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"The Most Famous Rider in RAGBRAI"

In the thread about guessing the route, Chris stated

“We could also visit Indianola, the home of the most famous rider in RAGBRAI I: Clarence Pickard. We’ll see next week.”

While I will not argue the statement that Clarence Pickard became the most well-known rider of that inaugural tour, here’s an interesting question to provoke some discussion during these bleak grey winter months…..

In the almost fifty year history of RAGBRAI there have been a lot of people who have swung their leg across the bike and pedaled across the state — celebrities and politicians, professional athletes who were “slumming”, and ordinary riders who somehow became as much a part of RAGBRAI as the Kybos and the ISP.

So the thread is open.  Who do *YOU* feel is the most famous rider in the history of RAGBRAI?  And to clarify; I don’t mean someone who *WAS* famous and then rode RAGBRAI (sorry, Lance), or rode RAGBRAI and later achieved fame elsewhere.  I’m talking about someone who has achieved his or her fame *BECAUSE* they rode RAGBRAI — as Clarence Pickard did.

And to start the ball rolling, I’ll toss out a couple of names to keep Clarence company.  They will need no introduction; everybody knows them; and their history and palmares can be found elsewhere if it is necessary.

1) Grandpa RAGBRAI himself, Mr. John Karras
2) He of the striped socks, Mr. Carter LeBeau of the QCBC (RIP).
3) Iowa’s own ultra-distance cyclist, Dr. Bob Breedlove (also RIP).


19 Replies

Ragbrai Nation, January 22, 2015 at 3:49 am

Ride the ride and be your own rock star! :D


Ken Reed, January 22, 2015 at 7:59 am

I don’t disagree with John Karras but I think honorable mention has to go to “Banana Man”.


jwsknk, January 22, 2015 at 9:57 am

I wouldn’t put Dr. Bob in there according to BB’s criteria, he was known for RAM. The 2 day RAGBRAI thing, how much of it did he ever experience? Shout outs to the realitly unknown, the people who make the Dream Team possible without making a big deal out of it ( the mentors, individuals and team donors). The people who stop to help strangers along the road, with anything from a flat to a serious accident. Teams that collect and donate to various charities around the state and projects that improve cycling opportunities in the state. And can’t forgrt Kaul and Offenburger along with Benson and Greene, but it was also part of their jobs.


Michrider !!!, January 22, 2015 at 11:10 am

Beebs are there Rules? Oh yeah that’s right, “we don’t need no stinking rules”!!!! I vote for “MR PORKCHOP”!!!!!


IndianHillsTed, January 22, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Mr Loincloth
Pappa T


“Bicycle Bill”, January 22, 2015 at 3:33 pm

To jwsknk — You are correct; Dr. Bob was known for his ultra-endurance rides like RAAM but you could always count on seeing him and his family/team riding the ride.  I believe it was their custom to do the ride twice — starting in the end town and then riding the route in reverse from east to west (generally meeting the ride on either Monday or Tuesday) and then upon reaching the start town turning around and playing “catch-up”, eventually overtaking and passing the ride again by Thursday before continuing on to the end point.

Looking back at my OP, perhaps “famous” wasn’t exactly the correct word and I’m thinking I should have said “well-known”.  But I


thinking of those people like ‘Banana Man’, or Ed Gelles of Knoxville with his single-speed 1940s Schwinn and his “Gears Are For Wimps”-emblazoned shirt.  They are not become “famous” as we normally use the word, but are/were still an iconic and prominent part of RAGBRAI.

And for michrider — I was considering only riding participants, not long-time vendors, support staff, or entertainers (that might have become the subject of a second thread, in fact).  Otherwise you better believe that “Mr. Pork Chop” would have been there, as well as Lorin Christiansen (the original ‘Chris’ of “Chris’ Cakes”) and the Iowa State Patrol officer who could be depended upon to show up at least one day along the route directing traffic while wearing a huge red clown’s nose, just to name a couple of others.



Bobthebiker, January 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Okay, maybe not the “Most Famous” but certainly worthy of consideration and I’ll show my age. On the last day of RAGBRAI 1997, I was sitting at breakfast in Stockport and this big dude (6′ 7″), wearing a week long rider wrist band, in his late fifties and sporting quite the moustache sat next to me. We both were working our way through small mountains of pancakes. I recognized the face from yesteryear – an all pro defensive lineman, NFL Champion, beer pitchman and action movie actor.

“You’re Ben Davidson! You played for the Oakland Raiders!”

Says he – “I am.”

“I remember when you broke Joe Namath’s jaw. I was a Jet’s fan.”

Ben shrugs and replies “It was my job.”

Ben has “gone to glory” since that encounter. But I never shared breakfast with any other RAGBRAI rider as accomplished in another field of endeavor.


T. Gap Woo, January 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm

In addition to the worthy nominees already named, I’d like to suggest MRS. LeBeau and Carter’s daughter, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last year in Rock Valley. I am certain that they played an integral role in Carter’s RAGBRAI experiences and they are truly deserving of recognition, as they share in his success. I hope to see them again along the I-O-Way this year!

I’d also like to nominate all of the anonymous senior citizens who refuse to sit idly by in their rocking chairs and listen to their arteries harden, opting instead to partake of the rolling Mardi Gras known as RAGBRAI. The octogenarian who passed me last year has earned my respect and admiration! May they live long and prosper.


Mike Murphy, January 22, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Like him or not Lance Armstrong has to be one of the Most “Famous rider in Ragbrai”


Stuntz, January 22, 2015 at 11:50 pm

A recent illustrious rider was Drew “Onion Johnny” Beck, Ragbrai XL and his St. Etienne 100 year-old bike. I met Johnny on the far-side of the Karras Loop in 2012 and to see Johnny, his onions, his wool outfit and vintage bike on the “Hell March” into Webster City, the day guys were reporting temps of 115 on their Garmin’s, is a “scorching memory!”


Ken Reed, January 23, 2015 at 11:18 am

Didn’t he have to pedal backwards on that thing?


Sandaltan ., January 24, 2015 at 11:54 am

My most famous duo would be Fitness Lynn and Papa T.



Sandaltan ., January 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

Mr. Loincloth is fairly famous although I have not seen him for a two or three years.



Stuntz, January 25, 2015 at 10:08 am

Hey CyRider – Yes, you’re exactly correct! Drew “Onion Johnny” Buck had only two gears on his 100-year old St. Etienne bike. One gear “forward pedaling” for the flats and “a granny gear” that he had to pedal backwards for the hills. The bike was covered in rust. He bought it in a Paris Flea Market. Undoubtedly a beautiful bike in its day and still admirable as an antique today. By the way, “Onion Johnny” hailed from England so ‘Johnny’ and his bike were a long ways from home.


Gypsy Rose, January 25, 2015 at 10:16 am

Surprised that the Loincloth Man fashion hasn’t caught on in recent years with 100+ degree days on the ride.

~ Kevin


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