RAGBRAI Founders

Welcome to our tribute to the visionaries behind RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), John Karras and Donald Kaul. This website is dedicated to celebrating the legacy of these two remarkable individuals whose innovative idea transformed a simple bike ride across Iowa into an iconic event in the cycling world and a beloved tradition within the heart of America.RAGBRAI, conceived in 1973 as a casual ride meant to explore the scenic beauty of Iowa, has evolved into the world's oldest, largest, and longest recreational bicycle touring event. Thanks to the pioneering spirit of John Karras, a Des Moines Register feature writer, and Donald Kaul, a columnist, what started as a challenge between friends has grown into a week-long festivity that attracts thousands of cyclists from all over the globe. Together, they embarked on a journey that would not only test the limits of human endurance but also celebrate Iowa's landscapes, communities, and the camaraderie of the open road.This website serves as a comprehensive resource for those looking to delve into the history of RAGBRAI, understand its impact on local and global cycling cultures, and appreciate the contributions of its founders. Through detailed biographies, historical archives, and personal anecdotes, we aim to paint a vivid picture of John Karras and Donald Kaul, their vision, and how they created an event that has become a staple in the cycling community and an annual highlight for the state of Iowa.As you navigate through our site, you will find updates on upcoming RAGBRAI events, insights into the event's storied past, and stories from the myriad of lives touched by this extraordinary ride. Whether you are a seasoned RAGBRAI veteran, a cycling enthusiast, or simply curious about this unique cultural phenomenon, we invite you to join us in honoring the founders and exploring the legacy of RAGBRAI.Let's embark on this journey together, celebrating the spirit of adventure, community, and the enduring legacy of John Karras and Donald Kaul.

RAGBRAI Founders

The story of RAGBRAI cannot be told without delving into the lives and legacies of its founders, John Karras and Donald Kaul. Their backgrounds, distinct yet complementary, converged on a path that led to the creation of an event symbolizing endurance, community, and the simple joy of cycling across the heartland of America.

John Karras

John Karras, a features writer for the Des Moines Register, harbored a passion for cycling long before it became a nationwide phenomenon. With a career that spanned several decades, Karras's writings often reflected his keen observations and deep appreciation for Iowa's landscapes and communities. However, it was his personal enthusiasm for cycling that seeded the idea for what would eventually become RAGBRAI.An avid cyclist, Karras envisioned a bicycle ride across Iowa that would not only challenge participants physically but also expose them to the beauty and hospitality of the state. His idea was to create an event that emphasized enjoyment and exploration over competition, a vision that resonated with the ethos of cycling enthusiasts.

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul, a columnist known for his sharp wit and engaging prose, was Karras's counterpart at the Des Moines Register. While Kaul was not initially a cycling enthusiast, his adventurous spirit and love for engaging with diverse communities made him a perfect co-conspirator in the RAGBRAI venture. Kaul's columns, often filled with humor and poignant insights, captured the imaginations of readers, making him a beloved figure across the state.Kaul's role in RAGBRAI was not just as a co-founder but as a storyteller who brought the ride and its participants' experiences to life. His writings provided a window into the soul of RAGBRAI, showcasing the event's ability to bring people from all walks of life together.


The idea for RAGBRAI was born out of a conversation between Karras and Kaul, sparked by Karras's suggestion of a bike ride across Iowa. Initially intended as a personal challenge and an opportunity to enjoy Iowa's landscapes away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, the idea quickly grew into something much larger.Kaul, ever the provocateur, took to his column to extend an open invitation to the Des Moines Register's readership, challenging them to join the ride. The response was overwhelming, with hundreds of readers expressing interest in joining what was initially envisioned as a small, informal ride.The first RAGBRAI, held in 1973, saw a modest group of enthusiasts setting off on a journey across the state. With Karras and Kaul leading the way, the ride was a testament to the power of community and the enduring appeal of the open road. The success of the inaugural event laid the groundwork for what would become an annual tradition, drawing thousands of participants from around the world.Through their vision, Karras and Kaul created more than just a cycling event; they fostered a community bound by shared experiences, challenges, and the joy of discovery. RAGBRAI remains a testament to their legacy, continuing to inspire and unite cyclists of all ages and backgrounds.

RAGBRAI Founders Statue

On April 17, 2021, a statue honoring RAGBRAI founders John Karras and Donald Kaul was dedicated in Water Works Park, Des Moines. The bronze statue, designed by Gail Folwell, commemorates the contributions of Karras, a Des Moines Register writer and editor, and Kaul, a Washington columnist and Pulitzer finalist. The project, initiated in November 2015 by T.J. Juskiewicz and Carl Voss, initially aimed to place the statue near the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, close to the Register's headquarters and Principal Park.

RAGBRAI Founders Statue


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