Registration is open for RAGBRAI L!

Solve These Two Issues….

68.4% of riders are male; 23.4% are under 45, 56.3% are between the ages of 45-65.

How can the Register, or anyone, increase female participation.

How can the Register, or anyone, increase younger rider participation.

IMO, these two imbalances, are symptoms of decline, and should be addressed.

23 Replies

Niles, September 21, 2019 at 7:30 am

That’s just like any other non-competition cycling participant profile, upper-middle-aged white male.


hnschipper, September 21, 2019 at 10:27 am

Hasn’t RAGBRAI always trended this way? I don’t see it as a decline at all, just a continuation of how it’s been since I’ve been involved with this ride (20 years.) Women have always been the minority, as well as younger riders, in my experience. I’m not sure why you think this needs to be fixed.


Bob Braigar, September 21, 2019 at 3:31 pm

24 May, 2010 – TJ Juskiewicz

The age breakdown of this year’s participants is as follows:

Under 19 7.2%
20-24 5.1%
25-29 9%
30-34 4%
35-39 7.4%
40-44 10.1%


hnschipper, September 21, 2019 at 5:16 pm

That really isn’t a whole lot different than it was 5 years ago in 2014:

The age breakdown of this year’s participants is as follows:

Under 19 4.5%
20-24 3.2%
25-29 5.4%
30-34 5.4%
35-39 4.9%
40-44 6.2%
45-49 8.6%
50-54 12.4%
55-59 12.7%
60-64 9.0%
65-69 5.3%
70-74 2.2%
75-79 0.7%
Over 80 0.2%

The average age of this year’s RAGBRAI participants is 47.6 years

61.8% of the participants are male and 38.2% are female

It doesn’t seem like a decline to me. Just the norm for RAGBRAI.


hnschipper, September 21, 2019 at 5:20 pm

This is from 2010:

The age breakdown of this year’s participants is as follows:

Under 19 7.2%
20-24 5.1%
25-29 9%
30-34 4%
35-39 7.4%
40-44 10.1%
45-49 13.0%
50-54 15.3%
55-59 12.9%
60-64 8.7%
65-69 4.5%
70-74 1.8%
75-79 0.5%
Over 80 0.2%

The average age of this year’s RAGBRAI participants is 44.6 years

63.8% of the participants are male and 36.2% are female


hnschipper, September 21, 2019 at 5:21 pm

I see that’s what you posted as well. :)


“Bicycle Bill”, September 21, 2019 at 8:28 pm

Who else has the disposable income and/or the time to be able to take a week off to take part in something like this other than older people who are fairly well-settled in their life?


Cory Rood, September 22, 2019 at 7:58 am

[quote quote=1311466]Who else has the disposable income and/or the time to be able to take a week off to take part in something like this other than older people who are fairly well-settled in their life?[/quote]

Plenty do. My wife and I (early 30’s) make it every year. Its just priorities, It is hard with little kids to be away from them for 8 days straight(emotionally and child care)

the 23% of riders being female seems low to me. Remember that this is a sample of people that responded to the survey.


hnschipper, September 22, 2019 at 8:27 am

These numbers are actually released in May, before the ride. It’s numbers based on registrations.

The male/female ratio doesn’t seem off to me at all. I’ve stood in countless shower lines where the men’s line is significantly longer than the women’s line.


Jboz, September 22, 2019 at 6:14 pm

When I do training rides around the Chicago area, the M/F ratio always seems to be in the 3:1 or 4:1 range. Although this isn’t scientific, a quick web search seems to back this up as it applies to cycling in the US. And there’s even a greater gap in Europe. This is not a secret. For probably a variety of reasons, cycling apparently appeals a bit more to men than women. I love riding, but my wife prefers to stay in shape via yoga. I’ve tried to convert her to cycling, and she’s tried to convert me to yoga. We both failed miserably in convincing the other, so we do our own thing and respect each other’s choices.

Participation in any sport is voluntary, and is ultimately a personal decision. Some sports seem to attract way more men, often with the ratios being far more skewed than you see in cycling. Some sports attract women in greater numbers than men. Personally I would also like to see more women get into cycling, but I don’t see the disparity as a big problem. It is what it is. I guess I’m failing to see how any of this is an indication of RAGBRAI’s decline or why it would be the Register’s responsibility to address something that appears to be a global trend?

With regard to age, I agree with Bicycle Bill. The bubble seems to be exactly where money and spare time are more abundant. This should not be a surprise, and it’s hard to make the case that it’s a problem. Speaking from personal experience, when I was in my 30’s, I was clawing to succeed in my fledgling career and trying to make ends meet. With young kids and family as my main priority, I had very little time to pursue something like RAGBRAI. At this point in my life I have more time, more money, and fewer responsibilities. Again, not sure this is a “problem” or something the Register needs to solve. RAGBRAI seems to be doing just fine.


T. Gap Woo, September 22, 2019 at 8:41 pm

I’ll address the “younger rider” issue first, as it will ultimately affect the gender balance issue in the future.

When I was teaching junior high schoolers (2004-2017), I noticed a disturbing trend. Probably half of my students were overweight. This applied to both boys and girls. Their weights ranged from slightly overweight to extremely overweight. There may have been medical issues, which were not divulged outside of the nurse’s office. It seemed to me that most of their physical activity, outside of PE class, was exercising their texting/game controller thumbs.

We need to get our children off the couch and into the great outdoors. This effort starts at home. Get the kids onto bicycles and off the text/game controllers. C’mon parents, let’s get the job done! Kudos to the parents who take their children with them on RAGBRAI. They are raising the next generation of cyclists.

Schools can help, too. In the district where I taught, several teachers organized a bike club and got a LBS to hook them up with a bike manufacturer, who donated bikes and helmets to the club. They ride the backroads around the school as training for longer rides.

If we can catch the kids when they are young, they’ll become adult bicyclists. Hopefully, that will also address the gender gap.

End of sermon. I’m off the soapbox now.

Less than two months before registration opens! See you along the I-O-Way next year.


KenH, September 23, 2019 at 10:26 am

The age thing is a problem for almost every traditional leisure activity. They all struggle mightily to attract the young. Cycling is no different and I don’t believe it is a generational thing either. I loved cycling when I was young and abandoned it when I grew older. I did not rediscover it, or find out about RAGBRAI, until I was nearly 60. That is a more or less typical life arc for Americans. If you want to get young people involved at a higher percentage you will have to work very hard to do that. It’s not impossible, just very, very hard.

I know of almost no women among my friends and acquaintances who participate much in cycling. For some reason those I know of tend to have grown up in Iowa…. It’s ironic because when cycling was new it was a tremendously liberating force for women. Women seem to have forgotten that.

I have found it exceedingly difficult to attract any of the dedicated cyclists I know, regardless of gender or age, to RAGBRAI. If the insurmountable-by-any-means-known-to-kiddom BB gun block is “You’ll shoot your eye out!” the universal RAGBRAI-doesn’t-interest-me mantra is “It’s too crowded!”

RAGBRAI appeals most strongly to those who have tried it. It was just a lark for me. Some friends suggested it as a one-off adventure. At the end of our three day adventure they were pumped to do it again, but certainly not for a full week. I hardly heard their chatter about it in the car on the way home. I had a thousand yard stare into the year ahead. I wanted to do the whole thing. I was hooked. As it turns out they were too, they just have a bit milder case.

But even at RAGBRAI it is not uncommon to meet those who say they are happy to have done it, to be doing it, but who will never return.

At least that is what they say!

I side with those who say that these two issues are not issues in terms of sustaining the ride into the future. However, it would be good to attract more women and more youngsters. If anyone has ideas about how to do that please share them with us and the Register. The Register does seem to be taking steps to attract women to the activity with the Pigtails ride that they heavily promote every year and, I wouldn’t know for sure, perhaps help sponsor.


Ken Reed, September 23, 2019 at 12:11 pm

I have no idea what would keep women from joining RAGBRAI. My wife rides and my team has a couple more women on it than men. As far as younger riders go, I think it boils down to motovation. I’m 41 now but I started doing RAGBRAI in my late 20s, and the reason I didn’t start sooner (my family has been doing RAGBRAI for over 20 years) is A) I wasn’t motovated enough to do it and B) I thought the idea of riding my bike across the state was dumb. I don’t think TJ is concerned about attracting younger riders because RAGBRAI is RAGBRAI and people will come regardless of age. In fact, I’ve personally seen more younger riders (21 to 25 y.o.) in the past few years.


mootsman, September 23, 2019 at 1:32 pm

The age is a change but not a recent change. When most of us were young road riding was the cool new participation/recreational sport to get into. Think 1970s-80s. Then mountain biking came along. Now gravel biking and that’s just biking. Lots more to choose from nowadays. And yet I think there is an overall increase in young riders. Its just that older riders increased much more. More income for the equipment, more leisure time to fill once retired.

The participation of women on RAGBRAI and other cycling events is much higher then it was decades ago. Women were much less represented in cycling events in the late 1970s, early 80s.

RAGBRAI is just following the trends in cycling in general. And it did have a way of getting on riders bucket lists back closer to its origin date.

Have to agree with Ken o some points. I did RAGBRAI the first time to get it off my bucket list and planned on being a 1-and-done. That was 10 years ago.


Anonymous, September 23, 2019 at 5:12 pm

You will never achieve equality in everything, and that is completely okay.


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