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Alternatives to the RAGBRAI

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Alternatives to the RAGBRAI

Old 04-10-18, 12:12 PM
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TheRef
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Alternatives to the RAGBRAI

After many years trying to find the time, I finally register to do the Ragbrai. I'll be turning 40 on the second day of the rude and it will be my big four 0 birthday present. I'll be doing it with my 15 year old son which ads to the fun.

However we still have to wait for the lottery results since more people sign up than there are spots. I'm starting to plan for contingency plans for this year or doing something else in the future. I know there are countless small week long events all over the country but what attracts me to the RAGBRAI is the sheer size of it.

Any suggestions for (big) multi-day events?


Any experiences and stories you can tell?
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Old 04-10-18, 01:19 PM
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Congratulations on signing up for RAGBRAI; I'm sure both of you will have a great ride. The first couple of years I rode RAGBRAI, I was also concerned that I wouldn't be selected in the lottery. However, after personal experience and reading in the RAGBRAI website forums, I haven't recently found a case of "non-selection." And even if you aren't selected, there are a large number of riders who have to cancel their plans and sell their credentials on the RAGBRAI website. Frequently it seems there are more sellers than buyers so I wouldn't anticipate a problem.

If you plan on signing up with a charter, I'd recommend doing it sooner rather than later since some charters fill up pretty quickly. The charter I use grants refunds if you aren't selected in the lottery so it is a no risk deal money wise.

Browse the ragbrai.com website and look at some YouTube videos to get a better idea of what happens on the ride. The two of you should have a great time.
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Old 04-10-18, 01:28 PM
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There is also Cycle Oregon, but I think you have to apply EARLY. I'm sure several others.

You could also do a self-supported tour, either alone, or with friends and family. Europe?
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Old 04-10-18, 01:31 PM
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It's a great time, I'm looking forward to my 9th. There are many ways to do RAGBRAI, and you see quite different things depending on what time of day you start.

I'm not quite sure how much there is to the whole "lottery" thing. Will you be riding with a local team, using the Register for support, or bagging your way out and back?
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Old 04-10-18, 01:42 PM
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It looks like Cycle Oregon is not yet sold out. I have done it 4 times. Can be a fun event. 2,000 or so people if it sells out. There is a lot of great riding in Oregon. But at $1,000, it's not cheap. If you need transportation from Portland to the start and back, that will add to the cost. Good amount of climbing this year. Don't know if there is a minimum age requirement.


Classic ? Cycle Oregon


Keep in mind that size often comes with waiting in line for things.
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Old 04-10-18, 07:54 PM
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You will likely not have a problem being selected in the lottery. If you aren't selected, there is a robust secondary market that people sell week long bands at cost. There is even a formal process of transferring a registration through the Des Moines Register.

If you are still looking for an alternative, Big BAM (Bike Across Missouri) is in mid June and will be following the old Route 66 from Joplin to Eureka. I believe there were around 600 people last year. Craft beer and live music every evening. I enjoyed my first one last year very much. Roads aren't crowded and the ride itself is pretty small. A lot of the locals in towns along the route were unaware that we were coming through.
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Old 04-10-18, 08:06 PM
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What is your time frame, and what do you call "big"?


Tour de Nebraska is small (400 or so heads) but laid back and is 5 days in late June. There's BRAN too, which is similarly sized IIRC, but it is a bit less social. BigBAM last year ticked people off--from what I heard management did not have their $hit together compared to prior years (towns not knowing the ride was a big ticker-offer).
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Old 04-10-18, 11:59 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
It looks like Cycle Oregon is not yet sold out. I have done it 4 times. Can be a fun event. 2,000 or so people if it sells out. There is a lot of great riding in Oregon. But at $1,000, it's not cheap. If you need transportation from Portland to the start and back, that will add to the cost. Good amount of climbing this year. Don't know if there is a minimum age requirement.


Classic ? Cycle Oregon


Keep in mind that size often comes with waiting in line for things.
Hmmm... I thought they normally sold out the first day. Perhaps they're having publicity issues after cancelling last year without offering full refunds.
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Old 04-11-18, 12:29 AM
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Here's another one in upstate new york: The Bon Ton Roulet

7 days in late July, if memory serves.
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Old 04-11-18, 05:39 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Hmmm... I thought they normally sold out the first day. Perhaps they're having publicity issues after cancelling last year without offering full refunds.
Don't think they sold out immediately last year either. The anniversary years were the ones that really filled early. I get the sense that the event has become less "personal" since they turned it over to an event organizer. That organizer is now recycling exact routes from previous years, likely to cut down on the workload. Even the helpful forum that used to exist is gone. My first was in 2002. My last was in 2012. I definitely noticed a change in demographics over that span. In 2002 there were a lot of young people. By 2012 there were far fewer young people. A good number of more recreational riders were signing up and expecting rides up the hard climbs. Maybe now the older folks are even dropping out. And as noted, you are going to cough up at least $1,000 for the ride. That's a lot of money.
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Old 04-11-18, 05:49 AM
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Wisconsin has a few, see the 2018 schedule on the mid right:

Bike Wisconsin - Wisconsin's Bicycle Touring Company
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Old 04-11-18, 10:32 AM
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Here is another 7 day event in Upstate NY, the Erie Canal ride, from Buffalo to Albany NY. I have been flirting with doing this ride for years, but have yet to pull the trigger.

https://www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-...nual-bike-tour
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Old 04-11-18, 01:34 PM
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as stated there are always a lot of people selling their packages, and a ton of people that don't register and still ride it
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Old 04-11-18, 01:40 PM
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Yes Cycle Oregon, a week in September.. It is very supported, and sells out fast, in spite of the price.
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Old 04-11-18, 01:45 PM
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Tour De Rouge from Houston to New Orleans is cool. Its in May.
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Old 04-11-18, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by TheRef View Post
Any experiences and stories you can tell?
Stick with the original.

It is going to be a fantastic route this year in terms of overnight towns and with it being your first one, it is really great sense the route is relatively flat and relatively short this year.

It's a rolling circus across the state with 10 to 20 thousand riders on a given day. With it being in central Iowa, many days could be on the higher side of things too.

As mentioned- trust the process. You will be able to get 2 rider passes for the week.
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Old 04-11-18, 02:14 PM
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I've been wanting to do it for years...just so hard to get away from work
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Old 04-11-18, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Stick with the original.


It's a rolling circus across the state with 10 to 20 thousand riders on a given day.
That's exactly what attracts me to the RAGBRAI, the massive number of riders and people getting together and having fun.
My son is from a generation that "playing with friends" mean each kid in their own house playing videogames over the internet. I want him to see all the weirdos, cute girls, old people, athletes getting together and sharing something bigger than themselves.

Thank you for all the suggestions as there is some events mentioned I didn't know existed. I'll look into them for the future but some were small and intimate which is not necessary a bad thing.

I'm very well aware of the dangers and possible problems that could happen when you have 20k people on the roads riding bicycles but I trust my son's training and ability to navigate around people.

Can't wait until July... Just not looking forward to turning 40
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Old 04-11-18, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by TheRef View Post
I'm very well aware of the dangers and possible problems that could happen when you have 20k people on the roads riding bicycles but I trust my son's training and ability to navigate around people.
With the riders spread out over a 6+ hour launch window, a lot of each day is spent without much crowding on the roads.
Hills, popular on route food stops, and pass thru towns are the only places where much crowding occurs.

I work with a group of 40+ kids age 12-18 to train for and complete ragbrai. There are plenty of adults who ride the week with less awareness and manners than our teens.

If your son can hold his line, he will do great and have a blast.
Tip- visit each pass thru town's activities before the ride to get an idea of where you want to spend your time each day.


Where are you coming from?
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Old 04-12-18, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post

I work with a group of 40+ kids age 12-18 to train for and complete ragbrai. There are plenty of adults who ride the week with less awareness and manners than our teens.

If your son can hold his line, he will do great and have a blast.
Tip- visit each pass thru town's activities before the ride to get an idea of where you want to spend your time each day.


Where are you coming from?
Agree with you. My kid is much more aware than lots of adults. Last century we did we saw adults coming to a full stop out of nowhere. Cross from the far left to stop on the right shoulder without looking for riders coming behind, people weaving all over the place. He is able to spot most of those behaviors and anticipate problem, however it can always happen.


Great suggestion, on checking the towns be fore deciding where to stop for entertainment, food or even rest.

I'm coming from Chicagoland west suburbs.
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Old 04-12-18, 10:44 AM
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Knowing where you live might help in making a suggestion. Also, knowing what you mean by "big." Some of the rides being suggested only have 3-400 riders. If that's your threshhold, then it'll be easy to find a ride to make you happy.
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Old 05-04-18, 12:51 PM
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We are in!!!! I'm very excited. Now I gotta plan for the trip. What to carry? Where to sleep? What to bring with?

For the ones who've done it, how much should I expect to spend per day in food/ drinks? Are things reasonably priced or should I expect to pay $5 bucks for a Can of coke?
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Old 05-06-18, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by TheRef View Post
We are in!!!! I'm very excited. Now I gotta plan for the trip. What to carry? Where to sleep? What to bring with?

For the ones who've done it, how much should I expect to spend per day in food/ drinks? Are things reasonably priced or should I expect to pay $5 bucks for a Can of coke?
I would say that prices are very reasonable. It depends on where you eat, obviously, but I think that for the most part prices are not high. There are many on route breakfast spots to stop at where you can fill up for 5 to $10. Same with lunch. Each town will have a lot of different options ranging from a church lunch two food trucks serving all sorts of items. You could eat very well for 30 to $40 each day.
there is free water to fill up bottles in most every town and typically Gatorades are a dollar or dollar 50 all across the route.
the on Route food stands that are being run by a household are usually the best deal because they are just selling stuff for that day only since the route is going past them. It's usually some kids that are running it and prices are usually lower.

as for where to camp, the main Ragbrai Campground in each town is excellent. Showers are oftentimes close by as well as food vendors and entertainment.
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Old 05-07-18, 09:37 AM
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Congratulations TheRef, I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun on RAGBRAI. Ragbrai.com has loads of information on what to take, how to pack, and more; searching the forums section of the site will probably answer most of your questions.

One of the most challenging aspects is deciding what you want to take and what you need to take then winnowing down that list to a mass that you want to drag around twice per town. You don't need to take a lot of bike spares since there are bike shops about every ten miles on the road. If you want to wash bibs in the shower every night then ride the next day in damp, semi-skanky kit, that is up to you. Personally, bibs and jerseys pack extremely well. I can rotate outer garments for a couple of days since I only wear them for a few hours but I don't need a wet chamois at 6:00 AM! Chamois cream can become your best friend!

Get a rolling duffel. Wheels = good, carrying your duffel while trying to roll your bike, not so good.

Remember the hottest and coldest, rainiest July days you have ever seen in Iowa and anticipate seeing each one on your ride. Be able to stay warm and dry at night and on the road.

Rumor has it that you can survive by stopping only at Mr. Pork Chop, Beekman's ice cream and the craft beer tents.
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Old 05-07-18, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by CadenceCrazy View Post
Congratulations TheRef, I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun on RAGBRAI. Ragbrai.com has loads of information on what to take, how to pack, and more; searching the forums section of the site will probably answer most of your questions.

One of the most challenging aspects is deciding what you want to take and what you need to take then winnowing down that list to a mass that you want to drag around twice per town. You don't need to take a lot of bike spares since there are bike shops about every ten miles on the road. If you want to wash bibs in the shower every night then ride the next day in damp, semi-skanky kit, that is up to you. Personally, bibs and jerseys pack extremely well. I can rotate outer garments for a couple of days since I only wear them for a few hours but I don't need a wet chamois at 6:00 AM! Chamois cream can become your best friend!

Get a rolling duffel. Wheels = good, carrying your duffel while trying to roll your bike, not so good.

Remember the hottest and coldest, rainiest July days you have ever seen in Iowa and anticipate seeing each one on your ride. Be able to stay warm and dry at night and on the road.

Rumor has it that you can survive by stopping only at Mr. Pork Chop, Beekman's ice cream and the craft beer tents.
Thank you for the suggestions, I've heard about Mr. Pork chop but he just passed away recently, I'm hoping they will continue his legacy. One of my selling points to "convince" my son to join me was that he could eat as much as he would like and oh boy he can eat. I'm hoping to find an all you can eat buffet (only half joking)
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