By Coach David Ertl

As RAGBRAI approaches in less than a month, it’s time to get thinking about your strategy for riding RAGBRAI this year so that you have the best time possible, are able to ride as much of it as you want to and avoid some of the pitfalls that can happen in a weeklong ride.

1. Prepare for RAGBRAI.  If you plan to ride all 430 or so miles, you need to have miles in your legs before launching off on RAGBRAI.  While some people like to treat RAGBRAI as an extreme sport, where they do it with no training. That obviously is not the recommended method nor the path to an enjoyable week. The more you ride beforehand, the more fun you will have on RAGBRAI.  Read my previous blogs for more tips on how much to train.  It’s not too late to get out there and get some more miles in.

2. Stay well fed and well hydrated.  If you are hungry or thirsty on RAGBRAI, it’s your own fault!  There is hardly a five mile stretch where you can go without an opportunity for a refreshment stop.  One of the easiest ways to get tired is to run low on energy or to get dehydrated.  By continually drinking and eating modest amounts during your daily rides, you will find you have energy to complete the trip each day and will feel better the next day compared to how you will feel if you run yourself into the ground.

3. Having just said #2 above, it is also important not to overeat or drink on RAGBRAI, especially during the day when you are riding. If you want to stuff yourself after you arrive at the overnight town, go for it, but if you stuff yourself during the ride, it can be a very uncomfortable ride the rest of the day if you still have miles to go.  That is not to say that you should shun all the good food along the way, just be judicious and eat a few things here and there, and not a lot at any one stop.  Graze your way across Iowa, don’t gorge.

4. Pace yourself. Assuming you have done some training ahead of time, you will be amazed at how far you can ride each day if you just pace yourself and don’t ride faster than you are prepared to.  Most days this year are relatively short distances so you have all kinds of daylight to get from one overnight town to the next.  Even riding a measly 8 mph will only take five hours on the shortest day, and 10 on the longest day.  So just ride along at the pace you feel comfortable riding, and you will eat up the distance before you know it.  If you push the pace too hard, you will get tired and that can make the rest of the day and even the rest of the week miserable.  It’s hard to recover on a weeklong tour if you dig yourself into a hole.  You will know if you are pushing too hard, your leg muscles will hurt, your breathing will become labored, and you won’t be feeling good or having fun. Find your pace and don’t let others dictate their pace for you.

5. Make sure your equipment is in order. Nothing ruins a bike ride faster than a bike that doesn’t run well.  If things are rubbing, the chain is rattling and the bike is squeaking, it isn’t fun to ride and people won’t want to ride with you.  A well running bike is also easier to ride.  There is less friction from wheels rubbing on brakes or gears not working smoothly.  If you have your bike checked over before you leave, you will have less likelihood of having a breakdown out in the middle of nowhere. That’s another good way to ruin your ride.

6.  Pack your essentials.  If you have done RAGBRAI before, you know the routine. You know how much clothes to bring and what to leave at home that you don’t use.  Be sure to bring a jacket, long sleeve jersey and leg coverings in case we get a cold day.  Count on rain at least one day (maybe more than that based on the weather we’ve had in Iowa so far this summer).  Be sure to pack anything you typically ride with (water bottles, energy bars, butt cream, gloves, glasses, helmet, shoes, a few sets of shorts/jerseys, etc).  Sure you can buy all this stuff on RAGBRAI if you forget something, but try to bring what you are used to using.  Start making a list now of all the things you typically use when you ride.

I hope you are getting excited about RAGBRAI – it’s only a few short weeks away!

– Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and is a national head coach for the the JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and he coaches individual cyclists. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: . He can be contacted at