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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guess who's finally going on RAGBRAI?

I've been on plenty of the Midwest's great weeklong bicycle rides -- West Shoreline Tour, TRIRI, GOBA, etc. -- but I haven't done the granddaddy of them all.

Until this year, that is.

I will be doing this year's version of the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, better known as RAGBRAI!

I signed up today through the St. Louis-based Touring Cyclist bicycle store chain, and it's a good thing I did. I called Touring Cyclist's main office and asked if there were still spots, and owner Donald Humphries had an ominous message for me:

"I don't mean to pressure you," he said, "but I only have two spots left and I've had six people call today."

Make that one spot. I immediately filed out the application form, which I've had for several weeks and put off filing out -- procrastination is one of my worst traits -- and went up to the Touring Cyclist shop in Fairview Heights, Ill., to make a down payment.

There's still time to sign up for RAGBRAI. The paper registration deadline is Sunday, and the online registration deadline isn't until April 1. However, fellow cyclists who have done RAGBRAI have told me going with a group is the way to go to avoid prolonged luggage searches and long shower lines.

Touring Cyclist had room for 57 people, and I'm No. 56. That definitely beats the heck out of being No. 58!

Dawn Weber, the manager of the Fairview Heights shop, always has been amazed that I've never done RAGBRAI, given the number of other weeklong rides I've done in 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Frankly, I have too. It's not been for a lack of trying, but I've never been able to get that week off work because of our vacation seniority system until this year.

I'm really looking forward to RAGBRAI. I just hope the vandals who plagued last year's ride by throwing tacks on the road stay home, or better yet, behind bars.

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Roger 1 comments links to this post 6:48 PM

Good for you!! You will have a blast at RAGBRAI. It will be a hilly course again this year just like last year was so be sure to get in lots of riding ahead of time. It will be a good opportunity to drop a few pounds too if a person can resist (I sure can't) the incredible pork chops, sweet corn, homemade pie, etc. that is being sold just about everywhere on the route.

Don't worry about a repeat of the tack incident that happened last year. If that sort of thing happens again (by the way, they caught the teens who did that), that's just another RAGBRAI challenge that everyone will make it through one way or another. I helped fix two flats in that section of road last year and that led to the opportunity to talk with the nice people we helped. Had not the tacks been on the road, we would have never had the chance to talk to those folks--there's always a silver lining.

The main way to overcome that sort of setback is to have a good bike in good repair and carry a bike tube or two and pump. Most of the broken down bikes on RAGBRAI are sidelined not because of something someone else did to them but rather due to neglect. Either they are running with underinflated dry-rotted tires/tubes or they break down due to mechanical failures caused by rusty, damaged or misaligned deraileurs, chains, etc. Bringing a bike in good repair (and body ready to ride 450 miles) is the best way to have the most fun at RAGBRAI.

Greg Hoffman
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