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Airman completes his first ever RAGBRAI, travels 460+ miles on bike

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. AJ Hyatt
  • 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing
Every year, for the past 49 years, thousands of riders have travelled to Iowa to participate in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). Started in 1973 by Des Moines Register reporters John Karras and Donald Kaul, RAGBRAI is a seven-day bicycle tour that goes from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River with stops in overnight towns along the way.
This year, Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Murphy, 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group senior enlisted leader, decided to take on this challenge.
2022’s RAGBRAI was a 462-mile jaunt across Iowa on a bicycle, that took place July 24-30. The ride began in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa in the west and ended in Lansing in the east.
According to the RABRAI website, this ride is the oldest, largest, and longest recreational touring bicycle ride in the world. About 18,000 registered riders, with participants from all 50 states and a host of international locations, descend on Iowa every year to be a part of this historical ride.
After Murphy’s last deployment in 2016, he struggled to stay motivated to run and train for ultramarathons, so he decided to buy a bike and began mixing in riding to change up his routine.
“I was interested in riding it [RAGBRAI back in 2016], but my life balance at the time didn’t support the training or time off that I needed to ride,” he said.
Fast forward to 2019, Murphy injured his lower back and was unable to run. Combine his back issue with COVID, and it delayed his treatment plan for his back. This is when he decided to go full -time into bike riding because there was minimal pain to his back.
Murphy decided to join the Air Force Cycling team in 2021.
Along with challenging himself, Murphy looked up to the reputation of the Air Force Cycling Team known as “Guardian Angels of the route.” The team’s primary mission is to promote the Air Force by being positive roles models. The tenants of this are slowing down and lending a hand to cyclists in need, sharing their Air Force stories, or sometimes showing off their fitness. This year, like years past, the team helped hundreds of riders fix problems with their bike and in a few cases, rendered first aid to those in need.
“Exercise is an important part of not only my physical health but is a foundation of my spiritual well-being,” Murphy said.
On average, riders were travelling 60 to 70 miles per day or six to eight hours. When Murphy wasn’t singing random songs in his head during the ride, he would talk to others to pass the time.
“I’m usually talking to my riding partners or other riders on the course,” he said. “I liked doing this because it helped the time pass between towns on the course. You’d talk to someone for about an hour or so till the next town then say ‘see you later’ as you hit the town. You might see them later during the course or the next day.”
It’s important to understand that for a lot of these towns, RAGBRAI is very important to their economy.
“There are three to four designated stops in town between the nightly stops, and each of these towns basically had a block party for the riders with merchant and food vendors along with other attractions,” said Murphy. “You have 18,000 bike riders rolling through the town spending money. Some of the towns were using the proceeds for local projects like ‘saving their local pool’.”
There were many memorable moments during this 462-mile ride, but one stood out the most to Murphy.
“I was riding down a hill and as I was passing this guy who said something I couldn’t hear,” Murphy said. “I slowed down because I thought maybe he needed help or wanted to chat a little bit. When he caught up, he said ‘since you slowed down, you gotta sing me a song’.”
Cruising down this hill, Murphy started to belt out the first thing that came to his mind.
Although the ride encouraged a lot of camaraderie, there were several factors that influenced the challenge of the ride this year to include the distance, hills, heat, humidity and headwinds.
“I like to do things that are going to push me physically and mentally because I think it helps me build resiliency in other areas of my life,” Murphy said. 
“I can’t really compare this year’s event to past events as it was my first year,” said Murphy. “However, the RAGBRAI exceeded my expectations. It’s really hard to describe how much joy and happiness this ride gave me. This event will hold a special place in my heart moving forward.”
The Chief plans to participate in the inaugural Air Force Heritage Monument to Monument ride on Sept. 19, 2022.
“This is a 4-day ride starting at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, N.C. and ending at the Airman’s Memorial in Washington D.C. to celebrate the Air Force’s 75th Anniversary,” said Murphy. “I’ll only be riding the last day from Quantico, Va. to the Air Force Memorial.”
For more information on the Air Force Cycling Team, please visit