I moved to Iowa eight years ago and admit that I knew nothing about RAGBRAI. I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce it! Interestingly enough, when I was researching this post, I found a book, RAGBRAI: Everyone Pronounces It Wrong, by John and Ann Karras. Their book says it “should be pronounced RAGBRAY and no other way.” I highly recommend this humorous book about the humble beginnings of this now hugely popular event.
RAGBRAI began in 1973 when Register writers John Karras and Don Kaul decided to ride their bikes across Iowa and write about it. They began in Sioux City with about 300 riders and ended in Davenport. In the Karrases’ book, John states that he and Kaul thought it would be a one time deal. They planned the route out on a map, didn’t think about bridges being out or roads being closed, both of which were, and had no plans for medical emergencies or bike repair. Most people rode in cutoffs and only the Karrasses and Kaul had helmets. Oh, how it has changed.
Now, it is a well-organized event. Participants include families with small children, costumed teams with gear buses, and international and sometimes famous participants. People have high-grade bikes, helmets, cycling clothing, and shoe clips.
Have you ridden RAGBRAI? When did you ride? Tell us about it!
GeoBike Factoids - distance and climbing grades by segments.
Check out these books on RAGBRAI from DMPL!
Reposted from last year with updates.