by Mark Wyatt, Iowa Bicycle Coalition

I just took a long bike ride with a 71-year-old friend of mine.  He is in good health, but doesn’t have the endurance that he once had.  There were opportunities for him to ride and other opportunities for him to drive a vehicle.  He carefully monitored the workload – how many hills and how much wind – and made his decisions based upon his capabilities.  Many people would have pushed themselves to keep up with the crowd and could suffer because of it.

Everyone has limits to their abilities.  Riding with the RIGHT abilities means you should consider any impairments that could affect your safety, like alcohol consumption, medications or physical conditions, or environmental conditions.   You must understand and respect your abilities during RAGBRAI.  You need to know when you need to say “when”.

Alcohol can seriously impair your abilities to ride a bicycle.  It is not recommended to drink and ride.  I know, I know — some people do drink alcohol and ride bicycles.  You need to use your head.  If you don’t have the RIGHT Abilities to ride, don’t ride.

Medications and physical conditions can also impair your abilities to ride.  I’ve known people who have taken medications and found themselves reacting much differently because of the physical activity or the heat.  Know your limits and if your body is telling you it isn’t able to ride, then don’t put yourself or others at risk.

Weather can create serious problems.  I rode an organized century ride last year, but the heat index climbed into the 110+ degree range.  The roads warmed up enough that the tar in the asphalt came to the surface and became sticky.  My tires were literally sticking to the road.  I exhausted all of my water and energy.  I finally had to quit at mile 90 because my body just couldn’t do it.  I found a convenience store and drank water until I cooled down.  Know when to say when.

A good rule of thumb is to drink water before you are thirsty.  There is no need to conserve drinking water when riding, there are vendors selling water all over the route.  Drink your bottles empty and refill as often as you need to.  If you feel dehydrated, you probably are.

In conclusion, avoid alcohol.  There is plenty of time to drink in the overnight towns.  Know your physical condition and how your medications might affect you on the ride.  And be prepared for it to get hot – very hot.  Drink a lot of water and drink it often.

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