2018 RAGBRAI XLVI Survey Results

A Big Thank You to all the riders, support personnel, and volunteers who made 2018 RAGBRAI XLVI such a huge success.  We had 3,898 respond to our online surveys providing a great review of the ride.  Thank you for taking the time to provide that feedback.

Here is a quick summary of responses to the survey:


  • 30.77% of respondents were first time riders, about the same as last year
  • 71.71% rode the full 428 miles of the ride, same as last year
  • 6.71% rode the Gravel Loop through Moorhead, similar to last year
  • 23.65% rode the Karras Loop through New Sharon, 6% fewer than last year
  • 68.25% of riders spend $25-$50 per day on RAGBRAI
    17.27% spend $50-$75 per day
  • 5.15% are vegetarian, 2.88% eat only gluten-free foods
    39.63% might eat a vegetarian or gluten free meal option; 51.90% would never
  • 67.55% of riders are male; 59.5% are between the ages of 45-65


  • 9.28% used the RAGBRAI merchandise $5 coupon found in the participant guide
  • 14% of respondents picked up a bike license plate, 54% would have if they had known that was an option
    i.e. We need to do a better job of informing riders where to get a license plate
  • 62.17% of respondents were on the road by 7am, 28.95% like to start their day between 7-8 am
  • Almost 8% like to arrive in the overnight town before noon
    63.62% like to arrive between noon-4pm
    Not much different than in years’ past
  • 36.04% prefer to eat breakfast in the first pass-through town
    16.05% eat on the route before the first pass-through town, down from last year
    20.80% eat before leaving the overnight town
    24.62% eat after the first pass-through town, up from last year
    2.48% don’t realize that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
  • Shade and being close to showers are still the most important features of campgrounds
  • Training miles ranged from 250-1000 miles; 28.60% of respondents said they put in over 1000 training miles before RAGBRAI XLVI
  • 29.81% of riders used a personal support vehicle to carry their bags, down from last year
    23.84% used a RAGBRAI charter, also down from last year
    31.62% traveled with a large group, up from last year
    10.68% used the RAGBRAI Baggage Truck, slightly up from last year
    1.06% still carry their own bags
    3% use other options for hauling their bags
  • In the past 8 months:
    36.71% of respondents purchased RAGBRAI merchandise at the merchandise trailers (down from the year before)
    26.25% purchased RAGBRAI merchandise through registration (also down from the year before)
    6.16% purchased RAGBRAI merchandise at a bike shop retailer on the ride (a little down from the year before)
    16.41% purchased RAGBRAI merchandise through the webstore (down from the year before)
    2.59% purchased RAGBRAI merchandise at a retailer prior to RAGBRAI (same as the year before)
    31.38% did not purchase any RAGBRAI merchandise (up from the year before)
  • 15.17% of respondents purchased a new bike before RAGBRAI
    58.58% purchased new bicycle equipment or accessories prior to RAGBRAI
    35.52% did not purchase any prior to RAGBRAI
  • 52.66% purchased their new bike/equipment/accessories from a local bike shop
    13.60% purchased online
    4.50% at a local sporting goods store
    29.24% did not purchase new bike/equipment/accessories


The most serious rider safety challenges identified in the survey are:

  1. Slower riders riding too far to the left
  2. Vehicle traffic on the route
  3. Erratic or unpredictable riding
  4. Communication and signaling intent


The most common rider comments/questions/suggestions included the following topics:

  • Free Water on the Route – all towns need to provide water bottle filling stations, or do a better job of marking the location
    NOTE: All towns are given instruction to provide water bottle filling stations, they are usually located on the way out of town.
  • Showers – more shower trailers, closer to the campgrounds, and showers open later than 9pm
    NOTE: Few towns have enough permanent facilities to provide showers, and we are always looking for companies interested in providing mobile showers on RAGBRAI. If there are companies out there, please have them contact our office.
  • Porta-Pots – distribute them more throughout the campgrounds, don’t leave them in such big clusters
    NOTE: Porta-pots must be placed in clusters because of ADA rules. At least one handicapped unit must be placed with each cluster of porta-pots, so they can’t be spread out any more than they are.
  • Town Shut-Down Times – riders understand the need to close towns to get riders moving, but riders should still be able to get water, Gatorade or food, especially on the Karras Loop Day
    NOTE: The town shut down times published on the bike route map are set based on arrival time in the overnight town no later than 6 pm. If food vending isn’t shut down at the same time as the alcohol sales, riders are less likely to move on.
  • Road Vendors in the County – many riders missed having the vendors in-between towns, it made the pass-thru towns too crowded
    NOTE: Safety is always the primary concern, and in some areas of the state there aren’t many places to safely set up a vendor along the route.
  • Non-Registered Riders – having so many non-registered riders results in long lines at the food stands and porta-pots
    NOTE: RAGBRAI needs the cooperation of food vendors, towns, and RAGBRAI nation to address the issue of non-registered riders.
  • Main Campground/Baggage Truck signage – we need better signage for riders to locate the baggage truck
    NOTE: The orange bike arrows mark the route from main campground to main campground.
  • Riding Safely – somehow there need to be consequences for those who don’t ride right
    NOTE: Each year we make a call out for RIDE RIGHT Ambassadors to help monitor rider behavior on the route. If you are interested in serving in this role, please contact our office.


  • 40.86% were driving support for the first time. This is slightly up from last year.
  • 43.97% of respondents drove a personal vehicle (same as last year)
    44.74% of respondents drove an RV or pulled a camper
  • 40.94% of respondents are from the state of Iowa, 10.63% from Illinois (the next highest)
  • 49.36% of respondents are male (lower than last year)
  • 20.33% of respondents are 45-54 years old; 36.93% are 55-64 years old; 24.48% were over 65 years old.


  • 58.76% prefer to leave between 6-8 am, lower than last year. 23.35% prefer to leave between 8-9 am
  • 37.65% of support drivers spend on average $25-$50 per day including fuel and supplies
    27.45% spend on average $50-$75 per day
    42.52% prefer to purchase supplies in town once they arrive
    41.73% in a town along the route (up from last year)
    15.75% before leaving town (down from last year)
  • 21.88% purchased the new RAGBRAI Support Driver t-shirt, 42.19% would have if they knew about it
  • 38.19% of drivers responding said they did not visit any of the meeting towns; 12.60% visited all 7 meeting towns

This year we had a question specific for those support drivers who drove an RV or some kind of camping vehicle:

  • 3.5% drove a pop-up type camper
  • 6.67% pulled a travel trailer/5th wheel 30’ in length or less
  • 8.72% pulled a travel trailer/5th wheel greater than 30’ in length
  • 26.67% drove a motor home 40’ in length or less
  • 3.5% drove a motor home greater than 40’ in length


The most common Support Driver comments/questions/suggestions included the following topics:

  • Better signage in town to the different campground types (RV, tent camping)
    NOTE: Prior to the event, each host town provides printable maps of their town that show locations of each campground including the preferred routes through town for vehicles
  • Neon Green vehicle route signs, and larger vehicle route arrows
    NOTE: We will consider alternate sizes and colors as we refill our supply of these signs
  • Include the AAA Vehicle Support number on the Vehicle Route Map
    NOTE: this is a great idea and we will look at this for 2019
  • GPS didn’t always work for getting from town to town, sometimes it crossed the bike route
    NOTE: don’t use your GPS, please stick to the official vehicle route map, we publish this on our website usually a couple of weeks prior to the start of the ride

Thank you again for making RAGBRAI the great event that it is.  We hope to see you July 21-27, 2019 for RAGBRAI XLVII.  Here are some other important dates to remember:

  • Registration opens November 15, 2018
  • RAGBRAI Route Announcement Party and Iowa Bike Expo is Saturday, January 26, 2019
  • Weeklong Rider Registration closes April 1, 2019
  • PIGTAILS Ride is May 18, 2019
  • BACoon Ride Six is June 15, 2019
  • 2019 RAGBRAI Expo is July 20, 2019



Todd L, Aug 22, 2018 at 3:01 pm

My one comment was the route in to Davenport from Blue Grass was crazy dangerous and should never be done ever again. Packing everyone into one lane and then having cars and trucks fly by at 55 mph is just not smart. One mistake by rider or driver and people will get badly hurt or even get killed.

Matthew, Aug 23, 2018 at 7:10 am

RAGBRAI chooses to issue news and information through their mobile application. Small rural towns cannot handle the request overload (regardless of carriers) and many times news and information is missed or related after it has taken place (i.e. “what to look for” during the day’s ride). RAGBRAI needs to own this issue if they want to continue to spread news and info this way (the mobile app) during the weeklong event.

Lodie, Aug 23, 2018 at 8:07 am

I saw the sign up for the ride ambassador and I think there are only 2 or 3 per day! Really, for 15,000 riders? I have never actually laid eyes on a real one. Are they like leprechauns? Should have more like 15 or 30 and have them focus just on the riding rather than on helping fix flats, etc as there are others who will do that (air force eg).

Wendy Albrecht, Aug 23, 2018 at 9:50 am

The RAGBRAI app is a great idea. It needs a little work, regarding functionality. In 2108, the route information and overnight town information would not load. “Connection Error: Please try again later.” As a backup, I printed small paper maps.

I enjoyed the ride, very much, this year and am looking forward to the announcement party and ride, in 2019!

Steve Rose, Aug 23, 2018 at 12:20 pm

The century loop needs to be in one of the latter days of the ride, or the middle. One does not know quite how one will hold up, even riders like me who had substantial training rides and a lot of rides between 60–70 miles.

jake d, Aug 23, 2018 at 4:58 pm

The issue with Porta-Pots in the campgrounds isn’t so much them being spread out, but the fact there are not enough. Especially where the charters are assigned. Downtown may have 100 and no-one waits, while the campground has 10 and the line is 40-50 deep the next morning. This is exactly what happened in Sigourney and we were told they were following Ragbrai’s instructions.

mommycarlson, Aug 23, 2018 at 6:15 pm

It was a great week, as always! I wondered about the Air Force? I love seeing them every day, always thank them when I ride next to them, but only saw ONE on the last day, that was in the early morning when we were riding toward the route from our camp. Never saw another one all day long. Where were they?

jerry1975, Aug 23, 2018 at 7:25 pm

How many riders were on RAGBRAI ? I have not seen the numbers published, only estimates of 30,000.

trojan99, Aug 24, 2018 at 7:11 am

The issue with non- emergency vehicles is that they drive at such high speeds. Routes should be marked with temporary speed limits of 25 mph or less with a “fines doubled” sign and policy. Then it should be enforced. This would be easy to do. Mark my word, if the vehicle traffic continues and drivers, including semis, continue to drive at such high speeds, someone will be seriously injured or killed.

Ralph Cruz, Aug 24, 2018 at 7:33 am

The Air Force team was absolutely fantastic and was very active on the last day. Rode many miles with them, around them going into Davenport. Displayed real nice tight echelon formations as well 🙂

beldridge, Aug 24, 2018 at 8:07 am

I found this to be funny “39.63% might eat a vegetarian or gluten free meal option; 51.90% would never” Do people know what that means? If they ate a grilled cheese sandwich or a pork chop for a meal, do they know that qualifies?

Craig Caldwell, Aug 24, 2018 at 8:16 am

I agree with all safety points and would add that pacers do not own the road despite what they think. They too have a responsibility to be safe. Flipping people off is not a good idea. Also speeding was rampant even by emergency vehicles. Standard practice dictates that emergency vehicles go no faster than a safe speed for the conditions. And, the wheel dipping idea was ridiculous. Way too long a line.

Jud Perkins, Aug 24, 2018 at 8:17 am

Loved the rider demographics. What percentage of the riders were over 75?

Where can we see the full survey results?

Bill L'Hotta, Aug 24, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Several triple tandem riders on the last day seemed to think that everyone needed to move out of the way for them, whether there was room to pass or not. They were clearly hazards.

T Peterson, Aug 24, 2018 at 1:27 pm

As one of the 2.88% who can only eat gluten-free, there definitely need to be more gluten free options in pass-through towns and overnight towns. I was so immensely thankful to find the one and only salad bar and purposely sought their location out in advance so I would have a safe place to eat lunch every day!! Hoping and praying they are back every year, and more options would be appreciated! FYI a grilled cheese sandwich is absolutely not GF unless made with GF bread and grilled on a dedicated GF grill! 😊 Loved the event and can’t wait until next year!!

Lon Olson, Aug 24, 2018 at 9:23 pm

Interesting rider demographics. It was a great ride this year (my 2nd RAGBRAI). I rode the gravel loop and I can proudly say I’m not one of the 93% that passed on it! Wouldn’t change a thing for the ride except maybe to agree that the ride into Davenport next to the highway was a little sketchy. Can’t wait until next year, I’ve already put in for vacation at work!

James Wilson, Aug 24, 2018 at 10:28 pm

Can’t wait for next year. This was my 2nd year and it was better than last year. Nothing was or is perfect but RAGBRAI is close. The only thing I observed that absolutely should be prohibited is handing stuff (water in this case) to moving bicyclers. if someone wants free water they will stop. The ride from Sigourney to Iowa City was great – Keota with the pro wrestlers was awesome.

mommycarlson, Aug 26, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Thank you Ralph Cruz. It sounds like the Air Force rode all together the last day, we usually see them all day long. I LOVE having them there, a great feeling of security when I see them.

DavidWise, Aug 26, 2018 at 8:47 pm

I loved the last 8 miles. Nice and level with no cars coming up from behind.
I still think the one area that needs addressing is the shuttle buses. Need more with shorter routes and good signage for stops. Newton was just awful.

Bob Card, Aug 27, 2018 at 1:33 pm

I’m disappointed to have missed being able to participate in the survey. Where was it posted? My first RAGBRAI/Iowa experience was epic, every bit the adventure I’d anticipated. Not sure if/when I will be back, but I will cherish great memories regardless.

jelly0317, Aug 28, 2018 at 10:06 am

Prohibit handing water to moving cyclists? If you’re not coordinated enough to receive a bottle of water–usually at under 10 mph–maybe you’re on the wrong ride.

KenH, Aug 28, 2018 at 4:40 pm

There are four ride right ambassadors on the road each day, assuming they all make it to the ride. I agree that is way too few to have a significant affect on the ride. Four hundred per day would start to be enough but just think of the cost of all those jerseys! I’ve been an ambassador the last three years, I honestly did not realize that I was supposed to be “policing” other riders. Is that true? If so, I missed that somehow but four per day is not nearly enough if that is really part of the job. I noticed that one rider signed up for one of the four spots every day this year. I think that should not be allowed, limit it to one or two days each year.

The 6:00 cutoff time works well most days but I think it should be 8:00 on the Karras loop day, a lot of people need more time.

David Tardifdouglin, Aug 29, 2018 at 2:59 am

While I liked the challenge of the gravel loop, I think riders need to be told more explicitly that it is deep gravel and sand that for all but the most skilled will require 32mm or larger tires that are preferably knobby. If the weather is dry the roads will be treacherously sandy, if wet then outrageously muddy. I imagined these would be dirt roads with some gravel. Was surprised at the depth of loose gravel.

Brenda Brown, Sep 3, 2018 at 10:29 pm

I was not able to complete the survey but enjoyed reading the results. I was disappointed about the license plates for our bikes not being in our packet. Surprised to see we could have gotten one somewhere. Never read it… Must have missed it. It is a great way to get to know your fellow riders. Hope it will be included next time. Was my 5th year.. I will be back!

Scott McMartie, Sep 24, 2018 at 11:21 am

Riding a bike is great fun. Coordinating a ride across a ‘state’ would be a great challenge. Inviting 30,000 of your friends and neighbors would be a monstrous amount of work, that appears above to be largely ‘unappreciated’. My group will be on the 2019 addition of this great tradition – and we will be ready for the challenge ahead.

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