RAGBRAI organizers have removed one of the hills along the route to registration in 2022.
As of Nov. 15, riders can know instantly whether they will be a part of RAGBRAI XLIX, the rolling bicycle festival across Iowa. For the first time, riders won’t face lottery odds as they make their late-July plans.
The weeklong registration wristbands are available on a first-come, first-serve basis right now. Don’t worry: PlayIA checked with RAGBRAI Marketing Director Anne Lawrie. She said the ride is at 20% capacity for weeklong registrants.
“We had seen that in years past the lottery was just more of a formality for us,” she said, later adding:
“Now when they go in to register and pay for their registration, they’re guaranteed that wristband number. They’ll still get that wristband number on May 1, but they can rest assured that they’re registered for the ride and they will be with us in July.”
Expect between 15,000-20,000 riders, team members and support staff to take part in the 49th edition of RAGBRAI.
Even Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong (pictured) has joined RAGBRAI from time to time. He wasn’t in a hurry, however. RAGBRAI is a touring ride. Not a race.
Key RAGBRAI dates: At a glance
- Now — Registration is open for RAGBRAI XLIX.
- Friday, Jan. 28 — RAGBRAI reveals the starting point, ending point and six additional overnight stops.
- Early March — Organizers release the detailed route, including ride-through towns and daily distances and elevations.
- April 1 — Registration closes for weeklong riders, weeklong non-riders and teams.
- May 1 — RAGBRAI releases wristband numbers for the weeklong participants. Registration packets should arrive at some point between mid-May and early June.
- June 1 — Advanced registration for day passes closes. Day pass registration reopens at the host sites as the ride begins each day. Lawrie said: “Anyone who wants to join us on the ride that didn’t pre-register can register with us at each of those towns to get a wristband for the following day.”
- July 23 to July 30 — RAGBRAI XLIX
What to know about the touring bicycle ride
RAGBRAI began in 1973 as an idea and informal challenge between newspapermen at the Des Moines Register. Writer and copy editor John Karras thought “Over the Coffee” columnist Don Kaul should ride a bicycle across Iowa and write columns about his encounters along the way.
Kaul liked the idea, but only if Karras joined him on the trek across Iowa. With that, RAGBRAI — the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — was born.
The first ride from Sioux City to Davenport was called the “Great Six-Day Bicycle Ride,” according to a retrospective at RAGBRAI’s official website.
About 300 people met Karras and Kaul in Sioux City. RAGBRAI says 114 riders made the river-to-river trip across Iowa.
Karras passed away on Nov. 10 at the age of 91. Organizers have dedicated the 2022 ride to him.
The RAGBRAI route
RAGBRAI is a west-to-east rolling migration across the state. In fact, it’s a RAGBRAI tradition for riders to dip their back tire into the Missouri River at the start of the ride. Riders dip their front tire into the Mississippi River once they complete the cross-state journey.
There are six overnight towns between the starting point and the ending point. The distance between overnight hosts varies, but riders can expect to cover about 75 miles each day. Food and entertainment offerings help community non-profit groups at stops along the way.
“It’s really accessible to people,” Lawrie said. “I think a lot of times people think of the seven days across the state and average of about 450 miles. There is training that needs to happen, but truly, it’s a ride that anyone can jump on and do one day or two days and pick the day that feels comfortable to them.”
As Lawrie suggests, riders don’t have to sign up for the entire route to experience small-town Iowa hospitality.
“Just make sure that you have friends with you. We do stop about every 10 miles, so all you really have to do is to commit to 10 miles at a time. And there’s great food and great friends along the way. I wouldn’t be scared to try at least one day.”
This past summer’s RAGBRAI route took riders from Le Mars to Clinton.
“The reason that we’ve been able to sustain this ride for so many years — going into our 49th — is because of the commitment and work that those towns do every year to get ready for those riders, the level of pride they have for their communities, and the way that their communities come together to showcase what they have to offer each year.”
What is the 2022 RAGBRAI route?
Organizers use an unofficial north-central-south rotation through Iowa so the ride is always close to home for Iowans in different parts of the state. RAGBRAI officials release their detailed map with ride-through towns at the start of March.
“What we’ve learned is to be really flexible with COVID for sure. We’re obviously keeping a close eye on everything, as we have been for the past two years. The hope is that we can return to normal, but we’ll make adjustments if we need to.”
Overnight host cities come before the full route and RAGBRAI reveals the communities with great fanfare. This year’s route announcement party is Friday, Jan. 28, from Hy-Vee Hall B at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. RAGBRAI offers ticket packages to attend. Organizers also live-stream the event, according to Lawrie.
“We’ll also be at the Iowa Bike Expo, which was put on by the Iowa Bicycle Coalition on that Saturday, Jan. 29, in Hy-Vee Hall A. And there you’ll be able to talk with us about the route. We’ll also have the eight overnight towns with us.”
Planning a RAGBRAI vacation
Registrations start to pick up once riders know RAGBRAI’s key stops, but Lawrie said registrants shouldn’t feel pressure to make an early commitment.
“If they still need to make sure that they can get time off of work and wait until it’s a little bit closer to their ride, we’ve been telling everyone that they can go ahead and do that. We should have spots available.”
Event organizers will keep riders updated if demand changes for any of the registration groups, however. The official website plus RAGBRAI’s social media accounts and newsletter will keep riders up-to-date.
“If you’re new to RAGBRAi and you want to get registered because you’re so excited, I’d say do it. But you can also wait and just take a look at our deadlines. Those are listed on RAGBRAI.com too.”
With 19 casinos around the state, riders also have some off-the-beaten-path entertainment options. RAGBRAI participants can use their mobile device to register at an Iowa sportsbook from anywhere along the route.