Riding river to river on RAGBRAI XLIII

It’s official — I am riding RAGBRAI this summer.

In honor of Wiz-Bang, a RAGBRAI-riding relative who lost his fight against cancer in November, I have joined his team for the 43rd edition of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. I registered as a week-long rider a few days ago and plan to ride river to river. I want to dip my tires into the Missouri and Mississippi.

Needless to say, it looks like I am finally going to take a vacation. (I have not taken an extended vacation in over six years.) Granted, I’m not sure riding a bicycle across the state during the hottest month of the year qualifies as a vacation, but I will get some much needed time away from my laptop, visit parts of the state I have never been to before, and ride my bike.

Now I need to train. A lot.

Though RAGBRAI’s website says it is “a leisurely ride, not a race,” it also states that, “RAGBRAI likely will be one of the most physically difficult things that you’ve ever attempted.” The 2015 edition is 462 miles long and includes 15,948 feet of climbing. Though the amount of recommended training differs — our team leader recommends multiplying one’s age by 10 and riding that many miles, a video on the RAGRBRAI website recommends 500 miles, and the event’s general information page says, “[p]lan on riding at least 1,000 training miles as you get ready for RAGBRAI week” — training seems to be essential for enjoying the ride and surviving injury-free.

I ride a couple miles around town every day when the weather is nice, but I have never gone on long rides of 30, 40, and 50 miles at a time. RAGBRAI’s website says that the average daily ride is 67 miles, so I need to put some serious miles under my pedals between now and July.

Not only does riding RAGBRAI require an investment in time and energy, equipping one’s self with necessities requires a bit of cash. Our team leader told me that cycling jerseys are not necessary — a moisture-wicking, athletic shirt will apparently do the job — but a couple pairs of padded shorts will be worth their cost. Gloves will not only provide protection in the event of a crash, but padded gloves will help prevent one’s fingers from going numb (apparently from placing weight on the hands for five to eight hours). (This is starting to sound less and less like a vacation.) A helmet is an obvious necessity, especially when riding with 20,000 others. Small packs for storing first aid, tools, extra tire tubes, a small hand pump, and other cycling whatnot have also been recommended to me.

And that is just for riding. The necessities for overnight camping, gear storage, and shipment from stop to stop seem to be a completely different story. I watched a video about what to pack and how on the RAGBRAI website, and the speaker had the biggest duffel bag I had ever seen. It was practically a body bag. Waterproof storage is key, he said, and showed everyone all his belongings stuffed into their own waterproof bags.

Yowza. I have a lot to think about, buy, and do. But I am excited. RAGBRAI is a cultural institution in Iowa and I am very eager to finally be a part of it.

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