Many academics use their summers to do some research, or to rest. Justin Jagger, an academic specialist at the Eli Broad College of Business, spent the summer of 2018 doing another R: riding.
His bike, to be exact. The whole way across the state of Iowa.
Jagger, who teaches in the Department of Supply Chain Management, rode in this year’s the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, known as RAGBRAI. It bills itself as the oldest, largest, and longest recreational bicycle tour in the world, with thousands of people annually participating in the 468-mile, 7-day ride.
“It’s part carnival. It’s part exercise. It’s camping out. You’re kind of roughing it,” Jagger said of the experience. “There’s concerts at some of the host towns. It really can be whatever you want to make it.”
His father-in-law talked Jagger into joining him and Jagger’s brother-in-law in this year’s event. Jagger’s longest previous ride before agreeing to go? Maybe 8 miles. “It became sort of this experience and a goal. It was creating a goal and seeing if you can do it,” Jagger said.
“I had ridden a bike for quite a while, but I’ve never road-biked, and never to this extent,” Jagger said. He started training this past winter.
“You start going to the IM West and start riding the stationary (bikes),” Jagger said. “I bought a road bike proper in March, and then you start trying to go out for rides” of up to 20 miles in training. RAGBRAI required rides of 60 miles most days, and 100 miles one day.
“I’m on the Staff Leadership Committee, so I brought it up where I’m riding a bike across Iowa. A couple of people had heard about RAGBRAI, and they were actually excited,” Jagger said. “For the most part, the immediate reaction was, ‘why would you want to do that?’ and ‘isn’t Iowa really flat?’”
“It was sort of a simple seven days. You wake up, you ride your bike, you land and camp out for the night; you wake up and you do it again,” Jagger said.
For a supply chain person, Jagger found it fascinating to watch a huge, rolling event take shape. “From a logistics standpoint, the entire state is behind this. They have approximately 10,000 to 12,000 people on bikes at any given point in time, so just witnessing the orchestration of the event was amazing,” he said.
“Being in supply chain and teaching a logistics course, I look at it from purely a logistical phenomenon. You have a mass of 10,000 people who come into a town that typically, the population is 900,” Jagger said. “It’s kind of a sight to behold when you have all these bikes coming through.”
“Basically every town we stopped in, you had food trucks. The same food trucks basically moved with us,” Jagger said. “In essence it was almost like a traveling carnival. The whole mass just moved across” the state.
One day of the ride was themed as University Day, when Jagger clad himself in a Spartan workout short. “I did see random Spartans here and there,” he said. “I would yell ‘Go Green!’ and they would respond ‘Go White!’”
Jagger also ran into alumni during one overnight stop. “They met on RAGBRAI 27 years ago … they saw my shirt, and they said, ‘Well, we’re from Michigan State and our daughter is at Michigan State.”
He also got a chance to sample the competition, with stops in Iowa City (home to the University of Iowa) and Ames (where Iowa State University is located). “It was fun,” Jagger said. “We did get to have a mini-ride around Iowa State’s football stadium.”
Now back at MSU, don’t be surprised if you hear about the ride from Jagger. “I’m thinking this is something I could share with the students,” Jagger said. “It’s a nice way to connect with the students.”