Smaller rides and competitive forces.

Something occurred to me as I have been debating which ride across Iowa I will do in 2020. IF I do Iowa’s Ride, it won’t be because of any loyalty to TJ or animus toward the DMR, but because I’ve done RAGBRAI several times and I might want to try a smaller, more intimate ride (which let’s face it, IR will probably be).

Then I started thinking…if I want to try a smaller ride, there are plenty of other options. The times I’ve missed RAGBRAI have been because I had work or family commitments which kept me away. But there are plenty of other smaller rides in surrounding states (NE, MO, IL, WI, MN, OH to name a few) that fall on other dates, so that’s a good fallback plan. Then I thought, hmmmm, if I want to try something smaller/different, I’m not really limited to Iowa’s Ride. Sure, the people from Iowa are nice, but people from small towns are nice everywhere. There are cornfields and ice cream all over the fruited plain.

Then it hit me, and if this has also hit TJ he should be panicking. From a purely marketing perspective, RAGBRAI is in a category of one. There is no other ride with a 45 year+ history and all the pageantry & traditions. There is no other ride with brand cache that comes close. There is no other US ride with an international following. There is no other ride with anywhere near this many riders. So if you want a big, well known, fun ride, then there really is only one choice. Iowa’s Ride however will be slugging it out in a crowded marketplace. Being a smaller, Midwestern cross-state ride, they will be competing with GOBA, Big Bam, BAK, BRAN and GRABAAWR, and others. Their ONLY real shot at survival is if RAGBRAI folds, which it’s unlikely to do…or they put on something so special it will attract the throngs.

So, it comes down to this for me. I’m an out-of-state rider, so that’s a factor, but if I decide to do another big, celebrated ride…of course it will be RAGBRAI because there are no other choices. If however I decide to do a smaller, more intimate ride, it will be a decision between 6 or 7 other rides. Unless Iowa’s Ride has something really special in mind, it’s going to be major headwinds for the upstart.

31 Replies

Kate Perkins, November 30, 2019 at 5:55 pm

I think the initial post captures the state of affairs quite well. There’s no ride like RAGBRAI, no ride with the history, the traditions & the pageantry of RAGBRAI. As an out of state rider, who doesn’t watch ESPN or read the Register except in the last week of July, I had never heard of this controversy until the September email. I think TJ over played his hand by assuming that thousands of people would be upset enough to abandon RAGBRAI & ride a completely new unknown ride across Iowa. It appears he’s figured that out since he changed the dates & direction of Iowa’s ride. There are many small week long bike rides to pick from, and for IR to survive, it’s going to have to find its own niche, not go head to head with RAGBRAI. After 15 years of RAGBRAI, I’ve seen a lot of Iowa, and if I were going to do a different ride, it would be somewhere new. As it happens, I’ve registered not only for RAGBRAI 2020, but for another, smaller week long ride, Ride Illinois’ GIBT ride in June.

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