Team spirit fuels RAGBRAI

BY TYLER FINCHUM | JULY 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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Tyler Finchum, a staffer at The Daily Iowan, will write about his first RAGBRAI experience for the rest of the week. This second installment recaps his third day on the road.

Today’s 80-plus mile RAGBRAI ride from Emmetsburg to Forest City surprising wasn’t half bad.

Despite the 90-degree heat and some miserable headwinds I found myself, for the first time, enjoying myself.

The pound of pancakes I had for breakfast lifted my spirits, and the refreshing naps on farmers’ lawns helped refresh me. But I think the main reason I kept peddling was the enjoyment of talking to fellow riders. It also didn’t hurt that a kind local told me about a secret shortcut that took 7 miles off my ride.

Talking to strangers has never come easy to me. I think it generally stems from the fact that I don’t really like people that much. RAGBRAI riders also have a stereotype of being a bit — well, odd. This is demonstrated by the scores of riders wearing wacky jerseys.

However, because I was desperate for something to write about, I decided to bite the bullet and talk to some riders.

So I talked to them. A lot of them. For 80 miles, I rode alongside riders and asked them what their RAGBRAI stories were. As you might imagine, their stories were varied and interesting.

It was especially interesting to hear about the teams that each rider was a part of. To bike in RAGBRAI, you typically need to be in a team. You join a team typically based on knowing someone on the team or you are close to their location.

I am on the Melon City Bike Club, a team mostly composed of riders from Muscatine. Most teams have some sort of eccentricity or story that makes them special.

I spoke to the founder of team “No-Name” for some time. He told me how that team had been founded in 1977, before the Des Moines Register (which is in charge of RAGBRAI) required team names.

Back then, team No-Name was just team 55. However, when the Register began requiring team names, the team’s founder forgot to send in the documents. Thus, the Register dubbed the team “No-Name.”

One team famous with almost everyone I spoke with was team Bad Boys, which was a team that hauls all of its items (tents, grills, etc.) on their bikes. Another well-known group was team Road Kill — its members put stickers and bracelets on road kill found along the side of the road.

But a lot of the stories don’t have to do with the teams themselves as much as with the connections. I spoke with one couple who had, in fact, met the year before and had been dating every since. I spoke with people from other countries who come to Iowa every year to do RAGBRAI.

RAGBRAI gives riders the chance to meet interesting people at what on the surface seems like the uninteresting state of Iowa.

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