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

LawnchairMan, March 30, 2018 at 7:38 am

Hi Bruce,

Thank you for the invite to the trike get together. I do like to talk recumbents, so it sounds like fun. However, mine is a two wheeler so I doubt our speeds would match. On the hilly days of 2016 I averaged 17+. Of course my 19 pound bike is probably half the weight of your trike.
I do envy the stability of three wheels. I crashed about a year ago so I looked into trikes. There is a carbon trike made in Germany that is only 23 pounds. That would have been my choice. I think my crash was due to using the front brake too much causing the bike to jackknife. I’ve since learned to use the back more, so I think two wheels is still for me.

If you happen to see a carbon ‘bent with a yellow tailbox say hi.

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Karen Hodges, March 31, 2018 at 8:50 am

In reply to the concern about the speed impacting your enjoyment of RAGBRAI — I wondered the same thing when doing our first RAGBRAI in 2016. We’d been training hard for rides in Tuscany and Spain and so we had been focused on riding hard and fast. But, RAGBRAI is different. It will take a day or so for you to get in the groove. 8mph is not necessary. But you will have a fabulous time riding RAGBRAI at 13 – 15 mph. Anything faster and you’ll miss too much of what RAGBRAI is all about. I even didn’t want to put a frame bag for carrying sunscreen and cash. That’s not the kind of cyclist I am I told myself. This year I’m getting a rack added to my cross bike to carry a small bag of goodies along the way. Trust in the RAGBRAI experience. Go with the flow (it doesn’t have to be 8pmh) and enjoy the time of your life. It will be an experience you will never forget.

This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Karen Hodges. Reason: reply got posted under the wrong origianl post. meant to reply to concern about RAGBRAI being too slow to enjoy

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Karen Hodges, March 31, 2018 at 9:03 am

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.

Agreed. This is not like any other ride or race. You might even find yourself doing something not quite right. 🙂 Something else to keep in mind is that, surprisingly, this is the first organized ride for many. So while seasoned cyclists may think that this is all common sense, it is completely unknown to many. Try to remember back to when you first started riding and all the things you didn’t know. Likely there was someone along the way who mentored you and taught you how to be a good cyclist. Pass it on. RAGBRAI is a great opportunity to help expand this amazing cycling community and drive more support for cyclists as a whole. Think not only how RAGBRAI can be great for you, but how you can make it great for someone else. It’s the RAGBRAI spirit. Slow down. Talk to people. You will hear AMAZING stories. Stories of people carrying their loved ones ashes across Iowa because they started cycling together with RAGBRAI as a goal, but one partner didn’t live to see it. Stories of a 20-something and 8 year old who are sisters through a second marriage; with the 8 year old being towed in a trailer so they could do some sister bonding. People who ride RAGBRAI are special. It takes drive. It takes commitment. Slow down and meet some of these amazing people. You might even make new friends. Enjoy!

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jelly0317, March 31, 2018 at 10:22 am

Well said!

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Danny Stanislav, April 1, 2018 at 7:07 pm

Thanks Karen Hodges — you don’t even know me but yup, I will be one of those first-timers who up until this event will only have done local riding in a sparsely populated part of western Iowa called Onawa-and-Surrounding-Community (Blencoe to be exact). ( = I will do my best to be ready to not be noticed for newbie goofs, but my apologies in advance! Was thinking about printing up t-shirts for the ride with “New Rider. Teachable. Doesn’t Respond Well to Angry Yelling!” printed on the back. Pretty excited about the Ride! As a recent high school grad I helped with registration at RAGBRAI V (1977) and I helped serve walking tacos in 2004 (didn’t sell much water or gatorade but could have sold a lot of coffee — it was cold). This time I’m joining the throng! Legs don’t fail me now!

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Dizzy, April 2, 2018 at 6:54 am

Danny,

I can relate to your “newbie” concerns…we all should remember that we too were once RAGBRAI virgins. In place of the your t-shirt idea, go to the temporary tattoo vendor and have “RAGBRAI Virgin” tattoos placed on the backs of both calves. Yes there will be a few who respond negatively but the majority will acknowledge your RAGBRAI Virgin status and welcome you.

Welcome to RAGBRAI, D

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LawnchairMan, April 2, 2018 at 7:47 pm

Not sure if I should start a new thread, but this should be publicized. When selecting your tent site, DO NOT PITCH YOUR TENT UNDER A TREE! It is tempting to get to your camp area and set up in the shade of a tall oak or poplar, but it could be dangerous. A couple of years back we were enjoying refreshments at the Brancel canopy when I heard a noise like a crowd of people clapping. I looked over to see a large limb of an old tree fall to the ground. This limb was a good 20+ feet long with a diameter of about a foot. It was amazing that no one got hurt. I think a couple of tents were damaged, but I don’t think anyone was in them at the time. So, set up next to the tree where the shade will be in the afternoon, not under it.

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Sloop John Bee, April 2, 2018 at 9:08 pm

I’ve vacillated back and forth a bit on whether to post this link. Since there has been a lot of discussion about the different dynamics of trikes, especially on hills, and since this is a section of road in Davenport that will are highly likely to traverse again this year, I thought there were benefit in sharing this.

You will see not only how fast trikes are going down hills, even with me holding back to accommodate the given density of other cyclists focused on getting to the dip site, you will also experience just how fast trikes lose momentum as the terrain shifts to uphill.

Some things to be aware of, the wide angle lens of the gopro camera perched on my helmet, flattens out the vertical steepness of the hills. I strive to keep a lane open on the left for the fast descents because I know, no matter how fast I am going, there will others who will be going faster. I also focus on predictability, and depending on the circumstances of the hill’s steepness, and the positions and speeds of those around me, will determine how quickly I will move from left to right as my speed slows, or right to left as my speed increases. I work the mirrors a lot, being just as aware of those behind me, as what is happening ahead of me. If there is one thing that I feel would decrease the crash percentages on RAGBRAI, it would be encouraging riders to have and use mirrors.

For the most part I consider myself very patient and understanding of those around me. Their goals and desires, their current comfort levels, and adjusting and interacting are all part of the fun and challenge of the RAGBRAI adventure. But if you watch and listen carefully, you will spot the one place where I got annoyed with a rider who tended to exercise a very wide bubble when passing others.
He not only cut me off a couple of times, but he almost caused an accident with another cyclist coming up fast, practically denying him any passing space on the road.

Enjoy the link.

https://www.facebook.com/trikesRcool/videos/139158996636442/

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KenH, April 3, 2018 at 8:25 am

If you are a newbie and the thought of going 8 mph bothers you then you probably should not do RAGBRAI. In pretty much every pass through town the density of the crowd is going to force you to get off your bike and walk it through town, even if you don’t plan to stop there. But do plan to stop there because that is the thing that makes RAGBRAI different from every other bicycle ride — except those that imitate RAGBRAI of course! And there will be times out on the road when the density of traffic will force you to slow down to 8 mph or even stop, though stopping is rare except at the occasional traffic control point where a police officer is acting as a stoplight for the ride and cross traffic. But don’t think that you will be condemned to riding at 8 mph all day. Even if you leave town every morning with the peloton you will able to ride as fast as you like, most of the time. Just be polite about it. If some goofball forces you to slow down, just slow down and wait for your turn. Your turn will come soon enough and at the next town you might find yourself sitting at a table next to that goofball who will become a lifelong friend. Or you may get a “mechanical” a couple of miles down the road and the goofball will be the one with the toolkit who stops to help you.

You may have very high expectations of how riders should behave on an organized ride. They probably come from your experience with rides that attract crowds of highly experienced and dedicated cyclists. You should just throw those expectations out the window for the week. You will be riding with the great masses of humanity. Some of them will literally have ridden a bike for 30 miles prior to RAGBRAI this year and not at all for the decade before that. Out on the road they will do anything at any moment. You cannot depend on them to follow good bicycle ride etiquette, you cannot depend on them to follow common sense, and you cannot tell them from the riders who will. Yet you can do this ride safely and enjoyably as long as you are patient, as long as you leave WAY MORE room than you think necessary when passing, as long as you chill out and just enjoy the panoply of humanity for what it is and revel in its various expressions in the form of individual human beings.

And if you ride a trike, no worries mate, all bikes are welcome! No one who is polite is a problem at any speed. So the advice to all of us is to just be polite. As polite as the people of Iowa you will meet in every town!

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cyduke, April 3, 2018 at 11:21 am

What I would love to see publicized? How to properly use quick releases on wheels. Once you notice it, it’s like buying a car, you’ll see it all over the place.
I can’t count how many times over the years, much to the chagrin of my riding buddies, I’ve passed people on the road, and pointed out their QR isn’t on right, and they should pull over to re-adjust. I’ll ask if they need assistance, and more than not they say no. The ones in pacelines, and on their aerobars with incorrectly installed front QR’s are the ones that scare me the most.

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John, April 7, 2018 at 3:50 pm

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

I ride 25s or 28s and larger and, if set up tubeless (or with latex tubes), pinch flats are a thing of the past, even at lower pressures.

I couldn’t imagine riding across Iowa on 23s at 100+ psi but obviously a lot of people do every year.

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cmparsley, April 19, 2018 at 12:32 am

What I would love to see publicized? How to properly use quick releases on wheels. Once you notice it, it’s like buying a car, you’ll see it all over the place.
I can’t count how many times over the years, much to the chagrin of my riding buddies, I’ve passed people on the road, and pointed out their QR isn’t on right, and they should pull over to re-adjust. I’ll ask if they need assistance, and more than not they say no. The ones in pacelines, and on their aerobars with incorrectly installed front QR’s are the ones that scare me the most.

I am a League of American Bicyclists Certified Cycling Instructor. I teach people how to ride a bicycle as a vehicle in traffic. I am also a Shimano Certified Bicycle Mechanic. Two points I always refer to:

1. Cyclists fare best when they act like and are treated as any other driver of any other vehicle.

This means riding in the right lane (in Most of North America anyway), signaling, etc. Now given the poor driving habits of most folks, combined with the notion that roads are closed for RAGBRAI (they aren’t) and you get people riding slowly on the left side of the road and making unpredictable lane changes. This brings me to my second point (more of a 4 point list):

Be Visible – Lights, bright clothing, etc. Not usually that much of an issue until you get to the overnight town and you are trying to get from the beer garden to your tent in the dark.

Be Predictable – Scanning and signaling before lane changes. Riding in a straight line at a consistent speed. Mirrors are great tools. I use one. But a mirror is no substitute for turning one’s head and glancing over your shoulder for traffic approaching from the rear. The act of scanning not only lets you see what’s approaching, but it also communicates to approaching traffic that you are aware of their presence. Congratulations! This is called communication! This is a skill that requires practice. It is difficult to ride in a straight line when looking over your shoulder.

Be Courteous – Move right and allow faster traffic to pass on the left. Signal lane changes after scanning, then move when the way is clear. Smile! You are riding a bicycle!

Be Safe – Wear a helmet, gloves, glasses, etc. Sunscreen on the sunny days. Make sure your bike is in good working order (squeak free, all parts installed correctly, etc). The number one reason for injuries while riding a bicycle is actually due to poor maintenance. A bike that works great is a bike that is great fun to ride.

With 20,000 people, you are going to see a little bit of everything out there. This year will be my 11th RAGBRAI. I start every mile with the thought that my safety and my enjoyment of this event are solely my responsibility. I will not allow anyone to compromise either of those. And if some tattoo’ed guy rides past you and mentions something about your quick release hasn’t been installed correctly, know that I am not making fun of you, nor am I trying to insult you. I just want you to be able to enjoy RAGBRAI safely.

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Brian Wallenburg, April 22, 2018 at 4:08 pm

People have been killed on RAGBRAI by falling tree’s/limbs (in their tent).

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