The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

Why is the route so short?!

Last year had the eight shortest route in history, this year has the second shortest. What gives? Is the high volume of riders making it too dangerous to have more than a couple 70+ mile days? If that is the case, maybe we can brainstorm some ways to make it less easy for unregistered riders to make the trip. Or have more perks for those that do register.
Thoughts? Ideas?

18 Replies

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jwsknk, April 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm

taking pity on us poor riders after the heat last year?



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Michrider !!!, April 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hill: “If that is the case, maybe we can brainstorm some ways to make it less easy for unregistered riders to make the trip. Or have more perks for those that do register. Thoughts? Ideas?”

Brainstorm? Sure, we can do that!!! While we’re out it, how about ways to prevent heat, winds and night time storms? Free beer would be a nice perk for registered riders!!!!



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David, April 16, 2013 at 2:34 pm

While I agree the short route is disappointing it isn’t correct that last year was the eighth shortest route in history. It was 20th out of 40. You also had to go back 5 years to find one longer.
Southern Iowa is also a bit hard to get the route you like (not saying it wasn’t possible to mix in a few longer days) but it just doesn’t have the nice spacing of towns and paved (that are connected over rivers even) that are more abundant in other parts of the state.

I am guessing that next year will be more north or north central and we probably will have a longer route. Maybe TJ will bless us with a 500+ route, there have only been 5 of those.

The Karras loop is pretty awesome this year.



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coloradoshortbus, April 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm

The route is short because……..(wait for it)………it is!



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Pdiddly, April 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Here’s an idea, park your car in Ft. Madison and ride your bike to Council Bluffs. That ought to give you the extra miles you were hoping for.

Look on the bright side, at least there is a 4200′ climb day! That should make you happy.



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Hill, April 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm

David thank you for the correction, that was a misread on my part. The website says last years route was the 18th shortest (now 19th I suppose).

As for coloradoshortbus and Michrider, maybe I came off more whiny than I intended to so I’ll let the sarcasm go.

Also I don’t want to discredit anyone’s work, this thing is huge so I know it has to be a pain in the rear to organize. I only wanted to get some insight into whether or not there was a reason it’s over 60 miles shorter than last year (that’s another day of biking right there!), or if that’s just how they wanted to do it.



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SFC JKL2, April 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm

You can always ride more if the distance doesn’t suit you.

Personally, I would like to see a true century day (not just a loop).



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iveaux3, April 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Holy Crap… is a bike ride not an iron man. Use the shorter distance to meet people, spend more time in the pass through towns, and enjoy yourself. Since when did enjoying yourself become a bad thing!!!



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Chris, April 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm

What iveaux3 said.

C’mon. After last year’s (oh-so-enjoyable) beating, they had to back off the miles. The average temperature for the ride keeps moving up, so if unless they wanted a repeat of last year’s mess on the hottest days, that being a HUGE number of people sagging, they had to get the distance down.

If I were some of the pass-through towns on the route on, say, Tuesday, last year, I’d be sort of pissed. Think about how much revenue they didn’t make due to the level of sagging and the heat. If the days were shorter, there would have been more people willing to brave the temperatures. So, IMHO, make the days shorter. Get more people on the route. Make the towns happier. Otherwise, in a few short years, you’d have a lot fewer towns willing to put up with the circus that is, well, us. It wouldn’t be worth the money.

We would have loved to see a 500+ mile route, but we’ll just have to see what RAGBRAI 2014 brings.

Besides, I don’t know about a lot of you…it could be a 350 mile ride. I’ll still be there all week with a sh*t eating grin on my face.



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David, April 16, 2013 at 7:48 pm

iveaux, I don’t think there is anything wrong with voicing disappointment with one of the shortest routes ever. Or wondering if there was any rational to the distance. It is the only way they will know that at least some of us are interested in keeping the typical distance.

As far as “when did enjoying yourself become such a bad thing!!!”, some of us take offense to the idea that riding our bicycles does not qualify as enjoying ourselves. Since we ride because it is a joy then less riding is disappointing.

Personally, I hope that this distance remains rare and doesn’t represent a trend. Since it is just one data point I won’t overly complain yet.

The one argument I don’t understand is the idea that because it was hard or hot last year then this year should be easier to “make up for it”. It is a different year, nothing carries over and no one is tired this July from last. I hope the comments from TJ during the announcement party to that effect were just nice chatty things to say and not a reflection of actual planning logic. If so then it should go both ways, as soon as we have a great weather year the next route should be second longest instead of second shortest.



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Cyfan, April 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

I think that RAGBRAI may be catering to it’s 2 largest age groups, 51 to 55 and 56 to 60. I didn’t ride my first RAGBRAI until I was in the first and am now almost out of the second. I will have my 1500 to 2000 training miles in before RAGBRAI starts but will definitely enjoy the shorter route this year. I have done the long years and happy to have done them but now I just want to enjoy my ride across Iowa and with a bad back and two bad knees the shorter route sounds good and relaxing to me and it does have some hills to climb just to keep you in shape.



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Dan in Iowa, April 17, 2013 at 9:23 am

In other words….there’s no rhyme or reason for the ride being short. Like one of you said, “it is.” I like that. We’ll all have a blast riding it and meeting people (my favorite is meeting the non-riding locals) and the food and whatever God gives us for weather. I’ve ridden those really long days of over 100 degrees and I’ve ridden in 3 days of rain! One year I could see my breath on Sunday morning as my son and I crawled out of the tent in Onawa.

Michrider! How have you described this ride in the past about mardi gras and a county fair etc?? It’s perfect!



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Michrider !!!, April 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this description but think the author was right on target!!!

“RAGBRAI is a county fair married to the Mardi Gras, whose parents were a rock concert and a pot luck supper, all out on a week long biking holiday!”



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jwsknk, April 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

Depends on the towns that apply and when they were through there last, don’t want to repete overnight or pass through towns from just a year or two ago, unless something like the weather (how long ago was the storm in Harlan?, marshalltown again soon?) messed up uje night.Also the area of the state used to be more prdictable, before TJ could almost count on a 3 year rotation, north, central, south. Seems more central now for the most part, did start way up north a couple of years ago but dropped down to central. I know they are calling this one “south”, but I really don’t consider it south ontil the last 2 1/2-3 days. maybe next year Spencer, Humbolt, Mason City area.
Sometims I think they look at towns that have suffered some natural disaster and then go there 2-3 years later after clean-up and recovery(Cedar Rapids last year, the town with the tornado a year of two before)



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KC, April 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

I’m guessing the equation is quite simple:

Longer Route = More Riding Time = Less Time Spent in Pass-Through Towns = Less Money Spent by Riders in Pass-Through Towns = Less Profit for Pass-Through Towns = Fewer Towns Wanting RAGBRAI in the future = Harder to Plan RAGBRAI or Even End to RAGBRAI

You can also make the argument that: Longer routes = More Tired Riders = Riders Going to Bed Early = Less Money Spent by Riders in Overnight Towns = Less Profit for Overnight Towns = Fewer Towns Wanting RAGBRAI in the future = Harder to Plan RAGBRAI or Even End to RAGBRAI

While RAGBRAI is about fun and riding bikes and having a good time for us, it’s about profit for the pass-through and overnight towns. They put a lot of hard work into hosting us and they need to make money to make it worth their while. For them, what’s the point of all their hard work if they don’t get funding for their volunteer fire department, library renovations, memorial to their local heroes, etc.

So, if having a shorter route makes it a more viable option for towns to host us, I’m all for it. The route being 12 percent shorter than the average route over the last ten years is just not anything for me to worry about (and last year’s route was the longest in five years, by the way). I’ll still have fun. I’ll still spend money (and maybe more). I’ll still meet plenty of new people. I’ll still eat too much. I’ll still drink too much. I’ll probably ride my bike almost as much, too; just a little slower.

Also, just on a side note, I think David was right about the southern route, too. There are only so many places to go in that part of Iowa and the options are not as abundant as they are in the northern part of Iowa. So, that probably factored into the equation a bit, too.



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