Iowa City cyclists say it’s too soon to decide between RAGBRAI and Iowa’s Ride

Following the resignation of the entire RAGBRAI staff, long-time riders in the Iowa City community say there is concern about the future of the Iowa tradition.


Emily Wangen

Cyclists ride during the Big Rove bicycle event on Saturday, June 29, 2019. The route, which is part of the RAGBRAI training series, was 36 miles long starting in Iowa City with stops in North Liberty and Solon.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

As cyclists are faced with a choice between participating in long-standing Iowa tradition RAGBRAI and the new Iowa’s Ride, some Iowa City residents said the event is creating divisions within the cycling community.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the entire RAGBRAI staff announced its resignation earlier this month. The organization attributed its decision to leave to a disagreement with The Des Moines Register’s response to concern about a racist tweet from Altoona man Carson King that resurfaced.

The former RAGBRAI staff recently announced in a social-media statement that it will host “Iowa’s Ride,” which is a ride across the state of Iowa taking place the same week as RAGBRAI.

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition, the largest biking advocacy group in the state, endorsed Iowa’s Ride. However, other members of the cycling community said they will wait to see which ride to support.

Ryan Baker, owner of World of Bikes in Iowa City, does not participate in RAGBRAI but said there is a sense of confusion as to which ride local cyclists should support. Baker said he wants to see a ride like RAGBRAI continue.

“We found it to be an extremely surprising … turn of events,” Baker said. “For us, we’re waiting for more of the storyline to develop to see what the direction of the future of both rides is going to be.”

“Think Bicycles of Johnson County” President Elizabeth Hubing said most cyclists she’s heard from are disappointed over the divisions the two rides created.

“I think that’s a common theme for most people, especially in the Iowa City community,” Hubing said. “RAGBRAI is the biggest cycling event in the U.S., so trying to compete against that is sort of petty, in my opinion.”

Geoff’s Bike & Ski owner Geoff Perrell began riding in RAGBRAI 30 years ago. He said the recent controversy around the ride has polarized a ride that aims to bring cyclists of all abilities together.

“People tie a lot of emotions to RAGBRAI and the experiences they have riding across the state,” he said. “People feel it’s hanging in the balance, and it weighs on a lot of people’s minds.”

RELATED: RAGBRAI staff announces resignation, new ‘Iowa Ride

Perrell added that a ride with only two or 3,000 riders may not be sustainable — small towns paying the expense of hosting a ride such as RAGBRAI will want to see full ridership numbers.

Hubing also raised the concern that two rides instead of one will hurt ridership numbers.

“RAGBRAI has been such a big economic driver for our state, seeing that go would be really sad,” she said. “I feel like having two rides will only hurt both of them.”

RAGBRAI is limited to around 8,500 weekly riders that officially register, although many cyclists complete the ride without paying the official registration fee.

In a statement published Oct. 15, former RAGBRAI Director T.J Juskiewicz said he could “no longer be an effective leader when [his] principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett and the Des Moines Register.”

Hubing said she is hopeful that Juskiewicz and his team can come to some kind of reconciliation with the Register.

“RAGBRAI, in my opinion, has never been about the organizers; it’s been about the people who do the ride,” she said. “Seeing the team make it about themselves has been a little bit disappointing.”

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