Rain?!

I’m a newbie, and I live in the 2nd driest state where it NEVER rains! How often will it rain? Is it a hot rain or cool? Should I pack my rain gear to ride or just ride and get wet? Garbage bag? Rain poncho? Rain pants?

16 Replies

KenH, May 15, 2018 at 4:27 pm

I’ve done the last six RAGBRAIs and have had significant daytime rain twice in that time. Last year we knew it was coming and just sat it out in a shelter in a town park. In 2014 it was going to be a long rain so we just set out in the morning. That was a cold, soaking rain. People were lying on the school gym floor, shivering uncontrollably from hypothermia in the town where we stopped for breakfast. The lightning started as we were eating so we retired to the school hallways to sit out the lightning. When the thunder stopped it took the rain with it but the wind became fierce.

I am going to say you want to bring a light rain jacket to keep you warm should you need to ride in a significant rainstorm. I am sixty something, I’ve lived in this part of the midwest (near but not in Iowa) my entire life, and I’ve been in exactly one warm rainstorm. That was decades ago during a high school track practice. If it’s raining the rain will be cool to cold, the air will often be chilled, and if the wind picks up while you are wet you will think it is winter … unless you’ve lived through one of our winters and then you know better! I’ve seen it go for the full week without a drop on the road but you cannot count on that. Overnight rains have been much more common during the RAGBRAIs I have participated in. Make sure your tent is ready for some rain too!

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DAVIDCOVER, May 15, 2018 at 5:28 pm

In direct response to your questions, don’t be concerned, and you won’t think it is winter if you get wet. Take a light form-fitting rain jacket on days you learn it might rain. A garbage bag or poncho is like a billboard on a bike. If it looks like a downpour is coming, plan ahead by going to or standing under a shelter such as a park picnic shelter, a store’s overhang on the sidewalk, etc. Iowa is generally flat; you will see rain clouds coming from far away so you can plan ahead. I embrace light rain while riding. The rain is sometimes a welcome respite from the stifling heat and sun. Forget the rain pants; they get too hot and aren’t necessary for keeping your core temp. warm.

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LawnchairMan, May 15, 2018 at 9:34 pm

Hi Susan,
I’ve been to Ragbrai five times, and I rode in the rain once. It was a pleasant, gentle warm rain. It got my stuff in my recumbent tailbag wet, so it was actually a bit of water. This year I will make sure everything is in Ziplock bags.
Of course it rained or hailed in camp some of the nights, and one year I missed the rain due to a crash.
Besides rain, the weather can be over 100° or below 50°. As recommended above, I carry a light rain jacket, but mainly as a jinx. If I don’t have it, it will be sure to rain! I will bring arm and leg warmers, but on the bike only if it looks like I will need them.
I’m sure you will enjoy your first Ragbrai. Mine was an adventure!

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jwsknk, May 15, 2018 at 11:51 pm

Couple times we waited the rain out in the morning. One time it was 11 before we started out but rode behind the rain all day. People who left early rode in it all day. We had a young one who left early in the rain return to the truck after about 1-1 1/2 hours close to hypothermia. Only wearing a jersey and shorts and 50’s with rain. It can blow in fast and big time. Marshalltown about 7pm. Some people didn’t put on rain flys early before going into town. Big mistake for them. Bathtub tent floors can be a reality without that rainfly on.

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Sloop John Bee, May 16, 2018 at 9:56 am

Getting acclimated to driving in the rain is a skill that I would not treat lightly. You don’t mention which part of which State you are from, I’ll go by goggle and guess Utah, but I would recommend finding a way to ride in rain somewhere and see how your cycle and you behave in it.

I bought a cycle rain jacket years ago. It is vented yet keeps out the rain, is a great wind breaker, and keeps me warm on cool (others would rate then downright cold) days here in Southern Minnesota.

KenH’s comments about hypothermia are very real. While I didn’t ride the 2014 route, I did read stories and hear about it from friends. Earlier generated STRAVA Heat Maps showed the bail-out of people being overcome by the rain, the wind, and the cold that day, and not riding.

I also carry a pair of leg warmers. I wore them during the early morning hours for three days of my first RAGBRAI adventure in 2015. Might be by age, might be that I ride a trike, but I found they made a difference, especially tooling out of Fort Dodge on day two, when it was raining.

Paragraph three of this link has Pork Belly Ventures’ suggestions for handling rain. Since you are a newbie, you might enjoy the entire article.

https://pkbelly.com/content/detail/ragbrai_first_timers

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jeffreydennis, May 16, 2018 at 10:17 am

It will rain….probably. No on garbage bags. Vented jacket should do it. You’ll see some in full gear. Light rain keep going, watch out for road markers or manhole covers in town, they can be like glass. Ive riden it out in heavt rain and hail. Have a plan. Lightning dontscrew around, find shelter, not always easy in corn country.

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mootsman, May 16, 2018 at 12:16 pm

A weather radar app for your smart phone is a great addition for avoiding rain during the ride. One year I left late to let the rain pass long enough for the gravel loop to dry out. Last year I checked it as soon as I woke and saw if I left real early, I’d stay ahead of it. Which I managed to do.

Do have a light weight rain ride jacket that stuffs into a pocket during the day and a fully waterproof one for the evenings around camp

This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by mootsman.

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Nico ZZZ, May 16, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Living in south FL, rain is a cooling relief. So in 2014, my first RAGBRAI, I didn’t bring rain gear. Yikes! That rain day in Tripoli was brutal. The rain started early morning, pre-ride, so it was cold!
Got back home and bought a rain jacket. I also have a pair of full finger gloves for the cold. I also have leg/knee sleeves for those cool mornings and rain. And you may want to consider cycling glasses that have interchangeable lenses. I have a clear lens to keep the rain off the eyes when it is a dark, rain-filled sky.
Figure there will be one day of rain. And, as someone mentioned earlier, get some riding in on wet roads.

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wrj, May 17, 2018 at 6:57 am

Will it rain? Maybe. Will it be a cold rain? Maybe. I’m a skinny old person who gets cold in the rain. I carry rain gear to keep my head and core warm and dry every day of ragbrai. I don’t trust the weather reports I have the rain gear tucked under the handle bars where it doesn’t bother me or the workings of the bike.
My riding buddy isn’t bothered so much by the rain. He can get by with less rain gear.The heat bothers him more than me. The thing is to know yourself and be prepared.

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KenH, May 17, 2018 at 7:50 am

Believe me, the people who were shivering on the gym floor in Tripoli in 2014 did think it was winter! They were wrong but they were also very, very chilled. A light rain jacket will protect you from that fate on rainy days and it can keep you warm on chilly nights. Summer nights in the midwest can be chilly and on clear nights they will feel chillier the longer you stay outside. This has only happened once according to the RAGBRAI chronicles you can find on this website but one year the overnight lows got into the 40sF which is in the vicinity of 7C!! I think the 50sF/12C would be rare but the 60sF/18C are common so you might find use for that light rain jacket even during dry weeks. And if you are particularly susceptible to cold (and many people from warm climates are) you might consider one vital, rain or shine.

The bottom line is that a light rain jacket is worth its weight when you are doing your final packing and are forced to decide which items are necessary and which can be left behind.

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rlseaborn505, May 17, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Hi Susan,
Two words: be prepared. A light rain jacket (water proof, not just resistant), along with arm and knee warmers if the weather even looks remotely questionable, can be worth their weight in gold, and they pack down small too. There are some really lite and packable rain jackets on the market (I have an Endura that I have yet to use, but always have it along on these events). I’ve even packed a cheap hotel shower cap to go over my helmet (never used it though). Good to be just a little over vs under prepared. Rick

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Brian Wallenburg, May 18, 2018 at 6:51 pm

The morning of 2014 was no joke, there were plenty with hypothermia that did not continue. Be prepared with a rain jacket and gloves. You’ll still get wet, but hopefully be able to hold some heat in.

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Sexton, May 18, 2018 at 7:42 pm

I was there in 2014. Having lived through more winters in Northern New England than I care to admit, I will just say this; HEED WELL THE WORDS OF KEN H.

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montestaples, May 19, 2018 at 4:31 pm

2014 coming into Tripoli was really tough. It was not only raining but cold and windy. That morning I rode through a very high headwind at the front edge of a cold front. I was in my lowest granny gear going 1.2 mph and barely managed to stay on the rode. Most people were in the ditch hanging on to weeds. I don’t know how high that wind was but I would guess 50-60 mph. I was wearing a waterproof cycling raincoat and had a plastic bag tied over my helmet. I was cold but way better than a lot of people that appeared to be in serious hypothermia. That school in Tripoli was not planned to be open but when the town decided to open it for riders to take shelter I really think they saved lives. I felt bad for the custodian. There was about 1/2″ of water in a lot of the hallways from thousands of dripping people. In my 12 years of RAGBRAI nothing else came close but you need to be prepared. After that I purchased a nylon helmet cover (like a shower cap for helmets) but have used it only very rarely but not on RAGBRAI. Note that cycling raincoats do not keep you dry because you sweat under them, but they keep you way warmer than without. Have a raincoat, check your weather radar and dodge the rain if you can, and have a place to carry your raincoat for when it stops raining. Oh, and have fun.

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ratscallion, June 2, 2018 at 10:32 pm

I got caught out on the road in 2014 and it was CHEEEEWILLLY! I learned several things from that experience. First, I now use a zip-tie mount rear fender on wet days. The water spray off the rear tire hits your back and water drips down the into the sham… It’s like riding in a wet diaper (or at least what I imagine a wet diaper might feel like…LOL!). Second, my riding shoes filled up with water from the front tire (squish squish), so I now wear neoprene booties over my shoes if I think rain is a’comin’. I wear a goretex-like breathable fabric jacket and rain pants over the top of my booties. Chill is not so much an issue if you have a good windbreaker. I wouldn’t worry so much about real thick insulation, just plan to bring water/wind type gear. Plan on rain at least one day…

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