RAGBRAI is an acronym for Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It is a non-competitive bicycle ride across Iowa that draws recreational riders from across the United States and overseas. They ride from a community on Iowa's western border to a community on Iowa's eastern border, stopping in towns across the state. RAGBRAI is limited to 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500 day riders. Estimates of unregistered riders vary greatly anywhere from three to ten thousand.Fact|date=March 2008


In 2008, RAGBRAI began on July 19 and will end on July 26. The 2008 route will start in Missouri Valley and will continue to Harlan, Jefferson, Ames, Tama/Toledo, North Liberty, Tipton, and will end in LeClaire near the Quad Cities. [ [http://www.ragbrai.org/index.html Welcome to RAGBRAI.org ] ]


First year

RAGBRAI began in 1973 when "Des Moines Register" feature writers John Karras and Donald Kaul decided to go on a bicycle ride across Iowa. Both men were avid cyclists. Kaul would write articles about what he experienced during this ride.

The newspaper's management approved of the plan. Don Benson, a public relations director at the Register, was assigned to coordinate the event. The newsmen invited the public to accompany them.

The ride was planned to start on August 26 in Sioux City and end in Davenport on August 31. The overnight stops were Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Ames, Des Moines and Williamsburg. The Register informed readers of the event, and the planned route. The ride was informally referred to as "The Great Six-Day Bicycle Ride".

Some 300 cyclists began the ride in Sioux City; 114 of them rode the entire route. A number of other people rode part of the route. Attendance was light the first year. The ride was announced with only six weeks' notice and it conflicted with the first week of school and the final weekend of the Iowa State Fair.

After the ride was over, Kaul and Karras wrote numerous articles that captured the imaginations of many readers. Among those who completed the 1973 ride was 83-year-old Clarence Pickard of Indianola. He rode a used ladies Schwinn and wore a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet. The newspaper received many calls and letters from people who wanted to go on the ride but were unable to for various reasons. As a result, the 1974 ride was scheduled before the fair, from August 4-10. The route began in Council Bluffs and ended in Dubuque.

Second year

The 1974 ride, known as the Second Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (or SAGBRAI), was more carefully planned. The Iowa State Patrol was involved in the planning, and arrangements were made to have medical services available for riders. For the first time, the route was driven in advance. The communities involved were Atlantic, Guthrie Center, Camp Dodge (which is near Des Moines), Marshalltown, Waterloo and Monticello.

Subsequent years

After the second year, the ride continued to grow in popularity. The RAGBRAI name, with Roman numerals following it, was adopted for RAGBRAI III in 1975; thus, the 2008 ride will be RAGBRAI XXXVI. The ride eventually moved to the last full week in July, starting on Sunday and ending on Saturday.

Over the years, 24 people have died during the ride itself or from injuries suffered on the ride. Only two of these deaths resulted from injuries sustained while actually riding on bicycles. Most of the deaths were due to heart attacks that riders suffered while resting. On the first night of the 2005 ride, Michael Thomas Burke - a native of Donnellson, Iowa who was living in New York City - died when a storm blew a tree limb down on the tent in which he was sleeping.

A plane carrying a pilot and a young Canadian woman who was making a documentary about the ride also crashed during the course of the 2005 RAGBRAI. In this case, the pair suffered minor injuries. Pilot Jim Hill of Manchester, Iowa and Amy Throop of Ottawa, Canada were following the route on a plane near Riceville, Iowa when the plane went down. Both Hill and Throop walked away from the accident. Throughout the ride ultralights fly over riders a few feet above the trees to get a good shot of the astonishing amount of riders.

RAGBRAI has had nationwide media exposure, and other rides based on RAGBRAI have been started in other areas of the country. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong rode the Wednesday and Thursday stages of the 2006 event and most of the 2007 route, leaving a couple days early to support Team Discovery's Alberto Contador and his Tour de France victory. In 2008, Lance also made an appearance on the Ames, Iowa leg of the trip.

Crawford County lawsuit and ban

During the 2004 RAGBRAI Kirk Ullrich was thrown from his bicycle after contacting a crack in the center of the road and died.Kirk's wife, Betty Jo Ullrich, sued Crawford County and settled for $350,000. [http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071012/NEWS/710120397/1001/ retrieved October 12, 2007.] The board of supervisors for Crawford County banned RAGBRAI (and other, similar events) to avoid future liability.

Overnight stops by year

Eight "host communities" are selected each year; one each for the beginning and end points, while the other six serve as overnight stops for the bicyclists. The distance between each host community is usually between 50 and 70 miles. At the beginning of the ride, riders traditionally dip the rear wheel of their bikes in either the Missouri River or the Big Sioux River (depending on the starting point of the ride), and at the end, the riders dip the front wheels in the Mississippi River.

RAGBRAI teams and charters

Riders come from all over the world, and many ride as clubs or teams. There are dozens of [http://www.bikeiowa.com/asp/links/Links.asp?Link_Type=1 organized teams] on the ride; some of the notable are Team Blonde, Team Skunk, [http://www.buttice.com Team Butt Ice] , Team DAWG, The Killer Bees, The Whiners, [http://www.redmerkins.com The Red Merkins] , [http://www.spokeeasy.com Team Spokeasy] , Team Pink Floyd, The Subtle Savages, Team Flashback, Team Budweiser, Team Stiff, Team Half Fast, Team Trousermouse, and Team Ska. Team Skunk is notable for their black shirts with a white stripe down the back and their greeting call Skuuuuuuunk. The Subtle Savages team rides in kilts. Team Gourmet travels with their own chef, and Team Dragbrai rides in drag. Team Ska rides self-contained the entire route and has come to be known as a spirited and very friendly group. All come to Iowa to celebrate summer on two wheels.

RAGBRAI teams are a unique part of the experience. While some of the teams have a well-earned reputation for hard partying and heavy drinking, most are serious well behaved bicyclists.

Teams create a social and support system that adds a non-cycling dimension to RAGBRAI. Teams customize old school buses and vans. The team buses serve as transportation to and from the ride, and a combination clubhouse and sleeping quarters during the ride. These buses typically sport enormous custom stereos, roof mounted, rail-equipped platforms which serve as bicycle racks and a place to relax, and interior bathrooms. Several carry large 50 gallon plastic barrels full of water, which become warm during the day. Attached to a gravity-fed hose, these barrels provide teams with a spartan shower at the end of the day's ride.

Charters are bicycle clubs and for-profit companies that provide weeklong support for riders. For a fee, charters typically transport riders to and from the ride, secure preferred camping areas, rent and sometimes pitch tents, provide some bicycle repair services, and offer additional evening social activities. Charters are a common option for riders coming from outside Iowa.


External links

* [http://www.ragbrai.org The Official RAGBRAI Web Site]
* [http://www.ragbraicommunity.com The RAGBRAI Community] The unofficial RAGBRAI Message Board and Gallery
* [http://www.bikeiowa.com BikeIowa Website]
* [http://www.teamflamingo.org The Official Team Flamingo Web Site]
* [http://www.wadenelson.com/best.html Contains several RAGBRAI articles including "Guide for Virgins," and humor pieces including "Death on Ragbrai" and "Adopt-a-Kybo"]
* [http://danenet.wicip.org/bcp2006/ragbrai.html Roger Bruhn's "Best and Worst of RAGBRAI"]
* [http://www.teamradpan.com The official Team RADPAN web site]
* [http://www.teamchecker.com Official Team Checker web site]
* [http://www.extension.iastate.edu/cyriders ISU Extension CyRiders] (includes recording of [http://www.extension.iastate.edu/cyriders/livestream.htm cyclists entering the ISU Campus] - 2008)

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