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RIDE RIGHT Safety Tip #6: The RIGHT Frame of Mind

  • 7 July, 2011
  • Jared

If you have never ridden RAGBRAI before, get ready for a lot of people on bicycles.  This is the really cool part of bicycling is several people can ride next to each other.  But you have to pay attention or crashes could occur.  Even though there are others, you need to travel at the right pace for you.  

My best advice is to join a local bicycle club for a few rides before you go on the big one.  This gives you some extra training, but you also experience riding with others.  It is a new skill to be able to look around, see where others are, judge pace and distance, and operate your bike safely.  Practice, practice, practice.  

This is exactly why iPods or such devices are a bad idea on RAGBRAI.  You must look and listen to know where others are.  

And just because you are riding with other people doesn’t mean you have to go their speed.  Ride at your own pace.  There is nothing worse than being exhausted just trying to keep up with your buddy who won’t slow down.  

Make sure you stop and take adequate breaks along the way.  There are plenty of people to visit with, places to take pictures, things to see, etc.  Enjoy the opportunities to visit the best Iowa has to offer.  

Finally, figure out how to use the gears on your bike.  I rode with another rider once who didn’t know how to shift properly.  He used the hardest gears up hills because he didn’t understand spinning in lighter gears.  It was painful on his knees and taxing on his lungs.  Once he learned to shift, it was so much easier.  And more fun!

In conclusion, use your training time wisely and learn to ride with others.  Don’t use an iPod.  Ride at your own pace and stop and smell the… well… roses.  Figure out your gears because you are going to need every one of them on this ride.  

If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:
1. The RIGHT stuff.
2. The RIGHT gear.
3. The RIGHT communications.
4. The RIGHT riding.
5. The legal RIGHT.
6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
7. The RIGHT abilities
8. The RIGHT attitude
9. The RIGHT attention.
10. The RIGHT condition

Mark Wyatt is the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling.  Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking.  More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at www.iowabicyclecoalition.org.


  1. Carol McIntyre

    In a large group of cyclists a rider should be sure to CALL OUT HIS POSITION when approaching other riders…. such as “On your right”, “On your left”, or “Coming between”.

  2. imarunner2

    I’m a first timer. Please tell me more about the photo. Does it depict a typical start day? Is this Day 1 and later days look different as people start at different times? I must say it looks impressive and somewhat intimidating.

  3. chocolate town

    When they say “Drink before you’re thirsty, east before you’re hungry”, etc. – Does that mean that if any point during RAGBRAI if I become hungry I’ve broken the rules?

  4. corksfshn

    Imarunner2 this usually happens at one of the first stops in the morning lots of people getting on and off the road. It does not happen that often.

  5. kicks9

    This looks like early in the morning. Usually once you have traveled 20-30 miles it is much more cleared out. Expect to see this at least once a day though depending on when you leave your campsite. Unless you leave at noon like some people do, I would expect they never see this kind of crowd as many leave before 8am. I left last year before 6am most mornings and saw this heavy of traffic every day. Once the day moves on only the right lane is this full.

  6. isitsummer

    I remember this day, it was Tuesday of last year, about 9’ish. This is the highway into the town of Wesley. Once I got beyond the bend, everyone found out the reason for the traffic jam and why riders were yelling “Slowing” then “Walking”. Two riders had gone down a short ways from the firestation and the EMTs were taking care of the riders. Wesley was a nice little town.

  7. imarunner2

    Given this level of congestion, what’s typical avg speed for any given day?

  8. aaron

    Average speed will vary, the road is essentially owned by bicycles, bikes will travel 5 or 6 wide, you will be able to pick your speed without much trouble.

  9. Bianchi John

    When can we expect to see tips 7 thru 10 posted?

  10. Sigurd

    Two years ago, there was a morning that I left at the wrong time. There were nine across. I was on the center line and had four to each side. Handlebars were overlapping. It definitely does not last like this all day. Get past the first two towns and by 10am it clears out a lot.

  11. Aran

    This looks like the first day last year. There was a burrito stand up on the right… whether that was the cause of the traffic jam or not I was never quite sure.

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