Questions from a first time RAGBRAI rider…

Hi all,

I’m new to RAGBRAI. And, full disclosure, I’ve never even been to Iowa before. I’m a little anxious about trying something new, but I hear RAGBRAI is a blast. I’ve been cycling for about 12 years and I’ve done more MS 150s than I care to count. I’ve never done this long of an event and not stayed in hotels before, so this is all new to me. I’ve read through the FAQs and Blogs, but I’m finding everything to be a little overwhelming. Can any veteran riders offer any insight into some of the random questions I have so far? Thanks so much in advance for the help! Looking forward to a great ride!

1. I’m driving from Pittsburgh, PA to the ride. I’ve read about charters available for hire, but do they operate before the race? Ideally, I’d like to leave my car at the finish and charter to the start before the race begins. Also, it sounds like I have to wait to reach out to a charter to make arrangements until I find out if I got picked in the lottery? Is that right? Is there camping available the night before the race starts somewhere near the start?

2. So this lottery thing. It’s my understanding we find out on May 1 if we’re in. What happens if we don’t get in? Do we get a registration refund? I read about the split and birth of Iowa Ride…is it more likely to be accepted to RAGBRAI because of that?

3. I’m seeing posts about people making arrangements at campgrounds. Is that necessary? Each town does provide a designated camping area, right? Is there a reason people opt not to do that and go to their own campground?

4. On the note of camping, is it safe to camp in the designated area? All the races I’ve been to have been full of super awesome and friendly people. Is there any reason to be concerned about safety?

5. HOW DO I FIT ALL MY STUFF (camping gear included) IN ONE BAG?!?! I’m all for roughin’ it, but for real. I’m nervous about this.

6. Stupid question, but how do people charge their phones? Or do people bring their own power banks? I’m doing this alone, so I won’t have a personal SAG van or any sort of amenities to use. I don’t need to use my phone to meet up with people on the ride or anything, but I’d like to be able to use it to let people at home know I’m still alive 🙂

7. Back to the idea I’m doing this alone… can I do this alone? Like, do people do that? I’ve done MS150s alone and left with lots of new friends. I realize, though, this is much, much bigger than any MS150.

8. Anyone have any advice/tips/tricks/whatevers you’d like to share that you wish you’d had known before your first RAGBRAI?

Thank you all and I hope you have a great ride!

36 Replies

Jose Medina, February 6, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Lauren , I am sure you can’t go wrong with many of the available Charters. They are all good. I have been in 30 Ragbrais and I met my wife on Ragbrai 21 years ago. You are safe. I am going with Pork Belly Ventures this year for the first time. I am very familiar with them. I have used their showers thru out the years. I should have started using them long ago. I do not know your budget but if I had to do it all over again ,I would have started with them. I would start with them and see how it works for you. You will not be disappointed. Instant family. I have been in Iowa 40+ years after serving in the military. I love Iowa. I grew up in Maryland and used to go to Pennsylvania all the time. Beautiful state. This could easily become your second home. I have met riders from all over the world. I met a girl from Sweden and this was her 4th Ragbrai. When done, she puts her bike back on the plane and heads back. This is the only reason she comes to the USA. Welcome to Iowa. You are family here !

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Lauren Caldwell, February 6, 2020 at 8:23 pm

Thank you all so very much for the wonderful advice! I have a lot of research and planning to do. I’m so excited to explore Iowa and meet all you lovely riders! Cheers to good times ahead. ✌️❤️🚲

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Scott Barber, February 14, 2020 at 6:39 am

Great questions! I am also doing this the first time and traveling from Pa. I did sign up for a charter service with transportation to the start of the ride. Good luck and have fun!

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Lauren Caldwell, February 14, 2020 at 6:58 pm

I just signed with Pork Belly. I’m so excited! Hope you have a great ride! See you out there 😉

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Rita Anderson, February 14, 2020 at 9:02 pm

After months of research, I finally pulled the trigger and registered for the ride, signed up with Pork Belly, purchased airline ticket, and made pre and post hotel reservations. All that’s left is to arrange for bike shipment. I am super excited. Time for a celebratory drink.

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David Moss, February 14, 2020 at 9:41 pm

I’m the driver of a small team from Cincinnati, called The Hills Angels. We have several extra spaces available this year. Because we are a small group, only 10 riders, you will have a sense of really being on a team. Unlike the big maga for profit charters, we contact local families and stay either in their homes or camp in their yards. We try to stay as close to the main events in each meeting town as is possible. Also, you ride when and as far as you want, not on a predetermined schedule. Our team leader whom we call “The Grand Poobah” is Randy. You can message me if interested. Oh ya, this is definitely not a race, Slow and Steady and FUN.

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Eric Strobel, February 15, 2020 at 6:28 pm

Can I throw out another question on this thread…I’ve never shipped my bike before and wondered how that works. Do you ship it on the plane with you? Via another shipping company? When you ship it is there someone to put it back together when it arrives?? Also, if not shipped on the plane where would you ship it too? I’m thinking of driving but the 22 hour road trip from AZ has me re-thinking that strategy.

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Norm Ovens, February 16, 2020 at 4:59 pm

1. I drive from Michigan to the end town, spend that night in a hotel (I could camp unsupported), put my bike on the Charter’s truck Fri evening, jump on the Charter’s bus Saturday morning. Camp with the charter during the week, put my stuff on their truck every morning. Pick up my car at the end and drive home.

Just send an email to a charter (I use Brancel, they’re great) and put yourself on the list, when you get your bracelet number, you’re good.

To be considered: the charter costs extra, for me ~$350 (Includes,Bus, bagage, camping and I get towel service), the Parking for the week normally costs an additional $65, showers each day cost $6, Laundry $35ish. Take enough cash, in smaller bills, very frequently towns don’t have enough connectivity for card machines. There are towns with ATMS etc.etc all the way.

2.Lottery will be fine
3.
4. RAGBRAI is a happy zone, only cranky behavior I’ve come across is tired riders reacting to perceived riding etiquette violations.

5. With a Charter there isn’t as tight a limit on the number of bags, they’d prefer a few more bags, that are easier to load. Biggest first-time problem is taking too much of everything. I now don’t take very much in the way of sports drink powders or portein bars. Over the years I have lightened things like my chair. Working all that out is part of the fun!

6. I carry a couple of my own battery back-ups, but last year I paid $45 to a service provided by a vendor on the route and picked up a fresh back-up battery every day. On the last day you take battery home with you. This was a really good way, as I didn’t have to wait for charging stations, provided by the charter every day (that’s the way I’d done it previously).

7. You can do this alone, you aren’t really alone, unless you want to be, which is pretty cool. I did go with one of the Charters, I went alone the first time, I’ve been with a group and this year I will be ‘alone’ again.

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James Airey, February 20, 2020 at 3:43 pm

2020 will be my second time on the ride and I live in Colorado, I load my trike on the car along with my gear and drive to the end town where I join up with a charter group (Out of Staters Bicycle Club) and get myself my trike and my gear to the start point, camp with them that night and start riding in the morning. It really is a fun ride, well supported and it seems like everyone along the route has some kind of impromptu aid station going for drinks, snacks and the pass though towns always have that as well as mechanical help should you need it. The SAG’s are there for anyone in need as well and always look our for anyone in need or distress either mechanical or just ran out of gas as it were and the environment is a bunch of fun too. There are groups that do costumes and farms along the way that have ponds to swim in or set up some kind of cooling station affair and are glad to see you as well as hydrate and feed you if needed. It is a great time and a chance to challenge yourself just to see what you can accomplish, it is never a race, just a go and have a good time and finish the day at your own pace.

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John Holliday, February 21, 2020 at 8:18 pm

I like Uncle Kraig’s comment:Be prepared to be addicted.
…so true!!!
Best advice i can give is: just relax and have fun!!!

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Andrew Berman, February 28, 2020 at 8:44 pm

I rode RAGBRAI for the first time two summers ago. It was on my bucket list for over 20 years (I first heard about it from an Iowan who was on a cross-country ride with me), and it was even better than I hoped! I know you have had a lot of responses already, but here’s my two cents:

3. I stayed in the regular RAGBRAI campgrounds. Always plenty of room. Almost always “soft” grass. (One location was like walking on bristles.) Close to towns or shuttles provided.

4. I felt perfectly safe EVERYWHERE.

5. You do not need as much as you might think. I’ll include a link to my packing list at the end of this reply. I revised it when I got home and took some things off.

6. I have an extra charger that, once charged itself, holds six extra charges. I brought it with me every time I stopped for lunch or dinner and plugged in at restaurants, etc. It was never a problem.

7. I was all by myself. Granted, I struck up conversations here and there while riding or hanging out in restaurants or campgrounds, but I never joined a group or anything like that. Still, I never felt lonely…there are a LOT of people!

8. Granted, I cycle long distances often, but I think I overtrained; the ride seemed much easier than I expected. So…TRAIN a lot. If you have never used chamois butter, USE IT. It made ALL the distance in the world. (Two years ago, it was available at every campground near the port-a-potties, so I only bought a small box of little packets for “refresher” applications. I’m from D.C., and I attached a small D.C. flag to the back of my bike. It prompted numerous conversations along the way. Also, stop and enjoy all the quirky little sights and towns. There is no rush to get to the end point…then you are just sitting around. Stop to eat ears of corn. Two years ago, the ride went through Riverside, Iowa, the “hometown” of Captain Kirk from Star Trek. I spend way too much time and money there buying Star Trek related biking items! You’ll see on my packing list a small collapsible stool. I almost didn’t bring it, but I’m so glad I did. I appreciated having somewhere to sit that was not on the ground. Some folks lugged actual folding chairs, so I may upgrade this year! Bring small band-aids to cover your nipples. Seriously. Riding for hours in the wind can make shirts rub against them. When I rode cross-country, they started to bleed (TMI, I know) until someone suggested band-aids. If you are wearing a bra, I guess bandaids would not be necessary.

Here is the link to my packing list:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W2PEbeJ5xaznntKxEeAWzMsdvlw5thaegqwYYdX7pFE/edit?usp=sharing

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Lauren Caldwell, February 28, 2020 at 8:53 pm

Andrew, thanks so much for the info. Your packing list is super helpful! Have a great ride!!

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Andrew Berman, February 28, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Lauren, my pleasure. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me: berman_andrew@hotmail.com

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Lauren Caldwell, February 28, 2020 at 9:14 pm

Actually, I do. And, this may be a bit much to ask, but would you mind taking a look at my training plan? I’m a former marathoner, so I tried to apply some of the same concepts when coming up with a training plan for this event. But, I could be totally off. I’ve never done this many days of cycling before. Ok to share with you via email?

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Scott Barber, February 28, 2020 at 9:28 pm

Andrew, that is great information. I may wear a bra after your suggestion 🙂

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