RAGBRAI has spoken: Iowa City selected as a 2018 stop


File photo/The Daily Iowan


On July 27, thousands of cyclists will ride into Iowa City on RAGBRAI’s 2018 route.

The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa announced on Jan. 27 that Iowa City will join Onawa, Denison, Jefferson, Ames, Newton, Sigourney, and Davenport as stops on this year’s ride. Iowa City will be the second-to-last stop during the annual bike ride. This is only the second time in the event’s 45-year history that Iowa City has been chosen as a stop, the other being in 1976.

What is RAGBRAI?

RAGBRAI is an Iowa tradition in which around 8,500 bicyclists ride west to east across the state during the last week in July.

Each year, six cities are selected as overnight towns, and two are picked as starting and ending points. After spending the day riding, cyclists stop in the overnight towns for an evening of food, drinks, entertainment, and, often, camping.

Why now?

It has been more than four decades since Iowa City hosted an overnight on RAGBRAI, but officials say the timing is right to do it again.

Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin said a lot of changes have occurred in Iowa City since the flood of 2008 that much of the rest of the state has not seen yet.

“For many of the riders, they’ve been to Iowa City before, whether it was in college or other things, but … there have been significant changes,” Fruin said. “We have a lot of flood protection and building projects done, both city projects and university projects.

“There are some world-class facilities the university has constructed … that we would really be fortunate to be able to showcase.”

With the influx of thousands of people into the city, officials expect local businesses and nonprofits to thrive during the one-night affair. More than $1 million is expected to come through the city’s economy, Fruin said.

“It’s not direct money coming into the city government, but that’s not the point. It’s to get it in the hands of the businesses, the schools,” Fruin said. “It’s a significant impact, and that’s certainly part of the appeal.”

Although Iowa City has only hosted once before, Coralville has been a stop on RAGBRAI five times, most recently in 2015. The expenditures from visitors in Coralville that day totaled $1.2 million, said Josh Schamberger, the president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Most of the festivities will likely be held in the downtown Iowa City area, and those who choose to camp can go to the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and Lower City Park, Schamberger said.

“With the trail system that’s in place or that’s about to be connected to Big Grove [Brewery], it’ll be very easy access between campgrounds,” he said. “It’ll be very easy to pedal to downtown and have a great night.”

The week of RAGBRAI is usually a slow one for local bike shop World of Bikes, 723 S. Gilbert St. Owner Ryan Baker said the week before is usually busy with bike rentals and quick tune-ups, but this year, the shop will likely extend its hours to serve the riders as they come through town.

“We try to have fun with it, too,” Baker said. “Last time [when RAGBRAI came through Coralville], we had tents out front and music and coffee as they were waiting for us to fix their bikes.”

The staff will remain at the store rather than trying to set up shop near the campgrounds or vendor areas, because Baker believes that’s how they can best serve the customers.

This year’s route may have a collegiate focus with overnights in Iowa City and Ames, home of Iowa State University. A press release from the city of Iowa City said the University of Iowa will play a “key role in the festivities.”

“The University of Iowa has a history of direct and indirect engagement with RAGBRAI and we are so happy to once again share our campus and community with this quintessentially Iowan event,” Peter Matthes, vice president for external relations and senior advisor to the president at the UI said in the release.

The Iowa City overnight also happens to be college spirit day, when riders sport jerseys representing their schools.

What’s next?

Preparing for an event of this magnitude will take tons of manpower. Fruin said committees will be established immediately to figure out the logistics of hospitality, entertainment, public safety, and other areas.

“It’s truly a community effort to host an event like this; we need hundreds of volunteers and several working committees …” Fruin said. “I expect a lot of people will step up and be willing to help.”

Schamberger has helped prepare RAGBRAI stops in Coralville four times, and he said it’s an “awesome experience.”

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