The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

A Farewell to RAGBRAI

I am doing GRABAAWR for a change of pace after doing the last six RAGBRAI’s. It’s been (mostly) a blast.

Five things I will miss about RAGBRAI:

1. The people of Iowa. I have nothing but good to say about 99% of the natives I met.

2. The sheer spectacle. The RAGBRAI crowd has no equal when it comes to people watching.

3. Pulling into a town and getting cheered on by families in lawn chairs. It doesn’t get much better than that.

4. Getting doused by a garden hose on a 95 degree day. Almost makes you miss shade trees.

5. Hosts that go above-and-beyond the call of duty and really make you feel at home.

Five things I will not miss about RAGBRAI:

1. Pace lines. Dangerous and unnecessary. The ride is supposed to be an individual achievement, not a team sport.

2. Strangers who draft me without permission. (see #1 above)

3. The thunderstorms/tornadoes. One of these years there will be carnage.

4. Trains. Especially the ones who feel they are not loud enough on their own and feel the need to blow a whistle at 3AM.

5. People clanking tent poles and stakes at 5AM. It’s not a race, folks. Get a little sleep and you’ll have a much better time. As will the rest of us.

11 Replies

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CyclingRoberto, May 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Hope you’re ready for a MASSIVE change of pace. GRABAAWR is a good ride, but they make a point of avoiding pass-through towns. I did it about 5-6 years ago. No vendors at all. Long, long stretches where you are out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat or drink. The overnight towns didn’t even know we were there.

As for your things you won’t miss, point #3, there already was carnage in Sheldon when a young man lost his life in a horrendous storm that sent hundreds packing. It took some people days to dry out. The fact that more people weren’t injured or killed was amazing.

Good luck in Wisconsin. Great scenery, but they pride themselves in calling their ride “The Un-RAGBRAI.” They mean it.


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Sandaltan, May 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Great observations, you didn’t miss a thing. You will have a good time in Wisconsin, I have found the staff and riders on GRABWAAR great and walking into a Wisconsin bar and finding a good root beer on tap is something I have not found in Iowa. Eat a couple of brats for me and if you get a chance have a pasty.



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“Bicycle Bill”, May 22, 2013 at 2:32 am

As the others have said, GRABAAWR is nothing at all like RAGBRAI as it is today.  Plan on being self-sufficient; while Wheel and Sprocket (the ‘official’ shop sponsor) is very good at what they do, they can’t be everywhere.  If you can fix your own flats and make other basic repairs like derailleur or brake adjustments, you should get along just fine.  And of course part of the charm is walking in to a bar and *NOT* finding it packed with 500 other cyclists.  So enjoy; poke around the corners.  We don’t have a bike trail on top of a 140-foot trestle in Wisconsin, but we do have a bike trail that goes 3/4-mile through a 135-year old tunnel.

And by the way, Sandaltan, which root beer did you find — Sprecher’s or 1919??



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badjuggler, May 22, 2013 at 6:47 am

The Un-RAGBRAI is exactly what I am looking for. I find as I get older (now 53) I rarely have the desire to battle the crowds of the beer tents or hear the (mostly repetitive) bands featured. Although I am a little bummed that one of my favorite bands, Better Than Ezra, is headlining the opening night concert. I have found little to like in the bands offered in the past, but it figures the year I leave BTE would show up. So enjoy that, everybody!


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RonB, May 22, 2013 at 7:25 am

Badjuggler, I have done two Ragbrai’s and two GRABAAWR’s and will do GRABAAWR again this year, for some of the same reasons that you list; plus, I like a bit more of a challenging ride (and the last day, you’ll get it!).

On the remoteness…don’t fret, the route passes plenty of places to eat/drink like convenience stores, gas stations, etc., as well as thru some towns. And it’s Wisconsin for pete’s sake…a bar on most every corner or intersection. There are also other SAG vehicles, not just W & S, so we will not be left to our own devices if we have a spot of bother. Maybe we’ll meet up on the road or in camp…one month from today, exactly.


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Sandaltan, May 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

That would be Sprecher Root Beer Beebs, good stuff and available at my local Menard’s. I have Sprechers in the refrig at all times. Come to think of it, I have found 1919 on tap at the little bar just down the hill from the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.



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Iceman, May 22, 2013 at 9:34 am

We’ve done ten RAGBRAI’s. But a few years ago we started doing other 7 day rides – sort of a bucket list for biking. We’ve done BRAG (my least favorite) and BRAT and the Michigander and the Bon Ton Roulet (in New York finger lake region which stands out in my memory as the prettiest ride I have ever done).

RAGBRAI is, in my opinion, more of an event than a ride. It’s a relatively easy ride – although you can make any ride difficult. But variety is good so long as you keep in mind that no ride is going to be like RAGBRAI. You’ll be cheating yourself if you don’t try the other rides. Just go back now and then to Iowa. It’s like visiting an old friend.

And Badjuggler, it’s pretty easy to avoid the pace lines. I get in them now and then, but only if we have a headwind. I would like to figure out how to jam the signals of any portable sound system whose muffin head owner somehow insists that I have to listen to his brand of music (and loud) but that’s all part of the event, along with the heat and the rain and the headwinds.

I won’t be there this year. But I’ll be back in 2014.


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Michrider !!!, May 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

One again the lurking “Muffin Head” surfaces!!!!! I love that expression!!!!


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mootsman, May 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

I am looking forward to also riding GRABWAAR but not until 2014. Logistics look much easier with the GRABAAWR bus service to the start. And if you look for them when the route is (was) annouced, you can usually motel it the whole route if you want. Some towns still probably have open motel rooms.

I did a cross Wisconsin ride many years ago and most bars do serve fairly good food along the way. SW Wisconsin has lots of big hills which the route mostly avoids going along the river (at least the last time I checked). 300-500 foot elevation gains on those SW Wisconsin hills are common.

For those that hit the bars there seemed to be 2 approaches, 1) complete the route and hit the 1st bar in the overnight town (look for all the bikes) and 2) hit lots of bars along the way.


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giantron, June 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Well like others on this thread I’m skipping RAGBRAI for GRABAAWR this year. It’s my first tour of GRABAAWR but third with the GRABAAWR tour group. I hope to meet badjuggler and RonB on the ride. Look for the 6’3″ guy riding the Silver/Green Giant bike, probably in a group of 3 guys.

Looking forward to the scenery of Wisconsin again, but will miss the spectacle of RAGBRAI.

I hope everyone else has a great ride wherever they’re riding.


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badjuggler, June 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Probably a better chance on finding you than on RAGBRAI. I’m Brad from Minneapolis (white Specialized Tarmac) and will be with my sister Gayle and our friend Kris (both from Chicago). I’m sure we’ll run into each other!


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