Setting up for the 'BRAI
Back in March, former banking colleague Larry Baerveldt called from
St. Louis to see if I'd be interested in joining a team that would be
signing up for the 2008 version of RAGBRAI. After investigating the
official RAGBRAI website, I got interested. It sounded like just the
kind of adventure an idiot like me would find entertaining and
challenging. Problem was, I didn't have a road bike - I'm a mountain
biker who's never owned a bicycle with skinny tires. The only thing I
knew about bikes designed specifically for pavement was that they
seemed poorly designed for Chicago's city streets. Some of those
potholes were scary on my full suspension mountain bike. After some
education and advice from my roadie friends, I had a basic idea of
what kind of road bike to look for. I found just what I needed from
dirt biker buddy and Florida resident Lee Daley, who had just bought a
Specialized Roubaix and was about to sell his Trek 2300.

In May, Lee shipped me the Trek
and I began the process of
figuring out how to ride it. First
thing I noticed was the gear
shifters integrated into the brake
levers. The last road bike I'd
ridden was my aunt's Schwinn with
old style shift levers, circa 1985,
so obviously I'd missed this nice
little advance in technology. The
front fork and seatstays were
carbon fiber, very cool. The red
and black color combo was badass.
It was a nice bike.

I was too afraid to do my
inaugural ride on city streets, so
I took it down to the farm and
rode it 15 miles into a 20 mph
headwind in padded mountain bike
shorts. Padded shorts or not, it
was damn uncomfortable. Wrists,
ass, inner thighs...it all hurt. I
Mountain bike tendencies prevailed with Time
pedals. I had to draw the line
somewhere...road pedals and the need for
another pair of shoes for road riding were
making things get expensive in a hurry.
Next up on the RAGBRAI to-do
list was figuring out how to get
myself and my gear to the
starting town. Our group of
riders, calling themselves Team
Joyride, were planning to gather
in St. Louis and drive a rented
Winnebago RV to Missouri Valley.
I wasn't much interested in
traveling to St. Louis and then
The box in which Lee Daley shipped the bike
was reused for its trip to Iowa.
spending 7 hours in an RV, so I booked a flight to Omaha and shipped
my bike to a special FedEx drop point in Iowa.A charter service called
Pork Belly Ventures reserved a spot for me on their bus from Omaha
to Missouri Valley, about 30 minutes from the airport, where I would
meet Team Joyride. All of this went off without a hitch, and I joined
the team on Saturday, June 19th at our host family's property just
outside of Missouri Valley.

Part of Team Joyride's planning for RAGBRAI was lining up a place to
park the RV each night. Our goal was to find a family willing to let us
park at their house, camp on their lawn and use their bathroom. Each
overnight town had a housing committee that helped match up teams
with residents willing to open their yards to campers. We divided up
the towns among the team; I was responsible for housing in Missouri
Valley and Jefferson.

With that, I was good to go. As for the riding itself...
Keep on reading!
Takes a lot of stuff to ride a bike 7 days in a
row.
The official 2008 RAGBRAI jersey, courtesy of
my parents.
loved the speed (with a tailwind) and pedaling efficiency, but I had
some work to do in the comfort department.

After flipping the reversible handlebar stem to raise the bars a bit,
adding another layer of bar tape to help keep my hands from going
numb, and switching to Lycra road bike shorts, I could ride longer with
less discomfort. But the seat, which seemed specifically designed for
the torture of my ass, had to go. I was 30 seconds away from buying
a comfy mountain bike seat at Performance Bicycle, when I saw a
neoprene seat cover. Problem solved, money saved, and my ass has
thanked me ever since.

For training, my goal was to reach the point where I could ride 60-70
miles for a couple days in a row without feeling like death. There was
one 60-mile ride in the country where I actually thought mortality was
imminent, but eventually I was able to ride 70 miles in one day, up and
down the Fox River path in the western Chicago suburbs, with no ill
effects. I was ready.