Once again, the time of the season dictates another Bike Shop Tales story. Here's one about "that ride in Iowa"....
I did the complete RAGBRAI route once. Once.
It was, as they say, enough. Sometimes things capture your imagination, and sometimes, well...........the experience falls flat.
At any rate, in 1996, I did the entire RAGBRAI route while tagging along with the Advantage Cycles crew. The Advantage Cycles Crew was officially the "Team Dead Skunks", but they only used that name to get RAGBRAI passes every year. Not one of the riders actually used the moniker "Team Dead Skunks" by '96. It was basically our boss, Tom, and a bunch of like minded hooligans with a bicycle problem. Not that I minded. In fact, at one time, I was them, only I never got to ride RAGBRAI while I was one of them. I know, it's complicated!
I was sort of at a point in my life where those sort of alcohol fueled shenanigans were old and tiresome. Actually doing outlandish stuff while completely straight and in my right mind were what I was into at that time. I had two willing partners in Ears and Matt too, and they showed up a couple of days into it to help me make some noise.
Ironically, the '96 route is very similar to the 2010 route. All across the northern tier of counties. Well, let's just say it is pretty flat, and almost too easy. Still, some riders were taking to each days route with the gusto and authority generally reserved for those partaking in competition. Actually, I am convinced some RAGBRAI riders think the event is a competition.
For instance, take the folks that I passed that were riding the high dollar road and time trial bikes of the day. (Yes- people actually ride full on TT bikes all the way across Iowa. ) When I went tooling by them on my 26" wheeled converted mountain bike-to-touring bike contraption, they would bury their chin on the stem, show their teeth in a menacing way, and click down a gear to re-pass me, as if the indignity of being passed by a friendly touring bicyclist was beneath them. A chrome ex-mountain bike at that! Oh my!
There were more similar examples of that sort of snobbery on two wheels that occurred all week long that year. Not that I didn't try to be friendly, at least the first few days. But by the end of the week, I had given up on that, and was actually goading some of them on, just for sport. Probably not a wise course of action, in as far as cycling advocacy goes, but I had been jaded by the coolness of most riders responses to me, and I was out of patience. Besides that, it was just too easy.
So, in Fort Atkinson, we were cruising down a back alley when I came across some old gas station sign numbers for advertising the price of gas. I grabbed two and zip tied them to either side of my front low rider racks, like racing numbers. Then, as I rode alongside the fancy pants riders, I would look at them and instead of saying a chirpy "Good afternoon!", I said, "Nice day for a race, eh?", and sped on by them. This was usually met by some red faced, furious pedal stomping, and if they did manage to pass me again, I would laugh out loud at them. Why hide it?
I know. I was being a smarty pants. I was just not getting into, well.......whatever it is people get into regarding RAGBRAI. To me it was just like the chaos that is created when too many cars get on the road, and people get ornery, and there are attitudes, and stupid maneuvers, and all of this on bicycles, which for me, didn't make it better. Chaos is chaos, be it on bicycles, or in cars, or in big crowds of people. Maybe you think RAGBRAI is the "greatest show on the road", and if you do, you are probably on it right now. That's great. Knock yerself out.
It wasn't all that great for me, and even though I've done bits and peices of it since, I still just do not care for it. I came home in 1996 from RAGBRAI not very impressed. My boss couldn't figure it out.
Stay tuned for more "Bike Shop Tales" next week..............
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