Thousands of bicyclists have rolled into Iowa’s capital city today. This marks the first time since 1997 that RAGBRAI has made an overnight stop in Des Moines.
The annual ride across the state is much different than it was when it was launched 41 years ago.
In the 1970s, most RAGBRAI riders carried all of their gear, including luggage and tents, on their bikes. Now, several companies provide those services. Tym Allison is manager of Shuttle Guy, a bike tour company based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
“All you have to do is ride. You bring your gear and we take care of the logistics,” Allison says. “We call it a domestique service. In bike racing, a domestique is a rider who sacrifices his or her ride for the team leader. So, these guys are the team leaders and we’re their support crew.”
Allison and his team of 15 workers were busy today setting up dozens of tents and air mattresses in Des Moines Water Works Park, where most RAGBRAI riders will be spending the night. The Shuttle Guy crew uses three trucks and trailers, plus a large U-Haul truck to transport all the tents and bikers’ luggage. For the week, each rider pays several hundred dollars for the service.
Allison has been managing the Shuttle Guy service since 2000, offering the bike tour support in several states. He’s worked RAGBRAI every year since 2006 and says the ride across Iowa is definitely unique.
“Because it’s so large, you have so much of everything. It’s very eclectic in the way that you have some gear-heads who ride really hard…and then you have a lot of families,” Allison says. “The flavor of this tour is much more vibrant than some other tours where it’s a little bit more sedated and relaxed. This one is just a little bit more fun and exciting.”
RAGBRAI riders will leave Des Moines tomorrow morning and spend Wednesday night in Knoxville. The overnight stops on Thursday and Friday are Oskaloosa and Fairfield before RAGBRAI riders dip their tires in the Mississippi River in Fort Madison on Saturday.