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RAGBRAI Training: Final Tips for a Fantastic RAGBRAI

  • 12 July, 2018
  • Jared

by Coach David Ertl

Well, it’s almost here. You are starting to think about packing up and getting ready to travel to the start of RAGBRAI.  Here are some last minute words of advice to help you get the most out of your RAGBRAI experience, and to finish feeling good about yourself.

  • Stay Hydrated and Cool

RAGBRAI usually seems to land in the hottest week of the year.  It can get really hot and steamy in Iowa in the summer.  Take steps to protect yourself from overheating.  The main points are to stay hydrated, seek out shade frequently and start early in the day.  Refer to my recent blog for more on this topic.

  • Eat and Drink Enough But Not Too Much

It may be hard to believe, but you can and may gain weight despite riding your bike 400 miles in one week!  It’s easy to graze your way across the state. You will need about 12,000 calories to power you and your bike across the state, so you need to eat to have energy. But you have lots (too many?) opportunities to refuel along the way.  Every town offers many food options.  You definitely should sample the offerings as that is a big part of RAGBRAI. Everything from great home-cooked church dinners, turkey legs, sweet corn, smoothies, burritos, etc, etc. But control yourself.  While out on the ride, you really don’t want to stuff yourself. Add on the heat and you can feel really uncomfortable if you overdo.  Eat frequently but smaller amounts. The same goes for liquids. You need to avoid dehydration but your stomach shouldn’t be sloshing as you ride either.

  • Ride Right and Generally Be Safe

With 10,000 or more fellow cyclists out there sharing the road, it can get pretty packed.  But we ask that you Ride Right – stay on the right lane of the road just as if you were driving.  The roads are open to traffic, and while someone would have to be crazy to try to drive the same direction as the cyclists (yes, a few do), a lot of traffic comes the other direction in the other lane. For you safety and those around you, please stay in the right lane.  I know that there are times where you can’t get around a bunch of riders but try to find a place where you can safely pass and don’t be afraid to yell out ‘on your left’ as you pass.  Remember, it’s not a race.  It won’t kill you to slow down from time to time and may prevent you from getting injured.  You aren’t used to riding with this many people, and their bike handling skills can vary greatly. Give people a lot of space as your ride in this mass of people.  More on this topic here.

  • Take Care of Your Tush

If you are fit and healthy, you can ride RAGBRAI even if you didn’t follow my training plan completely (you did, didn’t you?). However, while you can get through the ride on what fitness you have, if you haven’t ridden enough to toughen up your tush, you will be in deep do-do come RAGBRAI.  Once you start to develop saddle sores, there is really no way to heal from them quickly.  So that means a painful ride the rest of the way or perhaps having to abandon and you don’t want that.  So your only good option is to avoid problems. Refer to my previous blog for more on this sensitive subject.

  • Ride Within Yourself

Regardless of how well prepared you are, or aren’t, by pacing yourself you can get through RAGBRAI feeling good about yourself.  As I’ve written before in this blog, you have 14 hours of daylight to do the ride.  Even riding at 10 MPH and stopping in towns, you will have no problem finishing each day.  So don’t feel like you have to push yourself to your limits to get through it.  By riding at your comfort level, you will avoid over-exerting and getting tired and sore for the next day.  Avoid trying to keep up with others if they are riding faster than you.  If your friends or team is riding faster than you want, just make plans to meet up with them at certain points along the way.

  • Enjoy The Ride

Once again, RAGBRAI is not a race.  The objective is not to get through it as fast as you can. It’s a week long ride.  Riding fast won’t make the week go faster.  Despite my focus in this blog about how to prepare for RAGBRAI, it is much more than a bike ride. It’s a chance to experience Iowa from border to border.  It’s a chance to meet great people from the Heartland and share in their celebration of this event as it passes through their towns.  Stop and enjoy the festivities along the way. Enjoy the scenery.  Iowa really does have some very nice vistas.   Talk to and meet new people from far away places. If you get done with RAGBRAI and all you have done is ride across the state as fast as you can, you’ve missed the whole point!

  • Meet The Coach!

I won’t be riding RAGBRAI this year but I will be out on the route on Wednesday July 25.   When I’m not riding my bike or writing training blogs, I’m working at my day job, Iowa Corn.  We will be present at several farms along the route this year, helping to answer your questions about all the corn you are riding past every day.  Please make a point to stop in at these, meet some real live Iowa farmers and learn a little something about all the corn we produce in this #1 corn producing state.  I will be at the Will Cannon farm on the 25th as you approach the overnight town of Newton.  This is located just after you turn left (east) onto County road F63 (see ear of corn on map below).  Please stop in. I’ll be excited to meet my readers in person and talk bikes and corn with you!

Have a great RAGBRAI experience and I’ll see you out on the farm!

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: CyclesportCoaching. He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com.


  1. vincent moon

    Thanks for all the tips Coach!
    I am a late comer to “becoming a cyclist”, and I Love it.

  2. John Richardson

    I’ve found the ride to RAGBRAI to be the more challenging ride and have always looked at RAGBRAI as more of a big fun celebration of cycling! I’ll certainly make it a point to stop at your booth Wednesday. If the corn farmers in Iowa are any thing like the corn farmers here they’re needing a good rain.

  3. Christopher Ojeda

    Ready to Ride this again. It’s been 10 years too long.

  4. Larry Cunningham

    Thanks for the useful commentary.

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