Riders during the 2019 RAGBRAI (Photo credit: RAGBRAI)

What is RAGBRAI and How to Prepare

This summer, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) turns 50 years old and is slated to be the event’s biggest edition yet. The annual week-long party on wheels that draws cyclists from all over to traverse the entire state of Iowa with plenty of fun stops along the way. This article reveals the ins and outs of what is RAGBRAI and how best to prepare for the seven-day bike tour! 

ROKFORM specializes in high-quality accessories for cyclists to enhance their ride. Free up your jersey pockets and mount your phone to your bike, keeping your precious device secure and easily within reach. The V4 Pro Series Bike Phone Mount and Sport Series Bike Phone Mount are compatible with ROKFORM magnetic cases so you’ll have access to maps, ride stats, and favorite apps whenever you need them.


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of RAGBRAI, we’re sending out one of our own to report from the field (well, corn fields to be exact) and put ROKFORM products to the test. This article kicks off a new blog series centered around this great Iowa tradition, covering its history, riding tips, and unique stories from the 2023 event. Equipped with the right ROKFORM accessories, we’re prepared to take it all on from long days in the saddle to overnight camping. Stay tuned this summer for more RAGBRAI blogs and photos from this year’s ride!

What is RAGBRAI?

Every year, thousands of Iowans and other cycling enthusiasts ride across the Hawkeye State along a seven day-long route. The specific route changes from year to year but always starts somewhere near the Missouri River in western Iowa and goes east to the Mississippi River. The decades-old recreational bicycle ride starts on July 22nd this year, stopping in designated towns each evening for great food, music, and a party for everyone.

Riders stop in front of IOWA letters on Day 2 of the 2018 RAGBRAI
Photo credit: RAGBRAI​​

The RAGBRAI Origin Story

RAGBRAI got its start way back in 1973 when two writers from the Des Moines Register set out to cross the entire state on bike. The columnist pair—John Karras and Donald Kaul— gained a following and growing entourage that joined them that summer and the subsequent year. In 1975, the ride established its official name as the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa and, over the years, has passed through almost every town in the state. 

RAGBRAI co-founder John Karass signing autographs during the ride
Photo credit: RAGBRAI​​

Fun fact: Just like the world-famous Tour de France and its Italian counterpart the Giro de Italia, RAGBRAI has its roots in a local newspaper! The Tour de France was started to promote circulation of the L’Auto publication in 1903 and the Giro de Italia is still sponsored today by the recognizably pink La Gazzetta dello Sport.

RAGBRAI Turns 50

2023 means that RAGBRAI is in its 50th year! The special occasion means the organizers are expecting the biggest turnout yet, perhaps even breaking the Guiness World Record of the largest single-day “parade of bicycles”. This year’s route matches the original route taken by the event’s co-founders in 1973, starting off in Sioux City for the first day’s ride.

RAGBRAI 2023 Dates and Route

During the day’s route, RAGBRAI visits pass-through towns where residents welcome the ride and cheer on participants. There are also designated meeting towns where riders can meet back up with their group before pedaling on to finish the day.

The finishing points of each day are the overnight towns where riders spend the night, mostly sleeping in tents. Luckily, you won’t have to carry all your gear by yourself because RAGBRAI has baggage transport to shuttle riders’ stuff to the next destination. Before snoozing after a long day of pedaling, though, there are plenty of activities, food vendors, and time for partying. This big extravaganza means there is a large number of riders, so events are typically hosted with support from local restaurants or school grounds. 

ROKFORM Samsung S23 Ultra Rugged Case on Sport Series Bike Mount

To capture all the memorable moments throughout the week, you’ll want to keep your phone handy and protected from accidental drops. Heavy-duty ROKFORM cases for iPhone or Samsung defend against impacts from up to 6 feet and feature compatibility with MagSafe® accessories and ROKFORM mounts. The newest addition to the Samsung lineup is the Rugged Galaxy S23 Ultra Case that’s up to any challenge, from bike rides to camping.

“Best quality case I've ever had, and the magnets are unbelievably strong.”

— Nathaniel W. 4/17/2023

RAGBRAI Roots Run Deep

RAGBRAI has been an important annual event for local communities in Iowa and beyond for 50 years, including my own family. If you’re from the Midwest or are an avid cyclist, you’ve probably heard of RAGBRAI before. It’s a popular summer bash yet still far from being a household name in the US but in my family, it’s a tradition I heard plenty of stories about while growing up. 

My father, a small-town Iowa native, rode in the second edition of this ride back before it gained its official name— in 1974, the event was referred to as SAGBRAI (the Second Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). From then on, he rode in many other editions and still has the annual commemorative patches to prove it. 

This year, I’m doing the epic ride with him and planning to document the journey every pedal stroke of the way. I don’t often get the chance to visit my father’s hometown, my grandma who still lives there, and the rest of the beautiful state— and doing it on two wheels is a fantastic way to see it all. 

To get the most out of our ride, we will be using ROKFORM phone bike mounts to secure phones and have easy access to maps and music while on the go. I’ve already installed the V4 Pro Series Mount on my bike and my father’s bike will have the compact Sport Series Mount. My lovely, antique iPhone 6S (an oldie but a goody) will be rocking a ROKFORM Universal Adapter to attach to the mount while my father will use a compatible ROKFORM iPhone case for his more modern device.

With that said, keep an eye out for the upcoming ROKFORM blogs about my experience during RAGBRAI L 2023. Learn all about the two ROKFORM bike mounts and what makes them unique below— secure your Samsung Galaxy S22, S23, or iPhone on every ride!

How Best to Prepare for RAGBRAI

Participants can enter RAGBRAI as a week-long rider or daily riders who complete a smaller section of the cross-state bicycle ride. The suggested preparation will vary depending on which registration you have. Week-long passes have gone out to around 12,000 riders and are now still available on a first-served basis. 

Whether it’s your first time joining the two-wheeled party or you’re a seasoned RAGBRAI veteran, get ready with us below!

Pre-ride Training

Although RAGBRAI is a recreational ride that’s open to everyone, I recommend a bit of fitness training beforehand. The event is far from being a race, but the 80+ mile days and sense of friendly competition mean you’ll want to be in good shape. But don’t fret— we’ve even seen grandmas rolling by on their beach cruisers so if they can do it, so can you!

RAGBRAI 2021 Day 3 Fort Dodge to Iowa Falls
Photo credit: RAGBRAI​​

The shortest day in this year’s route falls on July 26 when it's just a 50-mile ride from Ames to Des Moines. The longest day comes the day before, clocking in at 83 miles and there are two additional days that measure more than 80 miles. On Day 3, there is an optional century ride for cyclists who want to tack on some extra distance. 

Iowa is known for being quite flat but the rolling hills can be deceiving! The most elevation gain along the route comes on July 27 with 3,652 feet in total, with similar stats on Sunday and Friday. If the day becomes too much for you, exhausted riders can take a ride with RAGBRAI’s “SAG wagon”. The sag wagon services scoops up cyclists too tired to carry on and connects with other members of teams in the next meet-up or overnight towns.

Recommended Gear

Having the right gear and accessories with you will make a big difference once you’ve hit the road. Your packing list will vary depending on your planned nightly accommodations but there are a few crucial items to have while on the bike. Wear appropriate clothing that’s comfortable, cool, and won’t chafe through the long-mileage days. Each rider is allowed one large bag (or bundled gear) weighing up to 50 lbs. that will be carried each day by the baggage truck, so you can bring along your tent, change of clothes, and other essentials.

In terms of tech, cell phones are important for keeping in touch with riding partners or team members in case you get separated. The countryside of Iowa can have spotty coverage even on the best of days and the high density of people during RAGBRAI is known to overload local cell towers. With so many people, electrical outlets can be few and far between, so I recommend bringing portable chargers to keep your devices topped up.

While riding, secure your phone with a ROKFORM Bike Mount instead of using jersey pockets that are tight on space and can be hard to access. Mounting your device directly to the handlebars ensures it’s easily within reach and view at all times. These days, many riders use GPS or other bike-specific apps on their phone that can replace a traditional bike computer, saving space and decluttering your handlebars.

ROKFORM offers two distinct bike mounts so you can achieve your perfect setup. The V4 Pro Series Bike Phone Mount is made from aircraft grade-aluminum and screws directly into the headset for a secure and ultra-sleek profile. The Sport Series Bike Phone Mount straps anywhere along your handlebars or stem for ultimate flexibility for where you want to place your phone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is RAGBRAI and what does it stand for?

If you're wondering what is RAGBRAI, it is an acronym for the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

How can I mount a phone to my bicycle?

The most secure way to attach a phone to your bike is with a ROKFORM Bike Mount, available in two versions. The V4 Pro Series Bike Phone Mount screws directly into the headset that’s an ultra-slim design made from aircraft-grade aluminum. The Sport Series Bike Phone Mount is a compact solution that quickly straps to any handlebar or stem.

Where do you sleep during RAGBRAI?

Most RAGBRAI riders sleep in camping tents in each of the overnight towns. Other participants reserve hotel rooms (which sell out fast), arrange private housing with friends who live nearby, or use motor homes.

What’s the best phone case for cycling?

Combine a protective ROKFORM phone case with our sturdy bike mounts for the ultimate setup. Each ROKFORM case has a dual retention system with strong magnets that twist-locks onto the mount. For example, Samsung users can attach their rugged Galaxy S22 or S23 case to their reliable ROKFORM bike mount.

ROKFORM: Quality Accessories for Cyclists

As we celebrate RAGBRAI’s 50th anniversary, ROKFORM provides the perfect accessories to protect your phone while pedaling. Pick between Samsung Galaxy casessturdy bike mounts, and more to get yourself ready to roll through the Iowa roads!

Have questions about which products are right for you and your bike? We are available for online chat or in-person at our Irvine, California showroom. Call us toll-free at 855-765-3676, or email us at info@rokform.com, or visit us at www.rokform.com

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