Thank you for your community’s interest regarding the possibilities of becoming an overnight town or pass-through town for RAGBRAI®, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa™. RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest multi-day bicycle touring event in the world. RAGBRAI is scheduled for the last full week in July annually.
We provide valuable information about what your community needs to host RAGBRAI. You’ll find information on how the route and towns are selected and associated timelines. You’ll also discover how your community can express interest in hosting the event in the future.
There are more than 200 Iowa communities that express the desire to host RAGBRAI, and we try to include as many as possible each year. We are proud that your community would consider a RAGBRAI visit!
There are two ways to apply to become a host town for RAGBRAI XLIX. You can fill out the online form linked below or download the application forms and return them to RAGBRAI offices at the address below. Applications are due by September 30, 2021.
Timeline for selection communities?
September 2021 – Host packets sent to all potential RAGBRAI
communities in Iowa
September 30, 2021 – Application deadline
Fall/Winter 2021 – RAGBRAI reviews applications
January 28, 2022 – Route announcement in Des Moines
July 24-30, 2022 – RAGBRAI XLIX
➤ number of cyclists
in the first ride in 1973
➤ number of towns
➤ number of miles
ridden since the
➤ largest daily
➤ number of cyclists participating since the first ride
The media coverage of RAGBRAI brings tremendous national exposure to Iowa and the host communities. RAGBRAI has been featured on national broadcast television numerous times during its history and even welcomed NBC’s TODAY SHOW to air live segments from the ride.
RAGBRAI has garnered an incredible amount of media attention. RAGBRAI was also featured as one of the 101 Greatest Festivals, Sporting Events and Celebrations in the Party Across America! book and has been featured numerous times on ESPN’s SportsCenter and Cold Pizza, now called FirstTake, as well as NBC, ABC and FOX national news programs. RAGBRAI was also discussed at length on NBC’s “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, and on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”.
Articles in national publications such as TIME, Reader’s Digest, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic’s Traveler, National Geographic’s Adverenture, SHAPE, Outside Magazine, Bicycling and many others have also sparked people’s interest in RAGBRAI.
Newspapers throughout the country have run stories in their travel sections encouraging readers to participate and have also sent reporters to Iowa to cover the week long trek. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Post, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, St. Petersburg Times and Christian Science Monitor are some of the major newspapers who have featured RAGBRAI.
Does your community have what it takes to host 10,000 cyclists plus thousands of guests?
The most important community resource needed to host RAGBRAI is the people in your community. Community leaders and volunteers are the key to hosting a successful RAGBRAI visit. An enormous amount of time and energy would be required to properly plan for and welcome 10,000 cyclists plus thousands of guests to your community.
To serve as an overnight host, towns would need access to approximately 70-80 acres of open space for camping located in their community. This acreage could be broken into a couple of different sites and is not required to be in one location.
Past sites have included schools, parks and fairgrounds.
Can we get 10,000 cyclists and their support crews into and out of your community safely?
Our first priority is always safety when designing a route. Secondly, the overnight town must be able to handle large crowds. The town must be spaced an acceptable distance from the previous town on the route, and the towns must be connected by roads that are paved and have a low traffic count.
Your community’s roadways would need to have the capabilities to route the cyclists safely into and out of town. In addition to bicycle traffic, your community would need to accommodate support vehicle traffic that would be separate from the bicycle route.
Our community is interested in becoming a host. What do we need to do?
In order to formally express your community’s interest, the enclosed RAGBRAI Town Information Update form and Hotel Information Form should be completed and returned by September 30, 2021. Letters of support written by your community leaders and any maps or brochures that highlight your community should accompany the forms or be submitted separately.
What is the timeline for selecting communities?
• September 2021 – September 2022 Host packets sent to all potential RAGBRAI
communities in Iowa
• September 30, 2021 – Application deadline
• Fall/Winter 2021 – RAGBRAI reviews applications
• January 28, 2022 – Route announcement in Des Moines
• July 24-30, 2022 – RAGBRAI XLIX
What factors are used to select the
The primary goal is safety. Can we get 10,000 cyclists and their support crews from one town to the next town safely? For every stretch of highway, RAGBRAI organizers look at the following key questions concerning your community:
What is the traffic count on that stretch
Ideally, we like to select paved roads that have a traffic count of less than 2,500 cars per day and a truck count of less than 200.
How many miles should there be between towns?
The ideal distance for riders, according to RAGBRAI surveys, is 11 – 15 miles between pass-through towns. Any more than 20 miles is going to be a hardship for riders if the highway is extremely hilly, if they face a headwind, or if the weather conditions are very hot and humid.
What is the terrain?
Cyclists will encounter rolling terrain throughout their ride across Iowa. Varying the terrain incorporates the “what if” factor into planning. What if Mother Nature throws the worst possible scenario at the riders? Weather conditions, such as headwinds, hail or high temperatures can turn a full day of hills into a real test for riders.
How scenic is the route?
Most county engineers have provided RAGBRAI with maps of the most scenic highways in their counties. RAGBRAI tries to incorporate these scenic and safe roads into the route planning.
Is roadwork planned for any of the highways?
Again, county engineers are valuable resources in advising RAGBRAI organizers of not only the condition of certain highways but also when construction is planned for and completed.
What are the conditions of the roadways and train tracks along a selected section of highway?
The road and railroad crossing conditions in and around your community are a major factor to determine if RAGBRAI can safely enter and exit your community. Railroad tracks that run perpendicular to the road provide the safest crossings. When we encounter tracks that are rough or in poor condition, efforts are made to correct the problems.
What is the average length of miles per day?
We try to maintain, whenever possible, about 60 – 70 miles as the ideal day’s ride. Due to construction, possible route changes can add to the initial route’s daily mileage. Long days contribute to rider fatigue, which in turn can cause more accidents. The number of Iowa State Patrol troopers available to monitor intersections is limited. The ride crews who work the ambulances, drive the SAG wagons, and serve as host town liaisons are already working 12-14 hour days. Long days tax RAGBRAI’s limits as well as the cyclists.
When a route is determined where all of these concerns and town requests fit into the picture, it is driven twice in the fall to make sure it will work. Once again, safety is always our main priority when deciding the RAGBRAI route.
Established in 1973
In 1973, just 114 cyclists made it all the way across the state of Iowa. Today, over 10,000 registered riders, young and old alike; from Iowa, across the country and around the world, pedal the entire distance. RAGBRAI attracts participants from all 50 states and many foreign countries. It has covered thousands of miles across Iowa in its history as hundreds of thousands of riders have pedaled in this summertime event.
Throughout the history of the ride, RAGBRAI has visited 870 Iowa communities. That’s over 90 percent of all of Iowa’s 947 incorporated towns, providing cyclists the opportunity to enjoy the spirit of celebration, hospitality and goodwill that defines Iowa and RAGBRAI. Riders have spent the night in 130 different overnight towns with crowds peaking at over 45,000 guests in the host community.