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RAGBRAI 2019 route: We're doing something brand-new on this year's southern ride through these 8 towns

  • 26 January, 2019
  • Courtney Crowder

RAGBRAI ushered in dreams of July on a frigid Saturday by announcing the bike ride’s route through south-central and southeast Iowa — and an unprecedented Friday-night stop in a Mississippi River town.

The 2019 Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which will take place from July 21 to 27, will start in Council Bluffs and end in Keokuk. In between, riders will stop overnight in Atlantic, Winterset, Indianola, Centerville, Fairfield and Burlington.

Clocking in at 427 miles with 14,735 feet of climb, the 47th edition of this roving cycling party is the eighth easiest in route history. The 2019 ride is also the sixth shortest and eighth flattest.

The full route, including pass-through towns and vehicle directions, is expected to be released in March.

Click or tap the map to see photos from Saturday’s party

RAGBRAI 2019 Route Announcement Party

RAGBRAI 2019 Route Announcement Party

Starting on the banks of the Missouri River, riders will progress in a fairly due-east path before turning south on the fourth day toward Centerville. The route bounces north on the fifth day to Fairfield before going south again on the sixth day toward Burlington.

Winterset made the route for just the second time in RAGBRAI history. The land of covered bridges and the birthplace of John Wayne hasn’t hosted riders since 1991, almost 28 years ago.

Keokuk, the southernmost city in Iowa, also hasn’t entertained hungry and thirsty riders for decades with the last time being 27 years ago in 1992.

Home to Simpson College, Indianola is an overnight town for only its second time, too. Its first was in 2009.

Chosen from more than 200 interested towns, the 2019 route will camp in comparatively populous towns, relative to past routes. Every stop-over locale on this year’s route has more than 5,000 residents, and four towns — Council Bluffs, Indianola, Burlington and Keokuk — have more than 10,000. Winterset, with a population of about 5,200, is the smallest stop on the 2019 route.

In 2018, the route hugged the U.S. Highway 30 corridor in central Iowa after two years of going to either the extreme south of the state (2016) or the extreme north (2017). In 2015, the route returned to its 1973 origins, tracing roads from Sioux City to Davenport.

About 10,000 registered riders, with participants from hailing all 50 states and a host of international locations, descend on Iowa every year to be part of the “oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world,” according to RAGBRAI.

NEW SATURDAY: RAGBRAI has a new official beer

Historic RAGBRAI photos

Historic RAGBRAI photos

RAGBRAI was founded in 1973 by two Des Moines Register columnists, Donald Kaul and John Karras. Both bike enthusiasts, Karras and Kaul famously fell into creating this cultural behemoth.

“We had no plans to turn it into the legendary event it is,” Karras said earlier this month. “We just wanted to go on a bike ride and have the Register pay for our expenses.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the dates of RAGBRAI 2019.

Town by town: About RAGBRAI XLVII

Saturday, July 20: Council Bluffs

  • Population: 62,316
  • History: Seventh time as host; returning after six years; previously kicked off the ride in 1974, 1986, 1994, 2000, 2009 and 2013.
  • Fun fact: Home to the Western Historic Trails Center, commemorating travelers on the Lewis and Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon trails.

Sunday, July 21: Atlantic

  • Population: 7,112
  • Mileage (from Council Bluffs): 58
  • Climb: 2,592 feet
  • History: Sixth overnight visit; returning after eight years; previous stops were in 1974, 1980, 1989, 1991 and 2011.
  • Fun fact: It’s the Coca-Cola capital of Iowa.

Monday, July 22: Winterset

  • Population: 5,190
  • Mileage (from Atlantic): 68
  • Climb: 2,044 feet
  • History: Second overnight visit; returning after 28 years; previous stop in 1991.
  • Fun fact: Birthplace of John Wayne and home of the Bridges of Madison County.

Tuesday, July 23: Indianola

  • Population: 14,782
  • Mileage (from Winterset): 39
  • Climb: 1,443 feet.
  • History: Second overnight visit; returning after 10 years; previous stop in 2009.
  • Fun fact: Home of Simpson College and landing spot for the National Balloon Classic.
15 RAGBRAI photos: Creative costumes of the ride

15 RAGBRAI photos: Creative costumes of the ride

Wednesday, July 24: Centerville

  • Population: 5,528
  • Mileage (from Indianola): 78
  • Climb: 2,977 feet.
  • History: Third overnight visit; returning after three years; previous stops in 1981 and 2016.
  • Fun fact: Birthplace of the opera legend Simon Estes.

Thursday, July 25: Fairfield

  • Population: 9,464
  • Mileage (from Centerville): 65
  • Climb: 2,328 feet.
  • History: Fifth overnight visit; returning after six years; previous stops were in 1979, 1988, 1997 and 2013.
  • Fun fact: Home to Maharishi University.

Friday, July 26: Burlington

  • Population: 25,663
  • Mileage (from Fairfield): 57
  • Climb: 1,626 feet
  • History: Sixth overnight visit; returning after 10 years; previous stops in 1979, 1984, 1990, 2000 and 2009.
  • Fun fact: Burlington is home to Snake Alley, one of the crookedest streets in the world.

Saturday, July 27: Keokuk

  • Population: 10,780
  • Mileage (from Burlington): 62
  • Climb: 1,725 feet.
  • History: Third time as host; returning after 27 years; previously marked the end of the ride in 1981 and 1992.
  • Fun fact: The southernmost city in Iowa.

Register for RAGBRAI

More RAGBRAI goodies

  • Download the RAGBRAI app for Android or iPhone to get the latest updates, photos, videos and maps you can use offline once route details are released in March.
  • Subscribe to the Just Go Bike podcast for fun conversation on biking, trail and training suggestions and to meet Iowa’s favorite biking personalities.
  • Get this year’s biking gear at the RAGBRAI shop.
  • Find the best stories, videos and photos (and buy them!) at and
  • Follow RAGBRAI on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for fun links, updates and photos.
  • Check back in March when the pass through towns and route details are announced.
Team Buses on RAGBRAI

Team Buses on RAGBRAI


  1. Kenneth Williamson

    Why no picture of the Biking Blue Hens’ bus with Dex and Dan the best driver/support team of them all ?!?!?!?

  2. James Wilson

    thinking of a great ride across Iowa helps deal with this winter weather!

  3. Tim OBrien

    Think you are missing a past host year for Atlantic. Might have been 2001.

  4. Darrel Branhagen

    Looking forward to my 18th RAGBRAI!

  5. Jerry Stein

    Does anyone no if snake alley is part of route in Burlington.

  6. Eileen Smith is lowering our prices (due to popular demand). The New price for up to 4 individuals /night is $500. This includes a prepared breakfast, the use of the motor home, 4 separate beds, a full bath and kitchen. Additionally the exterior awning space provides a propane grill, table and chairs. Please reply here or via our web page. And check the web page for the amenities available.

  7. Steve Rose

    Please add to each of the “days” above the mileage involved. Also, identify the two century days (gravel loop and Karras loup) and the mileage involved. It would also be nive to have a little drawing underneath each entry showing the route to that overnight town. I know that’s elsewhere, but combining it with the above graphics and copy would be very informative and interesting.

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