RAGBRAI in the eyes of Jill Endres, MD

Date: Friday, July 20, 2018

Jill Endres, clinical professor and director of medical student education in the Department of Family Medicine, has participated in RAGBRAI for more than ten years. She started riding for her love of cycling and the outdoors, and after her father, an expert cyclist, crashed a few years ago she now rides to promote bike safety and health throughout the community. 

Learn why Endres loves RAGBRAI and how she believes it does more than promote tourism for Iowa.

two cyclists standing by bike

Q: How many years have you participated in RAGBRAI?

A: I have been participating in RAGBRAI since 2006, riding the whole ride for about nine years. I started riding with my dad, and my sons joined in as they became old enough. This year will be our fifth year with the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital team. 

Q: Why do you enjoy participating?

A: There are so many great things about RAGBRAI! I love biking, being outdoors, and exploring places I might not ever go otherwise. One experiences so much more on a bike than driving the same route in a car. I love meeting new people, too. Other riders come from all around the country (and the world), and they are interesting, quirky, and inspiring. The local people in the small towns who host the ride are so gracious and welcoming. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and family while on a fun, active vacation. Because it is such a popular ride, the traffic control makes it possible to ride with little worry about distracted motorists. And, of course, we all enjoy the pie.

Q: What are you looking forward to about RAGBRAI this year?

A: While I can’t say that I’m looking forward to hills, heat, humidity, and wind—they are constants on RAGBRAI—there’s something about the co-miseration that makes them tolerable. The RAGBRAI excitement is always palpable and there is a culture of acceptance and camaraderie, kind of an esprit de corps in the whole ride. 

I especially love riding with the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital team. My teammates are absolutely awesome! As we have been riding together as a team for a few years now, people are starting to recognize us and look forward to our team interactions. In addition to helping cyclists who are injured or struggling with heat or other problems, we reach out to local people in all of the towns along the way. We answer questions and collect stories about their experiences at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. We talk to them about helmet use and bike safety and encourage it.

cyclists at safety tent

Engaging in the communities in this way gives an extra sense of purpose to the ride. The helmet message was reinforced for me personally a couple of years ago when my dad, an expert cyclist, was on a bike ride with friends and crashed. He suffered neck, rib, and clavicle fractures and a subarachnoid hemorrhage. His helmet surely saved him from much more serious injuries, and likely saved his life. After emergency care near home, he came to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for his neck surgery and is thankfully back to biking again. I feel privileged to have the opportunity on RAGBRAI, and in our pre-season outreach events in Eastern Iowa, to help encourage bike helmet use and keep bicyclists at all levels as safe as possible. We are making a difference.    

Coming to Iowa City again makes this year’s ride even more special. Iowa City and the university community do such a nice job hosting all of the road-weary riders and refreshing them for the final leg.

Q: Why is RAGBRAI important for Iowa?

A: Of course, RAGBRAI is great for Iowa tourism. It also helps dispel myths about Iowa. For example, it isn’t flat. Anyone who rides RAGBRAI learns that pretty quickly! We have a very beautiful countryside and amazing people. RAGBRAI riders really do come from all over the world to experience it, and most of them leave loving our state, with a true appreciation for the value of small towns, farming, and the “Iowa nice” way of life.

Q: What is your favorite memory from RAGBRAI?

A: It’s so hard to choose a favorite memory, there are so many. Some are funny, some inspirational, some humbling. One of my favorite memories is of sharing lunch with an eighty-something year-old man. When I told him that I hoped to still be riding when I am his age, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Honey, you don’t stop riding because you get old; you get old because you stop riding.”

team of cyclists