will take one day (usually a shorter day) and ride to just cross into another state. We did this in 2014 with a little trip to Minnesota and we plan to do it this year into Missouri. I have to say that is very weird to go off-route–suddenly you don’t have all the support you usually have on route. Also, you have to deal with normal traffic. We are always glad to explore off route but always glad to join the official route again.

If anyone has any suggestions about the best day and way to get into Missouri, I’d be much obliged. It looks like the best day would be day 3 out of Mount Ayr.



jwsknk, May 2, 2016 at 3:18 pm

you could make day 1 a long day by taking the Wabash Trace to Missouri. the town at the end is in both Iowa and Missouri. South of Mt Ayr to leon won’t find anything in Missouri, unless you go through Lamoni and then there is a I-35 interchange just inside Missouri that might have a gas station


czysk, May 2, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Hey Bicycle Bill. Where is Asbury Hill? Is it on Asbury Rd? My daughter lives on Seippel Rd and Commerce Park. We turned south on Seippel from Pennsylvania/Middle Rd in 2010. Is it as bad as Potter Hill?


“Bicycle Bill”, May 2, 2016 at 10:12 pm

I don’t know if it is “officially” known as Asbury Hill, but it is on Asbury Road and takes you to the top of Sundown Ski Area.  And the one time I did ride it was back on RAGBRAI XI (in 1983) so I was much younger and in far better shape, but it was still an effort.

Never rode Potter’s Hill, so I have no basis for comparison, but I don’t imagine it’s all that bad on its own.  The reason it was so hard when it turned up on RAGBRAI a few years ago is because of the congestion on the hill as those who were totally hammered by the hill got off and started to walk while still in the middle of the road, throwing off the rhythm and cadence of those behind them and causing an accordion-like wave of dismounts throughout the rest of the riders working their way uphill who might possibly have made it without getting off the bike otherwise.

I’d like to think that I would have been able to make it up the hill, as the Dubuque area as well as my home territory around La Crosse WI is in that part of the Upper Midwest often referred to as the Driftless Region,

which was relatively untouched by the earlier glaciations of the late Ice Ages (meaning that the hills around here were not ground down by the ice sheets and remain steep and rugged).  The terrain is going to be quite similar throughout this region, so I feel that if I can conquer anything in my home stomping grounds I could probably make it up anything NE Iowa can throw at me as well.



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