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RAGBRAI Training: Q&A Time for RAGBRAI

  • 12 June, 2023

Unlike most blogs where I have a single topic to discuss, today I don’t. Instead I’m just going to give a few random questions I am guessing some of you may be asking and will give my answers to them.

Q. Will I lose weight on RAGBRAI?
A. You may think “of course”, but not so fast. I’ve heard of people gaining weight on RAGBRAI. What? How is that possible? You know you’ll be riding a lot. If you do all 500 miles, figure you will burn about 15,000 to 17,000 calories just from the riding. If you don’t eat commensurate with what you are expending, you will lose weight. Some people are surprised, though, that they can ride more than 400 miles in one week and gain weight! As crazy as that sounds, it is possible. Food choices are available at every turn and town on RAGBRAI. And liquid calories count just as much, and tend to go down more easily! On the other hand, if you watch what you consume, you do have a good chance of dropping a pound or three during the week. But don’t go into it thinking of it as a weight loss challenge. You do need to refuel adequately to complete the ride. See my previous blog for more on that.

Q. Will I get a flat tire on RAGBRAI?
A. It is quite possible that over the course of 500 miles you may get a flat tire. If there are 20,000 riders (probably will be many more) and they ride 500 miles, that’s a total of 10 million miles ridden (wow!) collectively by everyone on this year’s RAGBRAI. Obviously, there will be a lot of flat tires in total as well. There are some things you can do to lessen your chances however. One is to begin with new tires that have a lot of tread on them. If you start riding on worn tires, chances are greater you will get a puncture because you have less rubber for things to go through. Plus you will be putting an additional 500 miles on those tires during the course of the week. You should also watch out on the road ahead of you avoiding things like holes and cracks in the road and debris including sharp rocks, metal, other cyclists, etc.

Q. What do I do if I get a flat tire?
A. You have a few options. First and best of all, learn how to change your own tire. If you don’t know how, get a friend to teach you and then practice in the comfort of your own home until you have it down, before you get to RAGBRAI. Second, bring spare tubes along, and carry tire levers, a CO2 cartridge or pump along with you as well. Even if you can’t or don’t know how to change your own tire, one of the 19,999 other riders will likely be willing to help. They will be a lot more willing to help if you have your own tube and tools with you. Third, there will be bike shop support vehicles out on the course and you could wait for one of them as well. I wouldn’t suggest bringing a spare tire with you, but if you do, just bring it along in your luggage. Chances are very small you will need a new tire and you can get one on the road from the support crew if need be.

Q. Will the road be closed on RAGBRAI?
A. This surprises some people but the answer is no. The roads RAGBRAI uses are open to traffic. I’ve always thought, though, that anyone trying to drive down one of the roads during RAGBRAI is just plain stupid. Who wants to be stuck in 15 MPH bike traffic for miles and miles? But some do. More likely you will see cars coming in the opposite direction than in the same direction. The main concern you should have is to avoid riding in the left, oncoming lane where vehicles may be coming through at a good clip. Any traffic going the same direction as the cyclists will likely be forced to travel about at the same speed as the riders. When you get out there, it will be a mass of cyclists out on the road. There is safety in numbers, and RAGBRAI has the numbers! So the cars are way outnumbered. In addition, at busy intersections there will be police watching and controlling traffic. You probably should be more concerned with bike traffic (see next question).

Q. Will I crash on RAGBRAI?
A. I can’t tell you if you will crash, but when 20,000 cyclists are riding 500 miles together, there’s bound to be some rider interaction, if you know what I mean. There are a number of things to do to protect yourself from this outcome. First, give other riders space. Don’t follow them too closely behind the rider in front of you in case they decide to stop suddenly. Don’t ride too closely beside someone unless you and they are both very steady riders. Don’t stop or slow down suddenly or you may get rearended. You will hear riders yelling ‘Rider off’ when they are slowing and stopping. If you stop, slow down and then get completely off the pavement. Don’t stop in the road. Likewise, people will yell ‘Rider On’ as they are getting back on the road. Be predictable: ride at a steady speed and ride in a straight line, don’t be swerving all over the road. Be particularly careful of downhills where riders pick up speed. Crashes are much more likely on downhills, where everyone is going faster, things happen more quickly and sometimes its difficult to slow down fast enough. If you are one of the slower riders, stay as far to the right of the road as you can so you don’t force people into the oncoming traffic lane in order to pass you. And lastly, wear gloves and a helmet in case you do fall. Your head and hands will thank you.

Q. Will it be hot on RAGBRAI?
A. I am almost positive I will get this one right. Yes, it will be hot. I think the organizers pick the last week of July because July is the hottest month of the year, and it always seems like the week of RAGBRAI is the hottest week of the month. It’s quite common to see (feel) temperatures in the 90s in the daytime and may not cool off to much less than 80 at night. And then there’s the humidity. That just makes it all that much more delightful! So be prepared for hot and humid.

Q. Coach, will I see you out on RAGBRAI?
A. Unfortunately not this year. I’m using up my vacation time on another ride this year instead. Actually it’s a race. It’s called the Race Across America (RAAM). It is exactly what it sounds like. I am part of a 4-person team that will race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. Our hope is to do it in under 8 days. Kind of like RAGBRAI just longer. We will take turns racing in a relay fashion, so each of us will be riding about 750 miles total. Someone will constantly be riding the whole way, 24 hours a day. Our mixed team is in the 60-year old category, three men, one woman. Team IADIP, which stands for “It’s Another Day in Paradise”, which was a favorite saying of RAAM veteran Dr. Bob Breedlove who unfortunately lost his life while racing RAAM in 2005. Our team is riding in honor of Dr. Bob.

Our team departs from Oceanside on June 17 at noon Pacific time. You can follow our progress along on their website, Wish us luck.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: . He can be contacted


  1. Rob Fuller

    Will it . . . (shuuuush) . . . rain on RAGBRAI?

  2. AgingCyclist

    Just in case of, dare I say it, rain take a plastic bin bag. They make quite adequate rain protection, with a holes for your head and arms of course, and are a lot lighter and less bulky than say a Showers Pass jacket. I’ve done this myself when I left a nice GoreTex jacket in a motel. I once met a guy who had rode from LA to Virginia and a bin bag was his weather gear for the whole trip.

  3. Rob Fuller

    Agreed. Dew, rain, or sweat – prepare to be wet.

  4. rick sellers

    Are E-bikes allowed?? I am a hard core , old school biker that was curious – nothing more – nothing less.

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