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RAGBRAI co-founder John Karras called me the other day with a question.

“Courtney, how do you ride your bike online?”

I quickly parsed through whether to explain the Peloton phenomena, the general concept of virtual reality or how to build a digital trail in “The Sims” before realizing that the nonagenarian bicyclist was asking about Virtual RAGBRAI 2020.

Virtual RAGBRAI is the socially distanced, stay-at-home version of the much-beloved in-personRAGBRAI, an acronym for the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

Kicking off Saturday and running through July 25, Virtual RAGBRAI hopes to bring the celebratory, carefree spirit of the world’s oldest, largest and longest recreational bike ride to the masses —just without riders beingen masse.

Through online events, digital challenges and a host of ways for eager cyclists to share stories of their weeklong pedaling, Virtual RAGBRAI will be “the next best thing,” said ride director Dieter Drake.

Planning for the online ride began soon after RAGBRAI leadership made the "difficult decision" to cancel thein-the-flesh event in April, citing an inability to ensure riders' safety because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hearing riders’ disappointment and noting the general public’s increased interest in all things cycling, the RAGBRAI crew put their heads together and came up with a suite of online activities that support new bike riders, while also bringing die-hard RAGBRAIers a taste of their favorite July week.

“We take our role in bringing people to Iowa every year really seriously,” Drake said. “But this year that just wasn’t possible, so we wanted to capture the excitement of Iowa and of RAGBRAI and bring that to bicyclists all over the world.”


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