This is my first RagBrai, looking for advice.

Its been on my bucket list for years. I am from Cache Ok and looking for some pointers from RagBrai veteran riders.

68 Replies

Nico ZZZ, December 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Rudy,

First advice is go through the forums and read the conversations on “charters or not charters,” “Things I won’t forget to bring next year,” anything about training and Ragbraiers thoughts on that.
You can go to pkbelly.com (Pork Belly Ventures) website and they have a pretty thorough packing list for a Ragbraier whether you use Pork Belly, another charter company, or go with a team or solo.
I’ve ridden two, and will be back for 2017. Every rider has their own definition of what Ragbrai is, what they consider a good day of riding the corn: early riders, late riders, partiers, abstainers, when to eat, what to eat (everything if possible!), etc.
Ragbrai is what you want it to be. I ride with a few teammates, we use Pork Belly since we are traveling from FL and further and don’t want to ship tents, etc. We each get in about 500 to 1000 miles of training on the road, as well as some other cardio and core workout. We are all in 40-60 age group. But that is us, and you may live locally so driving in with an RV works for you. Read the forums, get some basic plan together, then dive back into the forum with more specific questions.
Be careful, as this bucket list item of Ragbrai can be addictive!!!
Ride On!

#1193515

Norman Jameson, December 29, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Rudy,

Congrats on making the time for RAGBRAI. As Mark Twain said, “Learn to ride bike. If you survive, you will like it.” To paraphrase, Do RAGBRAI, if you survive, you’ll be glad you did.

1. Get some miles in ahead of time, so you can enjoy the ride.
2. Use a portage group. I’ve used Brancel. Good group and smaller than some others, so it’s more intimate and less crowded. If you don’t use a charter, you’ll be looking for your bags off of an 18-wheeler with thousands of others.
3. I take $300 for food and beverage for the week. But I don’t buy a lot of beer.
4. Your best investment besides your bike is good bike shorts/bibs.
5. The first tent zipper in the morning is the alarm clock for everyone. Ride in the early hours. It’s cooler, fresher and more fun.
6. Don’t skip the town stops. Each one is different. You’re there to look, smell, taste, experience. You could finish that day’s distance by 10 a.m. every morning if you wanted to. That’s not RAGBRAI, that’s just training.
7. Talk to strangers.
8. The road is crowded sometimes. Be careful.
9. When you sign up, buy the jersey. Great memento and you’ll be surprised how often you get comments on it about RAGBRAI. I live in NC and get comments all the time from people who have done it or who want to do it.
10. Remember — any week you can spend outside of Oklahoma is a good week. (I lived there twice)

Norman
Winston-Salem, NC

#1193523

jelly0317, December 29, 2016 at 10:29 pm

In response to suggestion #2 above, don’t worry about using the Register’s semi to haul your bag. The baggage area is marked as to the time at which a particular bag is loaded on the semi. Just remember what time you loaded your bag and its color, and you’ll be OK. I’m always amused by people who have never used the Register truck, but still warn of the difficulty of locating a bag. I’ve used the truck exclusively since 1983, and it’s never taken me longer than about two minutes to find my bag.

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Nico ZZZ, December 30, 2016 at 8:10 am

Rudy,

Here’s a bit of cut and paste from previous posts I’ve responded to over the last couple of years. I hope this will help.

What is RAGRBAI…
When I talk about RAGBRAI to friends and acquaintances, I get a version of one of the following responses: “Man, I don’t know if I could even make 20 miles!”, “How does your butt take it?”, “My legs would be rubber!”, “Isn’t Iowa flat?”

The answers are: 1: “You probably couldn’t with the bike you have, nor without some training.” 2: “Butt butter, bike shorts and training to toughen it up.” 3: “Actually your arms, shoulders and back will die before your legs.” 4: “Nope, it rolls along; there are some brutal hills.”

I then tell them that RAGBRAI is indeed 7 days of riding, so you do need to train. But…RAGBRAI is also a spiritual cleansing, just getting away for seven- SEVEN!!!- days on the road without the garbage of work. Work is just that thing I do in-between RAGBRAIs. RAGBRAI is the pass through towns, where you meet and chat with all sorts of people, eat so much great street food: pork, pie and ice cream, breakfast bowls, beer, those early morning Bloody Mary’s at some small town bar with locals, local musicians playing in the town square while you kick back under the shade of a big old tree. And then there is the camp part of the experience, that relaxed contentment of grinding out another 60+ miles that day while chatting with fellow riders, and the magic of a hot shower. And maybe a stroll into town at night to enjoy the local restaurants and some live music, and check out the town’s welcoming decorations.
And I tell them: RAGBRAI is what you want it to be. You can challenge yourself physically (2016 was my comeback ride from a catastrophic ankle break in 2015, so when I dipped my bike in the Mississippi this year I also shed some tears, thinking of all the people who helped me on the road to recovery.) RAGBRAI is also eating! Man, the pork and the pie with ice cream is magical, and burning that many calories a day gives you a wide open door to feast!!! RAGBRAI can be a great week with a good friend or two riding the corn, so the rest of the year when you get together you can bore the rest of your non-RAGBRAI friends with memories and endless stories!!!
My teammates and I are trying to recruit a few friends to ride in 2017. We tell them “You are the perfect guy for RAGBRAI: you will love it!” but in the end, we know the odds are long. I lived in the Midwest most of my life, born in Iowa even, but back when I was 28 years old, living in Omaha, a coworker told me he did RAGBRAI, and he explained to me what it was. I exclaimed: “Why in the hell would I want to spend a week riding across Iowa?! It’s all cornfields!” Now, mid-50s and living in Florida, I spend more than $2,000 on flights, bike shipping, charter support, etc to Ride the Corn, and I can’t wait to do it again next year! Sometimes, it is just a matter of time and timing….

On “Nutrition”…
For Vitamin C: Bloody Mary at the first stop in the morning everyday, and Vodka Lemonades seem to have a great positive effect in the afternoon. = )

So much literature on so many websites, it can be overwhelming. For cramping: salt, pickle juice, mustard (has turmeric in there)! Hammer and Nuun (A Ragbrai sponsor) seem to be popular. Nuun has less sugar/calories than Gatorade, not sure about Hammer. Jelly Belly Sports Beans are advertised heavily on the Tour de France coverage. For energy I have used GU – good flavors, easy to carry and consume. Some packets, tablets, pills have caffeine for an added boost, so be aware of those differences.
Magnesium, ginger, turmeric, amino acid supplements all claim to be beneficial. Whey protein is a popular start to the day. One of my teammates claims quinine is great to prevent leg cramps, so he has the green light to hammer back a couple of gin tonics after a long ride! Hahaha.
I do the magnesium, ginger, turmeric (tastes like pepper) and amino acid in pill or liquid form in the morning, along with a protein drink. Nuun on the ride, will have a GU packet available if I feel the need for energy later in the day’s ride. And yes, a Bloody Mary in the morning, and a Vodka Lemonade in the afternoon. A beer in each pass through to support the local vendors! And I still knock down grilled meat and pulled pork along the way. And the pie with vanilla ice cream…and the root beer floats…and…and…. Can’t wait for Iowa!!!

First Day Memories…
I clearly remember my Day 1 in 2014. Coming out of Pork Belly campsite, standing on the gravel shoulder of the road, overwhelmed by the insane mass of cyclists on the road, not sure how the heck I was going to mount and blend into this sea of cyclists. It was about 7am.
Kwog is right about the unsteady riders at the beginning. It took a couple of pass through towns for the mass to thin out a bit, as riders take various amounts of time in each town. Eventually the “peleton” sorts itself out, and most riders become predictable, steady and communicative riders.
Just go easy, keep your line, not a race (as you have heard/read countless times), and ease into the breakfast town. Set your bike down, enjoy your first road Kybo break, munch on a breakfast burrito perhaps, wash it down with a magical Bloody Mary!
BTW, get ready to walk your bike a lot. That was probably my most surprising “discovery” that first day. Every town, as you come in, you will hear a wave of “Rider Off!” as bikers dismount as they hit town. Make sure you yell out the same for those cyclists behind you – you will need to be belting out your moves throughout the week.
Your excitement for Ragbrai is well-founded: A Week in the Corn is Truly Magical. I’ve been waiting for two years to get back, I talk about Ragbrai like a religious fanatic to anyone that will listen. I can talk for hours about butt butter, saddles, training, PBV, pass through towns, all that beautiful Iowa pork, even Kybos!

Food and Beverage…
You will never starve nor die of thirst during Ragbrai! In nearly every pass through town they will have a loooong PVC pipe with 40-50 holes drilled in it, connected to a fire hydrant, so it is a beautiful (to a cyclist) fountain of water to freely fill your bottles. Yes, carry two bottles.
There are also folks out by the roadside between towns sometimes selling lemonade (buy from the kiddies!), bottled water or gatorade. And beer and vodka lemonade maybe at a farm set up with kybos, etc. But always fill up in the towns.
And in some towns people are giving out bottles of water as you enter town. Iowa and Ragbrai is awesome!

Overpacking…
I immediately realized I over-packed. I had read the forum topics before hand of course, and had read the countless blurbs about Ragbrai really being “Eating Across Iowa,” pie, ice cream, pulled pork, Mr. Pork Chop, etc., but I scoffed and brought 14 KIND bars – two a day, gonna-eat-healthy-silliness was my plan. First day, we started pulling into the towns with the beautiful aroma of grilled meat making love to my olfactory system, and I put those bars at the bottom of my bag, and ate my way across Iowa! I also packed way too many non-riding clothes. You need to realize that you only have to be “Ragbrai Fresh” each day, just like everyone around you. You can wear clothes multiple days – no problem.

I am in south Florida, where rain is a cooling relief from the scorching heat and heavy humidity when riding, so I didn’t think I’d need rain gear. Well, day 6 of 2014 we awoke at about 4am to a cold rain storm. When the rain starts at that hour it is not refreshing nor is it cooling – it chills you! It was a tough few hours the beginning of that day. I will bring a rain jacket, and full finger gloves for the rain/cold possibilities. I also wished I had clear lens riding glasses for the beginning of that dark day to keep the rain from pelting the eyes, but I only had dark-lensed sunglasses. A teammate had one of those evergreen car air fresheners in his bag – that was one of the better ideas I’ve seen – helps avoid the wet dog odor that pervades your stuff by late week.
Check Pork Belly Ventures packing list – that’s a good one.

Sun Protection…
I have English skin, so it is pasty white, purple or peeling – such wonderful options.
I researched and found a great sunscreen on Amazon (where else?) Solbar Zinc. I applied in every town. You have to (as you know) in an Iowa July.
I wear a do-rag under my helmet and over forehead to prevent burning through the air holes of my helmet. Low on forehead – below helmet line, and along with sunglasses so I don’t have to put sunscreen above my eyes so it doesn’t run down into my eyes and burn the rest of the day.
In town, when I take my helmet and do-rag off, I wear a kerchief covering my head and forehead. (Every minute you can cover yourself, why not?)
I wear short sleeve jerseys with arm sleeves. Look on Amazon for armsleeves, etc for sleeves about $10/pair. I love them, as I find them cooler when riding and less chemicals to smear on your body. When really hot, you can squirt water on your armsleeves and it cools you down.
I wear lip balm on a string around my neck, so it can easily be applied anytime, as the Solbar sunscreen is not a magic taste on the lips – it destroys the pleasure of Iowa Craft Beers!
Just continually cover yourself, and don’t ever forget your ears, as I have a friend who had to have part of his sun-damaged ear shaved off. Yes, horrific, and he was in such pain for weeks. I met another man down here in Miami who had parts of both ears cut off due to sun-damage. This is very serious.
Don’t bargain shop for sun protection!

Other Helpful Hints…
I found myself waking by 4:45am without an alarm, due to light and excellent sleep on my air mattress, and stirring of others in tents around me. On the road by 6:30am.
Iowa nights start hot (bring a “disposable” bedsheet) and then can get darn cold at night, so at 2am (never checked the clock!) you sleepy-eyed slide into your sleeping bag. Nights are very wet with condensation, so if you make a nighttime trip to the KYBO, have footwear ready for the wet grass. Have an identifying marker (glowstick, flag of your fave team or state) on your tent, and have a “miner’s flashlight for your trip, as it gets awfully dark in Iowa small towns at night.
Have breakfast in the first pass through town where all the breakfast vendors are. Of course reward yourself every morning with a good healthy blast of vitamin C with a mimosa or Bloody Mary – must always think of your vitamins and supplements!!!
Bike is left outside the tent. Bring a cheap shower cap to cover your seat so it is protected from overnight moisture, and dry for you in the morning.
For my money, ID, and credit/debit cards I carry them in a lanyard with a zipper pouch inside my jersey when I ride (seems uncomfortable but it is comfortable knowing it is right there!) Cash is the way to go of course, and maybe $40 will cover you just fine.
Showers are best after the ride, not in the a.m.
Shuttles to the festivities.
Ragbrai is defined by you. Honestly. You can enjoy this ride as a non-drinker, vegetarian, mad-drinker, meat-eater, god-fearing or heathen, and everything in-between. I am a moderate drinker and big lover of all things pork, leaning toward heathen, so I think I may be part of the plurality of Ragbrai. = )
Read all the blogs, check out Pork Belly Ventures website for the list of what to bring (a great resource). Everyone on this website brings something to the table, and they all helped my enjoy the heck out of Ragbrai 2014. Ragbrai can so easily become a Beautiful Addiction. I am addicted.

T.J. and the pre-ride inspection team will also be adding things to see and do along the route in the next couple of weeks. I wiki for info on the towns on the route, and will print up a 3×5 card for each day’s ride and laminate (or just use poor man’s laminate – clear packing tape). In 2014 there were the Iowa Craft Beer guys handing out biz cards with the locations of the Craft Beer trucks for each day – now THAT was a valuable card! We always supported the Iowa Beer Vendor.
And YES to the ziplock bags – for everything.
And any cycling supplies that you forgot to bring – well, it is all there on Saturday at the Expo, and mechanics tents are in every pass through.

And Finally!…
This is not in any way a definitive list, but it is based on what I learned from riding my first RAGBRAI in 2014.

GEAR: There are about a half dozen bike repair tents in each pass through town as well as end towns – honestly – so you don’t have to sweat. The cyclists of the U.S. Air Force riding team (I think there were about 120 riders in 2014) are the good Samaritans on the ride, stopping to help any and all. And everyone else stops as well. My teammate Panama had two flats in one day, and he said he had five people repairing his tire while he watched!
Bring two tubes.
All supplies can be bought in pass through towns: butter, bike parts, clothing, etc, so don’t over-pack with “spare” items. And I never saw any outrageous pricing, on bike parts, supplies, food or beverages.
I had a small mishap and my derailleur was bent – $20 in the next pass through town – repair done.
We had one evil day of cold morning rain. I really was coveting full finger gloves that morning, and a jacket. I live in Miami, so a ride in the rain is a soothing, cooling experience. A seven a.m., 60-degree rain in Iowa is not refreshing, it is awful, and so have the gear.
Bring a cap or headband to cover your head from sunburn when you take your helmet off to eat, drink and lounge in the pass through towns.
Individual Prep H wipe packs are magical on the road in those lovely KYBOs. You want to keep that undercarriage clean and lubed at all times.
Bring an extra butt butter pack and one energy booster on each day’s ride.
Don’t load up on power bars, etc as there is so much great food in each town. I packed two bars for each day, and ended up eating maybe two of them for the week. The heck with those granola bars, Iowa offers up PORK in every town – eat it!

THE RIDE: Relax! Each day is about five or six individual hour-long 10-15 mile rides with breaks in-between. And it is the in-between that makes RAGBRAI magical. Yes, riding across a state does indeed make you feel like a bada$$ when you are done that Saturday along the Mississippi, but it is the time you spend in those pass-through towns that will make the week magical. For my first RAGBRAI I was concerned about “pacing myself,” with that annoying bit of fear of burning out and not completing the ride. I had ridden about 1000 miles in the flatlands of the Florida Everglades among the alligators and snakes, so even the hills of Iowa were a question mark in my mind. All my worry was wasted. This year I will stop in every pass through town without just passing through, and savor the food, beverages, entertainment, and the people. Remember, these towns are giving you everything they have, so appreciate what they are doing to make our one week in their state so (gotta say it again) Magical. Eat pork like mad, try all those great Iowa craft beers, and buy the canned Busch or Bud from the fire departments so they can buy new gear. Stop and have a Bloody Mary or mimosa at the first stop you can. Have a vodka lemonade in the afternoon. You’re burning five thousand calories everyday, so no guilt! Grab a beer, a pulled pork sammich or a burger, and lie in the grass of the town square and listen to a polka, rock, or country band serenade you. Take a nap. Man, THIS is RAGBRAI. Don’t rush to get to the end town. Say “Hello” to all the townspeople that sit out on their front porch or driveway. Thank them for their hospitality. Buy lemonade or water from the kids. Yes, water is available for free in every town, but spend a few bucks and have a chat with the kids. Every day I said “thank you” and “hello” and “love your town!” at least 100 times. If you come from a place like Miami (as I do) it is a joy to once again experience the hospitality of the Midwest.

ODDS & ENDS: One of my teammates, The Colonel, found a couple of hints from past riders helpful. Bring a cheap shower cap to keep your saddle dry on those extremely wet Iowa summer nights while you sleep. Also, bring some of those pine tree car air fresheners for your bag and your tent. Man, we smelled like wet skunky dogs, especially after that brutal rain day. The Colonel was April fresh!
It may sound a bit off, but I found two helpful hints from past riders to be saviors for my week. As mentioned earlier, Prep H individual pack wipes were my friends on the road in those splendid KYBOs. BTW, almost all the KYBOs are quite clean, and have disinfectant hand goo dispensers, but…just in case also bring your own handy wipes on each day’s rides with your Prep H wipes. Another great hint: bring diaper rash medication for the after ride clean up to protect your undercarriage. After that hellish day of rain (oh, that again?!), riding all day sitting on a wet sponge, the oh so tender flesh was torn in the unmentionable zone, and with the final day of the Iowa Alps ahead! I tenderly applied the diaper rash gel to the tender spot while (of course) in the privacy of my tent after the ride, and by morning I was good to go (I was truly shocked at the magic of this stuff!), and I destroyed the Alps, laughing all the way!
Also, being middle-aged my knees are a bit creaky. I used to run to keep fit, but my creaky knees took me to riding the bike again, and then RAGBRAI, so perhaps “thank you olda$$ knees”? Anyway, I brought knee sleeves, and they were great on the rain day and another cool morning to keep my joints warmer in the morning. I also wear arm sleeves so I don’t need so much sunscreen, plus they actually keep your arms cooler. Try them; they are about $10/pair.
My body maintenance routine also included Aspercreme in the morning, and Icy Hot after the ride on the legs/knees, and arms and upper back and neck. On the last morning of the ride I woke and realized I had no aches. The Colonel claimed he ached everywhere! Hahaha. But he is a strong, bada$$ rider, doing Century rides in the New Mexico mountains.
My teammate Panama had a tough ride, his bike had mechanical issues, and he had two flats on the rain day, yet he loved RAGBRAI because of the towns and the people of Iowa. Yes, again, ride at whatever speed rocks your world, but stop and relax in those pass-through towns!

WHAT TO PACK: This depends on how you are traveling across the state. Team Diablos Rojos went with Pork Belly Ventures. They have an impressive operation, and they are not the cheapest as so many remind you. I had some jerkyboy riding next to me tell me “Pork Belly is not RAGBRAI.” Sorry there Cheezwhiz, but some of us don’t ride with a local team (because we have flown a couple of thousand miles to ride RAGBRAI), or are past the backpack/youth hostel lifestyle they are still desperately embracing as a mid-40 year old grunge-wannabe. RAGBRAI is whatever you want it to be, no one “owns” the identity of RAGBRAI. Make RAGBRAI your own.
So, air mattress or foam pad or whatever, as well as a sleeping bag. Bring a sheet for the warmer nights. Battery powered fan or two, as well as a tent light. Headlight for the walk to the KYBO in late night, or getting ready for the ride in the early morn. Collapsible campstool or chair, earplugs and perhaps an eye mask to help sleep.
This RAGBRAI I plan to bring more riding shorts so I don’t have to worry about washing and drying, maybe five. I thought back in 2014 I’d be able to use just a few pair, but the nighttime condensation hits around 9pm, so drying time outside the tent is short, especially if you enjoy those pass through towns and get into camp later in the afternoon. The last thing I want to do is rush to camp so I can do laundry. Nope, I wanna enjoy the towns, not be bogged down by “camp duties.” Pork Belly has a nice set up, they do, but the pass through towns are more interesting and enjoyable than a tent village. You will spend enough time in tent village, so avoid rushing there.
Bring a flag or glow sticks to attach to your tent to help you find it if you are going to live in a tent village.
Pack quick-dry clothing and bring less clothing than you think – I think everyone overpacks the first year.
However you approach and experience the ride in the corn, Ragbrai is how you define it.
Ride On!

#1193678

Michrider !!!, December 30, 2016 at 11:31 am

As several others have mentioned, Porkbelly Ventures runs a first rate charter operation. Check them out at https://pkbelly.com/

BTW, always remember, RAGBRAI don’t care!!!!

#1193724

Tim Raftery, December 30, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Think long and hard before you go and really decide if it is right for you. RAGBRAI is a dangerous dangerous endeavor. I went on a whim in 2013, my first year in many years cycling as an adult. I thought it was fun and MAYBE I would do it again sometime. Then I did it in 2014 with my son. We enjoyed it and thought MAYBE we would do it again. Then I did it in 2015 with my girlfriend and enjoyed it and thought MAYBE I would do it again. Then I did it in 2016 with my son again. And I decided to quit fighting it and just admit that I am doing it every year. So in 2017 me, my son, and probably my girlfriend are doing it AGAIN. My fifth, my son’s third and girlfriends second. So be careful. RAGBRAI is not really and “one and done” type event.

But in all seriousness, try a charter. It makes life easier. Read over all the suggestions on here and then pack less. I take less every year and still have too much. And then just enjoy the ride. It’s amazing. and if you ever want to talk to someone, just ask, “how many times have you done this?” the universal ice breaker on RAGBRAI.

go for it!

#1193748

HillsAngels1, December 30, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Tim I agree with you I’m from Ohio and did my 1st(and only in 2005) BUT I’ve not missed a year sense. 2017 will be my 13th in a row

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Groeny82, December 31, 2016 at 12:47 am

This got more lengthy than I thought it would, but you learn quite a bit after your first RAGBRAI so just jump in and see what needs changing for your personal needs the next year. Last year was my first RAGBRAI. Depending on how resourceful and independent you are I wouldn’t worry one bit about using the RAGBRAI baggage trucks and saving some money. I was planning on doing it that way but I luckily got tied in with a local group at the last minute so I didn’t have to use the baggage truck. Sure a charter will be easier, but I didn’t have the money for that so I was content to do it the old fashioned way (although some will say the old fashioned way is with panniers). Besides, that’s part of experiencing RAGBRAI in my opinion, even though I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it…yet.
Training is important, and I would suggest finding some hills to train on. I would say the 500-1000 mile rule of thumb is accurate. Due to work conflicts and other things I only got in about 350-400, and even though I did the whole week with no problems, I’m definitely aiming for more miles before the next one just to make it easier on myself.
The first day I was worried about what my pace should be and getting done before dark so I didn’t stop unless I needed water or a bite to eat and when I got to a pass through town I just hopped off my bike and walked through town then got going right away again. Well when I got to the end town at 2:00 in the afternoon I had nothing to do for the rest of the day. The next day and the rest of the week I stopped at some local roadside stops, had some pie, checked out the entertainment in the pass through towns, relaxed, took a nap here and there, stopped at the craft beer tents, and even with all that stopping I still made it to the end town before 6:00 and I had a lot more fun. Figure it this way, the 2016 route averaged 60 miles per day, so if you left at 7:00 in the morning and if you went 10 mph, that would put you at the end town at 1:00 in the afternoon if you didn’t stop. So you have quite a few hours to kill on the route having fun and getting to know people, plus you will probably average better than 10 mph.
Money situation, I think I spent around $500 over the week. But since it was my first RAGBRAI I wanted to make sure I did all of the “must do’s” that everyone on the forums talks about, such as Mr. Porkchop, Farm Bros, Beekmans, Amish pie, Iowa Craft Beer Tent, and many others. And yes, they are must do’s. That amount also included buying a jersey that I didn’t buy when I registered. It also includes a few craft beers each day and eating at the vendors or some place in the pass through and end towns each day. You can usually find a decent meal at a church or some community center for a very reasonable price. So all in all I didn’t think $500 was terrible. The more the week went on the more I found myself forgetting about the vendors and getting homemade stuff. For 2017 I’m going to try hard to support strictly local food/drink places in towns and on the road rather than the vendors, just a personal goal of mine since I’m from a smaller Iowa town and know how much a little bit can go a long way in these communities.
What to bring? I read just about everything on blogs and the forums on what to bring and I still over packed. I guess the easiest thing to tell you is to pack what you need and then take about half of it out. You really only need 5ish sets of shorts/bibs and jerseys, a couple t-shirts, one pair of jeans and one pair of good shorts for wearing out, a sweatshirt just in case there is a cool night, your riding shoes and one pair of tennis shoes. A couple microfiber towels for showering, small travel sized personal hygiene items and the same with sunscreen, one pair of cheap shower sandals that take up very little room, some one gallon zip lock bags to put smelly ride clothes in. There are a couple things I’m surely forgetting but the main point is, you truly need way less than you think. Oh, I did bring a bottle of Febreeze that I used to freshen up my clothes and towels and I’m glad I brought it.
A decent size saddle bag should hold everything you need. I had a bar bag for the first couple days but ended up taking it off, again, over packing on the bike. I stuck all my bike repair stuff and a couple first aid items in the saddle bag. My money, phone, daily map, small bottle of sunscreen, and one CLIF bar was all in my jersey pockets. There are too many places to eat along the way to get hungry so I ended up eating that bar on the drive home but I had it with me for a “just in case.” I had one bottle of water and one bottle of an electrolyte drink and just swapped between the two.
You might as well say everything you want said to friends and family before the trip because cell service can be very spotty. Verizon is better than AT&T, I have AT&T and I found one town I could make a call back home just long enough to wish my mom a happy birthday if I faced south on top of an electrical box, bent over at a 90 degree angle with my left foot up the in air behind me and my right arm straight out to the side. The towers just get overloaded with that many people around. I couldn’t even use data or send text messages. Come to think of it, I can’t say that it actually bothered me that much either.
Lastly, read the Ride Right brochures on this website and use that information. There is always someone going faster than you so try to stay as far right as you can. Use common sense and good judgement. It’s not a race.
You will quickly realize that the people of Iowa are extremely nice and RAGBRAI is always an exciting time for these towns. They put a lot of time, money, and work into hosting so show your appreciation by supporting them and telling them they are doing a good job.

#1193808

Michrider !!!, December 31, 2016 at 9:30 am

The more miles you ride before RAGBRAI, the more you will have in July. On the ride, you don’t hear people complaining about legs hurting. However, lots will complain of their butts hurting!!!!

#1193822

Amanda, January 1, 2017 at 5:28 pm

The best advice for packing and I think it was mentioned. Put everything in plastic baggies. I get the gallon size. I actually put an outfit in per bag. Along with a dryer sheet to make the clothes smell nice. It makes it easier to get dressed in the morning. The first few years I didn’t do the baggie thing. But a bad storm in Sheldon made mw decide the baggies were the only way. My duffle bag wasn’t water proof and when I ran out of my tent to take shelter in our host home, I didn’t take the time to zip up my tent all the way. Everything was wet and it took 2 days to dry out. 🙁

This will be my 19th RAGBRAI and I love it!

#1194008

BillSpriggs, January 1, 2017 at 8:48 pm

I have to agree, the more miles you put on the saddle the better your RAGBRAI experience will be. I have the good fortune to live in central California and can ride all year. Last year I started tracking my miles the 1st week in February and had a total of 2,280 miles before I left for RAGBRAI. I had no problem with my conditioning. I have to say that I still make the same mistake and ride too fast. I’ll work on slowing down this year. Plan on stopping at Beekman’s every day, Vanilla, Chocolate, Raspberry, Peach, Root Beer Float. Skip Mr. Porkchop if you are doing the Karras loop, save Mr. Porkchop for a short day.

#1194056

mootsman, January 2, 2017 at 9:58 am

Rudy,

As you can tell by the wide range of advice, it may help to know what RAGBRAI advice you are looking for and what you’re not. Like are you already a seasoned rider and your’re looking for logistical help or just on how to have the most fun…. We even have people out on the forum who have yet to buy a bike sometimes looking for pointers…..

#1194118

Rudy Casiano, January 2, 2017 at 10:21 am

mootsman, thanks for your reply and you are absolutely right, I should have been more specific. I have participated in endurance rides in the past such as: 5 OklahomaFreewheels and 4 Hotter-n-Hells. RagBrai is the first ride outside the Oklahoma- Texas area. What I am most interested in is:
1) Should I book a charter or use the registration baggage charter?
2) I will be driving in for the ride so I will be need passage from end town
start town. Should I wait till arrive to book passage or do it prior to the
ride?
3) Since I ride in warmer states I use a thin fleece sleeping bag for sleeping.
Should I bring something more warmer?

Rudy

#1194123

Rudy Casiano, January 2, 2017 at 10:32 am

Amanda, thanks for your reply. As I was telling mootsman I am not a novice rider and have numerous endurance rides under my belt. Since RagBrai is my first ride outside of the Oklahoma-Texas area and I will be driving, my main concern is should I spend some money and book the charters or use the registration baggage. Should I book transportation from end town before the ride or book it in advance?
Your advice will be greatly appreciated.
Rudy

#1194127

KenH, January 2, 2017 at 11:46 am

Rather than painting the lilies and gilding the gold of the other detailed responses I was going to suggest that you make some basic logistical decisions first and then we could help you refine them. But you have already done some of that so you are off to a good start. Typically what you would do then is to drive to the end town, arrange for long term parking there, and book a bus ride to the start town.

The end town will be announced in a few weeks but it may be May-ish before they publish their long term parking arrangement details. There is usually a lot of parking available but it can sell out. You don’t have to sign up instantly but don’t wait until the last minute either!

Several charters and clubs and teams will have a bus service available between the end and start towns. I don’t think the costs and amenities vary by a huge amount so look them over and take your pick. Again, you should not wait too long but instant signup is not necessary. They will generally open for business soon if not already, unlike the end town services and I believe they generally will refund your fee if you sign up early and are not picked in the wristband lottery. The bus ride generally includes a specified number of bags for your tent and luggage and a separate truck ride for you bike. They all have Saturday morning departures so you may need to tent camp Friday night or stay in a motel a short distance away as hotels in the end town will book up quickly. Some will have Friday departures too.

I think around a third of us use the Register trucks for bag transport and the general campgrounds for overnight camping. It is very basic service but you’ve already paid for it and many people find it perfectly fine. If you want to get a little more personal attention, smaller more private campgrounds, and typically a larger baggage allowance there are many charters and teams. This website has a section that lists the charters and there is also a forum where you can find the teams that may not qualify as full charters. Prices and service levels are all over the map. I’ve generally done the ride out of a private motorhome with my small team. Last year they were unavailable so I used one of the cheapest charters, the Argo-Riverbend club and charter. They did a fine job for me and my wife was glad to have me traveling with a group that would notice if I did not show up some evening. I’m 64 and I would say that if you are fit enough to ride across Iowa you will have no trouble setting up and tearing down your own tent every night or schlepping you gear to and from the baggage truck (but do pack lightly!). More expensive charters will give you more help of course so take your pick but the low cost charters or the Register trucks will give you a very fine RAGBRAI experience. There is also a group that books you into off route hotels and transports you to and from the route every day. I think you would need to sign up for that very quickly if you are interested. You can also book stays in private homes in some of the towns, look for that option on their websites when the overnight towns get around to setting them up, probably May-ish.

There is a lottery for wristbands and you can’t get into the lottery unless you complete your application and payment in time, so be sure to get that done. Your chances of winning are excellent, it is not clear that anyone who submits an application on time and completely filled out ever loses in fact. But if you do not get picked do not panic. Almost as soon as the results are announced people will start selling their registrations so you should be able to buy a wristband on the secondary market and transfer it over to your name on this website. If that should happen don’t wait too long. Prices tend to decline as the ride approaches and there are generally more sellers than buyers but they could sell out.

Hopefully we’ve given enough details for you to make your basic logistical decisions. If you have questions about specific charters or other details let us know and likely some of us are familiar with the answers.

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