Trans Iowa’s Prototype: A Story About Our Inspiration

The four “Trans Iowa” riders from a 1980 newspaper clipping

The Stunt That Helped Give Birth To Trans Iowa: by Guitar Ted

As has been told  in the story of how Jeff Kerkove and I came up with the idea of Trans Iowa in 2004, the idea for a gravel road event across the state came up due to a conversation about an earlier event. An event that our employer, Russ Clarke of Europa Cycle and Ski took part in back in 1980. Russ had brought the story to the attention of Jeff and I which then stirred up the idea in November of 2004 of doing something on gravel with mountain bikes. The earlier attempt was taken on paved roads on road bikes and was fully supported. Of course, being mountain bikers at heart, we devised a plan in direct opposition to this earlier attempt at crossing the state of Iowa in a day.

The story of Trans Iowa is amazing, but the story of this attempt at crossing the state in a day back in 1980 is no less amazing. It also served as a prototype of sorts for Trans Iowa, so since this is a history of Trans Iowa, and this event is influential to Trans Iowa, I am including some tidbits about the event on this page.  Following are some news paper clippings concerning the event.

Click on any image to enlarge it. (These are scans though, so I am afraid the image quality is rather primitive)

Of course, it is only speculation, but this roadie version of “Trans Iowa” probably was inspired itself by RAGBRAI and RAAM in some form. Of course, the annual July running of the bicycle party that is called RAGBRAI was fast becoming its own legend by 1980, and riders would take 7 days to traverse the state by a circuitous route that was/is catered and cared for to the utmost degree to insure rider comfort and safety. Although doing RAGBRAI was/is considered “quite an accomplishment” by the civilian cyclist, racers, and nowadays endurance cyclists, know it is only the beginnings of a challenge. There in lies the seeds of “taking things further”, as it were, and this early trans-state road ride is perfect evidence of where a challenge goes from simple, (RAGBRAI), to quite difficult and noteworthy.

RAAM probably is the ultimate road biking ultra-endurance feat for a cyclist, which takes the challenge several notches higher by traversing the continent. The Iowa road attempt was very derivative of this event in the use of follow cars, a lead vehicle, and constant support for the riders.

Obviously, Jeff and I were also taking the challenge factor into consideration. We were thinking that by making the event something even more challenging than the 1980 road attempt across Iowa, we would be aligning a crossing of Iowa more closely with off-road ultras that were happening out in the West.  Jeff being an endurance/24hr racer at the time allowed his influence within that community of riders to be a big part in getting Trans Iowa off the ground and legitimized the challenge as something worthy of taking up. That only 9 riders finished the first one, and no one finished the second, only cemented the stature of the event in the ultra-endurance cycling community.

At any rate, it was fun to get these little tidbits of info and share one of the inspirations for Trans Iowa.


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