Forrest Ward tows his 150-pound canoe.

Struggling up the hills of RAGBRAI feels like enough of a chore near the end of the ride. But Forrest Ward of Marion has given his fellow bicyclists far less room to complain by towing an 18 1/2-foot, 150-pound canoe on the final two days of RAGBRAI.

Ward, 33, leverages the visual oddity as a “Pulling for ALS” fundraiser for the ALS Association. His task seems slightly tougher than the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

“This is my canoe loop,” Ward quipped by the side of the road Friday as other riders paused to snap photos of him.

He has ridden the entire week — his first full RAGBRAI — but picked up the canoe in Marion. Ward explained that first he had to condition his knees for the extra weight. So he bicycled both the Karras Loop and the gravel loop to pack on extra miles. 


The late Jim Hoepker of Urbandale, a bicyclist friend who died of the complications of the neurodegenerative disease, is one motivation for Ward. But he began towing because he wanted to transport his canoe by bike.

“I wanted to figure out a way to get my boat up the river without using the car,” he said.

His first big trek was to tow it hundreds of miles from Ames, Ia., to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca, Minn.

Not only can Ward pull his canoe. He’s also able to collapse his bike and trailer wheels and pack them into the boat. So he’s the self-contained amphibious rider of RAGBRAI. Hence his plans for the end of the ride are rather different than the ritual tire dip and quick photo: Look for the lone bicyclist floating away down the Mississippi for a post-RAGBRAI cruise.

“I won’t even dip my tires,” Ward said. “I’ll just dip my boat and go.”