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Looking for support driver tips.

I’m going to be a support driver for a couple of riders and noting that I have never done this before I thought a few of you could give me some support driver tips. I’ve rode Ragbrai a bunch of times so I’m very familiar with being a rider, just not a driver.

Anyone have any tips or suggestions?


13 Replies

jwsknk, April 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm

up at the top under “Training” there is a page for “Driver Safety” They also have a meeting in the start town at 4:00 on that Saturday


Michael Knapp, April 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Don’t leave the meet up town until all your riders have checked in.

Have an established communication system on how you will post signage on where you will be camped/parked before you go on RAGBRAI. And a back up plan. You might want to pre-print notice signs with space to print specific directions or messages so that your postings are easily recognized by your team.

Invest in a set of walkie talkies for you and one of your riders so that you can communicate in towns and not have to worry about getting cellphone tone.

Have something distinctive on your vehicle so that the riders can find you.

Take naps, eat leisurely breakfasts, but don’t drink and drive.

Set up a kitty so that you have prearranged funds for gassing up vehicle and restocking coolers with ice, beer, pop, etc. Gives you something to do during the day while you’re waiting for your riders to come in.


giantron, April 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I highly recommend that you get into the end town, setup, and TEXT message your team where you are. After a few years of this we’ve found that is pretty much the only reliable method. Texts eventually get through, especially since the drivers always get into the end town way before the masses do, and way before the cell towers get overloaded.
Just try and pick a marker the team can recognize (i.e. “near the water tower”, “in the library parking lot” or “just behind the high school”).
I’m not a big fan of meeting everyone in the mid-point meet up town. It’s just too hard to find people in them and cell service in those is usually non-existent. So you stand around for a few hours, never see your team, never hear from them, and then end up just moving on anyways and then being so late into the end town that you get a crappy campsite. That’s just been our experience. Also getting a larger vehicle (I don’t know what you’re driving so this may or may not be a concern) in and out of the meet up towns is also sometimes a bit tricky.
Hope that helps.


Sandaltan ., April 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Plus one for Giantron.



Michael Knapp, April 26, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Almost every town in Iowa still has a post office, so that’s a good place to meet too.

I’d make sure everyone is clear on what you do and don’t do as support vehicle driver. We had a team member bring along a friend from California on the ride with us one year, who got all over our driver for not unloading her gear from the van. She was a bit of a princess and thought that since she had been riding her bike all day, that the driver should tend to her needs. If those riding with you aren’t your friends, better that everyone is on the same wavelength as to what you do or don’t do as the support driver.


schultz6, April 27, 2012 at 8:52 am

Ditto… Also meet and talk to other drivers when you get to the overnight town early. You’ll learn a lot and meet a whole other sub culture of the ride.


jwo, April 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Once you get to the overnight town, park the vehicle, throw the keys somewhere you will find them in the morning, go enjoy yourself. The riders you are supporting should now buy you all the beer/drinks and food you want for the rest of the night.


Anonymous, April 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm

The main camp bulletin board in your default aid to inform your team where you are..
The driver is the MOST IMPORTANT (logistics) PERSON on the team and shall be treated that way.
Smart team members help a good Driver promote tranquility and harmony, help load and unload, etc. but there certainly will be a teammate bug or two in the ointment.
The entire team can/will show the Bugs the error of their ways..


csommerlot, April 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm

giantron said it perfectly. I have found that texting is the only way to communicate. Put everyones cell # on a group list. and make sure everyone has eveyone elses numbers. But I have had to change my destination point many times because sites were full or whatever. So text where you are after you are sure you will stay there! One thing you will miss is the food that the riders get. Those vendors never come into the town.I have been driving for many years and I have never had a Pork Chop, or the breakfasts everyone talks about..:( .. Meeting your group in the meeting town is just about impossible. Nobody gets there at the same time and sometimes you can’t drive there as fast as the riders can. So only go if there is something you want to see. Don’t miss out of the fun! Putting a flag on your vehicle with a pvc pole really helps your team find you. We have used flags, jerseys, stuffed animals, whatever we remember to take and my team has no problems finding the rv. You will do a lot of hurry up and wait. And probably finding a walmart every morning for ice, food and drinks. Fuel up when you can because if you wait til tomorrow you may not find a place that doesn’t have a line a mile long. The same with dumping and filling with water. That is another topic altogether! Wow, I should right a book. no wait I already did! Sorry this is so long but driving for ragbrai is an experience in itself. HAVE FUN!!


ott2000, April 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Once you get to the overnight town, park the vehicle, throw the keys somewhere you will find them in the morning, go enjoy yourself. The riders you are supporting should now buy you all the beer/drinks and food you want for the rest of the night.

Amen JWo


dbkguy, April 28, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Wow! Lots of good tips. Some things I didn’t even think about. Was really hoping to get some of the food or to stop in a meeting town at least. I may have to rethink some things after this. Thanks for helping me out. Keep em coming if you have any more.


Michael Knapp, April 28, 2012 at 11:07 pm

We have 25 to 30 riders on the route every day. Our support vehicles (vans) leap frog the route and wait till all the riders check in. A lot of times the support vehicles will all come to the meet up town. They’ve never really had a problem getting in and out of towns, or with riders checking in. The drivers usually find a cool spot to plant their chair and settle in to wait for us. We usually have several virgins along each year and this way we can keep a check on everybody in case they’re having any problems (heat prostration, dehydration, injuries, etc.). Our riders tend to ride in groups of 4 or 5, though we do have some who push off on their own or straggle behind from too much time in the beer garden. Riders really appreciate the safety net. And the drivers like getting the flavor of the towns along the way. Texting is a good idea, except for not everyone may have texting ability. Or they aren’t able to keep their phone charged. That’s why we also have walkie talkies along.

Also, try to develop a packing routine for stowing gear in the vehicle. How its stowed, where its stowed, etc. If you prefer to store peoples gear on board your vehicle, establish where they should put their bags, tent, etc. in the morning so that you can load them on the vehicle. That puts the responsibility on the riders to have their gear in the staging area in the morning and avoids stuff getting left behind. Keeping to a routine is very helpful for everyone as once sleep deprivation sets in the brain gets a little addled and people start misplacing/losing things.

If you’re driving a personal van, you might want to put some cheap seat covers on the seats, or get some large beach towels to drape over them. There may be time when riders are in the van and it will keep your seats getting funky from biking sweat, chain grease, spilt beverages, etc.

Have a sticky note pad and pens in the vehicle to leave messages. Keep some extra route maps in the vehicle too. People are always losing theirs.

If there’s just a van full of you, make enough door keys for everyone to carry. That way you can be in the towns having fun and riders can get into the van for supplies, or to leave a note for you if they have found the vehicle but not you and they want to push on.


Amanda, April 29, 2012 at 7:26 am

She was a bit of a princess

Duh she obviously suffers from illusions of grandeur. I am the Princess of RAGBRAI! Our driver does unload the bags and we know what he will do and won’t do. It doesn’t. Hurt to have it in writting- just for those primness wannabes. : )


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