Based on a fan’s suggestion on Facebook and watching a few You Tube videos, I bought a plane ticket to ride across a state halfway across the country. In otherwords, I rode RAGBRAI! I now consider Iowa another adopted home, at least for one week a year. I came home from Omaha tired, sweaty, sore and smelly but I was sad it was over and I can’t wait to do it again!
Needless to say, RAGBRAI is a completely unique cycling experience. Whether you do it once to check it off your cycling bucket list, or make it your annual summer vacation, I say, Go for it! You’ll have fun…and if you aren’t, have another beer….
While the experience is fresh in my mind, I thought I would share some tips that will hopefully make your RAGBRAI a little smoother. My tips will be broken into two posts, one for RAGBRAI preparation and one for during the ride.
I was selected in the RAGBRAI lottery. I heard through the grapevine that out-of-state riders and their out-of-state money are basically guaranteed a spot in the ride. Great for us out-of-staters, but of course, that also means a logistical and financial challenge. I chose to fly with my bike. If you choose the same, I recommend Frontier Airlines. For some strange, unknown, wonderful reason they waive their oversize baggage fee for bike boxes. If your bike box is under 50 pounds, you only pay $20 to check it. Bike boxes over 50 pounds pay an additional $75 fee 🙁 Weigh your stuff on a bathroom scale before you head to the airport. Incidently Craigslist is a great place to pick up a cheap bike box. I got mine for $50!
You will carefully pack your bike, with the expectation that it will be lovingly cared for on its journey. Ha! Baggage throwers will fling it around without a care for the precious cargo inside, not to mention the villianous TSA agents. They will open your bike box to be sure that the tires are deflated, confiscate your CO2 canisters and throw the whole mess back together. A frequent victim is the rear derailleur. Consider removing it. I also recommend wrapping and zip-tying pipe insulation to the frame wherever possible. My old clunker emerged from its journey in Seattle with a large deep scratch/gouge. I blame TSA. You can always just skip the flight and go on a road trip!
In addition to your bike, you need to plan and pack for a week away from home. Unlike some people, I do not have enough jerseys, shorts, socks etc. to have a new kit for each day. I rinsed my gear out as needed in the shower and let it dry. This works well as long as it doesn’t rain! Which it did a couple of times….(Note to self, save the pennies for an extra jersey for next year!) Take a big waterproof bag that held everything- some people had individual giant ziplocks for each day, but that’s way too much plastic to deal with! Just make sure you have a failsafe way to keep your stuff dry- Iowa rainstorms are not to be taken lightly.
Another bag consideration- it will get abused. My bag had drag marks some days 🙁 And then there’s the ‘where is my bag’ game that organized ride veterans will be very familiar with. Luggage is sorted by time of departure. So make note of the clock when you leave. You will find your luggage in the corresponding 1/2 hour pile. I packed a top-entry bright yellow duffel bag, which had some disadvantages (digging all the way to the bottom for clean socks) but was genius when I had to find my luggage.
Now back to the weather- you’ve packed everything in rainproof bags, awesome! Are you sleeping in a tent? In the midwest, thunderstorms and hard rain are a real possibility- not something we are used to out here in Western WA. I found out the hard way that my tent won’t keep out the morning dew, let alone the pounding rain we got with the thunderstorms. At least it did not collapse like some did…. Also consider that it is likely to be hot when you sent up camp and are seeking an afternoon nap. Be sure that there is plenty of ventillation!
Here are some other miscellaneous items that I recommend bringing.
1. Swimsuit. At least three camp sites were near the community pool. Great way to cool off 🙂
2. Sun Sleeves. These beauties prevent sun burn, keep you dry and cool.
3. Sun Screen
4. Towel. I forgot mine 🙁
5. Chamois Creme
6. Zipties – You never know.
7. Rope or nylon straps to fashion a clothes line.
8. Clothes pins.
9. Cell phone charger (although cell service was spotty at times)
10. First aid kit
11. Sun Screen
12. Chamois Creme
13. Cold weather gear (Just in case)
14. A beer opener.
15. Sun Screen
16. Chamois Creme