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

Niles, February 1, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Apparently none of you are farm boys or gals. The reason is that soy bean doesn’t need fertilizer from you because the parasite bacteria on its roots can synthesize from nitrogen. Corn needs external nitrate/ammonium nutrients while it has higher efficiency for photosynthesis.

So help Iowa farmers by going to corn instead of soy field. 🙂

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cyduke, February 1, 2017 at 5:06 pm

I walked beans plenty of times on my Grandpa’s farm in Franklin county. Luckily I know the difference!
Although it is kind of funny to mess with someone who doesn’t know the difference.

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jake d, February 1, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Now that we have gotten to the inevitable “Corn Field” issue, if nature calls and you decide to use a cornfield, ( I do ), there are some basic rules.

1. Never cross a ditch! Those fields have driveways. How do you think the farmer gets in? Besides, the bottom of a grown over ditch can have any number of things at the bottom you really don’t want to step in.

2. Never ever climb over a fence to access a field. Barbed wire and biking clothes don’t play well together. Woven wire isn’t much better, and single
wire will give you an electrifying experience.

3. If you see any long stem plants with small clusters of yellow flowers at the top, stay away. This is wild parsnip and is very common in Iowa ditches. Imagine a combination of a bad sunburn with a case of poison ivy.

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KenH, February 2, 2017 at 8:14 am

I would just note that while a soybean field may not need your “fertilizer” and does nothing to protect your modesty, it does at least allow you to see the approaching corn bears in time to make your escape….

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S, February 5, 2017 at 1:32 am

One word: Lanacane. OK, water, water, water, and advil (but watchout for advil poisoning after a week of advil. get some miles in.). Being able to carry water is critical especially if its hot. You didn’t give enough information to tell you how to go. Are you going alone? With the semi? charter? Do you like to pack down a soggy tent in the morning? Or put up a tent after you rode 60 miles in the heat? (I threw mine on the ground one year and just slept on top of it. Too tired.) They didn’t have charters like they do now when I went before. Might be something to consider. They can charge phones and such, or bring a power cord. Might be able to do laundry there…not sure. Wheels on your luggage is good. Walkie talkies for backup communication if you are trying to communicate/coordinate with others in a group. Iowa didn’t have the best reception for cell phones in the past. I think they get better every year now. I wouldn’t bring kids. I talk to a lot of kids. It’s over some of them. They’re out there, but not necessarily enjoying it. Same with dogs. Too hot. I used to throw water on my shirt for air conditioning. So, being able to carry water again…critical. Different people ride different…so you have to figure that out on your own. Watch out the first couple of days…people that haven’t ridden before crash or cause crashes (could happen any day though. bring your insurance card.) By about the third day they figure it out. Call out obstacles. It sounds so bold to yell out, but its better than watching people crash.

I agree with the baggies idea. I use the two-gallon size and put one set of clothes in each one. Easy to grab a set of clean clothes after a long day and head to the showers. Bring flip flops for the showers. Some can get pretty gross after a couple thousand of your best friends have been through them.

yeah, the logistics are rugged. You either want to leapfrog with someone and swap at the meeting towns so you have a car with you the whole way, or charter…unless you know someone or can make arrangements via the forums. I used to go with the semi. It’s ok. But bring a super easy tent to put up. Could even bring one as a garage. And maybe a good air mattress/pump. A fan is nice. Some people use those sun showers to have warm water. If we’re lucky they will put us by a school. Schools can accommodate a lot of people well. That said, the charters look pretty good too. That’s kind of new.

The north route is pretty flat. Typically good for hand-cyclists. Good to see them out.

Personally, I loathe packing a soggy tent in the morning and I’m not that great at putting it up when I get in either…I would rather camp in a gym myself.

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Kathryn Zysk, February 14, 2017 at 9:01 pm

Check out Brancel Bicycle Charters. Affordable and they do an AWESOME job! We’ve been using them for the last 8 years!

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Brian Wallenburg, February 15, 2017 at 9:30 am

Best advice I have… Use sunscreen before you need it. Put plenty of miles in before RAGBRAI. Make sure some of those miles are 50-80 mile days. Have your butt in shape (bring, and use butt butter anyway) Learn how to drink water or juice even when you don’t want to. I’ve been on at least 10 different RAGBRAIs have never used or needed a charter. Make sure you rehydrate every night before turning in. Have your bike serviced prior to RAGBRIA. Carry an extra tube or patch kit. You don’t need any fancy maps, there are plenty of people to follow. Stop in most of the pass through town, they all have something interesting to see or do. They are the reason RAGBRAI is what it is. Don’t be in a rush to get the the overnight town. You have all kinds of time! Have fun!

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Gthomp0419, February 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Lots of good advice. A few more that applied to me:
1. EAT!! This isn’t the week to diet. Your body is going to need every calorie and then some.
2. Learn/Train to use your small “granny” gears with a high candence for the big hills. I know this year is flatter than usual. Last year the first two days were brutal. This year the last three days are the big climbing days.
3. Leg Days at the Gym!! Squats, lunges and deadlifts will pay big dividends.
4. Pace yourself. Last year I almost bonked on the first day because I went out too hard. There is plenty of time to get to the next host town. I even completed the Century Loop.
5. HAVE FUN!!

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ratscallion, February 19, 2017 at 5:02 am

Your rider to bike interface (aka tuckous…) will generally be your limiting factor. My first time riding RAGBRAI… mornings were pure hell as I had to mount the bike day after day. My arse ached for the first 10 miles or so… then I forgot about it and started having a good time. My recommendation is to invest in some quality riding shorts, a good saddle, get fitted, and get some serious seat time before the big ride. Riding shorts should be the absolute tightest you can fit into. Yes, I know, they really feel too tight when you first put them on, but too tight is exactly the right fit. Don’t be shy or self-conscious about tightness because this is necessary; you need shorts (chamois) to be glued to your butt and not move around. If your shorts are loose they chafe against your skin and cause irritation. I recommend Pearl Izumi Elite or Voler Pro pads which are thinner but denser. Marshmellowy thick pads might feel good at first, but are not so good for long distance. It’s counter intuitive, thinner denser pads are better for long distance. Generously apply Butt Butter to your skin and the chamois every morning (before you have a problem). Yes, generously butter it like a piece of bread, and you may need to reapply at lunch time. Ladies, there is a special pH balanced cream called “Her” that is specific for the unique chemistry of gals. A freshly buttered cham’ feels like you’re putting on a wet diaper in the morning but trust me, you’ll thank me for this one tid-bit of knowledge… Invest in a good quality saddle. I’m male and use Specialized Toupe but you might have different needs. I am informed that Bontrager and Selle have some good saddles too. Get fitted to your bike by a pro. I thought bike fitting was more hocus-pocus until I actually got fitted by a pro and now I’m a believer. I should have done it when I first started riding. It costs $125-ish but money well spent as it will alleviate most aches and pains, and make your riding so much more comfortable and enjoyable. You will also use your muscles more efficiently and this helps endurance. Keep in mind you must train for RAGBRAI! Don’t expect to just show up and ride. In 2016, I saw people struggling on the very first hill of the very first mile… many on brand new high-dollar carbon bikes. Several got off their bikes, huffing and puffing, and had to walk a 2% grade… You should be capable of riding 25-30 miles a day, three days in a row… on various terrain. Be ready for 1200ft of elevation in 30 miles (not a lot). 30 miles sounds like a lot until you actually start riding regularly, then it’s a piece of cake (or pie!). Keep in mind RAGBRAI is not a race, you ride at your own pace and get off the bike frequently. So a 60 mile day is like six 10 mile rides. I saw some riders blaze for the first 5-10 miles of the day, like they were in some competition and then they bonked. Speed is not an issue, just ride at your own pace slow and steady; you will have all day to get there. Drink 1-2 bottles of water between each town. Force feed yourself water and electrolytes. I take 3-4 Enduralytes each day, more if I’m really sweating. You might find it difficult to drink enough water so just get it in your head and plan to gorge on water. Towns are about 10-15 miles apart and every town has free water spigot, usually near the end of town. Water in Iowa is the best tasting water you have ever tasted! Most fire stations have free water, just ask a local where the water spigot is… Eat, eat, eat, and don’t forget to eat. It seems odd at first but you need to learn how to eat and ride. You will be burning an extra 1500-2000+ calories riding each day and if you don’t eat you will struggle. However, you can only digest about 100 calories an hour so don’t overeat. Nibble throughout the day on some quality grub. Carry some Kleenex and individually wrapped baby wipes…because sometimes KYBO TP isn’t quite enough…(I know gross but necessary info, and we don’t want you to catch monkey butt.) And, wipes can also be used to clean an untidy KYBO seat. If you need to take a nature stop in the cornfields the proper etiquette is to go 4 rows deep, any less and you’re visible to 15,000 of your closest friends, any more and you’ll have a hard time finding your way back to the road. Be prepared for lines every where. Lines for food, KYBO’s, water… Food is everywhere; I like to buy from local service groups and charities rather than the vendors. Remember to stop and smell the roses; stop at every town and explore. There are so many things to do and see. Above all… Have Fun! If you’re not having fun, then you need to lower your expectations! I would recommend booking a charter; we use PorkBelly. It’s nice to have the optional tent service; they set up a tent and porter your bags into the tent each day. They have showers in camp and nightly entertainment. If you benefit from this info then please feel free to stop by and say “Hey!” or you can pay me back with a piece of pie or Amish ice cream on the road… Yum! Hope to see you there… Cheers! Lou & Cyndy

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mrwonderful, February 23, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Hi Rudy!
I’m originally from Lawton and I lived in Cache as a young child. I remember playing under the old water tower when it overflowed, I always got yelled at by somebody for that. My first big bike ride was from Lawton to Cache on the old highway on a 20″ BMX bike, I guess I’m lucky to have survived with a narrow 70 MPH no shoulder road. I came to Iowa to visit a girl for a couple weeks about 37 years ago. In 1988 somebody mentioned a party across Iowa by bicycle and I was all in. I’ve done the Hotter than Hell but I haven’t done the OK Freewheel but I would like to. I also want to ride the Wichita Mountains. Welcome to Iowa when you get here!
Dave

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Jack in VA, February 23, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Hey Rudy! If you use the Register for your baggage, you’ll still need to line up transportation TO the start town, and then transportation FROM the end town. Many charters do provide shuttle services – PBV is a great service to get from Omaha and/or Des Moines and then back afterwards.
However, if you do sign up for a charter group, they can provide the TO and FROM transportation with whichever group you decide to go with. For example, if you want to fly or drive in / out of Des Moines, you could go with Lake Country Cyclists for the week. Or if you want to go in / out of Omaha, you could use Pork Belly Ventures for the whole week.
Too much info?????

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SFC JKL 2, February 25, 2017 at 9:37 pm

The biggest rookie mistake is riding to fast. It’s a ride not a race. Stop and walk through every town. Support the people who have come out to support us. Normal bike rides avoid civilization like the plague. Ragbrai is unique because it purposely goes from town to town (have you ever been on another ride where people are welcoming you into town and the HS band is playing at 7 am?). You never know what you will find and the best things will be totally unexpected. Stop and explore.
I bring a sheet and a fleece sleeping bag. If it’s hot I use the sheet. If it’s cold, put the sheet inside the bag as a liner. Bring a tent with good ventilation and a fan (nothing beats o2cool fans). Be aware that anything outside will be soaking wet in the morning. I’ll also suggest a chamois or microfiber towel that will dry quickly. A normal towel will smell like a dead animal after a couple days.
You’ll never go more than a couple miles without finding something to eat or drink. Leave the cliff bars and camelback at home. There is free water in every town, normally on the way out.
Get in your miles. While it is a ride, the less effort you put into the actual bike riding will leave you with more energy to enjoy your time off the back and all the other activities going on.
Another thing to think about is when you leave in the morning. Try a couple different times as leaving at 6 am v. 9 am will give you completely different crowds and experiences. Find what works for you.

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Jean, February 27, 2017 at 10:15 pm

This year will be my sixth year of RAGBRAI. I have used small charters, large charters and rented RV last year. The best experience in my opinion is renting an RV by far, but finding a driver is the challenge. If you are camping and it’s a hot year like 2012, a battery powered fan or two is a must. Ear plugs and eyeshades are important. Bring clothes for very hot and very cold weather, but pack light. Put your daily biking clothes in gallon size ziploc bags. It will likely be the most memorable experience of your life. The people of Iowa are the most friendly people you will ever meet.

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mootsman, February 28, 2017 at 7:02 am

Attention Posters to this thread:

Rudy (the original poster) let us know in a follow-up note he is an experienced rider (Centuries, other tours, etc..)and is not looking for riding or training related advice. More about RAGBRAI logistics advice. Like using extra large zip locks in luggage to isolate odors, teams-vs-charters, etc….

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mootsman, February 28, 2017 at 7:05 am

From Rudy’s Follow-up, what advice he’s looking for (likely answered multiple times by now):

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

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