Ready, set, RAGBRAI

It’s time again for RAGBRAI. The annual bike ride across the state starts Sunday in Council Bluffs and ends July 27 in Fort Madison. Most bicycle enthusiasts treat RAGBRAI like Christmas, anticipating and preparing for the ride for months.

Whether you are riding this year, want to take on the challenge for next year or just love to ride your bike, it’s a good time to review road rules and safety.

Pay attention. Nicole Havlicek at Northtowne Cycling and Fitness on Blairs Ferry Road in Cedar Rapids says this is biking’s No. 1 rule. “You should always pay attention when you are biking, especially during RAGBRAI. Know your surroundings, pay attention to the people in front of you, use a rearview mirror on your handlebars or helmet and don’t take your eyes off the road.”

Wear a helmet. You should never get on your bike without it, in fact, RAGBRAI won’t allow it.

Follow road rules. Being on two wheels doesn’t exempt you from following the road rules like a motorist.

Make eye contact with motorists. At a four-way stop or when turning, make eye contact with motorists to help guarantee they see you. Eye contact will help ensure that you have your next ride.

Be seen. I can’t emphasize this one enough. Havlicek encourages cyclists to wear bright colors, wear reflectors and attach lights to the front and back of their bikes.

Dress properly for the weather. Wear light clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen. Be comfortable on your ride. Havlicek suggests wearing sweat wicking clothing and says that cycling shorts will make a long ride much more comfortable.

Stay cool. Pack plenty of water, energy boosting snacks and a first aid kit for you and your bike when on long rides. Northtowne can help you prepare a flat tire repair kit for your bike. For really hot days, try a Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel from Theisens, Scheels or Dick’s Sporting Goods. Simply get the towel wet and the towel will stay cool for four hours.

Remember your cellphone and have an identification tag on your bike stating who you are and your emergency contacts.

Yes, it’s Christmas in July for those who like to shower in creeks, sleep in tents for a week and can’t get enough of their bike.

Be safe, have fun and merry biking.

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