des.ragbraiXLMONamHANOVERby Mark Wyatt, Iowa Bicycle Coalition

Each year I have a few friends that want to ride RAGBRAI for the first time.  They seek advice on training and logistics.  It is really hard to prepare them for the amount of bicyclists that they will encounter.  It is even more difficult to explain how the right frame of mind can make your ride better.

Get ready for a lot of people on bicycles this year.  This is the really cool part of bicycling is several people can ride next to each other and hold a wonderful conversation.  But you have to pay attention or crashes could occur.

The best advice is to join a local bicycle club for a few rides before you go on the big one. Most welcome new riders and non-members to their rides.  This gives you some extra training miles, but you also experience riding with others.  It is a new skill to be able to look around, see where others are, judge pace and distance, communicate and operate your bike safely.  Practice, practice, practice.

I try to do several group rides before

the big event.  For an experienced cyclist, it teaches patience and allows me to help others learn to navigate group bicycling.  Be in the right frame of mind for safe group bicycling.

If you are going to ride in a group, leave your selfie stick at home. Bike selfies are dangerous.  Pull over before you say cheese.

iPods or such devices are a bad idea on RAGBRAI.  Communication is key when so many people are riding together.  Be in the right frame of mind to look and listen to know where others are.

Last year, I watched in horror as a young cyclist rode at a leisurely pace in front of an ambulance responding to a rider down.  The rider had their iPod cranked to speed metal and could not hear the approaching emergency.

And just because you are riding with other people doesn’t mean you have to go their speed.  Ride at your own pace.  There is nothing worse than being exhausted just trying to keep up with your buddy who won’t slow down.  The Surly Blog said it really well, “Really fast people are frustrating, but they make you faster. When you get faster, you might frustrate someone else.”  Use the right frame of mind to ride a safe pace that is good for you.

Make sure you stop and take adequate breaks along the way.  There are plenty of people to visit with, places to take pictures, things to see, etc.  Enjoy the opportunities to visit the best Iowa has to offer.  Stopping can be as much fun as riding.

In conclusion, use your training time wisely and learn to ride with others.  Don’t use an iPod.  Ride at your own pace and stop and smell the… well… roses.  Figure out your gears because you are going to need every one of them on this ride.

If you are going to ride RAGBRAI safely, you are going to keep in mind the following safety tips:

  1. The RIGHT stuff.
  2. The RIGHT gear.
  3. The RIGHT communications.
  4. The RIGHT riding.
  5. The legal RIGHT.
  6. The RIGHT frame of mind.
  7. The RIGHT abilities
  8. The RIGHT attitude
  9. The RIGHT attention.
  10. The RIGHT condition

Mark Wyatt is the statewide RIDE RIGHT chair and the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy organization for bicycling.  Mark is also a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), board member for the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking.  More information about the Iowa Bicycle Coalition can be found at