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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

mootsman, April 16, 2021 at 1:10 pm

The 10,000 rider cap was put in by the Iowa State Patrol. Not up to the “RAGBRAI leadership”.

This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by mootsman.


czysk, April 16, 2021 at 1:21 pm

Several years ago I talked to a State Trooper at one of the manned intersections and he had a click counter. He said he quit counting at seventeen thousand.


mootsman, April 16, 2021 at 1:58 pm

So 7,000+ pirates. I’ve heard estimates as high as 20,000 for a day. You’d think RAGBRAI would forget about the limit and get as many to pay as possible but I’m not sure how many pirates would pay if they expanded the cap. Sounds like the Trooper might have wound up with carpal tunnel.

This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by mootsman.


KenH, April 16, 2021 at 3:23 pm

That trooper supplied daily rider counts for years and when he retired a few years ago no one stepped in to replace him and we haven’t heard much about rider levels since then.

Well, registration supposedly closed yesterday. I still see the extension notice scroll at the top of forum pages but it has not been updated to indicate a further extension. So I guess we are closed. I thought that the 10k limit was the product of RAGBRAI’s wild years and was agreed to by a consensus of “RAGBRAI official”, police, and local/state government voices. Everyone knows that the 10k official limit is not the actual size of the ride so the assumption has to be that on average limiting the official rider count to 10k produces a total attendance that is manageable, most of the time.

If it is true then it is interesting that the deadline was extended AFTER 10k registrations had been received. They may be expecting a higher than normal dropout rate this year but I don’t see how extending the deadline would compensate for that. Only expanding the 10k limit would do that. They did mention that the deadline for withdrawing your registration for a full refund was also extended since that has the same deadline. That might be the reason for the extension, they wanted to give folks more time to feel comfortable about committing. It could even be that there has been a tacit agreement to expand the 10k limit this year. It might help boost local economies or at least restore hope and a sense of normalcy. Eh, we will probably never know, there are so many interesting things about this ride that they never tell us!


Duane Sherbondy, April 17, 2021 at 1:11 pm

I enjoyed reading the rider numbers when they were posted, and was sorry when they stopped posting them for us. The last year the numbers were posted was in 2017, I stopped and took a picture of the numbers:
Sunday, July 24, 2017 (Glenwood to Shenandoah) 19,094
Monday, July 25, 2017 (Shenandoah to Creston) 17,787
Tuesday, July 26, 2017 (Creston to Leon) 19,245
Wednesday, July 27, 2017 (Leon to Centerville) 15,735
Thursday, July 28, 2017 (Centerville to Ottumwa) 17,054
Friday, July 29, 2017 (Ottumwa to Washington). 18,310
I do not have the figures for Saturday. And 2017 did not go through any large cities, such as Des Moines, Iowa City, Davenport etc. I did read that one year going to Iowa City it was over 30,000. I am amazed at how smoothly RAGBRAI seems to run, even with such a crowd. Hundreds of hours of planning and coordination from so many people, just so I can ride my bicycle through their town. And it always so much fun!

This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by Duane Sherbondy.


Rob Fuller, April 18, 2021 at 12:53 pm

In 2016 a Trooper at the I35 crossing told me they had counted over 18,000 cyclists. That was later in the day but by no means the end of the flow.


RDaryl Daryl, April 18, 2021 at 8:55 pm

I believe this retired Iowa State Trooper can be found on twitter at
Unfortunately Twitter history for this account only goes back to 4/18/17


Wendy Fedler, April 21, 2021 at 9:56 am

My team of 30ish has been riding RAGBRAI for almost 25 years. We opted out this year due to logistical concerns for the overnights. It’s always been challenging to find a host house for a group of our size, and it will be even more difficult this year. We stay up too late for the large campsites. I know of a number of other “regulars” who are opting out this year…instead exploring other Iowa trails/campgrounds. That said, the person who said that there may be “bandits” is correct, though I don’t expect that there will be much more than in the past.


Raymond Johnson, April 23, 2021 at 12:23 am

I’ve been assuming that attendance will be down, but at the same time, I feel like RAGBRAI is the kind of event where once you’re in the middle of it, you can’t really tell if it’s big or small. I remember sitting in Creston in 2017 with a veteran RAGBRAIer who thought that ridership that year was probably no more than 7500 or 8000, tops, because “fewer people want to ride in southern Iowa.” I didn’t know any better and figured he was right. But as the numbers other people have posted show, he was probably off by about 10,000 people. When I’m riding, I’m aware of the riders I can see in front and beside me, and because I ride solo, early, and fast, that can be a pretty thin crowd. I don’t expect that to look very different this year.

As for COVID, I’m newly vaccinated and by now putting on a mask feels about as normal as putting on shoes before leaving the house. I rode all of the virtual RAGBRAI last year with a Primal Wear maska covering my face, something I started favoring in 2019 for added protection from the bright Colorado sun. Maskas/buffs are no N95s, to be sure, but at least I know they don’t affect my cycling much, if any. The riskiest part of RAGBRAI that I can think of, COVID-wise, is going to be those towns in which the primary shower option would typically involve sending thousands of riders into a poorly ventilated school locker room. If organizers can figure out how to work around that, hopefully with more shower trucks or maybe something a little more adventurous, like the open-air showers at the Washington County fairgrounds a few years back, then the rest of the risk mitigation should be easy by comparison.


mootsman, April 23, 2021 at 10:07 am

Raymond, Good idea on the showers but who will keep the drones away from spying on us! 😆. The PBV shower trucks though are well ventilated.

This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by mootsman.


Sandaltan ., April 24, 2021 at 7:21 pm

Good observation Moots. Drones and their videos will become much more available.

RIDE RIGHT Yeah….observation


Rob Fuller, April 26, 2021 at 12:43 pm

I remember those open showers. Was it where they wash cattle for the county fair? I did a double take for peepers. Turned out it was much better than stuffy indoor showers, and no waiting in line. If drones appear its head held high, hands held low, shower on!


Rob Fuller, April 26, 2021 at 12:47 pm

(Besides the drones, it seems everyone has a camera phone these days)


Rob Fuller, May 16, 2021 at 5:35 pm

This may be an obsolete topic at this point but I must share some good vibrations. A recent local PGA tournament had record attendance and record merch/concessions sales. Their theory is that people are seeking outdoor social events free of COVID restrictions. This seems to suggest the 2021 ride will be well attended.


KenH, May 21, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Well, it seems like we may not be able to post links to stories anymore out of fear that they could be spam. Personally I think that is taking security way too far. But Iowa Public Radio recently reported that RAGBRAI registrations are at 14,500 this year. If you want to see it you can search on their name to get to their web site. Under IPR News at the top left find the Health selection. Scroll down a bit to the May 19 story about RAGBRAI. Sheesh….


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