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How to ride a bicycle across the state of Iowa and live to tell about it

by Barb Boose One Comment

What do butt butter, sunblock, a full water bottle and a healthy appetite for pie have in common? They’re all top tips for surviving The Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa®. Heading into its 38th year, RAGBRAI annually draws more than 10,000 bicyclists – including Team DMU – who pedal from the state’s west to east borders.

Members of Team DMU all share this advice: Don’t be in a hurry.

“RAGBRAI isn’t a race. There are so many things to see along the way,” says Shane McClinton, M.S.P.T.’01, D.P.T.’07, a physical therapist in the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic. “You get to meet a lot of people from outside the state and from other countries.”

Still, McClinton and other DMU RAGBRAI riders emphasize the importance of training. The seven-day ride averages 472 miles, and participants quickly realize that Iowa is not flat.

“A friend once advised me, ‘There’s no substitute for seat time,’” says Stephen Dengle, DMU interim president. “In addition to improving endurance, you need to acclimate your bottom and your neck. The more you ride beforehand, the more enjoyable the experience is.”

Riding with colleagues and students and meeting alumni along the way – including those who offer their backyards and bathrooms to Team DMU – make RAGBRAI enjoyable, say DMU riders David Strom, Ph.D., and Matthew Henry, Ph.D., associate professors of physiology and pharmacology, and Chris Catrenich, administrative secretary in DMU’s global health department.

“Seeing those alumni is a good way to reconnect with them, and it’s great for our students to meet them,” Strom says.

Catrenich offers one more bit of advice for RAGBRAI: Don’t expect to lose weight. The route is rife with tasty temptations, from pork chops on a stick to cinnamon rolls to almost everyone’s favorite, church-lady pies. Henry’s tone becomes reverent when he names his top choice, rhubarb.

“One rule I came up with is don’t eat nine of anything,” he advises. “I learned that after I ate nine pancakes and got on my bike.”

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