After the riders dunked their tires in the Missouri River and took to the Mississippi on the Great Annual Bike Tour of Record through Iowa, they will embark on the first ride since 2019 with a near-epidemic record.
Next year may mark the 50th riding anniversary, but that doesn’t mean this year’s edition doesn’t have much to offer. Returning for the first time in nearly 40 years of Century Day—a trail of over 100 miles for all riders—is just one feature on a trail dedicated to RAGBRAI founder John Karas, who passed away last year.
Here’s what you need to know about RAGBRAI.
Q: What is ragbi?
a: This may be an exaggeration, but Iowans love to brag that RAGBRAI is the largest annual mobile party in the world. Each summer, cyclists set off from or near a point on or near the Missouri River in western Iowa and ride seven-day routes to their destination on the Mississippi River. The track changes from year to year, so nearly all of Iowa have participated at one time or another.
Q: What is the position of RAGBRAI?
a: RAGBRAI stands for the annual record of a great bike ride through Iowa.
Q: How did Rajbri start?
a: John Karas, copy editor and essay writer for The Register, and Donald Cole, a columnist, devised a plan to ride cross-state bikes and invited their readers with them. When they set out from Sioux City on August 26, 1973, for their first day trip to Storm Lake, a few hundred people joined them. They rode again in 1974 with a growing entourage, and in January 1975 Cole announced in a short clause in the Sunday edition of the Register that the ride had acquired an official name for its third planned release: the record’s annual bike ride across Iowa.
Today, RAGBRAI is its own organization within Gannett Corporation, the record holder. A dedicated team organizes this event throughout the year, which usually attracts around 16,000 contestants from all over the country and around the world. RAGBRAI is preparing to celebrate its 50th year in 2023 after the sad star sign for the 2020 ride that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: What path will Rajberry take this year?
a: The trip begins July 24 at Sergeant Bluff in northwest Iowa near the Missouri River and continues in one-day increments to Ida Grove, Pocahontas, Emmetsburg, Mason City, Charles City, and West Union. It concludes on the seventh day, July 30, in the town of Lansing on the Mississippi River, where the riders have traveled 462 miles.
Q: How are towns selected?
a: Organizers select cities from among enthusiastic applicants. Representatives of selected towns celebrate at the Road Declaration Ceremony in January. During the trip, they compete to outdo each other with their nightly parties, filled with live bands, food vendors, and of course beer.
Passengers can sleep at night in campgrounds and parks. Many spaces for rent in residents’ homes or yards, with ensuite privileges. Some stay in mobile homes driven by supportive friends or relatives. And, of course, any hotel rooms were sold out months ago.
Q: What are the meeting cities?
a: Select towns about halfway on a road each day where those separated from their riding comrades can regroup; Those who get tired of carrying on can ride on the SAG support and gear wagon; Team members or other supportive drivers can meet with them. Everyone can enjoy the offers of local vendors and restaurants, as well as entertainment.
Q: What are the passing towns?
a: Cities, some with small populations, the ride passes through. Residents often gather to cheer the passengers, and adventurers among them sell snacks and drinks – or just serve a drink from a garden hose.
Q: What is the longest hiking day this year?
a: 105 miles on the fourth day, July 27.
Q: What about people who can’t pass the entire century’s journey?
a: There will be additional SAGs to transport anyone who is running out of steam.
Q: What is the shortest day of the trip this year?
a: 47.9 miles on Day 5, July 28 (the day after century driving).
Q: What day will it have the biggest gain for rising?
a: The final day, through the hills of northeastern Iowa, would make the biggest gain at 2,966 feet—but it would also see a steep drop in the Mississippi Valley.
Q: What are some of the highlights along the way?
a: Day 1: Trek through the steep Loess Hills in western Iowa to Ida Grove Castle. the second day: Schaller, Iowa’s popcorn capital, is a passing town — and it will feature popcorn, of course. Day 3: optional gravel road; The Grotto of Redemption Shrine, claimed to be the largest in the world, in the encounter town of West Bend; and Five Island Lake in the night town of Emmetsburg. the fourth day: National Horizon Museum in Britt Town Encounter; Overnight entertainment in Mason City by Sugar Ray and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder. Day 5: The Fossil & Prairie Park Preserve is just outside the passing town of Rockford, Devonian Town, and the charming Charles City, night city, with its water course on the Cedar River. the sixth day: Looney Tunes theme in Lawler Town and Starlight Ballroom; the seventh day: The passing town of Postville, one of the most diverse small towns in Iowa, and the Mississippi River in Lansing.
Q: Is there anything new this year?
a: Aside from the Century Day return, the first will be Ragberry’s under new manager Matt Viben, who took over in January after a management career at Scheel’s sporting goods chain and years as a volunteer at RAGBRAI.
Q: How many people will be riding this year?
a: Officially, about 15,500 people were registered for the entire flight, says RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI will also sell day tickets during riding week for those who want to ride, but not the entire route.
Q: What do passengers get?
a: Among other things, a seat on the aforementioned SAG cars, discounts from sellers, baggage transfers and souvenir spots. Toll tolls also support necessities such as an Iowa State Patrol controlling traffic along the road, mobile bike repair services, and perhaps most of all, a place in one of the ambulances that track riders, should this become necessary.
Q: What is the cost of ragi?
a: Prices vary depending on the type of registration. Passenger registration for a week (sold out) costs $175 (increased to $190 after Feb. 28). The cost to register for a week for a non-passenger is $35. Daily passes started at $30, and increased to $40 on May 1. It will cost $45 for the trip. Vehicle permits are an additional cost starting at $40.
Q: Is rugby racing?
a: Call it one and you’ll get the side eye of many Iowans. While some of the best riders might engage in some friendly competition, and Lance Armstrong is known to show, RAGBRAI is all about riding at any pace that makes sense for you through the cities, towns and countryside of Iowa, meeting people along in a way that, above all, having fun .