Iowa City will help RAGBRAI celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer as a pass-through town during the last leg of the statewide biking trek.
RAGBRAI, or the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is the oldest, largest, and longest multiday bicycle tour in the world, taking a unique 500-mile path across the state over the course of a week each summer. Traditionally, the ride makes its way from west to east, with riders dipping their back wheels into the Missouri River to start and their front wheels into the Mississippi as a grand finale.
The event started in 1973 as a challenge between Des Moines Register staff members John Karras and Don Kaul to bike across Iowa and document their experiences. The next year, they invited a few friends to join them, and the ride quickly ballooned into the popular event it remains today. Now, RAGBRAI boasts 8,500 annual weeklong riders, and even more who drop in along the way.
This year, RAGBRAI will visit 30 towns. Coralville is the last overnight stop, where riders will be able to celebrate both 50 years of RAGBRAI and the town’s 150th anniversary. Cyclists will then pass through Iowa City on the final day, July 29. The route will take them through the University of Iowa campus and downtown Iowa City, with possible attractions including the Old Capitol, Kinnick Stadium, and Big Grove Brewery, home of the official RAGBRAI beer.
The 2023 RAGBRAI route begins on July 22 in Sioux City, with Storm Lake, Carroll, Ames, Des Moines, and Tama-Toledo also serving as host towns, and Davenport welcoming riders at the end of their journey. The “century loop,” an optional add-on route for participants who want to bike 100 miles in a single day, will take place between Carroll and Ames.
RAGBRAI last visited Iowa City in 2018, when the town was an overnight host for the first time in 42 years. Organizers anticipate this ride to be just as memorable, mirroring the original route that first put RAGBRAI on the map for bike enthusiasts around the world.