This page contains descriptions of cycling trips submitted by members.
Rather than putting all the details of a trip into the newsletter, member trip experiences can be described in full using this page.

RAGBRAI is a 7 day cycling event that crosses the state of Iowa starting at or near the Missouri River in the west and ending at the Mississippi River in the east. The ride takes place during the last week of July.

It might take some brainstorming to determine your plan.  Different parts of the trip can be handled in different ways.  The information below is provided to help you consider and shop different options and services.  The assumption is that you will be coming from and returning to Long Beach, California.

Registration

Registration typically opens in early December and closes in April.  The “Overnight” towns are announced in late January.
Note that registration for the 7 day pass ends on March 31st though this may change.
Click here to register

Travel Options

Driving
Driving requires at least one traveling companion who would drive ahead and meet up at one or more of the pass-through towns and / or at that day’s overnight town.  As soon as the overnight towns are announced, hotels in the area get fully booked very quickly.  Other options are renting an RV, using Air BnB  and I have heard, but not verified, that some locals open their homes to riders for lodging.

Flying
Des Moines International Airport is located in the center of Iowa which makes shuttle bus rides to the start town and from the end town shorter.
Charter services typically offer one-way fares for their shuttle busses so you may not necessarily be locked into using one airport.

The start date for RAGBRAI always falls on a Saturday. However, the riding doesn’t start until the next day, Sunday.

I have found that flying into Des Moines on Friday works best because the charter service shuttle busses and bike hauling trucks pick up on Saturday morning.  Arriving at the start town around 1:00 PM on Saturday gives you time to get settled, have something to eat, and ensure your bike is ready.

There are 3 hotels just outside the Des Moines airport; Days Inn, Hampton Inn and AmericInn.   All 3 hotels are within easy walking distance of each other so if your charter service shuttle picks up at one you are not staying at, don’t sweat it, just give yourself more time to walk over.   The 3 hotels also share an airport shuttle van.

Shipping Your Bike

If you are driving to and from Iowa, it is assumed you are handling your bike as part of that so you can skip this section.

Airline Shipping:
The airline will ship your bike as checked luggage on your flight.  This is probably the cheapest option.  Many people use a surplus shipping box from a local bike store or purchase a new shipping box which is available on Amazon and eBay.

Bike Shipping Service:
There are a couple of bike shipping services that will send a carrier such as UPS or FedEx to your home or local bike shop to pick up your bike shipping container, ship it to the start city, un-pack and reassemble the bike and reverse the process at the end city.  Rates vary based on the insured value of the bike.  Check out www.bikeflights.com and sendmybike.com.   Some charter services partner with one of the shipping companies and include a bike shipping option in their services.  When selecting a charter service, check to see if they support bike shipping.

While it costs more, the advantage of using a bike shipper is that you don’t have to haul your bike into and out of airports, hotel rooms and charter bike transport trucks.  You just show up at the start town, pick up your bike and at the end town drop it off.

 Charter Services

Officially sanctioned charter services are listed on the RAGBRAI web site. 

Charter services typically provide the following:

  • Airport city to start city shuttle bus (motor coach).
  • Airport city to start city bike transport (if a bike shipping service was not used)
  • Baggage transport between overnight towns.
  • Overnight camp sites with porta-potties, electronics charging stations, showers, shade pop-ups and chairs.
    Pork Belly Ventures, the largest of the services, also provides meals, live music every evening and laundry service once during the week.
  • Rental tents w/tent setup
  • Air pumps
  • Cold beverages at minimal cost
  • End city to airport shuttle bus (motor coach)
  • End city to airport bike transport

You can typically build a service package that caters to your plan.  Bike shipping and tent rentals can usually be added à la carte.
The largest charter service is Pork Belly Ventures.  Note that tent rentals are usually fully booked by the end of January.

The charter tent camps are typically located in public parks and high school athletic fields.  Train tracks were not very far away, and the occasional middle-of-the-night train can interrupt one’s sleep.  If you are a light sleeper, I recommend packing some hearing protection type ear plugs.

Packing

I packed all my cycling gear in a carry-on bag.  Helmet, saddle bag, shoes, pedals (packing instructions said to leave them off the bike), Garmin, GoPro, blinker, gloves, sunglasses, and kits.  This way, if the airline lost my checked luggage, I could still ride.   Water bottles, spare tubes and cartridges were in the checked luggage.    TSA does not permit CO2 cartridges in carry-on luggage and batteries are not permitted in checked luggage.  If you forget or lose  something you need for riding, you will be able to purchase it at one of the vendor tents at the start city.  They have everything!

I also recommend small tubes of lip balm and sunscreen to carry in a jersey pocket and a larger bottle of sunscreen for applying in camp before starting the day’s ride.

I recommend cleat covers.  Unless you bypass the main street, you dismount when entering the downtown area of every pass-through town and walk to the other end.  With 40 passthrough towns, this can affect cleats.

I don’t recommend packing alot of food or nutrition other than what you need before starting each day’s ride.  There are pass-through towns every 10 – 15 miles with each town having at least one or two stores but also having a decent number of local organizations selling breakfast, lunch, snacks, water, Gatorade, etc.

Bring cash but only enough to cover the first 2 days.  The vendors that move with the ride can do ATM and credit card transactions.  Organizations like 4H, high schools, firemen and churches that sell food and snacks are cash only.  I saw a “Casey’s” gas station / quick-mart at least once every day and they have ATM machines if you need more cash.

Vendors, Food, Food and More Food

Pass-Through Towns:

  • At the outskirts, lemonade / water / snack stands set up by local families.
  • In town, DJ playing music, local organizations such as firemen, high schools and 4H clubs selling breakfasts and refreshments.  The firemen usually had pancake breakfast while others offered breakfast burritos or breakfast sandwiches.  Home baked goods, water, Gatorade, snacks of all kinds, etc.  Local bars, coffee shops, convenience stores and restaurants were open as well.
  • Hundreds of cyclists navigating through food lines, bathroom lines, etc. or just walking through to get back on the road.
  • Porta-potties and a first aid station
  • Bike store / vendor stations that could handle just about any repair and sell you anything you need.

Between Towns:

  • “Mr. Pork Chop” had a roadside location every day, white smoke billowing from his grilles.
  • Beekman’s Home-Made Ice Cream
  • Beer tents
  • Ambulance patrols
  • Some highway closures and intersection traffic control by Iowa State Police.

Overnight Towns:

  • Same as the pass-through towns but on a larger scale.
  • A variety of food trucks that move with the event.
  • One or more local churches hosting pasta dinners (think air conditioning, good food and quiet for a nominal charge).
    I had church meals almost daily and was never pitched about religion so don’t worry about having to endure any sermonizing or anything like that.
  • One or more stages for live music with performances going from late afternoon until 11:30 PM.
  • Bike repair tents that sell parts, tubes, cartridges, tires, helmets, shoes, clothing, nutrition and just about anything else you could possibly need.
  • Shuttle service between the downtown / festival area and the charter camps.

 The Riding

The route changes every year.  The 2021 route cut across the northern part of the state.  The landscape was mostly flat with 2% – 3% rollers.  Oceans of corn fields and a string of cyclists as far as the eye can see is the best way to describe the scenery.

Cyclists of every level.  Not many paceline groups as this is something the typical RAGBRAI rider would not do.  I was cautioned about the pacelines as some participants jump in with little or no experience while, at the same time, many of the slower riders are often in or drift into the left lane.  I latched onto a couple of paceline groups which was fun, but the warnings were accurate.  Be especially careful when coming up on food or other stops that are on the left side of the road.  Riders would sometimes come over from the right side without checking for cyclists behind them.

Traffic was virtually non-existent due to road closures managed by the Iowa State Police.  I estimate the number of cars that passed on the left to be less than 20 the entire week.

Distances between the pass-through towns ranged between 6 and 20 miles.  Each pass-through town was clogged with cyclists so dismounting and walking through is the normal practice (the cleat covers were handy here).  If I did not need to stop, before reaching the dismount point, I would cut in for a block or two, then ride parallel of the main street and cut back to the route.

Before getting into any waiting line, cyclists find an open spot for their bike.  A few towns provided central bike parking, but most did not.  I usually put my GoPro and Garmin in my helmet and took with me, but thefts did not seem to be a problem.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ericwlbz76@gmail.com

2021 RAGBRAI

Cool Breeze Century

The “Cool Breeze” century is held yearly, except for 2020, in mid-August with the ride going from Ventura to Goleta and back to Ventura. The start location has moved to downtown Ventura which is more convenient.

The ride is hosted by the Kiwanis and the Channel Islands Bike Club and is well supported with well stocked rest stops at 12 miles, 25 miles, 53 miles (lunch provided), 70 miles and 88 miles. Multiple SAG vehicles roam the route. A post-ride meal used to be included with registration but is now offered for $11.00 at time of registration.  Route options include a metric century, the standard century, the “hilly” century and a double metric.

Click here for registration.

Because of the drive getting there, you may prefer to get to Ventura Friday evening, have dinner downtown and a hotel for an easy, early start.

There is decent range of hotels and rates.   For 2021, I stayed at the Clock Tower Inn which was a couple of blocks from the packet pick up and start location, but I don’t recommend it.  My room did not have a desk and internet access was so bad as to be useless. Downtown Ventura has a plethora of restaurants with the entire main street limited to foot traffic and lots of outdoor seating.

Morning temperatures are cooler with overcast skies until late morning, say 11sh. Arm warmers are nice to have but I wasn’t uncomfortable without them.

Cool Breeze is quite scenic with a good variety of terrain and surroundings.

  • 4100 feet of elevation gain
  • 6 miles of dedicated bike path, for each direction, along the 101 freeway
  • The northbound route cuts inland at Rincon Beach (12 miles from the start)
  •  One climb of roughly 6 miles
  • 3 1/2 miles of East Rd / West Rd type twists and turns (road condition is a little rough in spots here
  • At 56 miles, heads west for the return leg along the coast

If you don’t mind doing a century the week before the club century, are up for a remote start and some great cycling terrain and scenery, I highly recommend this ride as an out-of-town excursion.

Cool