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RAGBRAI Training: Preparing for RAGBRAI and Last Minute Tips

  • 15 July, 2010
  • TJ Juskiewicz

It’s 91 degrees and humid here in Des Moines today. The corn is tasseling.  So we know RAGBRAI can’t be far off.  Here are some last minute tips for preparing your bike and your body for the ride.

Bike:  Several things should be done this final week prior to RAGBRAI to ensure your bike is in good working order.  Start off by cleaning it thoroughly.  When you clean your bike you tend to look at it more closely than normal and you may see some things that need attention, such as a worn tire, frayed brake or derailleur cable, wheel or brakes out of adjustment, or even something more serious such as a crack in the frame. Take some time to look over your bike and inspect it as you clean it. If you need work done on it, get it done prior to starting RAGBRAI. There’s also the matter of pride. You just feel better riding a clean bike than a dirty one. 

Check your bike to make sure the gears are working properly.  Run through all the gears in the back cluster to make sure they work and the gears run smoothly and don’t chatter or click, or that the chain doesn’t drop off the small cog or the derailleur doesn’t hit your spokes when in the largest cog.  Also check your front derailleur to make sure it shifts the chain on your chainrings in front smoothly and doesn’t throw the chain off.  Spin your wheels to ensure they are straight and don’t rub your brakes.  The last thing you need is to have your brakes rubbing all the way across Iowa.  Check your tires to make sure they still have plenty of rubber left on the center part.  Look for deep cuts or bulges in your tires and replace tires that have these or you may be doing it on the road next to a corn field. Flat tires always happen at the most inopportune times.  You should oil your chain. It’s recommended you use a lubricant designed for bikes as these work better than household oils.  If something isn’t working properly get it checked out by an expert.  Your first choice is your local bike shop, but be warned, if you live in Iowa, they are very busy this time of year with other RAGBRAI riders so hopefully they can get you fixed up before you have to leave.

Be sure to bring along spare tubes.  You can usually get tires along the way if you need one but if you have an extra, bring it along in your luggage just in case.  Also be sure to bring your tire levers and either a pump or CO2 cartridges.  An all-in-one tool is also handy to bring along for minor adjustments.

It’s advised that you make a list of all the things you will need to bring with you: shoes, glasses, gloves, socks, shorts, jersies, helmet, water bottles, gels, energy drink mix, etc.  Think about everything you take with you when you go for a ride and include that on your list, as well as everything you’ll need after the ride.

Body:  Hopefully you’ve done an adequate amount of riding in preparation for RAGBRAI.  If not, it’s too late now. Any training you do now will not really help you but can possibly hurt you going in to RAGBRAI.  Here’s how I’d suggest approaching training for the last week.  Starting with the weekend prior to RAGBRAI (July 17-18th), go for one medium long ride.  40-60 miles max is enough.  Remember, your goal is to maintain your fitness while allowing yourself to fully recover and refresh during the week prior to RAGBRAI.  The last week before RAGBRAI, keep your mileage down but do a few short, fast rides to keep your body tuned up, but again, not enough to fatigue you more.  Don’t worry about losing your fitness, you won’t lose very much at all by tapering the week before the ride.  What you want to focus on is resting and letting your legs fully recover. There should be no soreness in your legs this final week.  By being rested, you will be able to take advantage of all the fitness you’ve gained up to this point.  Many of you have to travel for a day or two prior to the start of RAGBRAI and that’s a good thing.  It allows your legs one final rest period before the big ride.   I would suggest going for a spin on Saturday when you arrive, to make sure you bike has made the trip okay and to loosen up your legs. 

You also want to hydrate well the final days before RAGBRAI begins.  Travel can dehydrate you as can the hot summer weather.  Work at drinking (water) throughout the day.  Eat well but don’t overeat or carbo load, especially on days you don’t ride.  There’s plenty of food available during RAGBRAI. Eat as you go rather than trying to store it all up before you go. You can store it, as body fat, which isn’t the ideal way to go.

So as you approach your final week before RAGBRAI, now is the time to get your bike and body prepared for a fun and successful ride.

Have a great time at RAGBRAI XXXVIII and thanks for reading!  – Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and NSCA Certified Personal Trainer. He is a coach with the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, the Iowa JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes Team, and he coaches individual cyclists.   He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website:  http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com 

He can be contacted at mailto:coach@cyclesportcoaching.com


  1. Bob

    Thanks Coach!!!

    Looking forward to the first of many RAGBRAI’s and I appreciate your (and everyone else’s) insights!

    See you in SC!

  2. Schley Cox

    Tonight cleaned and then soaked my chain in melted paraffin, reinstalled on bike, wiped the rims, did the dance, howled at the moon… I am stoked and ready!

  3. Sandaltan

    Don’t forget small denomination bills are appreciated by the vendors. Ones, fives and tens. No Benjamin’s please, they hold up the line.

  4. Carol Walton

    Hey…off the subject
    Any one with space for 2 going to SC from the Quad Cities?

  5. Jean Sandhofer

    Don’t forget about the electrolytes too! As one prone to headaches, I found that by not sipping something like Gatorade throughout the long, sweaty ordeal of a RAGBRAI day, I’d end up with horrible headaches by day’s end. Once I paid less attention to pie consumption and more to keeping the headaches at bay through a simple regimen, I was much happier. Hope the hot weather breaks before next week!

  6. Alastair

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