5 Things to Expect on RAGBRAI


RAGBRAI tips and advice Des Moines Mom RAGBRAI is coming through Des Moines this year on July 26! This long-standing Iowa tradition puts thousands of bikers from all over the world in the middle of our two-lane roads, flanked by cornfields.

It sounds ridiculous, right? But, it’s a blast and something I love participating in when I can.

5 Things to Expect on RAGBRAI

If you’re thinking about riding this year, here are five things to expect.

It could be hot. Really hot.

July in Iowa can be pretty hot. Yes, you do get a breeze on a bike and it’s absolutely possible to ride in 90-degree weather. But, you need to plan accordingly. Stay hydrated, find shade when you stop, and hit up a smoothie stand.

Safety Matters

The one thing that struck me on my first RAGBRAI experience is the varying ability of riders. It’s truly inspirational to see people in their 80s and those using only their arms along with people who can ride fast and people like me who are somewhere in the middle all riding together.

Because of that varying ability, it means varying speeds. It’s really important to pay attention and understand how the ride works. Typically, faster riders stay to the left and slower to the right. You’ll hear “slowing” which means the bikes in front of you are slowing down. “Bike on” means someone is entering the road. And, “bike off” means someone is exiting the road.

Before you move out of your riding path, look behind you and then do it again. It’s easy to unintentionally cut someone off.

The other weird thing is “rumbles.” You’ll see people ahead of you part, wave their hand and yell “rumbles.” Those are the rumble strips coming up to a stop sign that can be pretty jarring if you end up rolling across them.

A Culinary Experience

RAGBRAI is known for its food and drinks. There are stands set up all along the route. Breakfast burritos, pasta, turkey legs, pie, homemade ice cream, and everything in between can be found on RAGBRAI. And, a lot of times, the money spent on food goes back to a local organization.

You Really See Iowa

You’ll ride through a lot of towns you don’t have a reason to visit in everyday life. And, even if you are a frequent visitor to a town on the route? Experiencing it on RAGBRAI is completely different.

Sure, you’ve been to a Cyclone football game but have you ever ridden your bike through Jack Trice Stadium? Well, welcome to Ames during RAGBRAI and enjoy your ride through the stadium. That’s just one example of the dozens of experiences you’ll have in Iowa’s towns throughout the ride.

My husband and I on the 2019 RAGBRAI ride with a quick stop at the Iowa Craft Beer tent – where we saw several people we hadn’t seen in over a decade!

It Doesn’t Suck

If you told someone they had to ride a bike 80 miles on a two-lane highway in the middle of summer in Iowa, they’d tell you no. On paper, it doesn’t sound fun on any level.

But, RAGBRAI doesn’t suck and it’s because of the experience. Add the people you meet and the excellent food and sightseeing, and you have an unforgettable experience.

Everyone helps each other out. My husband had a flat tire one year. A guy stopped and patched it with a dollar bill. It gave him enough time to get to town and fix it right. To this day, we still call him “Saint Paul” because his name was Paul.

It’s not uncommon to see old friends, talk to someone from one of the coasts or end up playing the Kevin Bacon game with someone you’re standing next to in the Iowa Craft Beer Tent. By the time you both order, you realize you’re basically related.

Share Your RAGBRAI Tips!

If you’ve gone on RAGBRAI, share your tips and help other riders be prepared for what to expect when they embark on this only-in-Iowa tradition.

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Brittney Rutherford
Brittney and her husband, Tyler, have been married for 10 years and live in Ames. Their two sons, Beckett (5) and Hudson (3), keep them on their toes with constant wrestling, dinosaur-related questions and daily inquiries as to when their next trip to get ice cream will be. Brittney works full time in marketing and communications. She likes to bike (the kind with pedals), visit family, hang out with friends, be in or on water - and always has good coffee and red wine on hand.


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