Author Topic: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska  (Read 3426 times)

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Offline JunkMan

BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« on: January 20, 2010, 08:01:12 pm »
Hi,

I'm just getting back into riding, haven't ridden at all in the last couple of years, and before that hadn't done any real long distance riding in MANY years.   Although my long term goal is a cross country trip, time, work schedule, and cash doesn't allow me to do that this year.  I'm thinking of taking a week long trip, and thought that BRAN looked like fun. 

I live in South Dakota, so it would be close, and I am familiar with Nebraska roads.  Thought about RAGBRI, but the timing doesn't work and it would be harder to get to and from the start/finish lines. 

Does anyone out there have any experience with BRAN?  How does it compare to other rides like RAGBRI?  The fact that they only let 600 people ride BRAN, and it doesn't seem like they always fill it, vs 10,000 riders on RAGBRI makes me wonder if it isn't a very good ride. 

Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.

Offline John Nelson

Re: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2010, 09:34:50 pm »
Okay, I haven't done either, but I'm pretty sure that the experience between the two rides would be vastly different. I'd much rather ride with 600 than with 10,000. I believe that RAGBRAI isn't so much a bike ride as a moving party. BRAN is likely to be more of a bike ride. But if you're a party type, you might like RAGBRAI more than I would.

Offline John Nettles

Re: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2010, 12:31:26 pm »
Hi,

I have done both.  I did RAGBRAI way back in 1980 when it was "only" about 12,000 people and I did BRAN this past summer.  I have also done Oklahoma's FreeWheel several times, SAAGBRAW (Wisconsin) twice, and Ohio's GOBA once.

Of course, there is a party/zoo flavor to RAGBRAI compared to its much more sedate BRAN cousin.

While the scenery, roads, people, etc. are nice to great, we overall did not like BRAN as much as others.  This was primarily due to a couple of reasons important to us.  One thing was that everyone getting up at the un-holy time of 4:00am-4:30am  :o (I am not joking) so they can break camp, eat, etc. so they can be on the road before daylight.  I prefer to sleep until dawn but the zip zip zip ziiip ziiiiip zip ziiiiip ziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip (this guy at least tried to be quiet) of the !@#$% tent zippers all around you is absurd.  One day I was literally the last guy out at 6:28am.

Additionally, this is a very fast ride.  I don't know how Nebraskans train in the winter but by June, they were strong.  On the vast majority of rides, I ride about average speed compared to others.  I am basing this on that I get passed by about the same number I pass and the camp seems about 1/2 empty when I typically leave.  It is a tad discouraging to others I ride with that we left at 5:00-5:30am (about the time everyone is departing it seems) and be passed by everyone expect we might pass 1 or 2.  I personally don't care but others get bummed by this.

Like other states ride, they have some days that are high mileage.  The difference is that almost every year has a mandatory (no optional loops) 100+ mile day.  I understand the reason is that in the central/northern plains, towns are spread out a bit more but requiring every rider to do a century is a little much.  This is probably why not very many families go as the little ones can't do a century.

Finally, while this is nothing they can actually control, the weather in early June in Nebraska can be quite varied.  This year, it rained and on some days the high was in the 50s.  Some years are hot and dry with headwinds and other years are just perfect.  Some might like the variability but we prefer it to be at least 70 for the high in June :) .  I would prefer it if they moved it later just 1 week as the average temp raises 2-3 degrees and the weather is more settled according to the locals.

Now that I have ranted on them, I will give the good side.  They are the least expensive of all the rides.  It was something like $125 for the week which included LOTS of free refreshment stops (4-6 per day with fruit, candy, etc.), sag service if you needed it; super friendliness (but what else is expected from people in the flyover country), short lines for showers, food, etc.  great town support overall, etc.  Dinners and such were all church-type functions and really good and plentiful.  Mostly inexpensive @ about $6 person.  Additionally, this is a fundraiser as compared to a money-maker for most other rides so that is nice.

As compared to RAGBRAI?  You are comparing grapes and watermelons.  On RAGBRAI, you can leave 15 hours before or after the ride and still see people on the road.  I understand the logistics have gotten a little crazy now but I can't do a fair comparison since I went in 1980.

How would I compare BRAN to the other rides?
BRAN:  Fast, long, great people, inexpensive, great SAG & food stops; not for slow or weak.
FreeWheel:  About 400 miles, follows prevailing winds and overall gently rolling hills, inexpensive, great people, so/so SAG stops, roads need work.
GOBA:  225-275 miles (without optional days), more upscale, can sleep indoors (HS gymnasium) tad pricey, has layover days, nice roads on overall gently rolling hills, more lines; probably would go again.
SAAGBRAW:  about 400 miles, scenic, great roads but can be hillier, expensive (much more commercial), can sleep indoors, nice weather, well ran but not as friendly; would do again.
RAGBRAI:  Lots and lots of people, food everywhere (unless you are at the end then good luck!), garden hoses for showers; somewhat inexpensive but can get pricey if you join a "support crew" that secures private camping, showers, etc. for you, good roads but can be hilly, good weather (maybe a tad warm), great experience; will do again, maybe.

Hope this helps.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2010, 01:56:08 pm by John Nettles »
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline indyfabz

Re: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2010, 01:47:41 pm »
John--I am surprised to here that BRAN is really fast.  I have been considering doing for the last few years and thus have poked around the ride's forum.  I got the impression that there were a lot of slower riders.  A few years ago some of the route was in the sandhills region.  Many people were commenting about how tough all the climbing was going to be, but if you looked at the profiles only one day had anything close to 100 ft./mile  Guess it's all relative.  One thing that puts me off about the event is that the logistics seem complicated if you are flying in, and it seems that often a long bus ride from the meeting place to the start is involved.

And those wake up times ARE crazy.  I have done 3 Cycle Oregons and even on long, mountainous days most people don't get up that early.  A few people set out in the dark during CANDISC (see below) even on shorter days despite there being something like 16 hrs. of daylight.

Junkman--Inasmuch as you are in SD, take a look at CANDISC.  I did it in 2006 and had a great time.  It sounds a lot like BRAN in many respects.  Cheap. ($160)  Inexpensive homemade food.  Friendly, small town people.  No waiting in long lines for things like meals and showers.  But it is very small.  Under 400 people.  That may appeal to you.  And if 2006 was representative of the usual pace, it's not fast at all.  The biggest adversity was the wind a on a couple of the days.

Offline spoon

Re: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2010, 07:31:38 pm »
  "One thing was that everyone getting up at the un-holy time of 4:00am-4:30am   (I am not joking) so they can break camp, eat, etc. so they can be on the road before daylight.  I prefer to sleep until dawn but the zip zip zip ziiip ziiiiip zip ziiiiip ziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip (this guy at least tried to be quiet) of the !@#$% tent zippers all around you is absurd.  One day I was literally the last guy out at 6:28am." 

Yer right.  Isn't that a pain in the you know what?  It just proves to me that most don't know what a tour is about.  I do like to be around other riders, but this type of behavior does not speak well for mental health.  Even they don't know why they are doing the tour.  Merit badge?

Spoon ::)

Offline staehpj1

Re: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2010, 07:43:34 pm »
  "One thing was that everyone getting up at the un-holy time of 4:00am-4:30am

That would suit me fine, but I can see where it would be unpleasant for most folks.

Spoon?  Is that you Jerry?

Offline DaveB

Re: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2010, 09:56:50 pm »
I rode RAGBRAI once in 1986 and it was a BLAST!!!!  I'd go back in a minute if the logistics weren't so difficult.  RAGBRAI is point-to-point so, at one end of the week or the other, you are 300 miles from your car.  You need to be with a group of some sort to arrange transportation to the start or back to the start at the end of the week.  Also, getting an entry is by lottery unless you are a member of an Iowa bike club or are willing to be a "pirate".  There are lots of those too.   A great ride and an unforgettable social experience if you can arrange it.

I have ridden 18 of Ohio's GOBA's.  This is a loop ride so the start and finish are at the same location which is a huge convenience.  That, and the fact I live in Western PA, are big factors in my riding it so often.  It's between RAGBRAI and BRAN in size with about 2700 - 3000 riders and more family oriented than either.  The terrain varies from dead flat to VERY hilly depending on which part of the state the organizers choose for any given year.  There are now two optional days and the weekly distance varies from  about 250 to 420 miles depending on whether you ride the options.   The century day is always optional. 

As to 4:00 AM zippers, every ride I've ever been on has them.  There are those who are so eager to ride or fear they are so slow that they will start while it's still dark.   Then there are the people who go to the Porta-Potties at 2:00 AM and let the door SLAM when they leave. Arrrrgh!

Offline kganoung

Re: BRAN - Bike Ride Across Nebraska
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2010, 04:27:03 pm »
I'm a slow riding, early riser from Nebraska who heartily recommends the BRAN ride.   I'm doing it again this year on a new bike.   The people are fun and you see lots of the state that you never knew existed from that car ride on I80.  Come and join us.