Beginning in the 14th century, European knights challenged other warriors by throwing down their gauntlet (which is French for "glove"). With this column, I am reactivating this ancient tradition. I am throwing down my cycling gauntlet at your feet, my readers. The 28th Annual RAGBRAI (an acronym for Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) will take place between July 23 and 29. My challenge to you is to join me in this ride that transverses the state of Iowa.

There are several reasons for me to do RAGBRAI. In many of my columns, I have extolled the virtues of a cardiovascular exercise program for getting and staying in good physical shape. It is one of the best things that one can do to assure a healthy body, and I take my own advice. I work out for at least a half-hour each morning on a stationary bike. Over the years, I have logged more than 32,000 miles on my bike. That distance equals one and a quarter times around the earth at the equator. Cycling across Iowa would be an excellent cardiovascular challenge. Besides, the scenery would be a lot more interesting than the walls of the room in which I workout.

Another reason for riding in RAGBRAI is to accomplish a significant task. I am challenging myself to plan, organize, and execute a major project. I'm learning about equipment, training techniques, logistics, and psyching myself for this year's RAGBRAI. Bikes and equipment have come along way since my youthful days on a ten-speed with child in a carrier behind me and an orange caution flag bobbing in the breeze. I also need to get into better shape than I am now by starting to log road miles and by working on logistical problems like sleeping and eating. Publicly challenging you in print will motivate me when my resolve starts to dissolve in the heat of the sun while peddling alone on a lonely back road.

Finally, I am doing RAGBRAI because I envy my son's determination and strength. He has ridden in RAGBRAI a handful of times and competed in the Chicago Triathlon. Last summer he biked from San Diego, California to Lubec, Maine (a total of 3900 miles). Therefore, one of my motivations is a masculine thing-the primordial challenge of the old patriarch by the youthful challenger. I'm not going to reverse my aging process, but I want to compete with him before I am put out to pasture. While RAGBRAI isn't a race, it is a physical challenge for young or old. You will bike an average of 60 miles per day, and on one of the days, you will cycle 100 miles. The total for the week will be 450 miles.

Therefore, if this adventure appeals to you, join me in this year's RAGBRAI. It would be great to have a Dixon delegation sharing the roads of Iowa with my son, me, and thousands of others. I've talked to Bill Shaw about the ride to see whether the Telegraph might become involved in some way. He and his management team will be discussing some options in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, consider doing RAGBRAI. To get more information about the ride, go to RAGBRAI 's web site at http://www.ragbrai.org/. If you plan to accept my challenge, you'll have to get started ASAP. You have just over three months to get into shape and get ready for what will be a fun week of peddling through Iowa. Let me know whether you plan to accept my throwing down the gauntlet by e-mailing me or by calling the Telegraph.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 4/13/00.