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Day 4 – 100,000 Riders – Really???

In an article posted yesterday on KCCI’s website (and on the attached TV news clip) Matt Phippen said that RAGBRAI was going to try to set a new world record for the number of riders at an event on the Ames to Des Moines leg, The record is currently a bit under 50,000 and Phippen estimated that up to 100,000 could ride that day.

Personally I question the wisdom of going after a world record and is it worth the obvious downsides. 100,000 (or for that matter 50,000 riders) could certainly swamp all but the largest of the pass through towns. Even if the flow of riders could be regulated to a steady stream, 100,000 riders means that 5 bikers will be entering and leaving every town EVERY SECOND for 5 and 1/2 hours straight. Then just how do you put that many riders safely on the road? It’s one thing to walk your bike through town in a crowd but to ride in that large a group is a whole different thing – especially if the majority of the extra riders are not accustomed to riding in a group. That’s just one huge accident waiting to happen!

As much as it would be nice to be abe to brag that “I rode in the world’s largest bike ride” is a record really worth jepordizing everyones safety?

35 Replies

Rob Fuller, January 31, 2023 at 1:01 pm

Need to know the Guinness rules. The key word being “at an event”. All we may need is 100k bikes on route. My algebra says 50 miles x 25 feet wide divided by 60 square feet per bicycle is slightly over 100k bicycles. (Yes, my fingertips will be on the brake levers).


DenBiker, January 31, 2023 at 1:46 pm

Wow – Hadn’t even bothered to do that math. That’s solid bikes, 4 abreast, spaced 4′ behind the bike in front of you for all 50 miles.

Sure hope no one drops a water bottle or has to dodge a crack or pothole!


awdgg phan, January 31, 2023 at 2:57 pm

why not? some people do it daily (Look up Motorcycles in Indonesia, since links not allowed here).
and they have to share the roads with cars!


Nico ZZZ, January 31, 2023 at 4:17 pm

So many inexperienced one-day pedal-mashers does not make for a dreamlike day of riding. Also, RAGBRAI is paying for all overnight entertainment AND promising a National Act for DSM. So, not just cyclists, but you need to account for all the vehicle support to drop off/pick up the day riders, as well as all non-bike riding Iowegians driving into DSM for the major concert event, drinking a fair share of Busch Lights, and driving back home. “Des Moinites, lock up your livestock, protect your pets, and keep an eye on all your underage children! An army of heathens is headed toward your home!!!”


patrsnw, January 31, 2023 at 4:52 pm

Maybe on a longer day, but a 50 miler? That’s a series of accidents waiting to happen.


Rob Fuller, January 31, 2023 at 5:20 pm

Consider that tandems are almost 2-for-1 and those unicyclists don’t have much of a footprint at all. But then I suppose we must consider recumbents and tricycles which might eat up more real estate than others. For my part, I might go with new 26cm aerobars to narrow my profile.
Would 200 registered cyclists in the beer tent count towards 100k?
Howabout those pesky pirates? They are cyclists too.


patrsnw, January 31, 2023 at 5:26 pm

You’ve ridden RAGBRAI before? The bents and tandems don’t, or haven’t, constituted a significant percentage of riders. And drinking at 7 am will help the situation, I’m sure (grin).

Newbs riding six abreast will do their fair share of throwing sand in the gearbox. We’ve seen it in to and out DM in the past.


LawnchairMan, January 31, 2023 at 5:37 pm

Yes, 100,000 bikes is a scary number of riders. I was calculating the number of miles needed to fit that many riders tire to tire on the road for a mass start. Even at six abreast I come up with 19 to 25 miles. I thought I did the math wrong.
Fortunately we have twelve official hours to do this, and they may extend that time. I intend to start earlier than usual. At fourteen hours that still requires two riders per second. An advantage of starting early is that I usually roll through the pass through towns. With 100K riders, towns will get clogged fast and it will take more time to get through.


Rob Fuller, February 1, 2023 at 8:54 am

How ’bout this crystal ball:
If we rode single file we could (conservatively, but continuously) be 4400 bikes per hour like this:
(1 bike / 12 feet) x (5280 feet / 1 mile) x (10 mile / 1 hour) = 4400 bikes per hour
RAGBRAI experience tells me 3 abreast is a safe density = 13200 bikes per hour
Start 6:00a with last bikes on the road by 2:00p = 8 hours
13200 bikes/hour x 8 hour = 105600 bikes on the road or complete.


HelenP, February 1, 2023 at 9:24 am

I hope they’ve started baking enough pies. . .! ;-)


Joseph Schlau, February 1, 2023 at 12:14 pm

I hope they’ve started baking enough pies. . .! ;-)

Really. Me too.

No one said all of the riders are going to be starting in Ames.

Many from DesMoines may just fall in toward the end where the roads widen onto multi-lane highways.

No one even knows if they will get 100K.

Between this site and some other Facebook sites, there is more anxiety going on than the landing of the Hindenburg.

I’m waiting till March, when the route plan is out and then planning accordingly.


ESchiers, February 1, 2023 at 2:12 pm

After the locusts hit town, there won’t be any food in sight. .


patrsnw, February 1, 2023 at 2:18 pm

I remember Fayette in ’96. The smallest town to host an overnight. Fewer than 1,000 people.

I went to the grocery store and, literally, every food shelf was bare. Almost like Washington DC DC after reports of snow.


James SAVAGLIO, February 2, 2023 at 4:19 am

100,000 riders is aggressive, is this just hype or has the RAGBRAI management figured out the logistics? I know I am concerned this year since PBV sold out their tent service in minutes meaning numbers are certainly up due to the 50 year. When will the participant numbers actually be published?


HelenP, February 2, 2023 at 6:56 am

Don’t panic: it’s probably just hyperbole to get us up from about 30,000 last year, to a more likely 50,000. We’re already going to have more this time, simply because it’s the big anniversary.

It would be some kind of cool if the 50th RAGBRAI had 50K participants, and broke a Guinness World Record at the same time.


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