Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Info from the Veterans

Okay, I have been reading the posts for a couple of weeks now, so I can see what you guys in CR are doing for training. As a first time rider, however, I have some questions. 480 miles in seven days seems kind of intimidating. How fast (mph) do the average riders go? How long does it take to complete an average day - say 65 miles? Does everyone start together (at a horn or whistle) or do people just get up in the morning and take off when they are ready? Are the showers "communal"? Are they always cold? I've heard there is a "no drafting" rule, is that true (what-no pacelines)? Are there rest stops along the way with water, energy drinks, snacks, etc, (free or cash?) or are you on your own? Are there SAG vehicles on the course? Ride marshalls? And the two most important questions: What time do the parties start and do I have to keep up with Lance?


Brian said...

Hi Gary - I'm a virgin rider, too, but I have some sense of how things work on RAGBRAI as I've seen it pass by several times and I think it's probably more traveling circus than anything else. Given the 10,000 people or more in all shapes and sizes, I think the pace ranges from the very fast to the very slow to the too drunk/tired to make it. I think people start whenever, some before dawn and some late in the morning, so some are done early and some are still rolling in late in the day. There are loads of stops along the way - every church, Lion's Club, 4-H group, etc. along the route sees this as an opportunity to show some hometown hospitality, so there's no shortage of vendors or facilities. Seems to me it's kind of like if they laid the Iowa State Fair out along a 480 mile fareway... And yes, there are sag wagons.

Gary Van Rooyan said...

Thanks for the info Brian. Just wanted to get a feel for the level of rider and intensity and the kind of ride support we are likely to encounter.

Lonnie said...

I learned in my first RAGBRAI that 480 miles over seven days was the wrong way to look at it. My approach has been to take it 15 miles at a time. That’s about the distance between towns and a good place to recharge for the next 15. Before you know it, you’re in the next overnight town.

I’m not particularly fit, and I realize it’s a ride instead of a race. I average about 11 mph and don’t mind when people pass me. At that pace, a 65-mile day would take six hours of riding time. My butt can’t stay on the saddle that long and I like to enjoy the hometown hospitality along the way, so it’ll take me about nine hours to complete each day.

I try to get an early start to avoid the hottest part of the day, but I’m not a morning person. If I’m on the road by 8 a.m. and in camp by 5 p.m., I’m content.

One beautiful aspect of RAGBRAI is there’s no right or wrong way. There’s no shotgun start and no prizes are awarded for finishing first. I know hardcore riders who are in the next overnight town by noon each day. To each his own, I say. Same goes for Team CoeBRAI. Probably the only time we’ll ride as a unit is the last few miles heading into Belleview.

There are vendors all along the route to supply you with water, Gatorade, snacks, pork chops, ice cream, pasta and lots and lots of pie. My favorite vendors are the occasional few who offer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Every other day of the year I consider that kid food, but it’s a RAGBRAI delicacy. Beer flows plentifully too. Bring cash.

Showers are often “communal,” but it varies from town to town. They aren’t always cold, but that should be your expectation. Keep in mind that 10,000 bikers usually outnumbers the population of the overnight towns. Try as they might to provide all the comforts of home, warm showers are a rare luxury.

There is a no drafting rule, but it’s frequently ignored. If that’s your thing, hop in. (Neither Coe College nor the Coe RAGBRAI® Organizing Committee (aka Team CoeBRAI) accept any liability for your personal health or safety.)

There are sag wagons all along the route, but they’re least available when you need them the most. Last year I rode in a cattle truck after the official sag wagons couldn’t keep up with the demand on a particularly brutal day.

As for keeping up with Lance, I would discourage it (see waiver of liability clause). Though for $1,000, you can join his team. And what time do the parties start? What time can you get here? There are plenty of riders who bike from bar to bar. I typically refrain until arriving in the overnight town. Then it's Katie bar the door!