RAGBRAI Day 4 2015 – Ride Report

By , July 28, 2015 6:27 am

Ahh, nothing better than a little peace and quiet in the Iowa countryside… with 10,000 of your closest cycling friends!


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RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) is a week-long cycling trip from the west to east border of Iowa. The route changes every year, and you can register to ride the entire seven days, or register for certain days of your choosing. This event is in its 43rd year (it’s been going on since 1973)!

Last year, Dad and I registered for the final day (Day 7) because it conveniently started near where he lives, and ended in Guttenberg, where my family has homes along the Mississippi River.

This year, we registered for two days (Day 4 and 5) in the middle of the course because the overnight town was Cedar Falls – my Mom and Dad’s hometown (and super close to where they live now). How lucky that the course went so close to the part of Iowa much of my family lives in, two years in a row!*

I was excited to try the middle days and see if they were as festive as the last day (yes, yes they are) and to check out all the post ride hubbub in Cedar Falls. Last year, we didn’t finish with an “overnight town,” but most of what you hear about RAGBRAI is all the partying people do at night!

Last year, Steven and Mom dropped us off in the starting town of Independence and took alternative routes around the course so they could see us in some pass-through towns, then meet us at the finish with other family members. This year was a bit different – Mom drove me and Dad to Eldora on Wednesday to ride Day 4, then drove straight back to Cedar Falls. Since my dad’s mom lives in Cedar Falls, somewhat close to the course finish, we just rode to her house when we were done. Easy peasy!

It’s kind of humorous to be driven 50 miles just to ride 60+ miles back to where you started, but we saw quite a few other cars racked up with bikes headed the same way as us, so we knew were weren’t the only ones doing it!

One of the cool things about RAGBRAI is that you can do it however you want – pick the amount of days, pick how fast you go, pick when you start, when you finish, how long you spend in the pass-through towns, how hard you party, and so on. It’s not a race. It’s purely for fun – a giant party on wheels! Our preferred start time was between 7:30 – 8:00 am both days. We heard of people who started at sunrise, and others who didn’t start until noon!

We pulled off on the side of the road near the start in Eldora, and after packing up my jersey pockets (we wore last year’s official jersey), pumping air in my tires, and a few pics and selfies, we were off!



Right away, we were in group of slow moving bikes with lots “slowing!” and “stopping!” being yelled by cyclists. There were cars in the road with us, and that was slowing us down. It only took a couple of miles until we were free-flowing, though.


I should note, when we started it was 59°F with some clouds in the sky and felt great out!


Image from here

We slowed to a walk for the first pass-through town (Steamboat Rock) and… nearly every subsequent pass-through town after that. Dad and I discussed that we didn’t remember walking our bikes so much through the pass-through towns last year. I didn’t mind getting off and walking (I liked the break for my butt and didn’t care about pace), but Dad said it didn’t help his legs, ha ha.

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We had eight pass-through towns (although one of them we don’t remember and another town had 57 residents and not much more than a funny sign and one booth up!), and I liked that they were so close together (most were less than 10 miles apart) and that it gave me a good reminder to stop, eat and get more water. Sometimes I forget to eat when I am riding my bike for longer distances.


We brought some food with us, but I bought some “real” food too. There are only so many Clif gels and bars you can eat before your stomach asks for something else!


I stopped a few times away from official towns too. I had to get my pickle!



I wasn’t super chatty for much of the ride (like I can be when I am running). Dad and I rode together and mostly commented on other riders (how fun their outfits were, that it was cool they were blasting music, etc.), and other sites (lots of funny signs and interesting facts about the towns) we were seeing. I know the Iowa landscape seems boring to some, but I do find it peacefully beautiful.

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It’s such a treat to be with a huge group of cyclists, taking over the road this way and not worrying so much about vehicle traffic. You’re very often getting passed and passing other cyclists yourself, but most people are courteous and watching out for one another. Many warnings are yelled: “car up!” “cyclist up!” “rumble strips!” “on your left!” It’s a real community feeling, even though you are with a bunch of strangers!

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My muscles felt good for the ride, but my left toes were getting numb, and my shoulders were a bit sore toward the last twenty miles of the ride (we put in just over 60 miles on Day 4). I played music from my phone speaker for a bit to get me pumped up. Around 10 miles from the end, Dad told me he was feeling really sore and wasn’t sure how he’d be able to do a second day. Eek! I was worried!

We made it to the end though, and were all smiles when we finished!

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We finished around 1:30 pm (it was 78°F out then), and spent just over five hours cycling, and were gone for five hours and forty-four minutes, overall (see Garmin stats here). We averaged 12.0 miles per hour, and had 1,644 feet of climb. It felt mostly flat.

We reconvened for dinner at my Grandma’s and left her place at 9:00 pm to check out the post ride festivities! My brother-in-law’s sister, Julie, had arrived to ride Thursday (Day 5), and came out with us!

I really had no idea what to expect at the event, and was kind of bummed to see it was a bunch of food vendors and a beer tent, and a stage (not sure what I was hoping for?). I had already eaten dinner and didn’t know what the music was going to be.


But! We had arrived right in time for the main show – Hairball, a super fun 80s rock tribute band. If you know me… you know I’d enjoy it. They’d do a few songs dressed up as one band (KISS, Journey, Van Halen, and so on) then do a costume change and come out as another band! I really enjoyed it, because it was most of my favorite songs being performed!


Aunt Sue, Will’s sister Julie, me and Mom


We couldn’t stay all night though. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try to get a decent sleep. I was so jacked up Tuesday night I didn’t sleep well for Wednesday’s ride (but felt fine during), and didn’t want that to happen again (ha ha, it did, complete with weird dreams about not having my ride “bib” (um, there isn’t one) and other strange things). We left the concert just before 11:00 and were up until past midnight, hanging out with my sister and her husband, Will, who had just arrived so Will could ride Day 5. I guess even if you aren’t out partying, you’re still too excited to get much sleep!

*I know, it’s not likely it will next year. I told Dad we should do Day 7 again, because no matter where it ends along the Mississippi River, we can travel up/down to Guttenberg, after we finish.

9 Responses to “RAGBRAI Day 4 2015 – Ride Report”

  1. Heather says:

    What a fun time! It’s so nice you get to do this with your Dad!

  2. Chaitali says:

    It’s great that it’s so flexible about where you start and finish! The logistics must be crazy for an event like this. But I love that you described it as a party on wheels 🙂

  3. Lesley says:

    I understand about wanting to sleep but being wound up. After fun stuff like this, I need time to unwind, and each time is a different amount that I need to start feeling sleepy.

  4. That looks like so much fun. Do you find real food on a bike makes you sick or is it ok? Just noticed you have a gopro…i’m thinking of getting the basic hero one for my birthday, espec since it would be good for snorkeling in Oct. how do you find it. Do you ever wear it running?

    • kilax says:

      The real food doesn’t make me sick. I thought it may since it was marinara sauce, but I was fine. The only thing was that I had to let it cool down, since it was a bit warm out 🙂

      I love my GoPro. Super easy to use. I’ve used it snorkeling, running, and biking 🙂 Oh, and off-roading on a dune buggy 🙂

  5. This sounds like the coolest collection of festivities, ever! I love how the locations were so convenient to where your family lives in Iowa – that makes logistics super easy. It sounds like an event that really brings the entire community together! And what a great bonding experience for you and your dad. =)

  6. Pam says:

    This looks like so much fun!!!

  7. Mica says:

    So many sweet photos of you and your dad. It’s so cool that you two did this together! I hope he wasn’t too sore for day 2.

    I like that you can register for only some days, though I was confused that the recaps started with Day 4 until I read your description of the event!

    • kilax says:

      Ha ha, yeah, I should have explained that better! When I was telling people in person, I would say “We’re doing two days – day 4 and 5.” I think it’s confusing no matter how I talk about it, ha ha.

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