Pro Cycling’s Icon, John Karras’ Memorabilia Is Journeying to Find a New Home to Preserve the RAGBRAI Legacy

Cherished relics up for sale! The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) has succeeded in completing a journey of five long decades. In the meanwhile, they have acquired the reputation of holding the record of being the longest, largest, and oldest touring event in recreational bicycling. 

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However, it will be disheartening for the entire cycling community since, after eight years, two significant pieces of the RAGBRAI will be put on sale. Let us find out what led to this dreadful decision and the rich history associated with the event. 

RAGBRAI, the conduit of blending cycling and community


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Even though the cycling event had humble beginnings, following the footsteps of the founders John Karras and Donal Kaul, it reached the pinnacle of success. Karras and Kaul had been writers sharing for cycling, and this strong partnership bore the idea of RAGBRAI 50 years ago. 

While they pedaled across states, they continued to write stories for the newspaper Des Moines Register in a unique attempt to engage the reader in their journey. Even though they had meager expectations, the inaugural event in 1973 witnessed the participation of 300 cycling enthusiasts. As a gesture of remembrance of the grand event, the primary RAGBRAI bicycle that Karras rode has been put on display at the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

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Karras’s daughter, Edie said in an interview with Des Moines Register, “We consider these items with another Des Moines Register jersey I keep at home to be virtually sacred objects; not to be ridden or worn, but sheltered as iconic symbols of legacy, history and tribute.”

Attempts to preserve John Karras’ legacy

For Karras’ family, both items mark an integral part of the family along with a symbol of the rich legacy of RAGBRAI, the history of cycling, the spirit of community and the state of Iowa. However, the history is all set to go on sale resulting from the loan agreement that the Karras family had with the state coming to an end in December. 


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As Edie emphasized the scrutinization of buyers provided the strong sentimental value attached to these items, she iterated the nostalgia associated with her father. She believes that for John Karras, cycling served as both physical and mental therapy. Although he enjoyed his rides, the support and the reciprocation he collected all the way pushed him to move ahead. 

Leo Landis, the state Historian appreciated the effort and initiative of the Karras family for being willing to share the items that are equivalent to personal treasure and the forthcoming decision to put them up for sale.


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The bicycle and the jersey behold the rich heritage and the enduring spirit of RAHBRAI along with the cycling community of Iowa that has been an indispensable part of the event since its inception. The initiative to help the historic artifacts find a new shelter will assist the legacy to live forever. 

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