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What I would love to see publicized

I attributed the number of new riders last year to the tag lines about it being the 3rd flattest, etc and I expect more of the same this year. I know we are all supposed to Ride Right but let’s be real, we are not going to bike 8 mph behind a line of riders in single file close to the shoulder for 7 days.
I’m not certain is mathematically possible to get 20K riders through a day’s route doing that. I think some practical advice on how to occupy the entire right lane (the one that is always closed to traffic) in the book and/or newsletters and given to charters for inclusion in their guides would be valuable.
During my first RAGBRAI, someone told me that the right lane (eastbound driving lane, for example) theoretically has three biking lanes. Would it be possible for the information in this year’s tips to include what the average mph usually is moving in each of those three invisible lanes? Like far right is <13mph, middle is 13-15mph and close to the center line is 16mph+ with the available open furthest left lane reserved for passing if empty. I saw so many near crashes because two riders were doing 10mph taking up the entire cycling area and someone tried to pass on the other side of the dividing line with riders coming up fast behind.
Next, I would like hill riding explained. If you plan to ride your brakes downhill or not pedal at max momentum on the incline, move far right. If you think you might need to apply a little brake if things get crazy or you are still learning how to handle the gears and you aren’t a good climber, be in the center. Everyone else, wheeeeeeee!!! There also needs to be an explanation to new riders about recumbent bikes on hills and that they can’t jump in front of them, squeeze the brakes and expect a good outcome. Nor can they yell and scream at them when they aren’t blazing up hill. I don’t ride a recumbent (yet) but even on a road bike, the hills last year with the uninformed were exasperating at times. Nothing was worse that losing all momentum on a downhill or getting stuck behind someone going 6mph uphill near the center line. The closest I came to falling was on uphill when I couldn’t unclip and got stuck behind someone going 4mph. I can’t keep the bike upright at that speed.
This is not about telling someone how to RAGBRAI. Race it, plod it, eat what you want, sleep how you want, pack what you feel makes you happy, charter, no charter, I honestly think that is the essence of bringing diversification to a state in the middle of the country where I can leave my bike and gear leaned up against a barn and not worry that it will be there upon my return. I am not saying you should ride faster or slower. I’ve just watched this multiple years and think the newer riders could benefit from a little more education and understanding.

43 Replies

Ragbrai Nation, March 21, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Being elderly and riding a recumbent and having ridden Ragbrai 4x I’m quite resigned to, and at home, riding in the right lane. At slower speeds I don’t have a lot of wind noise in my ear so I hear all of the funny comments ppl make as they ride by. At a mere 11 mph (like me) you’ll pass HUNDREDS of bikes (but YOU will also be PASSED by THOUSANDS of bikes-LOL!) and still make it into the overnight town as early or late as you care to. I love the sound of the pacelines whooshing by me like I was standing still. Plus being in the right lane makes it very convenient to pull off into a food/beer stand at a moment’s notice :D I only have the traffic on my left to worry about. Ragbrai is the upright bike’s world but we get along and have just as much fun. Our low-riding machines retain their advantages, no problem :) Ppl who ride recumbents/trikes right lane will find themselves using brakes occasionally on the downhill when it’s congested. We’ll outpace ANYBODY going down hill but we have to scoot back over to the right lane at the hill bottom. If it’s congested you can’t do that fast enough without cutting somebody off so I just stay right lane. But ya, anybody who has ever ridden a recumbent or trike on the ride will tell you their machine is not the ideal Ragbrai machine but our machines retain their advantages! There are plenty of times when it’s not crowded and I can cut loose. We recumbent riders are not deprived LOL!


Brian Wallenburg, March 23, 2018 at 6:26 pm

W0ODS, best advice yet! If there is clear pavement on your right and your not using it, that means you are wrong. If you are passing on the right, you are part of the problem. Slow riders get pushed to the left subconsciously when they are passed on the right. If they are continually informed of “on your left” they will eventually move to the right. It simple. I typically ride 17-20 mph. Much of that is on the right, when no one is there… and yes, sometimes I’m passing and there’s no room for others to pass me. That happens to everyone, me too. Just have to deal with it. Leaving early does not eliminate traffic.


SFC JKL 2, March 24, 2018 at 4:49 pm

I think that if you want to avoid traffic, it’s better to leave late than early. Fewer people on the road as you take off and everyone is strung out over the route later in the day. BY the time you get the meeting town, you are riding along with pack.
Ride right works great, but people get lazy by Wednesday and start hanging out by the center line. 2 years ago I did the NYC five boro ride. 40k riders zig zagging across 6 lanes of traffic. I’m glad I did it, but never want to experience anything like that again.


LawnchairMan, March 24, 2018 at 6:57 pm

Having four Ragbrai’s behind me, I have given up staying on the right side of the yellow line all the time. I used to religiously, but I got so frustrated having so many people being unpredictable or rude that I just decided I could cut to the left when needed. I usually go early, and am one in the long line of flashing red taillights at the right side of the road. There is usually plenty of room that early, but after the Karras loop there can be quite a group. Of course when riding on the wrong side of the road I am even more alert than normal. I look for cars ahead, faster riders behind me, and a place to tuck in line if needed. As Wood and Brian recommend, I stay to the right as much as possible, but for me an occasional move to the far left helps keep my sanity.


orion12521, March 25, 2018 at 4:12 pm

While staying to the right helps with congestion and keeping the road open as much as possible, for safety of all riders it is way more important to ride in a predictable manner. Ride in a straight line until you need to move right or left. When you need to move, point the direction that you are intending to go, give a brief pause, listen for a rider approaching from behind to say something, then move. If you are passing, it is your responsibility to only pass when you can do it safely. If you can’t pass with enough room to allow for someone to unexpectedly move toward you without it causing a collision, there isn’t enough room to pass. If you are so engaged in conversation, you have earphones in or are blasting music so loud that you can’t hear someone announcing themselves on a pass, you are not only inconsiderate, you are endangering yourself and fellow riders.


LawnchairMan, March 25, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Don’t depend on others to respond when you change your line. If you are the one changing, it is your responsibility to make sure the path you are going to is clear. Either use mirrors, turn your head, or both. On long days (or long to them) I have seen riders zoned out and fixated on the road a few feet ahead of them. They might not recognize your signal in that state.

I agree that predictability is paramount!


direwolf, March 26, 2018 at 12:40 am

This’ll be my 28th RAGBRAI, all of them self-contained, 19 of them on a recumbent. In that time, I estimate that I’ve had a momentary problem with bike traffic a total of about 10 times, i.e. not even once per year. With all the weight and aerodynamic efficiency of a loaded recumbent, I find myself within a couple millimeters of the left shoulder on descents, and all the way to the right on climbs. I pass, and get passed by, the same people on road bikes. I make it a point to introduce myself. They smile.

Summary: Worry about something else.




mclousing, March 26, 2018 at 7:46 am

Or stop worring about something else. The last 4 years I make it a point to hit every single rumble. Not because I enjoy it (but if the depth of the rumble is just right it is more like a good deep tissue rub) but to show that rumbles are not going to kill you to everyone who freaks out when they see it. Seriously I never had issues with rumbles. The biggest problem with rumbles is bikes shooting pieces and parts off the bike from the bouncing, so secure everything and enjoy the ride.

All though to be fair it is not just a ragbrai thing. I was in a half distance try coming up to a corner and everyone was swerving way right (can’t cross the center line without getting dq’d) and I couldn’t figure it out, They were all flying right to catch that 1 foot path where there were no rumbles. I hit the rumbles at full speed and passed about 50 people (I did say it was a race).


montestaples, March 26, 2018 at 11:48 am

Rumbles are not a problem. It is fine to avoid them if you are not in a lot of traffic, but tell yourself 100 times “If I am surprised by rumbles, I will not swerve.” This could save you from serious injury. A few RAGBRAIs ago I was coming down a long hill with a little dogleg at the bottom. I hit rumbles at over 40 mph. I saw them maybe a second before and did not react at all but just rode straight across. At that speed it was actually smoother than going slow, not bad at all. A few minutes later an ambulance was heading toward the same hill. In the next town I heard a young girl had crashed at that site. It’s not hard to imagine what happened.


mclousing, March 26, 2018 at 3:31 pm

I remember that hill and rumbles, I hit those at full speed also it was a non-event. We actually were meeting friends about 1/4 of mile beyond that dogleg and had a great view of the people panicking at the non-event. The accidents happen by swerving to avoid them.


ppayne1959, March 26, 2018 at 3:48 pm

I take a slightly different view. With a crowd that will crest over 20,000 on the big day, statistically someone is going to get pissed off. It is certain. I say, keep you cool and enjoy your ride because you are the only one you can truly affect. Be polite with others and try to accommodate their needs for road space and do your best. After that don’t worry about it. Some of them are just going to be angry.


orion12521, March 27, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Rumble strips can pretty easily cause pinch flats on a 23mm road tire, that is why a lot of people avoid them.


mclousing, March 28, 2018 at 7:07 am

I ride 23’s all the time never had a pinch flat, If you inflate your tires properly you won’t have issues.


LawnchairMan, March 28, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Hey Ragbrai Nation,

I beg to differ on your opinion that recumbents don’t make the ideal Ragbrai machine. Mine is fast and comfy. I can’t imagine a better bike for the long haul. I don’t need chamois shorts or get saddle sores, and most of my body parts don’t go to sleep. (only left toe occasionally. It’s weird.) Instead of looking at the road ten feet ahead of me I enjoy a wide panorama in front of me without getting my neck sore. My only pains at the end of the day are sore muscles.

Perhaps we could meet this year somewhere to compare rides. I always enjoy talking to another ‘bent rider. I will be with Brancel again this year.


Anonymous, March 28, 2018 at 6:11 pm

‘Bent Riders

Dear RagbraiNation and LawnchairMan:

I don’t know if you are riding a ‘Bent Trike or a ‘Bent Bike. If the former you should check out the Trike thread started by Andy Whitt. We used a similar thread last year to organize a Trike Meetup mid-week and will likely do so again in 2018.

Link to the thread:

TerraTrike is also participating in a big way this year. Link to their FB post:


Viewing 15 replies - 16 through 30 (of 43 total)

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