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RAGBRAI 2022 Outlook?

We last rode RAGBRAI in 2016, so it has been awhile. We have also ridden Ride the Rockies several times, and RAGBRAI and RtR are now owned and run by the same organization. From what I understand RtR is pretty much a disaster this year, I am on their mailing list and never received any notice of the ride dates or details, just a mysterious quasi-apology email about them not understanding why the towns in CO are not as accommodating as the ones in Iowa. Weird. Turns out the ride starts Sunday and they still do not have all of their permits ironed out!!!

https://www.aspentimes.com/news/ride-the-rockies-finds-rough-road-in-aspen-area-for-june-12-14-event/

Granted RtR is quite a different ride from RAGBRAI, there are only a few small charters, and the riders are much more hard core, since the route is very difficult. I was surprised to see that they expect fewer than 1000 riders this year, it used to be capped at 2000 and we were shut out of the lottery a couple of times.

So, will RAGBRAI be a debacle, or are the organizers in Iowa more on top of it? I know the numbers have fallen at RAGBRAI recently as well, which is sad, the days of 15-20,000 are long gone, but I’m guessing it will still be the biggest ride of the year for almost everyone. 10,000 maybe? Or fewer?

All road cycling events are way down. Road cycling is just too dangerous in many areas now, so the number of people riding is a fraction of what it was 20-30 years ago. If you can’t train, you can’t ride something like RAGBRAI or RtR. I know several road racers in Colorado who said the attendance at sanctioned road races is also so low that a lot of them are disappearing. If it were’nt for the “elder” categories, road racing would probably be back to numbers not seen since the 1960’s. Juniors are almost non-existent, the Colorado state championship road race for Men 17-18 had a grand total of FIVE riders. Permits are almost impossible to get for road races. It doesn’t bode well for the future of road cycling, whether it is road racing or tours like RAGBRAI or RtR.

16 Replies

Uncle Kraig, June 10, 2022 at 2:36 pm

Interesting questions and observations. I only ride RAGBRAI so that is my only perspective. That being said, the organizers have said multiple times that they have north of 17,000 registered riders. Add in several thousand bandits and I think we’ll likely have 20k this year. As far as organization and details……the overnight towns seem to be a bit behind on websites, communication, etc. As for RAGBRAI staffers, they seem about the same. The website really needs a dedicated resource with both IT and marketing skills but that is nothing new. IT as never been their strength. All in all, from an outsider looking in, it appears things are about the same as normal with a probable bump in ridership over the last couple years. Just my .02…..

#1375671

Rob Fuller, June 10, 2022 at 3:05 pm

I’m optimistic about 2022. 2021 was successful and I see only gains for 2022. Here in Dallas TX I see more cyclists and greater diversity (human and mechanical) than I can recall. A few things make RAGBARI unique compared to other rides: 1) avid repeat riders who know what to do, 2) favorable geography and hosts towns who know what to expect, and 3) riders (registered and not registered) who may customize their participation and budget by day or days and make whatever nightly accommodations they want.

#1375672

Flippinsweetdude, June 10, 2022 at 7:00 pm

“All road cycling events are way down. ” – I don’t agree with this, nor see any evidence of this in my neck of the woods. Huge increase of numbers, many annual events in Utah have had more riders in the past 3-5 years, and many are maxing out recently. Local events, not the traditional USA Cycling events, from the trend out here.

“Road cycling is just too dangerous in many areas now, so the number of people riding is a fraction of what it was 20-30 years ago. ” – Can you support this with any evidence?

” If it were’nt for the “elder” categories, road racing would probably be back to numbers not seen since the 1960’s. ” – Same here, this seems to me to be an unfounded claim.

” Juniors are almost non-existent, the Colorado state championship road race for Men 17-18 had a grand total of FIVE riders. ” – Antidotal evicence is a logical fallacy

“Permits are almost impossible to get for road races. ” ?

I’m not the most optimistic dude, but your claims are all dark clouds and rain, when the sun is shining and blue birds do sing. I don’t think many of your observations have merit. The number of pro racers are down, and number of USA cycling events are also down, however many more gravel, MTB and amature road riders than ever. The sport is/has moved away from competitive sport to more recreational, and likely will continue to simply get less and less competitive.

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Joseph Schlau, June 10, 2022 at 9:07 pm

Hey Mr Dark Clouds,

In a June 5th article in the DesMoines Register titled Forecast calls for bonus-size RAGBRAI as annual route inspection ride starts New Ride Director Matt Phippen says 17,000 riders already have registered. ‘It’s record up right now.’

While registration for the 2021 ride was down about 5%, Phippen said he’s ready for a return to pre-pandemic levels of participation — or beyond. More than 17,000 weekly and day-long riders already are registered for the nation’s largest annual cycling tour.

“It’s record up right now,” Phippen said. “People are excited for the ride. The towns have done a good job promoting what’s happening, so it’s creating buzz.”

From what has been heard here RtR was already on the rocks when the group running RAGBRAI took it over. Like any faltering event it may take a few years to bring it back up.

As for RAGBRAI, it looks like all the charters sold out earlier than usual. Charter bus rides have sold out. Every indication of a strong attendance.

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2022/06/05/ragbrai-2022-route-map-inspection-ride-underway-sergeant-bluff-iowa/9821965002/?utm_source=desmoinesregister-DailyBriefing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_briefing&utm_term=hero&utm_content=PDEM-1150DM-E-NLETTER65

#1375677

HelenP, June 10, 2022 at 11:45 pm

The pandemic has caused a huge surge in purchases for outdoor activities, like cycling. It’ll be interesting to see how much big event attendance will increase over the next few years, as a percentage of those people (looking in my mirror) get experienced enough.

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Glenbo66, June 11, 2022 at 10:15 am

Trollers gonna troll….. i’m looking forward to my first Ragbrai and no one‘s gonna rain on my parade. If you’re that disenchanted about the event, don’t go. It’s pretty simple.

#1375683

Jonathan Jones, June 11, 2022 at 11:08 am

“So, will RAGBRAI be a debacle, or are the organizers in Iowa more on top of it?”
Are you asking if the people who run RAGBRAI know how to run RAGBRAI?

#1375684

Joseph Schlau, June 12, 2022 at 10:33 am

So, will RAGBRAI be a debacle, or are the organizers in Iowa more on top of it? I know the numbers have fallen at RAGBRAI recently as well, which is sad, the days of 15-20,000 are long gone.

Mr. Dark Clouds,

Let’s answer the easy question first. Yes the days of 15-20,000 are gone. Looks like a minimum of 17-30,000.

You seem to have been surprised that RtR is this Sunday and only the receipt of an email alerted you to this. As a former RtR rider, your research into this seems to be as shallow as your research on RAGBRAI.

So on the matter of a debacle. I guess it depends on your definition of the term. My usage of the term refers to a series of events coupled with poor planning and preparation where the outcome is uncertain, poses a serious hazard or results in actual harm. This differs from just having something bad happen.

For Example; So you decide to take a quick 20 mile bike ride through your local nature preserve. You get a flat tire, ok no big deal, fix the flat. That’s a bad thing easily resolved. Except, oops, I forgot my tire patch kit, my pump is on a different bike, and I used my last CO2 cartridge and never replaced it. No problem, I’ll call home and get a ride. Oops my phone is out of power and I have no battery. Then it starts to rain and get cold, but you were only going to be out an hour so didn’t pack a rain jacket. Did we mention the mosquitoes.

Once you push your bike out of the woods to the first gas station you find, you are both wet cold and all bit up, and still need to call for a ride. Having a flat was unfortunate. Failing to prepare turned it into a debacle. It’s on you. You take ownership of your own debacle.

You say you last rode RAGBRAI in 2016. Not much has changed, except new ride directors. It’s not totally on the ride directors though. RAGBRAI has a depth of talent that kept things going during the latter half of 2019-20 when the ride director position was in “transition”. The only major change is the new again 105 mile day 4 route.

While the decision was debated at length, what did come out of this was an extension of closing times in pass through towns, increased sag vehicle support, and also new this year, and confirmed in the DMR article, an established pick up point in the meeting towns. Like a bus stop, if you decide for whatever reason half a day is it, just go there. You won’t have to do the traditional upside down bike – wait at the side of the road for a sag. Since you are in the meeting town, you have all the facilities available to you. RAGBRAI dealt with the anxiety of the 105 day.

So if your debacle question referred to the 105 mile day 4, it’s now a nonissue. Now, no one at this point weeks out can predict what the weather will deliver, like my example from earlier, if you don’t prepare for the heat, cold, wet and it turns into a debacle for you, well . . . . . It’s on you. You own it. If you don’t train and bring a bike in poor shape, it’s on you. If you bring a leaky untested tent, it’s on you.

RAGBRAI does a lot to prepare new riders with information from multiple sources. This forum as well is full of experiential advice. Yet someone will have a debacle. Most of us won’t.

#1375708

direwolf, June 13, 2022 at 12:59 am

Why all the bitterness?

#1375742

CyclingCyclone, June 13, 2022 at 8:17 am

To quote that iconic movie, “If you build it, people will come”. It’s RAGBRAI.

#1375745

Rob Fuller, June 13, 2022 at 2:25 pm

Yup, its all about the corn.

#1375775

TheHammer, June 27, 2022 at 12:25 am

Howdy Rob Fuller! Fellow Big D resident heading up for my 8th RAGBRAI. Done RtR three X as well!
Let’s Go

#1377255

Danny Edens, July 1, 2022 at 5:50 pm

<I know the numbers have fallen at RAGBRAI recently as well, which is sad, the days of 15-20,000 are long gone>

What was the limit beforehand? Wasn’t 12,000 or something? It been reported that registered riders have set a new record of 17,000. With bandits you can expect double or more. I think 30,000 is almost certain. many people want to do something now. 40,000 could be a stretch. Last year was a lower turnout maybe 12,000 or so, due to covid the country locked out any foreigners from participating. Who knows maybe I’m wrong and the 105 miles will scare people off unlikely though.

This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by Danny Edens.

This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by Danny Edens.

#1377729

Chris, July 1, 2022 at 8:58 pm

…they used to say it capped at 10,000 riders, but we all knew that was creative accounting. I remember hearing a 30k figure back when we went though Des Moines a few years back. With RAGBRAI traditionally (or traditionally in recent years) not releasing the full-week / daily rider volumes, it’s a guess at best. With no actual tally of who is on the road any given day, it might not mean much, either.

So, yes, 17k riders, sure. We’ll be past 25k with bandits, dailys, etc…. Well within normal, so I, like everyone else, don’t really know what the heck the original poster was talking about.

Last year: felt like a lower turnout indeed. From the RAGBRAI luggage truck perspective, certainly fewer bags on there each day. But, that volume could have been made up by the Charters. With the campgrounds being so spread out, it’s hard to say.

RAGBRAI rolls on. Growing some years, shrinking others, but always rolling on. Remember that this zoo started with just a few dozen. Even if years from now, it rolled down the road with only a few thousand, we’d still be living it up. Summer camp for adults.

See you in July.
-Chris

#1377738

Joseph Schlau, July 2, 2022 at 3:45 am

Summer Camp for adults. Now that sums it up nicely.

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