SIOUX CITY, Iowa — What bills itself as “the world’s longest, largest and oldest recreational bicycle touring event” was more like the world’s biggest traffic jam Sunday as riders, packed together in a sinewy stream of brightly colored jerseys and shorts, churned across the Loess Hills on the western edge of Iowa, according to AP.
It’s called RAGBRAI — the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — and it promised to be bigger than ever this year, as the brainchild of two writers from The Des Moines Register celebrated its golden anniversary with a route similar to its first.
That meant a start in Sioux City, where ambitious riders ceremonially dipped their rear tires in the Missouri River, and a finish for those with the legs and the temerity to last that long seven days later in Davenport on the Mississippi River.
Along the way there is plenty of pie, more than enough beer, and countless spaghetti dinners served in church basements in tiny towns that dot the heartland. There are riders on bikes that cost the equivalent of a down payment on a house, others on hand-me-downs that announce their arrival with every creaking pedal stroke. The riders themselves come from all corners of the globe, including one intrepid group from Australia, and represent just about every US state.
“Participating in RAGBRAI is an extraordinary experience. It’s truly a source of pride for many of us in the cycling community, especially if you call anywhere in Iowa home,” said Lisa Carponelli, who along with business partner Kim Hopkins used the ride in 2015 to help launch their business, Velorosa, which produces cycling gear for women.
“You’ll meet countless interesting people in every town and along every stretch of pavement,” she said. “Everyone is participating in a great outdoor activity, and you’ll always have something to talk about: the weather, the hills — don’t think it’s only flat here — the scenery, bike issues, and where to find the best food and the coldest beer in every town.”