Riding Across A State

Now that RAGBRAI is over, I’m thinking about getting into a ride across state myself. What’s RAGBRAI, you ask? It’s the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa — the granddaddy of all the cross-state rides.

Cyclists dip their tires in the Mississippi River, the traditional way to end RAGBRAI.

In all, about 40 states have some kind of cross-state ride. They’re pretty neat, because they offer a chance for cyclists who do not tour on their bikes to sample a long-distance, multi-day trip. Typically, these rides offer sag support, medical attention, bike repair, meals, and rest stops. A day’s ride can be anywhere from 40 to 100 miles, but usually run about 60 miles.

Most of the time, riders will camp at a large group campground each night. Some rides make arrangements with area motels to take cyclists who are not the camping type.

One of these years, I’m going to do RAGBRAI. The 2011 version has already wrapped up. Their website is already anticipating next year’s ride. The catch is, RAGBRAI is so popular, it limits the number of cyclists who ride the whole trip to 8,500 — and fills that quota with a lottery. So you might not get in.

But there are other options if you don’t. Most of the other cross-state rides aren’t as famous as RAGBRAI,┬ábut worth considering nonetheless. Here’s a sample.

California Coast Classic: Sept. 17-24. An eight-day trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw (Michigan): Aug. 31-Sept. 4. Five days from Lansing to the tip of the Lower Peninsula, with an option to continue up to Sault Ste. Marie.

One Awesome Tour Bike Ride Across Nevada (OATBRAN): Sept. 25-Oct.1. Starts and ends in Lake Tahoe.

Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT): Sept. 11-17. The 22nd annual. Overnight camping in state parks. Figure 8 loop west of Nashville.

Tour des Trees (Virginia): Oct. 2-8. Ride from Virginia Beach to Washington, DC and plant trees along the way.

These are all still scheduled, so if you want to ride one, act fast. Most of the cross-state tours seem to happen in spring, especially June. Some worth considering are the Oklahoma Freewheel: June 10-16, 2012; south to north across the state; Biking Across Kansas; Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River (GRABAAWR); June 16-23, 2012; Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN). You can also cross a state in one day in the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN), which goes from Terre Haute to Richmond — 160 miles.

The idea of crossing a state appeals to me — much more than riding across the entire country. I’ll be putting several of these on my bucket list. If you’d like to scope out even more options, the fine touring blog Biking Bis has a whole section devoted to them.

Have you ever done one of these cross-state tours? What do you think?




  1. says

    I’ve done at least one week-long ride a year for the past 8 years and some years have done two! They’re generally a blast. After all, what could be better than getting up in the morning and getting to ride your bike!

    The thing that I enjoy most about them is the fact that you really get to experience small town America on most of them. I’ve seen and done things on those trips that I would never have even considered on a car trip where you never get off the interstates.

    For example, I’ve seen a native American rattlesnake handler in Apache, Oklahoma, climbed lighthouses on the Lake Michigan shoreline, and visited the Barbed Wire Museum in Kansas. You don’t see stuff like that here in Missouri!

    • Todd Music says

      Ohio has the Pan Ohio Hope Ride. 4 days from Cleveland to Cincinnati 328 miles. Great support. Fundraiser for the Hope Lodges.

  2. says

    I’m surprised this post hasn’t garnered more responses.

    I did Ride Across INdiana (RAIN) last year, it’s 160 miles in one day. It was quite an experience. My blog post is here:

    I enjoyed it, and some folks like to do this ride every year, but for me, I don’t see the need to ride it every year. It was more of a question of whether I could do it. I think I’d be more likely to ride it every year if it weren’t in the mid-July heat. I’m sure I’ll ride it again, at some point.

    Someday I hope to do a longer tour, possibly across a state. But I haven’t had the opportunity, yet.

  3. Barbara says

    I did RAGBRAI this year for the first time. It was also my first experience with a multiday ride. I used a charter service to transport my camping gear and camped each night. The service also supplied several evening meals with options to purchase additional meals if needed…and provided unlimited free showers, which this year was a true blessing.
    Logged just under 500 miles in 7 days and just under 15,000ft of climbing. Shortest ride of the week was 55 miles, longest was 77. I opted out of the chance to do the century ride on Tuesday(75 mile day with an option for an extra 30). I hear the loop was flat so I should have gone for it, but my training had derailed in a major way before to making this trip. I can honestly say I got stronger as the week progressed.
    Learned lots of lessons(most the old fashioned hard way) that I will use in the future for such events!

  4. Anthony Davis says

    I completed RAGBRAI this year. I was a RAGBRAI virgin. Similiar to Barbara, I logged 473 miles. (the offical distance was 454). My longest day was 76 miles and shortest 62. Interestingtly, I’d never ridden more than 52 miles in a day prior to RAGBRAI.

    Training for it this spring, I’d done 1,500 since April, to the ride itself was surprisingly ‘easy’. Since the towns are so close, its’ more like 3 or four 20 mile rides in a day rather than a 65+ mile ride. I averaged about 14 MPH for the entire week. For me, the camping was the ‘hardest’ part of the ride.

    My first, but not my last …

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