Ragbrai Tips

Good morning team!

I thought I would send out a couple tips and things that I have learned along my Ragbrai adventures for some of our new members. For those of you that have done Ragbrai before or are not joining us this year please add any tips that I might be missing!

One of the first things is the Expo will be overwhelming. You will never see more bikes, bike gear, and people riding bikes in one place. It is such a fun experience and chance for you to check out new gear, latest bikes from every known manufacturer, and you can even set up to test out a new bike during the ride for a day. Have fun and look at everything.

Sunday morning when we get up and are ready to start the ride you will definitely feel excited and ready. It’s important to remember that you have a full week of riding ahead of you, and not to rush. It can be easy to feel the need to go fast and not stop a lot. This is the time to relax and stop at everything that looks fun. Whether this is a slip and slide, bath tub races, cow patty throwing, etc. I actually made a bad decision last year and didn’t want to get wet at one of the best stops we had during the ride on Wednesday. There was a farm setup  with a zipline  into a pool and a Big Blob  that you could be launched off, Scott and Jared wanted me to get onto the blob and jump off the platform and launch me into the pond. It would have been awesome and I decided not to do it. I still regret that! Our goal for our team is to have fun, enjoy some beverages, and explore these little towns. Every time you see something that looks fun stop and wait for the team to join!

Here are some things on the ride I found specific to Ragbrai.  The mornings will be crowded and this is one of the more frequent time of the day that crashes happen. You need to be comfortable being surrounded on all sides with people on bicycles no more than a foot away from you. Some of these riders may not be as experienced, they could just be someone who picked up their bike and is riding to the next town because they wanted to join. This maybe slow and a great time to have conversations with people next to you. The next thing is that train tracks are a place where a lot of crashes happen, especially if it is raining. There are medical support vehicles that ride with us. Normally a couple of medics on motorcycles and an ambulance. You will hear and see these guys often, make sure to wave and say thank you.

Get comfortable with the word Rumble. These are rivets in the road that approach an intersection. Every time you come up along one it is customary to either yell the word rumble or to gesture with your hand that there is something in the road up ahead to people behind you. You will find that people love to shout this word although riding across one surprised is definitely not comfortable.

A big challenge on the ride is to actually try and stop to join your friend’s or for a place you want to check out. You will be surrounded by cyclists, once you decide you want to stop move yourself to the right and then say bike off. You can also say bike off right. Unless it’s unavoidable or there’s just a large enough gap I would not suggest trying to get off of the road on the left side. Similar to group rides that you may have done already and driving, the left side of the road is typically reserved for people that are a faster pace than you. You will often see people in a Peloton formation to help draft or to pass so that they can get ahead of the group. Needless to say this will be Michael yelling out on your left until he’s hoarse again. Once you decide to ride again after stopping wait for a pause in the road and yell bike on to indicate that you are joining.

If you are not familiar with a Peloton formation it is a great tool that can be used on a really windy day. A lot of teams will ride together in this formation not just to help draft each other but also so that they can make sure that they stay together. This is a move where you ride behind a cyclist and will draft off of their air movement. This can literally save you on a day when you are struggling. For example: the day after my century Brandon long and his friend drafted me into one of the towns that we stopped at. It was extremely windy and I was very tired. At one point because they were letting me draft off of them we were going 27 miles per hour and I never would have thought I could do that one day after a century ride. We noticed last year that some of the teams actually became annoyed or angry with us if we jumped on with them without asking. This is pretty abnormal for Ragbrai, but it’s something to consider.

I am sure this is repetitive for most of you, but I didn’t know any of this my first year and I thought this could help.


3 Replies to “Ragbrai Tips”

  1. Ragbrai officially discourages Peletons (Pace Lines). They’re pretty dangerous, so don’t unless you’re comfortable giving it a go, but they can save you.

    General rules about jumping onto a Pace Line is that you ask first. “Hey?.. Can I jump on?” It’s Iowa. Most people are nice and say, “Yeah man. Join in” If you’re going to jump on to a Pace Line. You’re supposed to take your turn. the line will rotate, gradually bringing you up to the front, then it’s your turn to take the brunt of the wind. Then, when you’re tired, you peel off, move to the back, and you get to get the advantage of the line again.

    There are a couple reasons why people get upset. Pace lines are about trust. You’ve got a group of people, moving at an elevated pace, with there wheels just a couple of feet to a few inches away from each other. Everyone in the line has to communicate and trust each other, otherwise it can be pretty dangerous. If people get mad it’s usually because A: You’re not doing your part. B: You’re not riding predictably. C: You didn’t ask. This all has to do with trust, the inherent danger of a pace line, and the idea of fair play.

    Last year, we we had about a 7 mile streach into a headwind on the final leg to the overnight town. I had my music going and was kicking it up the stretch. Some guy didn’t ask, and just started drafting and sucking my rear wheel. Despite me trying to slow down and peel off a bit, he never pulled ahead and never took his turn. I was pretty beat by the time I got to the final town. Then we got to the final town, and he pulled up and said, “Thanks Man… Why don’t I pull you for a bit.” My turn off to get the campsite was the next freaking street. I was not happy with the dude. Had he even asked, “Hey man, this wind is killer, can I suck on your rear wheel?” Then I’d at least have known that he needed help, and I wouldn’t have been upset because he didn’t take a turn. I’m all for helping pull another cyclist if they need it, knowing that some day I may need the same thing.

  2. Tara touched on this, but I wanted to add to it as well.


    “On Your Left” “On Your Right” “Car Up” “Car Back” “Slowing” “Stopping” “Off Right” “Bike On!” “Pot Hole” “Stick!” “Coming in between you two” “Rumbles” “Nice Rack… On the bike… that’s a really nice bike rack.”

    Not only be vocal, but point if you can. When you’re riding in a large group of people, you want to be predictable, and you want to do everything you can to make your intentions known to the riders behind you. That’s why hand signals and pointing helps too. If a riders behind you, and your pie hole is on the front of your face projecting sound forward, it’s difficult for the people behind you to hear you.

    Next: The person in front of you has the right of way. When passing its your job not to hit them. That’s why you need to be vocal. Let em know you’re there so that they don’t make stupid moves that’ll cause an accident.

    Also: Be courteous. Make room. Slow down. Let riders in. It’s not a race. There’s no trophy, or models waiting for you with champagne at the end. Be… Iowa Nice.

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