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Upcoming Event: RAGBRAI

June 29, 2010

If you’re from the Midwest, it’s likely that you have at some point heard of RAGBRAI: an annual week-long bike ride across the state of Iowa. According to event organizers, this is the “oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world“. It’s always held during the last full week of July and cyclists log about 472 miles for the week (about 68 miles a day).

While the days are spent riding, the evenings are enjoyed with drinks, food, live concerts, and general whole town parties along the route’s stopping points. Riders looking to just enjoy part of the excitement but not wanting to committ to a week can purchase $25 day tickets and simply ride for one day’s stretch of the ride. My husband did this last year with a few of his friends and loved every mile of it. Cyclists of all levels fill the road and enjoy the ride. Here are some of his shots from last year’s ride…

If you want to check out more of the event’s photos, you can find the 2009 highlights here…

This year, I’m joining T. for my first stab at RAGBRAI. I’m a Novice with a capital N. when it comes to road biking, but I’m excited to give it a go. I’ll be hitting the paved trails around my house on my borrowed road bike on a regular basis until the end of July and I’ll hopefully be building a bit of speed, some endurance, and a good dose of balance and dexterity on this precarious contraption. (It feels very precarious in comparison to the tank that is my cruiser). I’m a bit nervous about riding with such a large group of experienced cyclists, but I’ve been assured that people of all levels participate and that it’s as much of a fun ride as it is a race – some go out for speed while others simply enjoy the journey.

Interestingly, one of my favorite bike bloggers, Velouria of Lovely Bicyle, just wrote about the concept of social cycling and voiced some of her misgivings about engaging in group rides. I really enjoyed her thoughtful post on the topic as well as all the comments that followed. As I wrote in my response, I’ve always enjoyed both the solitary as well as the social aspect of cycling (and running). While I appreciate the ‘time-out’ that cycling (or running) alone can provide, I also love that I can engage in these activities with other people in a way that creates a visible community. I think the visibility of group rides or road races contributes to that awareness of a sport or activity that is beneficial and crucial to the survival thereof. Seeing masses of people happily participating in a given event raises awareness of that activity and showcases a public demand for spaces, resources, and support for said pursuit.

While I definitely enjoy the daily routine of just hopping on my bike and getting lost in my thoughts while I bike to work, the store, or around town (or the equally therapeutic practice of going for a long run somewhere preferably woodsy, quiet, and isolated), I also can’t help but enjoy the surge of excitement and adrenaline that comes from joining a huge group of other cyclists (or runners) paying public homage to a activity so well loved. S.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Blume permalink
    June 29, 2010 13:03

    I know what you mean about starting out on a road bike! My husband (a bikesnob, to be sure) talked me into getting one for my first adult bike in quite a few years. It had stem shifters (since swapped out for bar-end shifters), and I swear, I just rode in the same gear for the entire first month.

    I predict that what feels precarious now will start to feel nimble and zippy once you get used to it.

    • June 29, 2010 13:25

      Blume, thanks for the encouragement! I sure hope so, right now I’m still kinda wobbly on it. And you’re so right – I pretty much never change gears because I’m afraid of all the movement that kind of act necessitates! :)

  2. June 29, 2010 15:14

    Thanks for your comment about my defense!

    Funnily, I find it harder to balance on a cruiser. I guess it’s what we’re accustomed to, right?

    This event looks like tons of fun! My brother-in-law has done a riding event from Toronto to Montreal several times and my sister-in-law has done it now twice, and they loved it. I look forward to reading about your experience!

  3. June 29, 2010 17:50

    I can see both sides of the debate. While I enjoy the solitary activity of long rides and runs, I also love the excitement and camaraderie of a big event. I’m training for a century ride right now, and I started out riding with a local group a few times a week but found I actually prefer training along or with my partner. Even with him, it’s a fairly solitary pursuit as we’re usually single file on roads out in the middle of nowhere. When I’m doing really long rides in unfamiliar areas, I definitely prefer to have someone with me in case I get lost or something goes wrong – a fall, an aggressive dog, etc – but I spend the majority of the ride quietly inside my own head.

    Running is easier to do alone – the distances are shorter (5-10 miles vs. 30-80) and I mostly run through neighborhoods. The big events only make up about 2% of my time, so I look forward to them as novelties, not the norm.

  4. June 29, 2010 19:31

    It looks like a lot of fun, but I can definitely identify with group ride ambivalence! Even when riding with just my husband, I get very annoyed when he zips up a long hill and I eventually have to get off and walk just to reach the top :) I tell myself that it’s because he’s on a road bike and regularly does 50+ miles at a time, so is used to it! I also think that I’d have to learn to ride a road bike if going on any sort of group ride, but the thought is scary – I think I’d fall over on the first turn!


  5. mooie fietsen permalink
    June 29, 2010 19:45

    Living in Holland is kind of like always being on a group ride ;-). In the States, riding solo or with just one other rider feels best to me for navigating traffic. For longer rides to exercise and de-stress, I prefer going solo. Large group rides have their place in my life, too, though. Those photos remind me of the MS 150s my husband and I used to do and we always had a blast on those rides. You guys will have a great time, and you’ll get used to the road bike in no time.

  6. July 5, 2010 01:14

    Oooh, can’t wait to see your posts about RAGBRAI! A friend of mine has done it for several years in a row, and she says she can’t imagine missing it now. She also echoes the comments you’ve mentioned about it being more of an event than a race and keeps in touch with several people she’s met during the week.

    I don’t bike, but I run alone almost exclusively. Running is my “me” time and being alone gives me a chance to clear my head. That said, I really love race days because they give me a chance to get together with like-minded people and get that adrenaline rush you’re talking about!


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