I take a lot of static for my relentless anti-RAGBRAI stance. As a cyclist in Iowa, you're simply expected to prostrate yourself before the Great Emperor of Cross-State Rides, not point out that he has no clothes -- or in the case of RAGBRAI, wears a way-too-tight jersey that leaves nothing to the imagination.
But I have a real beef with what RAGBRAI has done to "cycling culture" in this state. Specifically, it's turned many group rides -- and, as I learned last weekend, more than a few solo rides -- into keggers on wheels. I've taken to calling it the Register's Great Annual Beer Run Across Iowa. For some RAGBRAI riders, "training" for this event is just an excuse to get drunk, bar-hopping with a veneer of physical fitness to make it seem "healthy."
Case in point: I was out for a ride last weekend when another rider came up alongside me. His greeting? "Where do you carry your beer on that thing?"
Seemed odd (especially considering that my gaping saddlebag could have swallowed a six-pack), but I went with it: "I don't pack any."
And here's where it got scary for me: "Huh. I started with eight, but now I'm down to just two. Guess it's time to head for home."
I told him to have a good ride, sat up, and let him drop me real quick-like. Puritanical? Teetotalish? Maybe. But would you drive alongside a guy who'd put down six beers? One swerve, one bad reaction, and we're both tasting asphalt.
Don't get me wrong. I like beer. I like biking. But -- save some extraordinarily stupid moments as a college student that I was lucky enough to survive and regret -- I don't mix 'em. My bike is my vehicle, and I don't operate my vehicle under the influence. I guess that's the thing that mystifies me... in most cases, I imagine these RAGBRAI bar-hoppers are responsible adults who wouldn't think of putting a key into an ignition after having a few too many. But that same responsible adult won't think twice about staggering out of a bar, saddling up, and wobbling off down the road, risking his own safety and that of his weaving peloton.
Maybe someone can explain it to me, because I just don't get it.