RAGBRAI-ers ready for ride

BY CHRIS CLARK | JULY 17, 2009 7:15 AM

On July 19, 10,000 cyclists will gather to begin a 442-mile ride across Iowa. But many started getting ready months ago.

For UI-based Team Archaelogy, that includes putting together exhibits — “Archaeology on the Road” — for stops along the way. Lynn Alex, a team organizer, said she has been busy preparing booklets and handouts for riders to take on the road.

“We’re hoping to show riders in RAGBRAI and members of the [host] communities along the way that there is archaeology in their own backyard,” Alex said.

“I see it as a chance to go out and ride while doing public outreach for archaeology,” said Dan Higginbottom, a staff archaeologist at the State Historical Society.

This year will be Higginbottom’s second RAGBRAI. In preparation, he tried to ride around 30 miles every night after work, longer when he could.

At World of Bikes, 723 S. Gilbert St., owner Ryan Baker said a number of RAGBRAI participants started pedaling in last month for tune-ups and to stock up on spare equipment. June and July are normally the store’s busiest months, he said.

Jeremy Wofford, a salesman and mechanic at Geoff’s Bike and Ski, 816 S. Gilbert St., said most of the customers coming into his shop aren’t worried about training or endurance.

“Most people are just worried about where they’re going to get beer and how they’re getting to the start,” he said.

In its 37th year, RAGBRAI is the longest, largest, and oldest organized bike ride in the state. Last year’s flood challenged the cyclists, but it spoke volumes for the event’s atmosphere.

“I can’t even tell you how many people said they would give up riding if people needed help with flood recovery,” said RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz. “The roads were pretty torn up from the floods, and everyone did a lot to help out.”

This year’s event will begin in Council Bluffs, attracting riders for a kickoff event Saturday.

Participants can ride across a bridge over the Missouri River through a spray of river water pumped to the bridge deck. The real journey begins July 19, and riders will end the ride on July 25 by dipping their front tires into the Mississippi River — what some riders call “the heart of the tradition.”

Participants can ride individually or with a team.

While members of Team Archaeology have prepared individually, other teams organize group rides, some of which are open to the public. They also differ in riding routines; while Higginbottom has logged some 2,000 miles this year, Jenny Keeney, founder of Team Evil Eyes, described her ride to be “more like a vacation.”

Keeney started Team Evil Eye after riding with a friend in 2006. Her group cohosts an annual warm-up ride with Iowa-based Team Spin, who she called “RAGBRAI celebrities” for pedaling with purple wigs.

She said meeting people with different backgrounds from all over the country makes RAGBRAI fun.

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