The Cost of a Weeklong Bike Tour

In late July, I rode more than 500 miles across the state of Iowa as part of an annual bike tour, RAGBRAI, or the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. It was my first real bicycle tour of any kind, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Since I didn’t know anyone going to the tour, I found a team that gave me a ride on their bus headed out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area to Iowa in exchange for gas money. Once I got to the start town, I met with friends of a friend who let me tag along on their team.

For food, I mostly stuck to gas stations and street vendors. Except for one night when I slept indoors at a teammate’s house, I camped in backyards or wherever I could find a grassy spot, or slept on the bus on the way to and from Iowa, which meant I spent no money on overnight accommodations. I skipped showers on a few nights.

While the bike tour—from Sioux City to Davenport—only lasted seven days, I actually spent 11 days on the trip (including the bus ride there and back), from July 17-26.

In total, I spent about $389. Here’s how I spent money that week:

Thursday, Day 1

  • Transportation (bus ride to Iowa from Texas and return trip): $100
  • Gas station snacks and coffee: $4.35
  • Dinner was provided for free that night by the team I rode up with.

Friday, Day 2

  • Lunch in Cedar Rapids (a pork tenderloin sandwich, an Iowa favorite, and cheese balls): $17.12
  • Dinner was provided for by the team.

From here, the team headed to east Iowa to pick up riders. On Day 3, we spent all day on the bus traveling from east to west Iowa for the start of the ride on Sunday.

Saturday, Day 3

  • Lunch at a quick Walmart stop (fried chicken, a sandwich and a Coke): $7.58
  • Gas station snack: $1.99

Sunday, Day 4

  • Lunch (cheeseburger, fries and Coke): $6.24
  • Snack and ibuprofen: $7.58
  • Dinner (sandwich, Coke) and replacement toothbrush: $12.11

Monday, Day 5

  • Food and other things that I can’t remember: $23.83

Tuesday, Day 6

  • Lunch from grocery store (fried chicken, chips and Coke): $7.42
  • Gas station dinner: $8.25
  • Shower: $7 (borrowed from a teammate)

Wednesday, Day 7

  • ATM withdrawal for food and other things purchased over the course of the week: $52 (fee included)

RAGBRAI booth (cycling caps for my boyfriend and I): $40

Thursday, Day 8

  • Breakfast (ham, egg and cheese sandwich, coffee): $8.42
  • Bike shop booth (finally bought a bike computer to calculate mileage): $37.45
  • Dinner (salad, beef summer sausage, wine): $8.44
  • More wine: $3.25

Friday, Day 9

  • Breakfast/snack: $2.37
  • Dinner at McDonalds: $8.15

Saturday, Day 10

  • Late lunch after the end of the ride (burger, fries and beer): $14.72

Sunday, Day 11

  • Coffee and breakfast snack: $4.52
  • Lunch at Dairy Queen: $8.77
  • Snacks: $4.18

Total cost: $388.74

It’s worth noting that official registration on RABGRAI is $160 for weeklong riders. This allows you to throw all of your clothes and gear in a van and have it carried for you to each overnight town. My team didn’t register, as we were riding self-supported.

There were a few things that I bought ahead of the trip that made cycling for seven days a bit more bearable, which more than doubled the cost.

  • Energy gels: $9.50
  • New bike shorts and cycling gloves: $59.57
  • Brooks saddle: $150
  • Fancy pink panniers: $231.72

I could have done without these things, by keeping my old bike seat, wearing just two pairs of shorts and borrowing panniers. These were things I wanted eventually, so I splurged. All in all, the trip itself was very affordable. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever done a trip so cheaply.

I would absolutely do it again, albeit maybe not on an organized tour with thousands of people. And next time, I’d pack a backpacking stove and freeze dried food.


Julissa Treviño is a reporter and writer who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Send her tips for living in small spaces on Twitter @JulissaTrevino.

Photo: Channone Arif



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