This time last year, Ashley and I were half-way across the state of Iowa, participating in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, along with somewhere between 17,000-25,000 others. How many different riding styles do you think there were?
We had a great time! It was our first trip across the state and we picked up a few tips along the way. Most notably, in our mind, is the fact that you can ride the route in many different ways, each of which is well within the recommended safe guidelines. Here are a few:
Wake early and stay ahead of the crowd
This is what we ended up doing as the week went on. The course officially opens at 6 (sunrise) and by leaving then you can stay ahead of the huge throngs of people and skip the worst of the lines. We arrived in the final towns early enough to have a good array of campsite choices.
Sleep late and ride leisurely
Some friends did this, since it was their vacation. They slept late-ish and meandered their way from stop to stop, thoroughly exploring and seeing what each town had to offer. They ate supper on the road and upon arriving in the overnight town only had to set up their tent and shower before bed.
While we were solidly better-than-average riders, there were definitely the “hot dogs” who flew by us on the left. I don’t know if they are professionals, serious amateurs, or just riders from the mountains who were enjoying the relative flatness of Iowa. Either way, there were lines of riders who would handily pass us by. Within this speed, I am sure there are sub categories:
- those who slept late and rode hard all day long to arrive early at the overnight town
- others who rode hard from stop to stop, enjoying lots of time at each location
Deviate from the route completely
We spoke to one gentleman who takes daily detours off of the route, visiting towns that have been passed by just a few miles away. They are more than happy to see him, he encounters no lines, and he gets to see something that most others don’t.
Don’t ride the whole week
Many people didn’t ride the whole week, opting for one-day passes, or multiple one-days. This requires less training, allows them to pick and choose their terrain and towns visited, and fits more easily into their schedule.
Only ride part of the day
Some groups, in order to save money on shuttle service each day, traded off riding and driving between members. One person would drive in the morning to a designated meeting spot, trade with one of the riders and ride in the afternoon.
Don’t ride at all
A lot of teams have support drivers who come along for the trip, bringing along luggage, food, drinks, and more. While they travel a different route, the supporters still get to participate in RAGBRAI, without all of the pedaling!
There are a lot of options, and I’m sure that we overlooked a number of them. Some are tailored to the amount of time you have, some are to the energy and riding ability, while others are simply designed around what and how you want to ride, or whether you want to ride at all!
Designing your ride doesn’t apply only to the RAGBRAI, or even other touring bicycle rides. It also applies to life. While it might appear that there is one route, one path to success, there are many ways to get there. Explore all of your options:
- Maybe you can really rush for a bit and then have time for a mini-retirement.
- Perhaps slow and steady will get you where you want to be.
- Or maybe you should just deviate from the course that is presented to you all-together (does traveling around the country in an RV sound familiar?)
- Step back and play a supporting role of some sort, perhaps taking care of friends and family who, in turn, provide a place for you to live.
Whatever option you decide to take, be sure to get out there and go on an adventure! You never know what you’ll find and who you might meet.