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I’m thinking about doing my first RAGBRI in 2020, but the thought of possibly riding a day (or more) in the rain doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. What happens if it rains during RAGBRI?? Just push on and ride through it? Is rain common during RAGBRI??

69 Replies

Bluestreelguy ., January 15, 2020 at 7:29 pm

Don’t like riding in the rain. but on RAGBRAI there is no choice, you ride wet or you’re stuck.


Michael Rissman, January 15, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Free Shower!


John Little, January 16, 2020 at 7:05 am

I’ve purchased and tried so many expensive items of “waterproof” gear, but in the end have concluded that, in the summertime, just get wet and change into dry clothes later.

Riding in the rain in the summertime is like playing at a water park. It can be awesome fun.


garywilk, January 17, 2020 at 9:32 am

Agree 100% with John. Do not spend money on rain gear but just on something that will keep you warm and a few zip-lock bags to keep things dry like a wallet and phone. A very light wind breaker does wonders for keeping the wind from going through you. It also folds up and goes in a back pocket easy.


Coleman Tucker, January 18, 2020 at 3:54 pm

I am also from Texas (Houston) and vet of 4 RAGBRAI’s. Last year was the 1st time I’ve had to ride in the rain. Got cold, got wet, got drunk (thanks Marne!). It’s not like our riding in Texas. The more experienced riders can add/correct me on this next point. But you should expect to get rain at least 1 night and probably more. I put my gear either inside my tent or in a large garbage bag and I always use a bike cover overnight. But our motto is “Roll with it. RAGBRAI!!!” It’ll all work out and you’ll have the best week of life (until the next year).


wrj, January 18, 2020 at 4:13 pm

So…rain. People are all over the place with recommendations, from don’t worry about it just enjoy it to buy good rain gear and have it with you always. They are all correct. The thing is to know thyself. Do you get cold riding in the rain? Be prepared. If rain serves to cool you off in a good way, then don’t worry about it. I remember riding Ragbrai out of Waverly in the rain a few years ago. My bike developed a strange vibration I’d never experienced before. I finally realized it was me shaking. I was cold and miserable. Since then I always carry a rain jacket, a cap w a bill and a plastic bag to put over it. Try to keep your head dry too. So bottom line, know how the rain affects you and plan accordingly


David Admire, January 20, 2020 at 9:09 am

[quote quote=1314447] Got cold, got wet, got drunk (thanks Marne!). [/quote]

Yikes!! I don’t know what would be worse…riding in a thunderstorm in Iowa, or riding off a hang-over on day #2 of a 7 day bike ride!!


Amanda, January 20, 2020 at 10:29 am

I personally can take heat way better than rain. I don’t like riding in the rain and I don’t like riding with a hangover. I really hate riding in the rain with a hangover!


RDaryl Daryl, January 20, 2020 at 10:35 am

Almost sounds like you would rather be at work !
Peaceful smile-


Amanda, January 20, 2020 at 10:58 am

OH heck no!!! :)

And I really hate getting my tiara wet!!


David Admire, January 20, 2020 at 3:22 pm

[quote quote=1314498]I personally can take heat way better than rain. I don’t like riding in the rain and I don’t like riding with a hangover. I really hate riding in the rain with a hangover![/quote]

Ditto for me! I’m in Texas….gimme heat any day!


SFC JKL 2, January 21, 2020 at 1:03 am

Once you go sandals, you’ll never go back. Expect to do a lot walking around towns. If you’re not waling, you’re missing out. The biggest rookie mistake is going to fast. You have all day to get to the next town. There’s no prize for coming in early.
Expect at least 1 day with a good rain and 1 night of a hurricane. I leave the rain coat in my bag unless we have a 100% forecast or it’s already raining. Stick a couple trash bags under your seat. You’ll never ever notice they are there. I say a couple so you can pay it forward to someone else. Trash bag raincoat 101: Cut a small hole in the bag then pull your head and arms thru the hole so that it stays tight to your skin and works better.
Stop by the Bike Army bus for a beverage if you see it. PM me and I’ll send you some details when we get them figured out.


Gypsy Rose, January 21, 2020 at 6:56 am

I don’t like riding in the rain, especially when surrounded by thousands of fenderless bikes!

What works for me is to keep a close eye on weather forecasts and plan accordingly. With today’s easy access to forecasting tools, I can plan my day to avoid riding in the rain most of the time. (On my two cross-country bike trips, I vowed not to ride in the rain and never had to take my rain gear out of the stuff sacks, but my itinerary was more flexible than it is on RAGBRAI.)

Another thing I really dislike is packing up camp while it’s raining. Last year, preparing to leave Council Bluffs, I awoke early to get everything into my waterproof duffle before the rains started, but by the time I was ready to roll, the rains were falling. It was not going to be a quick shower, but rather a rain that lasted for most of the day, so there was no choice but to ride. Rain on Day One is the worst, IMHO, because there are thousands who are trying to sort out how to ride RAGBRAI and, even on the dry days, it’s a time when lots of mishaps occur. I lost track of how many close calls I either observed or was nearly the victim of when rolling out of Council Bluffs, not to mention the half dozen or so accidents I witnessed.

Most times, however, I’m able to avoid riding in the rain by scheduling my day around the weather. One of my favorite rain delays a few years back involved a layover of a few hours in one of the small pass-through towns (can’t remember which). The clouds had just opened up the spigot as we rolled into town and the vendors on the street were scrambling for cover. There was a woman out in the street holding a sign trying to encourage riders into the cafe for an all-you-can-eat buffet. My friends and I took her up on it immediately. She even invited us to roll our bikes inside and stand them up in an unused room while we ate (and ate, and ate, and then tipped them well). Very few other riders joined us (which, as is often the case, was not so good for the business).

Which brings me to one of my favorite things to do on the ride – patronize the local businesses. Some of my favorite meals and community interactions have come when choosing to “step off the ride” for a moment and have a meal in a nice, air conditioned space where I’ve had terrific conversations with the owners, wait staff, and others from town. Its amazing how few people take advantage of the local eateries along the way, choosing instead to seek their meals out on the street, standing in line to pay a premium for vendors that have no connection to the local community. (The local bars don’t seem to have a problem attracting riders, but the little cafe’s are quite often empty as the owners look out at the throngs in the street and wonder why so few choose to come inside.)

Looking forward to seeing you all again in July! Here’s to tailwinds and sunny skies!

~ Kevin


Jboz, January 21, 2020 at 7:13 am

Another thing worth preparing for is rain in the middle of the night. Not a huge problem for the bike itself, but if you have a leather saddle and it gets soaked, it can be a bit of a problem. I’ve seen some people even remove the saddle and seat post and bring it in their tent for the night. I’ve seen other riders use those disposable plastic shower caps from the drug store (or free from a recent hotel stay). The elastic keeps it in place through the night, and you will have a nice dry saddle in the morning. Bar tape can get soggy too, but it’s not as big of an issue as a soaked Brooks.


Joseph Schlau, January 21, 2020 at 9:04 am

I shared your view of day 1 last year. First morning and rain is a bad safety combination. We joined the ride 5 miles from the official start but still saw my share of crashes and near misses.

Personally, I find getting into all the rain gear and not fretting the wet and cold allows me to focus on safety steering the bike. If the rain lightens up, I can always ventilate the jacket or remove it. It’s always easier to cool down if you are warm than to warm up if you are shivering and have inadequate gear.

My new bike this year came stock with fenders and after using it in similar conditions as day 1 last year, the fenders controlled the splash.

Tires on the new bike also an upgrade from 22 slicks up to 38 mm with real tread. The bike also came with hydraulic disc brakes, a big upgrade over the older Shimano rim brakes even with clean rims and new shoes.

Overall a much safer bike in the rain.

Another rain hazard is pot holes/pavement cracks/pavement joints. Normally in dry conditions they can be assessed as to whether you go around or across them depending on the tires and type of bike.

Water in a pot hole hides the hazard. When I see a smooth spot on an otherwise textured road surface, I’m thinking pothole. Even if a road crew marked the hole with paint, the glare sometimes hides the warning marks.

Painted lane lines, iron sewer covers, railroad tracks, and wooden/rubber ramps adjacent to railroad tracks, seal coated asphalt are just some of the low friction hazards when wet.

Just like driving a car, reasonable speed and adequate following distance gives me time to react.

Some of the other local gems are churches and VFW/American Legion halls. When the route is posted, I look them up and write them on my map.


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