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How to better motivate “bandits” to register

There’s been plenty of conversation on Facebook recently about official registration and “bandits.” I’m not looking to have the “why you should register” or “why bandits are bad” conversation here. Full disclosure: I used to be a bandit. I’ve learned the error of my ways. I register now, and encourage others to do the same. That said, I have some understanding of the “bandit” mindset, and I have questions/recommendations.

1) If RAGBRAI wants to encourage riders to register, and we know that we typically have 20-30k riders on the road most days (many of which are bandits), why limit weeklong registration to 10k people? My guess is that it’s more of a marketing tactic, to give it a sense of urgency & exclusivity. However, if someone misses the cut-off but wants to ride…they’re still going to ride. Why freeze them out if they want to register, and why turn away that money? I think limiting the number of registered riders may do more harm than good, as it gives people the impression that they don’t *actually* expect everyone to register and brings in less funds to RAGBRAI.

2) The people who are likely to “bandit” are those who are part of a team. Many teams offer transportation of bags/totes, so why not offer a lower-rate registration option for those who want to support RAGBRAI and take advantage of the myriad of services outside of the baggage transportation? It would be easy to manage, as they would get a bag tag if they selected that level, and their bags wouldn’t be loaded without the tag.

Right or wrong, “what’s in it for me” is human nature. “Do the right thing” often isn’t enough persuasion, and they don’t see the personal value in the $200 expense. The risk and reward are not high enough for bandits who feel like they would have the same experience either way. Last year I believe there were a couple of evening entertainment venues where bandits had to pay $5 to enter. They either paid or walked away, but I don’t think it changed the likelihood that they would register next year. RAGBRAI needs to come up with creative new ways to engage these riders, many of whom have been riding for many years, have always “gotten away with it,” and are resistant to change.

Again, this isn’t intended to be a “should you or shouldn’t you register” conversation/debate. It’s a “how can we better motivate people to register instead of shaming them into it” conversation. Any other ideas?

71 Replies

Sandaltan ., November 27, 2022 at 12:35 pm

Yipes to the power of three JS!



Gallagher, December 4, 2022 at 1:36 pm

My suspicion is it’s “limited” to 10,000 because years ago, some insurance guru said that should be the cap for RAGBRAI in terms of liability purposes. Now, if an extra 15,000 hop on and something bad happens, RAGBRAI officials can point to their only letting 10,000 on the ride.


Sandaltan ., December 4, 2022 at 2:33 pm

Let It Be” The Beatles



direwolf, December 5, 2022 at 12:45 am

Naw, the strategy is quite obvious: suggest a “cap” so that folks will register early, you know, to make sure they’re “in”. Spice that up a bit with “early bird” discount. The Register isn’t going to reject $200 or $250 or $300 registration fees just because they’re already full. Nothing they do can’t scale, as long as there’s 80 sq. fit. of tent site left at the local high school or fairgrounds. RAGBRAI registration requires ironclad surrender of any indemnity for the organizer. Wanted to sag, but got skipped by a full sag wagon? Bags got dumped in a puddle during a prairie thunderstorm? RAGBRAI will be in the clear, under the “It Sucks To Be You” clause.

Frankly, that’s all as it should be. This ain’t Club Med. We register. We pay. Any help along the way will be welcomed, but not expected. For us, RAGBRAI is the thing that happens between towns, on the road or in the shade.

Sandaltan is a great American.


Sandaltan ., December 5, 2022 at 5:01 pm

Thank you Direwolf. Rumors of your extinction are unfounded, scurrilous, and just a lie promulgated by the lesser creatures .


This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Sandaltan ..


Rob Fuller, December 6, 2022 at 9:37 am

On the other hand, I say “Bandits? What Bandits?”. I feel the current registration cost and benefits are a good value. I do not feel that Bandits reduce the value. The last thing I’m doing on the ride is looking for wristbands. But then, I’m biased as evidenced by the fact that I’m checking the RAGBRAI forum in December!


Bushmanlives, December 6, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Bandits are the human form of a Varmint some would think.
Negative actions do not work with large farm animals and yelling doesn’t make any animal do what you want. (Ovis etc). But if you pour rolled oats, corn, alfalfa pellets in molasses (3 in 1 wet) then the livestock (bandits) will push you out of the way to get to where you want the livestock to go into the corral.

here is my proposal:
Create a grand prize so cool and desirable that anyone not registering will be laughed at by their friends for missing out on the chance of winning the bounty.
Grand Prize: each town creates a ultimate prize (free hotel/key to city)
each vendor pitches in to the prizes
each advertiser (ex. $1000 hyvee gift card?)
Component manufacture (gruppo)
Bike co pitches in frameset & swag
Ragbrai- 5 years free pass
dinner for one with the Iowa State Patrol
Pool the funds for a $10,000 airline/debit card
Then one person wins it ALL! Would you like to win? I would 😀!

Okay so I think I created a rough enough outline of the idea. Reward those who pay and create an overwhelming incentive to those who didn’t in the past.

You catch more flies with honey

Best regards to all (bandits included) and see you in Iowa!



Ricky Armstrong, December 26, 2022 at 4:30 pm

Bandits are going to bandit. They will always come up with some excuse why they don’t need to register. The only thing that would possibly motivate them is a $50 sag fee.


cmparsley, January 9, 2023 at 2:14 pm

It’s all about perceived value. I have done this ride registered and un-registered. I have gone self contained and with a team. I have had an RV and I have done it with a van, trailer, and tent.

For many years I operated under the assumption that some meaningful portion of the dollars coming in from registrations was funneled back to the Iowa communities we visited. So while I have never used a baggage truck or an official RAGBRAI sag vehicle, I had piece of mind that my money was going to a good cause at the end of the day.

It turns out that a very small percentage of the fees ends up coming back to Iowa. Most of the revenue ends up going to a Virginia based media company. I have a feeling there is a pretty large percentage of folks who might prefer to not give their money to them. But visiting local bars and businesses in each overnight town vs the RAGBRAI vendors means that our money IS staying in Iowa and directly impacting Iowa businesses.

The housing situation during the week is another benefit to being registered. Having access to a list of hosts is a big deal. Or at least it used to be. The last several years, it seems like we don’t get all our overnight camping spots sorted out until the first or second week of July. Last year we rode unregistered and I did all the logistical leg work to find places to park our camper and set up a few tents. I had places to stay all sorted out by the end of May. I was able to give each person in our group cue cards on how to get from the route to the camper for every overnight town. No need to put signs, stickers, or send text messages. We carried our own baggage. We have our own bathroom and shower. We are completely self contained. A luxury for us is having an outlet to plug into and a hose connection for water.

If Gannett really is concerned about the number of bandit riders and wants to get more of them to register, then perhaps they need to consider keeping a smaller percentage for themselves and start sending more of it back to Iowa. The “feel good feeling” of knowing your dollars are directly benefiting the people of Iowa might just be enough “perceived value” to turn the bandits away from the dark side.


Joseph Schlau, January 9, 2023 at 4:08 pm

I’m sure every shoplifter nabbed at Walmart has the same rationalization speech rehearsed in their head, citing high prices and excessive profits going to the corporate headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas.


cmparsley, January 9, 2023 at 4:41 pm

I think you might be giving Walmart shoplifters a bit too much credit. I doubt many of them think that far ahead.

Also, Walmart never painted itself as a charitable entity. I’m sure the Walmart corporation is philanthropic with some portion of their profits, but it is not their primary reason for being. It has always been presented as a for profit retail business. RAGBRAI on the other hand DID paint itself as a charitable organization giving back to the people and businesses of Iowa.

I mean if that is not true, then why all the brewhaha a few years back when people started pressuring RAGBRAI to be more forthcoming about how much money actually comes back to the state?


Joseph Schlau, January 9, 2023 at 5:04 pm

Maybe you should check your facts on that charity thing. It’s a sporting event owned by the Gannet Corporation, run for profit. Too many thieves, no profit, no profit no RAGBRAI.


cmparsley, January 9, 2023 at 5:23 pm

Maybe I am misreading this article then


NHYardbird, January 9, 2023 at 7:11 pm

So your misreading of the article included that most of the revenue ends up going to a Virginia based media company – but never mentioned that the media company happens to own the Des Moines Register? You also learned that most of the revenue went to the media company while only a very small percentage of the fee ends up coming back to Iowa and it never occurred to you that the costs associated with the event may result in a smaller profit – in other words a smaller percentage of the fee coming back to Iowa. While justifying not registering it never occurred to you that more profit (from more registered riders) could increase the percentage of the fee “coming back to Iowa”; instead you apparently decided to have registered riders foot the bill. I don’t even know where to start with the implication that RAGBRAI vendors need to be Iowa based.


Joseph Schlau, January 9, 2023 at 8:00 pm

It would appear that RAGBRAI 50 is going to be well attended this year. With an aging rider base, the challenge RAGBRAI faces will be to keep the numbers up on 51 and beyond.

The unregistered riders will have an easy time drafting on the tail of the paid riders this year, but if registration numbers sag below profitability, shows over. Then all the organizational skills of carrying your own baggage and bringing your own shower won’t amount to anything without a prepared safe route to draw on your cue cards.

The forum page the misreading poster is writing his petulant refusal to pay musings on was, paid for by the registered riders of the past.


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