Sun July 29 2007
Posted Jul 29, 2007
RAGBRAI has spawned bike tours in many states. Each has its own customs and pleasures, but few are blessed with the food feasts served in Iowa.
By JEANNE ABBOTT
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
July 29, 2007
RAGBRAI XXXV, which ended Saturday, is the granddaddy of multiday rides. It's the oldest continuous cross-state tour in the country.
But, The Des Moines Register's annual ride has spawned dozens of offspring.
Since the Iowa tour began 35 years ago, nearly every state has established a multiday ride sometime during the year.
They range from Cycle Oregon on the West Coast to Bike Florida and BRAG (the Bike Ride Across Georgia) on the opposite coast.
In between, Colorado has Ride the Rockies, a tough one, and Wisconsin stages the mellow SAGBRAW, a ride that covers a flat course and is great for families and newer cyclists.
Most of these rides picked up the format of RAGBRAI - a week of riding between designated overnight towns with a modest entry fee and varied routes each year.
Like RAGBRAI, the rides also supply mass camping sites, basic shower facilities, mechanical and sag support, and frequent rest stops with lots of carbs.
The length of each route typically falls somewhere between 400 and 500 miles for the week, with daily rides averaging 50 to 75 miles.
Yet, the rides differ from RAGBRAI in various ways. Here's how:
- Some offer hotel or motel options with luggage pickup.
- Many are not as food-intense as RAGBRAI, so a support team staffs periodic rest stops with a supply of food and beverages.
- A few (notably Cycle Oregon) provide all meals, sometimes from gourmet caterers.
- Several rides offer a midweek day off for laundry and loafing.
- The total number of riders is vastly different, from less than 50 for small rides like BAMA (Bicycle Across Magnificent Alabama) to 10,000-plus for RAGBRAI. Commonly, the number falls between 1,500 and 3,000.
It's not too tricky to predict the difficulty of a ride - just factor in the state's terrain, prevailing winds, heat index and time of year.
RAGBRAI lands somewhere in the middle, with moderate hills, occasional wind and variable summer weather.
Ride the Rockies is notoriously demanding. The ride through the mountains this year required 24,000 feet of climbing.
By contrast, the only hills on Bike Florida in March are bumps over interstate highways.
The Bike Ride Across Georgia alternates between the hilly north and the flat south. This year, it went from Columbus to Savannah with little elevation gain.
It can, however, be brutally hot in Georgia in June.
For cyclists keen on doing another multiday ride this year, a few are scheduled in the fall.
But if your cycling days are over for the season, plan ahead and sign up early for rides in 2008 - some fill fast.
1. Bike Florida - This late-March ride registered 1,000 cyclists who followed a mid-coast route from DeLand to Flagler Beach, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and back to DeLand.
Typically, Bike Florida averages 300 to 400 miles, or 40 to 60 miles each day, providing an early-season jump start.
Next season's route has not yet been announced. Visit www.bikeflorida.org.
2. BRAG - The Bike Ride Across Georgia is traditionally held in early June with about 2,000 riders. The ride alternates between the hilly north (more difficult) and the flat south (much easier).
This year, riders cycled from Columbus to Savannah, staying in air-conditioned school gymnasiums and college dorms.
The ride comes with a shower truck, load-your-own luggage trailer, on-site meal options and rest stops every 15 miles or so.
Next year, the route is tentatively set to start in Atlanta on June 7 and finish on St. Simon's Island on June 14.
That means it will be relatively flat again. Check www.brag.org.
3. BRAT - The Bike Ride Across Tennessee is still a possibility if you're in the market for another multiday trip: It's scheduled for Sept. 15 to 22.
BRAT begins in downtown Nashville this year and is primarily a showcase for Tennessee's state park system, which sponsors the ride. All overnight stops except one (in the city of McMinnville) are at campsites in the parks.
Organizers promise a bit of everything this year - flats, hills, and mountains - with a tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery as a bonus.
The cost is $300, which includes a number of meals - but not all - baggage and sag support, rest stops, showers and a T-shirt. Go to www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/BRAT.
4. Cycle North Carolina - The 2007 Cycle North Carolina "Mountains to the Coast" ride is set for Sept. 29 to Oct. 6 when the weather is mild, the local produce is abundant and the cotton is blooming
It begins this year in West Jefferson and ends in Currituck/Outer Banks with an optional ferry ride to Knotts Island. About 1,200 riders are expected.
Cycle North Carolina is well-supported with rest stops, and sag support is available either to the campground or local hotels.
The basic cost for an adult rider is $195, which includes support, camping facilities, nightly entertainment and hot showers, but no meals. Go to www.ncsports.org.
5. Cycle Oregon - Catered gourmet meals and its own wine label set Cycle Oregon apart from many weeklong rides.
Of course, a choice of spectacularly scenic routes adds to the value of the tour.
About 1,500 riders are accepted each year.
This year's ride from Sept. 8 to 15 is sold out, so plan to sign up early next year if you're eager to go.
The 2007 ride will cover the south-central portion of Oregon, going from Dorena Lake in a circle to La Pines, Sisters and Oakridge.
Next year's ride will be announced shortly after Jan. 1. Go to www.cycleoregon.com.
6. GOBA - The Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure is another mid-June ride (June 14-21 in 2008) sponsored by Bob Evans Farms.
Next year, GOBA celebrates its 20th anniversary; the route will be announced in November.
This weeklong ride draws about 3,000 cyclists and features a different route each year with a 50-mile daily average.
Like RAGBRAI, reasonably priced food is provided by civic, social, and church groups along the route and in the overnight towns. Go to www.goba.com.
7. Ride the Rockies - Typically held in mid- to late June, it started this year in Frisco and circled to Steamboat Springs, Craig, Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Leadville.
Ride the Rockies fills up quickly and entry is by lottery. Forms for the 2008 ride will be available Feb. 3.
The 2007 tour cost of $315 per person included camping space and showers, sag support, bike repair vans, a cycling jersey and water bottle.
Training can be intense. Ride sponsors suggest riding 150 to 200 miles a week for about a month prior to the event, after a slow buildup starting in March.
For flatlanders, a big concern is altitude, which affects breathing, sleep and hydration. Acclimating a few days before the ride is recommended.
The payoff is gorgeous scenery, crisp mountain air and impressive leg muscles. Visit www.ridetherockies.com.
8. SAGBRAW - Schramm's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Wisconsin is one of two noted multiday rides in the northern state; the other is GRABAAWR (the Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River).
SAGBRAW is an excellent ride for families and beginning riders, with distances of 50 miles or less each day on a flat course.
Now in its 30th year, SAGBRAW returns this summer to Door County and the Lake Michigan coast . It starts today and ends Aug. 3.
9. GRABAAWR - This is held in June and typically follows the same route each year along the 427-mile length of the Wisconsin River. Daily distances range from 55 to 75 miles.
To learn about both SAGBRAW and GRABAAWR, go to www.bikewisconsin.com.
10. Tour de Wyoming - This small but extremely popular ride, endorsed by the state's Fitness Council, sold out in less than 20 minutes last March. Only 250 riders made the cut.
Held July 15-20, it covered 417 miles in six days with one century day and a second optional century.
Called the Black Hills Tour this year, the ride circled Devil's Tower, a familiar monument in the northeast corner of the state, and included a swing through Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota. The route changes each year.
Adult rider fees for 2007 were $150 plus $30 for a week of breakfast and facilities. Full support with rest stops are included.
Heads up if you want to register next year: Be online at exactly 7 p.m. March 1 (check the site to make sure this remains the same) to get a spot. Go to www.cyclewyoming.org.
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