The Great Iowa Fall Ride registration is open!

Attendance projections?

RAGBRAI extending the deadline for registration would be a data point that might indicate lighter than normal registrations so far. Could be pervasive “wait and see” syndrome. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest lighter than normal attendance this year, due to lingering concerns over COVID.

I don’t ride with an organized team, but there is a group of friends and acquaintances that I ride and bunk with. The number has varied over the years from as low as 4 or 5 to as high as 12. This year, so far nobody has definitively jumped in (except for me). So I will most likely be the sole rider of this group this year.

All this leads me to believe that even with vaccinations ramping up fast and restrictions being lifted, attendance will be significantly lighter than in the past. Maybe as low as 60% of normal? How are your teams or informal riding groups looking this year? Anyone at full strength? Anyone else seeing major drop-off?

51 Replies

Miss Curmudgeonly, April 11, 2021 at 12:38 pm

We have a small team: 2 diehards, one person who’s on and off, usually alternate years, I’m generally a diehard with occasional misses. Then there are different adjunct people each year.

So far this year, the 2 diehards are all in, the on and off person is off, no adjuncts, and me, I just signed up! But….I probably won’t do it. I’m not worried about Covid for myself (getting vaccine #2 in a week), but about Covid in general, since it seems to be going up again. And while I’m a 110% proponent of mask-wearing, I don’t think I can bike in Iowa heat and humidity wearing a mask.

Other reasons: I’m not sure how Iowa people will feel about us being there. Do they think it’s too soon? I come back to, this is a pandemic in which over 500K people have died, and it’s not over. Finally, I haven’t been able to visit my mom in CA, and I might be doing that at the end of July. Oh! My non-Covid related reason – I adopted a pup who doesn’t like other people, so I’m still looking for options for when I do go out of town. :-)

ANYWAY. I signed up with the thought that I’ll consider the registration fee a donation to RAGBRAI if I don’t go. I want Ragbrai to continue, so this is my way of supporting the institution.


Mike Murphy, April 11, 2021 at 2:25 pm

I predict that it will be very crowded on certain days however overall below normal. I feel that bandits will be plenty this year since many won’t feel comfortable committing for the entire week but will jump in for a day. I am hoping that it will be end up being close to normal as the communities that are willing to host deserve a good return for their efforts.


LawnchairMan, April 11, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Warning, this will probably seem to be a political rant, and that I’m a troll, so bail out now if you want.
I’ve decided not to go this year. I was all gung ho in January, but I started thinking of why I go. On my first Ragbrai, I wanted to find out if I could actually ride 500 miles in a week. Now I know that I can. The next biggest motivation is food. Mr. Pork Chop, pulled pork sandwiches, roasting ears, pie, and watermelon are my favorites! Yum! But in 2019 the corn I had was not good, and the watermelon was so so. Now I don’t want to support the meatpacking houses due to the lack of concern they had/have for their employees. So pork is out, and spaghetti dinners too. I have considered getting tuna from Hy Vee for a dry salad, but it’s not the same. I also think that Kim Reynolds has opened Iowa too soon. With Michigan so close, there could still be Covid problems this year. I will wait and watch. I hope my Covid concerns do not materialize for those of you who go. I really hope you all have a great ride.
Perhaps next year Osha will get some teeth back and be able to enforce safety and quality control in the packing plants. Then I will reconsider. It’s just not for me this year.


Sandaltan ., April 11, 2021 at 5:54 pm

I expect registration to be extended thru May 1. LCM: I believe this is your second boycott of the ride. Correct? Please reconsider, politics is no reason to miss any bike ride.



LawnchairMan, April 11, 2021 at 6:52 pm

Yes, Sandaltan, you have a good memory. I was hoping that with Stephen King gone I wouldn’t have to worry about this sort of thing again, but I don’t consider this a boycott.

It’s not as much about politics as it is about getting quality meats. The documentaries I have seen about meatpacking plants really have me concerned. Workers were so close to each other and at such frenzied pace that people were getting cuts from their neighbors; frequently! Osha can only make suggestions now rather than commands. Maybe that is politics. The Iowa food is what made Ragbrai for me. Without it, it’s just not Ragbrai. If I could trust the meat products to be safe I would be at Ragbrai in spite of Reynolds. I hope to be there next year when I am 70, and I really want to be there in 2023 for the 50th anniversary!
Thanks again for remembering my boycott.

This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by LawnchairMan.


Jboz, April 11, 2021 at 7:21 pm

Meat packing. Well, that right there is a great reason to skip an event that you purport to enjoy greatly. Here’s the thing. If someone were to research every buying decision you made for a month, and then dug deep enough, I am sure you spend plenty of money on products that somewhere on the chain were not aligned with your values…or worse. Two of the biggest global mega brands depend on forced sweatshop (basically slave) labor. Your purchases (and I would bet good money you own their products) have directly enabled human atrocities that you can’t even begin to fathom. And I’m sure are far worse than anything that may or may not be occurring in Iowa meat packing plants.

I’m going to ride again this year and have a fantastic day enjoying all that Iowa offers. I’m truly looking forward to it. If I find a human thumb in my pulled pork sandwich, maybe I will reconsider riding again.


LawnchairMan, April 11, 2021 at 7:24 pm

Before someone says I am contradicting myself, I want to say that I am still concerned about Covid this year. By that time I will have had my shots and I would also be able to wear a mask and avoid crowds. So for me, now, the food problem is the bigger factor to decide to go or not.


bmyoungberg, April 11, 2021 at 8:12 pm

I will be there. Vaccinated and not paranoid. I will not boycott anything with it. People can complain and find stuff wrong with everything. What about China and the sweatshops making the clothes and shoes you wear? Got bad watermelon? Oh well. Worried about meat packing? Be a vegetarian then. I will enjoy it all myself. Hope it is less crowded. That would be nice.


KenH, April 12, 2021 at 8:02 am

Not so long ago on one of the Just Go Bike podcasts Dieter said that registrations were running well ahead of normal for that time in the cycle. More recently they extended the deadline. Those two seem contradictory but they could both be true. People who are confident in the way the pandemic response has been trending could have all jumped in early, plus some of us rolled over from last year. But after the gold rush of the confident there may be a drought of the more cautious. I think the deadline extension indicates a lower than hoped for turnout and being the more recent indicator it is probably the best reflector of the current situation.

My team has been as few as two and then there was the one year it was just me so I went with a charter instead. Mostly we have been three to four. This year we are five and three of those have never been along with us before. If our two missing members plus the three newbies all want to go next year there won’t be room for us all in the motorhome and I don’t know what we will do. But that is next year and my team’s capacity crowd this year is probably not typical of how the ride registration is going in general.

I think this is shaping up to be a great year barring any major vaccine breakout by variants of the virus. Dieter and his team have done a great job with the route and personally I love the gravel day. Even though it could be a nice throwback to the early days when the ride was smaller if turnout is light, I hope for many reasons that it picks up and we have a close to normal crowd this year.


hnschipper, April 12, 2021 at 2:06 pm

We are a small family group of four riders. We will be going this year. We have all either had our first shot or are fully vaccinated already.


LawnchairMan, April 12, 2021 at 4:35 pm

You are correct that there are many horrors associated with the manufacture of products we buy. The biggest atrocities I have heard of involve the diamond trade. I have never bought a diamond and certainly wouldn’t buy one now. I was blissful in my ignorance of meatpacking, but now that I know, I can’t ignore it. As I learn of other problems, I will stop using those products too. This one I know about and it affects my way of doing Ragbrai. I merely stated that I am not going to Ragbrai this year and gave my reasons. I didn’t ask anyone else to do the same.


William Mugan, April 12, 2021 at 4:44 pm

I always enjoy reading your posts and learn something every time. Keep up the good work!


mootsman, April 12, 2021 at 5:09 pm


Are you talking about the mined diamond trade only? Lab grown diamonds are gaining popularity now since the quality for the price is better.

And I’m skipping RAGBRAI this year for a variety of reasons. Some personal and they are really not defining their COVID protocols yet so my charter is also non-committal on their protocols. If masks are required in crowded areas I would not care for it for a couple of reasons: 1) A mask on a hot humid day would be very uncomfortable for me and 2) masks for any extended period of time causes me to breath too much of my own CO2.

This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by mootsman.


LawnchairMan, April 12, 2021 at 8:07 pm

I hadn’t considered the CO2 problem. Interesting.
I assume that masks would not be required while riding. At home, I carry a mask in my bike bag to put on when I have a break. At a campsite, I would have my mask handy, but not on until someone got close. Getting food along the way could work by wearing a mask while in the food line, then find a separate place to eat without the mask. I don’t know how it would work in overnight towns, as at church dinners.

Interesting tip about grown diamonds too.


DenBiker, April 13, 2021 at 5:38 pm

I too had been concerned about the effects of wearing masks for an extended time especially in regard to “recycling” my expelled breath. On the surface it seemed likely that it might raise my CO2 levels. However what little research I have done indicates that there is little or no rise in CO2 nor lowering of blood oxygen levels from mask wearing. I don’t particularly like the clammy feeling I get from wearing a mask for extended periods but I am fairly confident that doing so is not going to cause me to faint or otherwise harm my body.

One of the doctors at the University of Iowa Hospital posted a short video regarding masks, CO2 and Oxygen Levels.


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