The Chainlink

RAGBRAI registration just opened. It's time to sign up for a spot on the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, since they usually sell out. (See www.ragbrai.org for all the details.) Although the actual route (which changes every year) won't be announced until January 25, a good time will be had by all on this wonderful but challenging carnival on wheels.

What are your favorite RAGBRAI stories? Here's one of mine:  RAGBRAI has passed through more than 780 Iowa communities. On the 40th anniversary of the ride in 2012, RAGBRAI finally got around to passing through Lohrville (population 368) for the first time. For its theme, the town chose: "Welcome to Lohrville, the Ride's 40-Year-Old Virgin," (a very apt theme, BTW, because "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is a great bike movie)!

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I'm hoping to ride RAGBRAI next year for the first time! Anyone have recommendations about registering as a group vs. as an individual? My bf Shane and I would like to ride it together, but with transportation and other logistics, it seems like it might be easier to be with a larger group.

Not this year for me, but I am planning to ride with my sister (who lives in Phoenix) in 2015. Stories from Chainlinkers and from Greg's book inspired me.

Wow, so many damn great memories.

Drinking in Dike, IA at 9:30AM in 1998 because that day was only 35 miles long. 

The years when team buses could pull up to any beer garden in any town, unlike the past 8 or so years of the designated "meeting town."

Revisiting Dike, IA several years ago and getting kicked out of town, by the state patrol, twice.

Riding with fast Air Force lines. Being able to lead some of those fast Air Force lines.

Having my photo taken with the local county Pork Queen and her minions one year (I have that photo somewhere if anyone needs proof).

The hot year of 1999 and walking through ground clouds the night in Decorah. That year I also rode extremely sick due to eating tainted cajun catfish from a vendor who's not been on the ride since. That day the beer garden pulling into Clear Lake was one of the best in memory; lakeside, with ample parking for buses, lots of dancing, nudity and Vodka/Gatorade.

Riding in scorching heat and heavy headwinds from Manning to Audobon on Ragbrai 34, through a "dry" county that wouldn't allow roadside services. Worst 20 miles of my life.

I had a rain storm inside my tent the first morning in 2003.

All the "fashion" shows staged by Team Dragbrai.

Riding the Kallas Loop around Rathbun Lake on my first Ragbrai in 1997 with a great group of folks that I somehow just hooked up with for that stretch.

My first day from Missouri Valley to Red Oak in 1997, riding the 82 miles in around 4 hours and then wondering what it was I was missing as no one was in camp for hours. I've since learned the errors of that day.

Riding on beautiful roads with no cars, in all weather from rain/hail, cold, scorching heat.

Making some lifelong friends from years ago, starting a conversation going up a hill.  Where else does that happen?

Team dragbrai! Awesome!

Thanks clp! I was leaning toward a group registration so the bf and I would get in together (not just one of us). I'm going to see if I can rope in a few coworkers and a driver and create a small group; backup plan will be Amtrak with a bit of extra riding before and after. We wanted to camp anyway, so bringing panniers and some gear for the extra days isn't a problem. Thanks for the expertise!

clp said:

As you know, individual entrants must pass through a lottery to get a entry.  But over the years, I've heard of many other ways to enjoy RAGBRAi. 

For instance, there are several commercial trip organizers that for several hundred dollars will provide an entry for you, pick up you and your bikes, drive to the start in western Iowa, provide sag service each day, select group campsites or even motel rooms each night, and bring you and your bike back to Chicago after the ride.

There are other organizers who, for a smaller fee, will meet you with a bus at the Finish in eastern Iowa, bus you to the start, and provide daily sag and campsite service.  At the Finish you're on your own.  And you generally have to obtain your own entry and get yourself to the Finish a day or so before Ragbrai begins.

But my favorite method is car-free:  Apply through the lottery, take AMTRAK from Union Station to Omaha with panniers, ride to the Start in the days before the ride, use the Ragbrai-provided sag and campsite recommendations, and then ride across the Mississippi River and Illinois in the two days after the end of the ride.  Simple.  Efficient.  Environmental.  And a good way to use those quads that you strengthened during the previous week!  Good luck!

Julia 3.5/7.5 mi said:

I'm hoping to ride RAGBRAI next year for the first time! Anyone have recommendations about registering as a group vs. as an individual? My bf Shane and I would like to ride it together, but with transportation and other logistics, it seems like it might be easier to be with a larger group.

I'd love to do it next year, but might wait to see if I can get a wristband at the last minute, as I'm buying a house next month and am saving my pennies at the moment.

Hi Julia, You're right. It's easier to go with a group. Not only does the group take care of transportation and logistics but it if you get on team or charter you also get a guaranteed spot. Locally, check out Team Gourmet or C.U.B.S. Otherwise, the largest charter is Pork Belly Ventures...and they must have lots of participants around the Chicago area. You and your friend could sign up together. Cheers, Greg

Julia 3.5/7.5 mi said:

I'm hoping to ride RAGBRAI next year for the first time! Anyone have recommendations about registering as a group vs. as an individual? My bf Shane and I would like to ride it together, but with transportation and other logistics, it seems like it might be easier to be with a larger group.

Still, the cost of a wristband...even with all the other expenses...is one of the best vacation dollars you'll ever spend. You'll get a lot of bang for your buck.

Will said:

I'd love to do it next year, but might wait to see if I can get a wristband at the last minute, as I'm buying a house next month and am saving my pennies at the moment.

Glad stories have inspired you. Keep it in mind for next year!

Lisa Curcio 4.1 mi said:

Not this year for me, but I am planning to ride with my sister (who lives in Phoenix) in 2015. Stories from Chainlinkers and from Greg's book inspired me.



clp said:

Unlike most other organized bike rides, RAGBRAI is unique in that the organizers design TWO routes each day: one for bikes, the other for cars, vans, buses and various sag vehicles.  So most of the time, you're riding open, car-free roads!  

Other rides make no effort to limit the numerous private sag vehicles.  And you can be passed a DOZEN times each day by the same sag, as they continually leap-frog their various riders and attempt to maintain close contact.  So you can end up riding all week on the BUSIEST roads in the state!

In addition, Iowa has one of the best educational systems in the US.  Rural people you meet on the ride are no "country bumpkins."  They're usually well-educated, informed, and anxious to meet you and converse. 

Bike ride participants fall into four groups: serious bikies in pace lines, party-people stopping at the bar in every small town beginning at 9am, families biking together, and bike tourers plugging along on their inexpensive summer vacation.  Somehow all these folks get along well...and even enjoy their own diversity.  Ragbrai is great!

Very good points. I would say, however, that there are other "groups," such as cyclists who are pushing themselves, physically...drawn by the challenge and really biking hard. Another group would be cyclists who are fighting an illness or recovering from one. Many of these actually ride to raise money for a cause. Another group are those who go every year...almost out of habit or as a way to spend sometime with the same group of friends. Locals who tag along for the fun of it or the love of Iowa. I could go on. There are many groups.

Very good points. I would say, however, that there are other "groups," such as cyclists who are pushing themselves, physically...drawn by the challenge and really biking hard. Another group would be cyclists who are fighting an illness or recovering from one. Many of these actually ride to raise money for a cause. Another group are those who go every year...almost out of habit or as a way to spend sometime with the same group of friends. Locals who tag along for the fun of it or the love of Iowa. I could go on. There are many groups.

I haven't decided what I'm doing for this year, but TG is fun and I have loads of good memories of my two years riding with this team!

Michael B said:

Borzo! You gonna be riding with TG again this year?

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