RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

Grimes man bikes with 9-year-old son, carries on tradition of riding young

  • 21 July, 2019
  • Anna Spoerre


UNDERWOOD, Ia. — When 9-year-old Max Johansen’s legs started getting tired Sunday morning, he pictured pancakes.

A few minutes later the Grimes boy took a break on a sidewalk in Underwood next to his dad. Three large, syrup-smothered pancakes sat on a plate in his lap.

This isn’t Johansen’s first rodeo. Last year he rode the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa for the first time with his father, Eric Johansen, 35, also of Grimes.

The father-son duo is riding with a group of about 10 cyclists called Team Big Squeeze, named for the lemonade they sell at overnight stops. The team has been around since about 2006, the elder Johansen said.

Max Johansen woke up around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, pulled on a yellow rain jacket and set off next to his dad, who also started riding RAGBRAI with his own parents when he was about 8 years old.

The younger Johansen said he really loves riding his bike.

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“You get to see new things that you can’t see in a car because you’re going too fast,” he said.

The first time he saw all the bikes lined up?

“Whoa,” was all he could say.

The Johansens planned on biking to Sunday’s halfway point, Avoca, then evaluating how much farther their legs could carry them.

Last year they rode from Newton to Montezuma.

Max Johansen’s grandfather, who’s been riding since the 1970s, is also on this year’s ride.

The baseline age for becoming an official RAGBRAI participant in the Johansen family is about 8, Eric Johansen said. His son is the first of his three children to ride beside him.

Eric Johansen continued on the RAGBRAI tradition his parents put in place because “it’s good memories, it’s good exercise and it’s something you can do your entire life.”

When he was a kid, he said, he always tried to catch the draft lines the Air Force team was riding.

“The best thing is that there’s no electronics,” Eric Johansen said. “It’s just you and the bike out seeing beautiful Iowa.”

And the best part of riding with your dad?

“Passing him,” Max Johansen said with a laugh.

When he does, he always remembers to say “on your left.”

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