Tour Of the Mississippi River Valley
June 9-10 2018

Commonly asked questions

If your are a first time rider or thinking about riding TOMRV, you may have some questions that are not answered in the ride brochure and application. I will try to field the most commonly asked ones here.

How hard is TOMRV?

It is safe to say that TOMRV challenges every rider every year. Being a two day tour with good milage and challenging terrain, there is opportunity for riders at any level to find challenge. Additionally the tour is early in the summer, and seasonal riders are not at their summer peak.

If you enjoy accomplishing long distances on your bike, then TOMRV is an excellent way to try a longer tour. You will have the advantages of a well tuned route, other riders to ride with and good food and drink supplied on the route. You will want to get some good riding in before the tour. This is not a race, so find your pace and enjoy the weekend.

Here is a cyclist's altimeter download from TOMRV in 2002. Note that the route between Bellevue and Goose Lake is changed to a less hilly route, removing about 1,000 feet of climbing. You can see there are hills in Iowa after all. The land near Dubuque is a series of limestone bluffs and valleys, sometimes quite striking. The result is numerous climbs and descents, some over 300 feet.

Changing your registration

You may decide to change the particulars of your registration. This is usually easy to do. Here are some common change requests, and how to get them done.

Suites

For some riders, the real prize is getting a suite at Clarke. Unlike the other dormitory rooms, the suites are air conditioned, and provide several rooms adjoining with a common bath. This makes them desirable for large groups of friends, and on hot years the air conditioning is a real plus. The suites rent quickly. The 6 person suites at Clarke will be sold online only.

The Shuttle

We field more riders than Clarke University can house, so we run a free shuttle between Clarke and many Dubuque motels. The shuttles will leave Clarke right on the half hour all afternoon and evening, and on Sunday morning.

Camping

On the other end of accomodations is tent camping. You can tent camp a part or your entire stay at TOMRV. There is tent camping for no charge on the grounds at Scott Community College and at Goose Lake on Friday before the ride. This is a low impact quiet affair. If you use this, be sure to respect the property and leave your site clean.

On Saturday there is also camping on the soccer field at Clarke, and there is a charge for this. You are entitled to use the dormitory showers as a camper, and a towel is provided.

The preferred camping area, one with restrooms available, and totally away from street noise, is the soccer field behind the tennis courts, a nice flat watered and carefully mowed area. Plus on Sunday morning, you walk past the bike lockup to get to the road.

Motels on Friday evening

If you are driving in on Friday evening, you will need a place to stay overnight. There are many motels available in the Bettendorf area, and there is tent camping space available at Scott Community College.

Every year people ask which is the closest motel to the ride start. You can see from the map that it is a close call, but the closest motel by perhaps a minute driving time is the Hilton Garden Inn on Middle road, listed on that home page link. You can stay at the Holiday Inn in LeClaire. This on the route at 8.3 miles, so you might arrange to leave your car at the motel over the weekend and have no driving to the start at all.

If you are starting from Goose Lake, you can get a motel in nearby Maquoketa Iowa, or you can stay in Bettendorf or Davenport and drive up to Goose Lake on Saturday morning. The most convenient motels for this option are on US 61 to the North of Davenport.

The banquet

When you ask a TOMRV rider about the ride, you will probably hear about the banquet. This is a truely wonderful dinner after a hard day on the road. There are dozens of delicious foods to choose from and all that you will want to eat. The banquet starts at 4 p.m. and runs until 8:30 p.m. So you can plan when to drop in. Your wristband admits you to the banquet. If you have non-riding friends, they can buy banquet tickets at the door.

The banquet will include vegan fare as well as traditional. The serving dishes will be marked for you.

What clothing to bring

Spring in the Midwest is a variable time, sometimes warm, sometimes hot, and sometimes cold. Although warm to hot is most common, in 2006 we had temps in the 40s with strong headwind and rain on Saturday morning. It was foolhardy to ride without good protection for cold and rain.

Weather forcasts get better each year, but are still not perfect. In 2016 the weather on Saturday night and Sunday morning was 20 degrees colder than the Friday forecast. So you want to bring clothing for a range of conditions. When you actually start to ride, you can select what you will need.

Eat on the ride

A tour the length of TOMRV has a fundamental difference from rides of lesser distance: your body does not carry enough readily available energy to complete the ride, and eating along the route is necessary to avoid bonking. This means eating at each stop, and sometimes on the road between stops.

Your body gets power from three sources in roughly this order

  1. Fat metabolism, at a rate up to 200-300 calories per hour
  2. Carbohydrates and proteins being digested from what you are eating
  3. Glycogen stored in you body. There is typically 1,500 to 2,000 calories of glycogen erergy in a rested person's body

See the chart below to get an idea how much energy you will use on TOMRV. You can see that you will use energy much faster than 200 calories an hour (energy source #1 - fat), so your body will use energy source 2 (food you digest on the ride) as well. This preserves energy source 3 (glycogen).

The problem comes if you fail to eat enough along the route, and use up all of your glycogen. This is fondly known as bonking, which feels a lot like dying. A 100 mile ride is easily long enough for this to happen. So eat plenty along the route. We are giving away food at every stop, all of it just the kind that you need. So eat and enjoy the ride.

Calories Burned During Exercise

Activity (1 hour) 130 lbs 155 lbs 190 lbs
Bicycling, 10-11.9mph, light effort 354 422 518
Bicycling, 12-13.9mph, moderate effort 472 563 690
Bicycling, 14-15.9mph, vigorous effort 590 704 863
Bicycling, 16-19mph, very fast, racing 708 844 1035

Reference: http://www.nutristrategy.com/activitylist.htm

Drink on the ride

Along with eating enough, you must drink enough. When the temperature goes up, your body can lose one to two quarts an hour while riding. While being two quarts down is not dangerous, it materially reduces your ride speed. Your blood becomes thicker and circulates more slowly, forcing you to ride slower. Dehydration also makes you susceptible to leg cramps.

You will want to drink well at stops, especially as the temperature gets high. You will also want to carry water with you to drink between the stops.

What if I am unable to finish?

TOMRV riders are a tough lot, and few are willing to quit even when the going is tough. If you have adequate clothing, food and water, you will finish unless a health or bike catastrophe occurs.

But every year a few riders have to bag it, generally due to real health concerns. We run a sweep at the back of the ride and pick up bicycles and riders who cannot complete the day. This is not a lot of riders, and it is a slow way to get to Dubuque.

Route safety

We all know that cycle touring is a hazardous sport. An advantage of TOMRV is that the route is carefully selected and checked for safety each year. We are committed to a safe tour. We check each year for road construction, drive the route each year, and post warning signs where we find a forseeable hazard.

That said, we cannot guarantee that you will not encounter hazards on the road. You must be alert and cautious when vehicles are around, and must ride within the road conditions. You are responsible for your safety on the tour.

I want to mention particular hazards in an organized tour that are not generally present when you ride alone or with a couple friends. They are both in descents. The first is overtaking slower riders and not being able to get around safely. You may be a crit rider, but the people in front of you are not. You start to pass, but a car comes up around the curve ahead. A-a-a-i-i-i!

The second is riding too fast on a descent on a secondary road. These roads are former wagon paths with crown grading and chip seal. They have not been engineered. Commonly the lowest turn is the sharpest one. Resist the urge to descend fast on these curving roads. It might work at home because you know the roads at home, but the roads on the tour are probably not that familiar to you. Keep your speed in control until you can see the runout at the bottom of the descent.

Riding responsibly

This is my plea to you the rider to ride responsibly. There is a tendency for riders to engage in riding practices on a large group ride where cyclists impede traffic on the more heavily traveled roads. This results in angry motorists who may then engage in rude or aggressive driving, stop and confront riders, or call the county sheriff.

There is bound to be some inconvenience to the daily users of the roads, but some rider practices abuse the right to the road and make a real problem.

These riding practices come from a belief in the cyclists that because of the tour, they have extra privledges on the road. This is most emphatically not the case. We share the roads with all users as a common. State laws allow cyclists to share the roads with the requirement that they ride toward the right and don't unduly impede traffic. The sheriffs in each county regulate this use. If they decide we cannot operate a safe tour, they can stop the tour for good.