by Jon and Morgan, East Coast events crew
A sea of tents and RVs in one of the RAGBRAI campgrounds.
Last month Morgan and I attended the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, better known as RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI has been going on for more than 40 years and each year the route changes. Despite numerous recommendations from friends and fellow riders of previous events, neither of us had been able to ride in RAGBRAI and we were excited to finally get to see what all the hype was about. As we started off on the ride from the Missouri River to the Mississippi, we began to realize that the enthusiasm for the event was just as much a result of the culture as it was of the riding.
Each day of riding had several pit stops hosted by the welcoming towns along the way. It seemed like every member of the community was out encouraging the 10,000 passing riders, providing beverages and refreshments, or pointing riders to the portable restrooms which were set up along the way. Because there were so many riders, when you reached a town, you would have to dismount your bike to make your way through the sea of people and their bikes.
Bike parking was at a premuim, including on tractors.
As riders in RAGBRAI, we were accompanied not only by many impressive road bikes, but also a collection of the most creative and innovative bikes we’ve seen yet. We saw mountain bikes, BMX bikes, recumbent bikes, tandems, tandem recumbent bikes, unicycles, and more. There were people riding, rollerblading, skateboarding, and even running the 407-mile route.
As we reached the host towns each day, we settled in at a campsite designated for RAGBRAI riders. No matter the size, each town would be covered with tents and RVs, making their population triple. As we met riders who had been coming to RAGBRAI for years, we learned the tips and preferences of different groups. There are many charters for RAGBRAI which you can join and have your belongings carried from site to site for you, there are host families that welcome riders into their homes for lodging at night, there are riders that use RVs, and those who prefer their reliable tents. Community churches and organizations held spaghetti dinners and meals to fundraise for various causes around town. Riders also ventured downtown to enjoy local eateries, breweries, music, and refuel.
Even in the heat we had an great time enjoying Iowa’s scenery, meeting wonderful people, and getting the opportunity to put some more miles on the bikes!
Our friend Jason riding through the long miles and heat on his unicycle.
Even the water sports were bike friendly!
RAGBRAI riders making their way through town to catch a quick break and refuel.