Yet more newbie questions

I’ve been able to find answers to most of my first-time RAGBRAI rider questions from reading the Forum posts but I have couple that I didn’t see addressed so far. In no particular order:
• I’m camping with the masses – are there air stations or should I bring a floor pump (with gauge) with me?
• I understand that shower trucks are not at the main RAGBRAI campsite – are they typically walking distance or do you need to ride there & back?
• I will of course have a spare tube – and spare, spare tube along with patch kit and frame pump – with me but should I also bring an emergency replacement tire?

13 Replies

jwsknk, May 24, 2017 at 10:33 am

air pump for tires or mattress?
Some type of showers usually within walking distance, if not the towns will have shuttle busses running.
I’d leave the tire at home, there will be at least 1 bike shop in every pass through town UNTIL the posted closing time for that town. If you are worried about cutting a tire a dollar bill or a energy bar wrapper (mylar type) will work as a temporary boot to get you to town.


Charlie S, May 24, 2017 at 12:05 pm

jwsknk: air pump for tires or mattress?

Sorry, should have stated “for tires.”
Like most riders, I almost always need to inflate my tires daily, if usually by not very much. I’m also an early riser and hope to get on the road by 0600 each day. The combination of the two leads me to be a bit anxious about not having the means to pump up and hit the road early. I have an older frame pump with a gauge that could do double duty, but will loose a water bottle bracket if I go that route rather than keeping my mini-pump on the bike.


Craig Parson, May 24, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Go with the mini-pump and hope you don’t need it, it may take a little longer to pump it up but you will use the second bottle for sure. If you do end up changing a tire you will be asked about 50 times if you have what you need or if need any help by people passing by.

See you soon


jwsknk, May 24, 2017 at 3:27 pm

The bike shops in the pass through towns have pumps set out so you usually don’t have to wait in line for just air, as long as their mechanics aren’t using them. Most groups will let you use one if you ask. We usually have 6 or more on our truck.


KenH, May 25, 2017 at 7:59 am

I have seen people riding with a non-folding tire draped over one shoulder like a hula hoop but unless you are willing to carry your spare every day your spare is not going to do you any good in the event of a massive failure on the road in the middle of nowhere. I assume those folks are in fact carrying a tire to a friend up ahead who needs it rather than being excessively cautious about potential tire failures. If you do experience a tire disaster the SAG van will gladly take you to the next town with a bike shop where you can buy a spare and as has been said those shops will also have pumps where you can top up once a day, or more. So, if you are camping and using the Register trucks or a charter with tight weight limits on luggage you’d rather devote even the small weight of a spare tire, and certainly a floor pump, to something else.

If you are traveling with a team support vehicle that has no concerns about weight or volume then sure, bring your kitchen sink along if you like! I’m in that situation most years and I’ll bring a couple of spare tires and even wheels as well as a floor pump or two. Never needed the spares but they might come in handy and I’ve got room for them so they might as well be at RAGBRAI as in my basement! And if you should happen to see us using our floor pumps some morning just ask to borrow one when we are done. Like most everyone on this ride we will not refuse you as long as you are reasonably quick about it. It’s time to get on the road and start pedaling towards that first slice of pie for the day, you know!!


Stephen Francis, May 26, 2017 at 8:25 am

I’ve got nothing to add except nice avatar and conserve your precious bodily fluids, Mandrake.


Curtis Moore, May 26, 2017 at 10:02 pm

If you can, pump up your tires the night before and add 3-5 pounds of pressure over the level you usually pump to. With butyl tubes you’ll probably lose that much pressure overnight and then your tires are ready to go in the morning when you are. Honestly, you could probably get two days of riding out of one air pumping session at RAGBRAI but, like you, I want to be sure of the tire pressure every day.

At worse, pump up your tires at the first bicycle shop setup in the first pass-through town you come to each day. Or pump up in the last pass-through town to be ready for the next day. I wouldn’t bother bringing a pump for the tires. The less you pack the better.


Cameron Cranston, May 29, 2017 at 10:44 pm

You’re looking at a minimum 30 minute wait for the showers whether trailers, schools, or civic centers. Myself and other riders used the unguarded garden hose or the water bottle filling station 4 out of 7 days. It was kinda fun and I’m a pretty uptight person. Of course you have to keep your britches on.


Randy Ayers, June 1, 2017 at 9:20 pm

I’m curious to know what your experience,”camping with masses”, is like. Afterward, please let me know. 2017 will be my 5th year. As I have been outfitted by Pork Belly Ventures every year. Questions like distance to the showers and tire pumps are unnecessary as everything is taken care of down to the last detail. Which I like. I can focus the little bit of energy I have left, on dinner, getting a massage and catch the concert. If you don’t have to play “money may I”. Its a great way to go. Especially on your first year.

P.S.; My wife especially likes being welcomed at the campsite with our is tent all set up and our gear waiting inside.


Dale Connally, June 2, 2017 at 11:36 am

I think you are getting great advice. My only addition is to think about attitude. You will encounter “Chronic Complainers” on RAGBRAI. In my opinion it is wasted energy. You are on vacation, to have fun. Embrace the abnormality of the RAGBRAI experience. If you can air up daily, great. If not, it will be ok assuming you don’t have a slow/becoming faster leak. Normal leakage shouldn’t doom you. And you have a tube and inflator. If you have to wait in line for KYBO’s, meals or showers, seek air conditioning and conversation with other riders. What else were you gonna do anyway? ;-) As a recovering bike tourist I struggle with what to carry for backup…tires, chain tool, etc. Make a prudent decision and don’t second guess it. Buy it along the way if you need it. It’s ok, and have fun!!


Sharyl Sauer, June 2, 2017 at 12:48 pm

If you are camping with the actual RAGBRAI supported masses, the shower trucks will pull up by your camp site. If you are finding your own camping area, be on the look out for shower options. They will be marked on the town maps – schools, trucks, etc. Usually they are within a short walk or short bike ride of most of the main camping areas. Bring a bag to carry your towel/toiletries.


Charlie S, June 3, 2017 at 11:29 am

Thanks to all for the replies and the suggestions.

Yet another newbie question however: How far will I have to carry my gear to and from the Register trucks?

I’m asking because I did a dry run with my gear this morning to make sure I didn’t go over the 50 pound limit. Everything comes in at about 46 pounds, so OK from the limit perspective but still a pretty heavy bag to carry for any distance.

Should I expect a nice early morning workout wrestling a 50# duffle bag for a 1/2 mile or so each day?


jelly0317, June 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Probably no more than 200 yards or so. If we’re camped at a high school, head for the athletic fields. If at the fairgrounds, there’s plenty of buildings to camp next to. My routine: get in, lean bike against truck, find bag and place it next to bike, and walk/look around the area. It’s seldom taken me more than ten minutes to find a spot which meets my requirements (good distance from other tents, no overhead lights or generators/AC units, tree/fence/structure to lean bike).


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