Every year, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) brings together thousands of bicyclists from all over the world to traverse the state in a week-long adventure. If you’re one of the many who have committed to taking on this epic journey, then it all starts with Tip #1: the RIGHT stuff. And when we say stuff, we mean your bicycle.

Over the past 40 years, every type of bicycle imaginable has crossed the state during RAGBRAI, but not all bicycles are created equal. While a klunker or bargain basement special might be just fine for getting around town, if you’re going to ride across Iowa, you might need a better bike. Investing in a road bike (that fits) can make riding the 60 to 90 miles per day on RAGBRAI much easier and more comfortable.

A road bike is usually a double diamond frame bicycle with dropped handlebars that give you multiple positions to rest your hands. They have skinny tires that have less drag friction on the road. There are many variations and brands of road bicycles, so you need to pick a bike that suits you. But where do you even start?

Start with a budget in mind. Decide how much you can afford to spend on your new bike. But remember, you will likely keep this bike for more than a decade – longer than your cell phone or laptop. So, purchase as much of a bicycle as you can afford.

If you need a new bicycle, the first place to start is your local bicycle retail store. Many people are going to local bicycle stores right now to shop for that new bike that will take them from Council Bluffs to Fort Madison. Your local bicycle store will have the knowledge and experience to find the bicycle that fits your needs.

Maybe a new bicycle isn’t in your budget. Many people purchase used bicycles or borrow one from a friend. If you are going that route, be sure the bicycle is in good working order and has serviceable parts. Take it to a local bicycle retailer for a tune-up.

Also, be sure your used or borrowed bicycle actually fits you. Bicycles come in different sizes. A tall person needs a larger bicycle, and a short person needs a smaller bicycle. They are not generally interchangeable. One of the simple ways to measure is stand-over height. Stand astride your bike with your feet planted firmly on the ground. You should be able to lift your bike 1-2 inches off the ground. Watch this Expert Village Video on standover height at http://youtu.be/bCcmLhsMIsI

For a more exact fit, visit your local bicycle retailer and schedule a fitting session. It could cost a little bit, or they may include it with a purchase. A well-fitted bike will make you more comfortable on the long rides.

A little planning for the RIGHT Stuff now can equal more riding this summer. If you need to invest in a new bicycle for RAGBRAI, make sure it is smooth running and efficient. If you are going with a used bicycle, be sure it fits. Remember, the RIGHT Stuff is essential for a successful and enjoyable RAGBRAI journey.