Skating trio turns heads at RAGBRAI

  • 25 July, 2019
  • Shelby Fleig

BLOOMFIELD, Ia. — As cyclists rolled into Bloomfield, a few faces stood out from the pack as they swayed side to side.

The three friends skating the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, two for the very first time, say they want to prove what’s possible. The inline skates seem daunting to some, who approached the trio in awe with a list of questions, like: “How do you slow down on the downhill?” (Their half-serious answer: “You don’t, really.”)

New Yorker Arnav Shah, known as “Sonic” in the skating world, is an experienced distance skater who left a full-time job at Google three years ago to spend more time on the sport. RAGBRAI 2019 marks his first time in Iowa.

“We’re getting super-positive reactions from people. Everyone’s just cheering us on,” said Shah, 33.

Caleb Smith, 29, and Katie Baird, 30, of Des Moines, both said the challenges of skating RAGBRAI include keeping a strong and steady pace in their weight-shifting glides.

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This is the third time Smith has skated across Iowa. Baird has set already set two personal records for the long-distances rides early this week.

“It’s cool because there’s a lot of people here that used to rollerblade, back when rollerblading was really popular,” smith said. “It seems like a lot of older people are interested in skating again.”

Like the cyclists, the skaters found Wednesday’s relatively hilly route a challenge. They can catch speeds near 40 miles per hour, Shah said.

At the end of the day, their feet and lower backs hurt, but skating is low-impact and accessible to everyone, the three noted. They each work as skating instructors.

“If you’re not being a daredevil and speeding down hills, it really is a great form of exercise,” Smith said.

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