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So many questions! North Texas Newbie with 12 year old

Hey there!!!

So we live in Texas but we were in Waukon Iowa during the 2017 ride and got to hang out, meet folks, eat and party. So much fun! I used to mountain bike but I am 41 and do not ride anymore, for the most part I am out of shape (6ft/200lb). My now 12 year old son does triathlons but not long distance rides. Since Waukon he has been asking me to do a father son Ragbrai with him and he brought it up again today. (Thought it would fade) So I really need some help!! I think I am going to agree to this adventure, which means even buying a road bike, nutrition and training. I know nothing about RAGBRAI. So here are a list of questions.
Training suggestions?
Any issues with my son, he is a 7th grader.
What is the “most comfortable” way to do the RAGBRAI? Suggestions for contacts that would be kid friendly.
Anyone here in the Fort Worth Texas, Keller, North Richland Hills TX area?
Who thinks I am completely crazy!?

15 Replies

Amanda, October 29, 2017 at 4:10 pm

You aren’t crazy! RAGBRAI is an awesome adventure. This will be my 20th. It’s great that your son wants to go. The memories-good and bad- will be something you and your son will always have. First bit of advice- get quality bikes and ride. Being in Texas, you will have more opportunities to ride than some of us! Next plan how you want to do RAGBRAI. Charters, the RAGBRAI semi trucks or get a support driver and sleep in an RV or tent it. There are several options. I go with a small group and we have a support driver. We like to camp in people’s yards. Investigate the best option for you. The most important thing to remember is it’s not a race. Relax and enjoy the journey!

This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by  Amanda.

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Sunflower, October 29, 2017 at 5:02 pm

My son is 13 and has ridden 5 complete RAGBRAI’s and next year will be his 10th RAGBRAI total. I think kids and RAGBRAI are a great combination and my son wouldn’t miss it for the world.

If your son spends enough time on his bike to get his butt in condition you shouldn’t have any issues as long as the weather doesn’t get awful, particularly cold rain. Its no trick at all to get hypothermia in Iowa in the last week of July if a cold thunderstorm moves through. Bad for an adult, potentially a minor crisis with a youngster. Be sure to approach the first half of the week as 6 10 mile rides instead of one 60 mile ride each day and kids will have a ball. Most people treat the ride like that all week.

Expect to average about 10 or 11 miles per hour unless he is very large and strong for his age. As you train up, find the speed you can maintain comfortably for a couple of hours at a time. A good rule of thumb for your first year is that if you’re breathing through your mouth you’re going too fast.

The easiest way to have a bad time is to bring clothing and equipment that isn’t thoroughly tested; a new pair of shorts or shirt with a seam that rubs you the wrong way can make you really uncomfortable and you’re not likely to know about it until you’ve got some angry red skin.

There are lots of details that can make RAGBRAI more enjoyable and I’m sure this thread will fill up with most of them, but if you can avoid chafing and sunburn and your equipment is in order you’re almost guaranteed to have a good time if you’re modestly fit.

Training in North Texas should make Iowa heat no issue. If your son is a triathelete I’m guessing he’s familiar with proper hydration and nutrition.

1,000 miles of training is enough to guarantee a fitness level that will get you through the week very comfortably. Its unlikely to be your legs that are the weak link, far more likely to be butt, hands or neck. If you can complete a 40 mile ride and have enough energy left over to go get some groceries, cook dinner and do some chores before bedtime you’ll be fine on the Ride.

Have some experienced riders check out the fit of your bike if you can’t find a good shop to do it. Even then a second opinion wouldn’t hurt. Expect to have a few kinks that need to be worked out as you put in the training miles. Riding sandals with clipless pedals are a worthwhile expenditure. Soft soled sneakers/running shoes are a bad idea unless you are quite sure that your feet can handle them all day, every day, for a week. Get your footwear when you get the bikes so you can be sure of the fit and comfort.

You’re going to have a good time. See the links below.

https://youtu.be/MGRaKuuoL4s

https://youtu.be/VWHP9FleUks

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BillSpriggs, October 29, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Get a bike and start riding. This year was my fourth RAGBRAI in the last five years. Check out the Pork Belly Ventures web site. I’ve used them and they do a great job. Watch the RAGBRAI website, they post a training program which if you follow you won’t have any problem with the ride.

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Mike Howe, October 29, 2017 at 7:46 pm

Last year was my first RAGBRAI. I only trained/rode about 500 miles here in AZ from February until late June (I’m 6 foot 200lbs as well). I did a lot of hiking, running, and gym work too though and the ride wasn’t bad at all. What really helped me was this forum page. You can ask almost anything on here and you will get at least one response or answer to your question, usually a lot more. I did a lot of googling. For example “best tent for ragbrai”, and 90% of the time your answer would be found on here. I watched a lot videos on youtube too when I was bored. Lots of videos of previous RAGBRAIs, how to pack, personal experiences, etc to watch. There are several other charters that will make your week easier, used Pork Belly Ventures. There are sooo many nice people willing to help, give advice, answer your questions, open their yard/homes on RAGBRAI that it’s nearly impossible to have a bad time.

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timf, October 29, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Consider a tandem. I have taken my seven year old grandson and or his
little sister on several cross state rides when they get tired you can pull them but most importantly you wont have wonder where they are.

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Aaron Kreag, October 29, 2017 at 10:20 pm

My boy is fiercely independent and would have a stroke if he was stuck to me. I think if we spend six months training we should be good.

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Aaron Kreag, October 29, 2017 at 10:24 pm

I will be working on collecting all the gear soon. Looks like you register and pay but then get put in a lottery?

My back is shot from years in the Army and as a paramedic. I would prefer a bed over the ground so I would prefer some kind of RV. I just don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of rowdy drunks. I guess that leads to the question of organizing my own stuff like I can get an RV and some other people. Would that be better or try to use and pay some others that have experience? I really don’t want to tent sleep in someone’s yard if I can avoid it…

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KenH, October 30, 2017 at 8:01 am

As far as I can tell from other’s experiences 12 is not too young to start doing this ride. I was 60 when I did my first half RAGBRAI, 61 when I did my first full RAGBRAI, and I’ve met people who were ten years older when they did their first. There’s a 91 year old who did all or part of the ride this year. So, 41 is not too old to start!

You can do RAGBRAI on any bike or on any bike like thing. People do it on skateboards. But if you have the means to get new bikes then a mountain bike would not be your first choice. Probably 90% or more will ride road bikes so that is a safe choice. Touring bikes would probably be a better choice but you won’t convince most folks of that. Any bike that you can ride comfortably for long distances will do the job. A 29er with a Jones Loop H Bar or something similar that will give you several hand positions on the bar to let you manage hand numbness and fatigue would be fine. I ride a Fuji “flat bar road bike” as they call that model today but I put a Jones bar on it to get more hand positions and it is a fine RAGBRAI bike.

Since you are buying new bikes you should ask yourself how you feel about gravel. RAGBRAI offers two “extra credit” optional route loops that you can take. The Karras loop brings one day up to 100 miles, a century, and you can do that on any bike you do the rest of RAGBRAI on. The last three years it has also featured a gravel loop and while there are no guarantees I think it will be offered again this year. You can do gravel on a road bike and skinny road tires but it is a lot more enjoyable on wider tires so if you think you might like to partake of the gravel you would want to check that any bike you buy will take at least 28mm tires. Even wider is better but 28 is far better than 23! I was unable to ride the whole day on Karras loop day this year so I made Gravel day my century day by taking the gravel loop twice. Later in the week when I dropped a chain on one of those big hills the last day a woman called me “hard core” because I got back on the bike and started back up the hill once it was fixed. Little did she know….

If your back is an issue you might want to consider a recumbent. But for certain you should hook up with a good local bicycle shop and get their advice and have them fit you properly to your new bikes. If it were me I would buy bikes that are RAGBRAI worthy, for sure, but also capable of doing the type of riding I would do the rest of the year. So for example, if you think you might like to make a career, so to speak, of riding gravel roads in Texas you might be best served by a 29er or an “adventure touring” bike rather than a traditional road bike. But give some thought to what you want to do year round and then a good bike shop can help you work out the details.

If you want to tent camp then hooking up with a charter would be a good option. They can help you handle some of the details and they are available at a wide variety of price points. For a fee some even offer indoor sleeping in “hotel rooms” built into semi trailers or actual hotel rooms. If you want to do that then make contact RIGHT NOW as those options fill up FAST. Pork Belly Ventures is where I would start for that.

The one year I have tent camped I went with a small, affordable club charter run by the Riverbend Cycling Club and Argo Moving. It would make a fine way to spend a week with your son and I saw probably a third of the people using the charter dragging very large air mattresses over to the cell phone charging station to plug them in so that their internal AC powered inflators could blow them up every night. Go to Walmart and look at their Intex self inflating air mattresses and you will see what I am talking about. Something like that might make your back comfortable but obviously you will have to buy the air mattress FIRST and THEN buy the tent big enough to hold it! Even at my age sleeping on a small, light Thermarest pad is quite comfortable, but I don’t have back issues.

Most years I have done RAGBRAI in my personal motorhome. About half the time we’ve been able to get a driver, the rest of the time we had to split the driving between the three or more riders. Long story but this year we did that with only two of us. Not ideal but we mad it work. So that option is certainly workable. It is a lot more fun if you can find a driver. On the whole, I actually prefer tent camping but my opinion might be a lot different if we’d had a severe overnight thunderstorm in 2016. But we did not and I don’t think we had much for rain at night this year either so I continue to subscribe to the notion that tent camping is the thing to do!

There are many ways to do RAGBRAI and none of them are the wrong way so we look forward to seeing you two on the roads of Iowa next July!

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jwsknk, October 30, 2017 at 11:12 am

Almost everybody who registers on time gets in. But I think they don’t run the payment through until that time.
Once the overnight towns have been selected (around the last weekend of Jan) the towns will start forming committees. One will be housing. They try to arrange home stays for riders. There is usually a small fee involved collected by each town. They probably won’t start taking applications until maybe June? Have to check the towns web sites for their procedures. And those probably wont start to show up until March. If you go the RV route, when you register make sure to check registering vehicle too to get that campground pass.
Someone mentioned Pork Belly with the Pork Palace. AC rooms in a semi trailer a bit pricy I think but you don’t need to pack and unpack everyday. I think they sell out though so need to contact them early.
What other questions? Double the miles of RAGBRAI for the training miles seems to be a common thing. The more miles before probably the less pain during. But I’ve known people who have done it on a lot less. Like last year when someone decided a week before to go with us. Think of 5-6 10-15 mile rides a day not 50-90 mile days. The towns are usually pretty well spaced. Watch for the closing times for services. The route is open 6am to 6 pm. That’s when the sag wagons, highway patrol and medical crews are out. The base the closing times roughly on a 10 mph from the overnight. So a town 10 miles from the end would close up shop at 5.
A mountain bike would work if that’s what you are comfortable on. Just get narrower slicks, no need for knobbies.
Nutrition. Eat today for tomorrow. Lots of food along the way usually not a problem. Maybe vegans have more issues finding food I don’t know all their issues. Drink plenty of fluids, and not just plain water. Will be places to fill up in every town.

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FortWorth, October 30, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Aaron, give me call, Id be happy to help you out. All of the information so far is accurate and correct, but it can be a daunting task! I live in NTX as well, but an Iowa native. Give me a call and we can discuss a few things! After 3:30pm is best! Jeremy Eight-One-Seven, 300-1308.

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francoisvanzyl, October 30, 2017 at 2:54 pm

I have done it twice with two of my sons — now aged 16 and 29. Hopefully we can get the other one (24) in as well this year. The younger one did it when he was 15 the first time and he did fine. Older one did it this year with a cheapo mountain bike with slicks on it. Things did not go too well for him and he had a hard time from the third day on — equipment was just not up to what was asked of it. Lesson here, make sure you have decent equipment — bikes, shoes, helmets, gloves, shorts, etc). He bought a good cross bike a week after RAGBRAI.

My younger son rides on a cross bike with 32mm slicks and he has been fine on both occasions doing gravel and century loops. I would consider a cross/gravel bike if I was you since it does give you more options other than the RAGBRAI ride. He now aspires to be the next wheelie guy — that is the nut who did most of RAGBRAI on his rear wheel only. Youth is wasted on the young, I tell you.

We tented and used the RAGBRAI truck every time, got rained on in the tents and on the road but so what? It creates memories bar none and it is a better father-son bonding experience that you can ever wish for. We were fine sleeping on thin pads in the tents but none of us have back issues. Point is you get so physically tired you do not notice sleeping on the floor. It can get very hot and humid in Iowa during the summer (we are from south Texas) so, if you tent it, have a little battery operated fan handy. The hardest part of tenting it is getting that almost 50 pound bag on the baggage truck every morning.

Training? My boys each had about 1000 miles in their legs in the six months working up to July. I had more but I needed it since I am older (57). We all did fine and were in good enough shape to really enjoy the event without any suffering (of course there were the Iowa Alps in the north east but that was part of the fun).

Nutrition: We ate whatever we could find (about $50.00 each per day if you do not consume alcoholic beverages) and I burnt 29 000 calories and actually gained 2 pounds during the week. That is about right in my book, you should enjoy it and ‘live’ it while in Iowa.

Logistics. We loaded the bikes and all our gear on the back of the truck and had some road trips — 2 days up and 2 days back. That was a bonding exercise in and of itself. We dropped everything off at the start town and one of us (had our own little lottery there) drove the truck across Iowa to the end town and hopped on a bus back. Long day but, again, so what?

My advice, prepare, use common sense and just do it. It will most likely be the best waste of some of your vacation time you can have.

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Aaron Kreag, October 30, 2017 at 9:24 pm

Got it. Mine is Nine Seven Two, 213-6819 and I can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn. I live in North Richland Hills. Looking forward to catching up.

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Aaron Kreag, October 30, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Hey folks! Loving the commentary! Please keep posting if you haven’t already, would love all the suggestions. If you are in the North Texas area, would love to meet up too. Just got moms blessing on this trip so we are making progress. Pork Belly website seems like it hasn’t been updated in a while, called and no answer.

Who has the VIP coach or beds in a trailer with AC? LOL

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Leslee Hansen, November 1, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Check out Bikes To You in Grinnell Iowa I think they ac trailer with beds plus they have shower trailer also

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Aaron Kreag, November 1, 2017 at 9:19 pm

WOW WOW WOW! Just looked. $5,000.00 for the trailer option for me and my 12 year old. If that’s the normal rate for something like this I will sleep in a tent. Lol. Thanks for the tip! Aaron

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