Opinions on other Charters????

So last year was my first RAGBRAI and I used Pork Belly Ventures (brought my own tent). PBV was great and I had no issues with them at all. Was wondering what kind of crowd, people, etc the other charters had? What your experience, good and bad, was with some of the other charters available? I kind of got the impression most people in PBV didn’t go into the downtown area to see the bands at night or stayed up past 9. Maybe I’m wrong?

23 Replies

trknight, February 1, 2018 at 2:45 am

It all depends on what you want done for you and what you are willing to pay for. There are expensive and inexpensive charters. I go with a charter that is inexpensive and it works for me. I pack my own luggage to and from a vehicle and set up my own tent where I want within the group area. It does take a little extra time but I am willing to live with that. Also, another reason for sticking with the group I go with is most people in the group go almost every year and some have become great friends. And the money I saved is justification for some great gear I have gotten.


Theresa Park, January 29, 2019 at 8:48 pm

There’s a group of us hoping to be virgin riders this year. I read on PVB’s site that you have to clear out by 7am. I am riding with a group and we like to start a bit later. Anyone have suggestions on charters who accommodate late risers?


Mike Howe, January 29, 2019 at 11:20 pm

Its not that you have to leave by 7am, just have to have your bags to the truck by 7am. The trucks have to leave by a resonsible time in the morning so they can get to the next overnight town and unload the bags so their available to the riders when they’re done for the day. I could be wrong but I think 7am is pretty much the standard for most charters??


AlwaysaHawkeye, January 30, 2019 at 12:31 am

This will be my 4th year in a row riding RAGBRAI.
I am from Iowa and live in Atlanta, Georgia. Friends in my local cycling clubs ride with me.

Our 1st year we used Pork Belly Ventures.
They were great for a first timer and I had a really good experience.
They are BIG which means they require a bigger footprint for all the campers and their trucks so they often can’t get as close to the Main Street of events in the overnight towns.
BIG as in 1,000+ campers.
They run things like a well oiled machine and everything is taken care of.
They have lots of lines. Lines for tire pressure pumps, lines for toilets, lines for food, lines for showers (not uncommon for shower trucks but they allow outsiders to pay and PBV campers do not get priority so it’s a first come first serve which is frustrating).
They give you free beer but charge you for water.
Their tents options are smaller than other charters.
They do not have bike racks.
I found they really encourage you to stay in their camp, eat their buffets and listen to their musical performers which takes away from the experience of RAGBRAI IMO as the overnight towns put in a lot of hard work to welcome you to their town.
Because they offer more like a few buffets and entertainment, they are more expensive.

The next year we tried Padres Cycle Inn.
Jimmy and Dave/Susie are awesome hosts!
Very organized set-up.
Reasonably priced.
Only 100 campers so they often are able to set up camp closer to Main Street attractions than bigger charters.
Tents are bigger than PBV! You can stand up in their bigger tents too.
Inflated air mattresses included and your luggage transported in and out of your tent for you. If it’s cold at night, they will even bring packing blankets from the bike van to your tent.
Bike racks! No turning your bike upside down or laying it by your tent.
They brew great coffee each morning and it’s ready early.
Water and Gatorade jugs to refill your bottles.
Their own Porta-potty’s- not all smaller charter have their own.
Hand washing station.
Large social tent with chairs.
Table with snacks at end of day.
Electronic Charging Station
Bike repair stands
They do not have their own shower trucks but always try to camp close to a school/facility with showers or shower trucks. They can call for a golf cart to pick you up from camp if the shower trucks are too far. They provide disposable towels (like giant body paper towels and they work!).
Their workers are often high school kids they hire for the ride and campers give a nice tip at the end that is shared between them.
Sodas and beer provided in coolers in camp. Padres has some beer and encourages campers who like to indulge to pick up more and share. I like to bring a nice selection of local IPA beers from Georgia to share!
They charter out of St Louis but you can just meet them at start of ride if you don’t need transportation.

We used Padres Cycle Inn our 3rd year!
Part of the GA group used Brancel the 2nd year and switched to Padres the 3rd year too.
We are ALL using Padres this year.
With only 100 campers, it feels like family!!!


kicks9, January 30, 2019 at 7:32 am

Been researching Brancels and PBV, have ridden PBV before. PBV seems to be the way to go. They seem a little more in price but offer extras and Brancels seems to get you on showers, coffee, drinks (all included with PBV). So I am wondering if PBV would end up being cheaper in the long run. At least you can pay for all of that up front and have it taken care of instead of carrying extra money each day for that stuff. PBV is always an extra few miles to camp, and is pretty quiet by 9pm.


KenH, January 30, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Theresa, I think it is true that with almost every charter you have to have your bags on the truck by 7 am and while technically that does not mean you have to “clear out” by then, it effectively means exactly that! The charters do need some time to do all the things they do, and setup all the things they need to setup. They will have customers who like to sleep until 8 am (which is obviously incompatible with a bags on truck by 7 am rule) and they will have customers who make the next overnight town by 11 am and who expect the signs to the night’s campground to be posted by then.

There are two things you can do. One is to go through the list of charters and teams on this website and see what their posted schedules are. There may be one or two that accommodate late risers.

The other thing you can do is to register as a team, round up someone to drive a support vehicle, and then you can travel on your own schedule.

I guess there is a third option and that is to carry all your gear on your bikes but except for those of us who do that as bike tourists throughout the year this option appeals to no one!


Susan Zvacek, January 31, 2019 at 8:17 pm

Is PBV the only charter that has flush toilet facilities? While I’m not (typically) a precious princess, I just don’t know if I’m mentally ready for an entire week of Porta-potties.


BarryTantlinger, February 1, 2019 at 7:39 pm

So here’s my PBV story. We’re coming from California and usually fly in on Saturday. If things go right, we’re usually in camp by 2:30pm. Last year we sat on the runway in California for 45 minutes and missed our connector in Phoenix. Tammy put up with all our texts and calls as we stressed about getting to Iowa. We finally made an unexpected trip to Minnesota, but we got to Iowa at 9:00pm. Unfortunately, our luggage missed a flight and arrived in Iowa at 11:30. So we got to camp at 1:30am. No worries, though. Tammy gave us a tent number and had our bike unpacked and put by our tent.

The time before, my wife crashed the last day (someone ran into her and thrashed her wheel) and had to SAG to the finish. Tammy was on the phone with RAGBRAI to make sure she got back to camp.

PBV is great. Free beer, hot showers, vegetarian options at dinner, entertainment.

Sometimes they are little distance from downtown, but we still go into town every night. We either ride or take the shuttle.


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