2 decades later, Minnesota entrepreneur still selling bicycle bracelets to eager RAGBRAI riders
UNDERWOOD, Ia. — Michael Murphy has been riding RAGBRAI since 1996 and making an entrepreneur of himself for almost as long.
The 44-year-old from Mankato, Minnesota, lost count of the number of rides he’s been a part of and the number of handmade bracelets he’s sold at them.
But it’s a lot, that’s for sure.
Murphy began selling bracelets made out of metal bicycle spokes in 1997 after spending late nights assembling bicycles at a shop in Houston.
Eventually he found a design he liked, and it stuck.
At first he tried selling the bracelets on a roadside stand during RAGBRAI, but it wasn’t as fun watching everyone else ride past.
The next day he loaded his backpack with spokes and pliers and jumped back in.
“I get some pretty freaky calluses on my fingers,” said Murphy, adding that he manages to break a pair of pliers every other year.
But it’s worth it, said Murphy, who had half a dozen of the bracelets grouped together on his right wrist Sunday morning in Underwood.
Murphy figures he meets more people through his business than he would if he was just riding.
Plus, he said, the bracelet sales help him afford to take a week off work.
“I just kind of follow my front wheel around and see what happens,” Murphy said of his strategy, which is not much strategy at all.
Each bracelet takes about three minutes to craft, he said. They sell for $6 apiece with a design that caters to both men and woman.
Even though business is good, Murphy, who did his first ride with his dad more than 20 years ago, said the ride is still all about family.
Well, family and Mr. Pork Chop.