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History of RAGBRAI®

How Two Journalists Started a Tradition on Two Wheels


Ragbrai, Iowa

Courtesy of the Des Moines Register

The history of RAGBRAI® is a fascinating one. An acronym meaning “Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa™,” this annual, cycling adventure has been spanning the length of the Hawkeye State since 1973.

Ever wanted to see Iowa from west to east? So did John Karras and Donald Kaul, contributors to the Des Moines Register daily newspaper, during one incredible summer some four decades ago.

The ride was informally referred to as the "Great Six-Day Bicycle Ride," stopping in seven towns or “host communities” and invite the public to join. RAGBRAI’s first annual go-of-it brought 300 riders – with just over 100 cyclists finishing the ride along with the founding fathers in Davenport.

RAGBRAI has now grown to an impressive 10,000 riders traveling across the charming state of Iowa – many of which are categorized into organized clubs or teams, and sparking memorable moments.

Thanks to two fans of journalism and bike riding in the early 70s, RAGBRAI® is now the oldest, largest, and longest bicycle tour in the country.


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