Duzer Does RAGBRAI on a Big Wheel


It might have only been for one day, but my buddy Ryan van Duzer definitely made his mark on RAGBRAI (stands for “The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa” and is a seven-day ride across the state).  If you don’t already know about this cycling celebrity known as Duzer, you’re in for a treat with this one.

Good luck to all those doing RAGBRAI….you’re almost there.

RAGBRAI in a Day (on a Big Wheel)

by Ryan van Duzer

I may have only completed one day at RAGBRAI but it was one of the most incredible days I’ve ever spent on a bike, or big wheel for that matter.  If you like friendly people, homemade pie, running through sprinklers, drinking beer, live music, crazy costumes, camping with thousands of fun people, whooping and hollering, making friends, smiling until your face hurts and visiting the best of small town America, then RAGBRAI is for you.

My buddy Matt, creator of the High Roller adult size Big Wheel asked me months ago to ride his beloved toy in RAGBRAI.  At the time it sounded like a great idea, who doesn’t love power sliding on plastic wheels like a kid?  I’m always up for a great adventure and this seemed like a perfect way to admire the rolling hills of Iowa.

It only took about 6 miles of riding until I quickly realized that Big Wheels aren’t meant for long distance adventures.  Top speed is about 6-7 MPH and the cadence of pedaling is equivalent to a hamster running furiously in its wheel.  You just can’t go fast on a big wheel no matter how hard you try.  I envied all the bicycles whooshing past me with relative ease.  Every third person slowed to take photos, yelling out, “You guys are crazy!”

The best of RAGBRAI isn’t necessarily the riding; it’s the small towns that go out of their way to welcome the thousands of cyclists, about 20,000 in total.  Pedaling is just a romantic way to connect the dots of awesomeness throughout Iowa. I had never been to Iowa before and it was incredibly inspiring to see how the entire state embraces this 40-year-old event.

Every middle-of-nowhere farmhouse and small town along the route open up their hearts and homes, offering up much-needed goodies to all the calorie-starved riders.  Homemade everything is one the menu, ranging from fresh peach pie to any corn product you could ever imagine.  Even the Police get into the fun; I was passed a few times by cruisers that were blaring inspirational rock music out of their loudspeakers.  The South is well-known for its hospitality, but I’d say that the Midwestern charm and generosity is equally as magical.

After 30 miles of furious pedaling I came to the realization that no matter how hard I spun my tiny cranks, my trusty big wheel wasn’t going to get me to the final stop of the day.  Feeling defeated, I rolled into the small town of Schaller and pulled into the shade of a big Cottonwood tree.  The temperate was well over 100 degrees and this was the only place in sight to escape the oppressive heat.  Also seeking refuge in the shade was a ragtag group of dudes wearing dirty wife beaters and downing cheap American beer.  Within seconds I too had a warm beer in my hand, making friends and learning how to juggle apples.   These friendly Iowan crazies call themselves the ‘Davis Family Band’ and this is their 12th year participating in the event.  I instantly understood their passion for RAGBRAI…and beer.

Video: A Day at RAGBRAI…Duzer Style


My fellow big wheeling buddies Matt And Rob rolled in about 20 minutes later looking like they had just crossed the Sahara.  Luckily our new friends offered to take us to the final town of the day in their trailer.  I’ve never used a SAG vehicle in my life but I had to be realistic.  If I wanted to continue riding I wouldn’t arrive until midnight.  Reluctantly, we loaded our big wheels in the trailer and prepared to jump in for a 30-mile boost to the town of Lake View.

While awkwardly fitting our trikes around their huge beer cooler and barbeque, I noticed something beautiful.  Its cherry red frame, 26inch tires and full size cranks drew me in like a Siren enticing Odysseus.   It screamed out, “Ryan, I’m all yours!”  I asked my new friend Herbert (not sure if that was his real name) if anyone from his team was riding it.  They all looked at each other and said, “You’re riding it now!”  I jumped on for a quick test ride and it was as if I had just hopped on a rocket ship.

I was the happiest guy in Iowa and psyched to finish off the day on two wheels and a plethora of gears.  I couldn’t believe how easy and efficient it was to pedal; it was as if my legs were suddenly injected with steroids, it seemed too easy.

The eight of us took off into the rolling cornfields as the afternoon sun lowered on the horizon.  The rest of the day was spent riding as fast as we could in between each town in order to maximize our beer drinking at the local bars.  I usually hydrate with water on my long distance rides but everyone around me was drinking like fish, so naturally I joined in, not wanting to offend the locals.

We finally rolled into Lake View at around 8:30 PM as the sun was setting over the cornfields.  I jumped in the warm lake and drank an even warmer beer while watching the sun cast an orange glow over the town.  Heaven!

My one-day at RAGBRAI felt like an entire week.  This experience will forever be engrained as one of my happiest memories on a bike.  Iowa is everything good about America, beautiful landscapes, genuine people and a strong passion for enjoying the little things in life.

I’ll be back next year for sure…on a bike with full size wheels and lots of gears, I can’t wait.

For more on Ryan, head over to his website: www.duzertv.com.

Enjoy Your Ride

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