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Tips and Advice for First Time Day Rider


I just discovered this fantastic ride and plan to participate as a day rider for the first time. I will be driving in from Chicago to join for the final leg from Coralville to Davenport on Saturday. The general plan would be to drive to Coralville on Friday with my girlfriend, stay for the night, then I will bike in the morning and she will meet me in Davenport driving our car.

Do any day riders past or present have any advice for someone jumping in? Specifically logistically speaking? Is it as simple as joining the group at the Coralville campsite and waking up and biking with the group? Is there anything my girlfriend should know about driving and meeting me in Davenport?

Any and all advice and tips are welcome! I am very excited to take part. This seems like such a great experience.

Thank you!

28 Replies

Uncle Kraig, April 17, 2023 at 8:48 pm

Register and get your day wristband, either in advance or the day of the ride at the baggage truck! Then, get on your bike, pedal, stop often, talk to everyone, have a beer and some pie and next year you’ll be back for the full week.


garywilk, April 18, 2023 at 10:20 am

You may want to get there as early as you can Friday as there will be a lot of things to do Friday afternoon through the night. Also you could find an OK parking spot fairly close to the events and camping. Friday evening will give you a bit of the taste of everything. There is a support vehicle route that is different than the bike route. This will be crowded and take some time but busses, RV, and everyone else driving takes it. They should have a map of Coralville with where everything will be located. There should be a page for this. This is a great event. After my dad started doing this he wants to come back every year he can. He is now 78 and this will be his 25th Ragbrai.


Denton Kernodle, April 18, 2023 at 11:00 am

Another tip, be sure to find out where the ride ends in Davenport. It looks like it will end at Veterans Park. Your girlfriend may not be able to get too close to VP…she may have to park aways off and walk to VP. Anyway a cell phone may or may not work due to the huge crowd. Have a great ride.


LawnchairMan, April 18, 2023 at 3:15 pm

Keep in mind that there is no mass start. My guess is that most start between 6:30 and 7:30. The route is officially open 6 am to 6 pm, but some start earlier, especially on the last day. Last days are usually less casual than other days as riders want to get done and out of town quickly.
Hopefully you can come back next year for the whole ride. Enjoy.


Matt, April 18, 2023 at 4:05 pm

Stop somewhere along the way for pie! Just kidding. Not really.
Anyway, it may be congested near Veteran’s Park and if parking somewhere downtown Davenport is a problem, you also have the option of the nice bike path along the river with a multitude of parking areas to meet (head East as the route will congest everything West). You can even ride the path 4.5 miles to the I-74 bridge area and meet near there if you are planning a clean dash back to Chicago. The path on the new I-74 bridge is a real treat and worth a quick check if you ride over there. Heck, you could even take the path into Illinois via the Arsenal bridge or the I-74 bridge. The paths are everywhere along the river on both sides and quite nice. You can take the bike path to any 4 of the Quad Cities down towns to escape the congestion. The Arsenal bridge is fun because the deck is metal grid and you can look down at the river below you. Hhmmm or maybe it’s a terror depending on your outlook. The Bix marathon festivities are also that day, so hanging around could be fun.


NHYardbird, April 18, 2023 at 6:57 pm

I have never taken a bicycle ride across the Arsenal Bridge but every metal grid bridge I have ever ridden across with a road bike can only be described as dangerous. In dry conditions, there is a loss of control; wet conditions far worse. I would recommend that anyone steer clear of a metal grid bridge deck, or approach cautiously & consider the change in “conditions”.


czysk, April 18, 2023 at 8:52 pm

The last time I was in Davenport we parked at St Ambrose college The hill from the river to college is steep and long In 2011 we parked in a parking ramp by the river, that was easy access after the ride


HelenP, April 19, 2023 at 1:59 am

The meeting town on each day is where support drivers can meet up with their riders, for lunch, etc.

You’ll be facing sunrise, so sunglasses and a visor help. Also, pack sample size sunburn cream, pocket tissue packs for KYBO/portapotty/cornfield, a few snacks, 2 water bottles, and basic first aid supples for you (hand wipes, band-aids for fingers and knees, any medicine) and your bike (tire patch kit, spare tire, pump, tools).

Carry your driver’s license or ID, and wear your RAGBRAI wristband. Clearly mark your emergency medical information (contact person, blood type, any allergies/conditions) on your phone and/or a written card.

A rain jacket or large trash bag is good if the weather looks bad — and bring your bike lights. I put small things (including money and phone) in plastic ziplock baggies — most bike bags aren’t water proof, only resistant for a short time.
That really helped last year, when my bike tipped over and fell into the river(!) — I hadn’t expected such a thorough tire dipping! It floated surpringly well, and was nice and clean after its rescue. *grin*

Most of all, bring a fun attitude, and enjoy the ride!


Joseph Schlau, April 19, 2023 at 6:02 am

I have never taken a bicycle ride across the Arsenal Bridge but every metal grid bridge I have ever ridden across with a road bike can only be described as dangerous. In dry conditions, there is a loss of control; wet conditions far worse. I would recommend that anyone steer clear of a metal grid bridge deck

I have crossed the Arsenal Bridge 3 times, 2x on a road bike with those skinny little tires and last year, on my tour bike, in the rain. The pedestrian / bike portion is separate from the vehicle traffic lanes. It is also a swing bridge and last year I waited a half hour while the bridge was turned to allow passage of a few barges.

I also crossed the metal decked bridge in Lansing last year. The Lansing bridge is one of the classic styles, has no separate bike lane, is due to be replaced.

Metal decks have a different sensation through the handlebars, not unlike gravel, but I find it manageable. Some don’t and may just want to walk it over.

The advantage of using the Arsenal Bridge is the open parking lots on the Rock Island side. It is also the designated bridge on the American Discovery Trail, Great River Trail on the Illinois side, and the Mississippi River Trail on both sides.

The highway 67 bridge near the dip site may be an alternative. It looks from Google Map to have paved pedestrian walkways but I never used it.


Matt, April 19, 2023 at 7:57 am

HelenP, excellent advice. I’ll add one more. My phone screen is locked which means the year I forgot it in a town, there was no way for someone to access my contact info. I called the police at each town where I thought it might be and was lucky enough to find it. NOW I write RAGBRAI If Found Call 563-xxx-xxxx on some paper, take a photo of it and save it to my home screen (my wife’s number).
Yardbird, Good advice. In fact, there are signs posted to walk bikes across. Few walk their bikes, but can decide on their own. I specifically didn’t suggest to ride across, only that the view was unique. Still good advice to mention though, thanks.
AHINES, you have probably noticed wristbands mentioned more than once here. Yes, register and get one. It gives you access to the SAG wagon, free ambulance (should the worst happen), and all of RAGBRAI’s services. Not to mention it supports the continuation of this great event.
Have a great ride and see you all week next year! You won’t be able to resist. The real meaning of the acronym is Riders Addicted to the Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa :-)


KeithMargavio, April 19, 2023 at 12:28 pm

New rider from Houston. Would it be easier/cost effective/logistically to drive to Davenport, leave car and transport to Sioux City or vice versa.


HelenP, April 19, 2023 at 4:47 pm

Keith, some charters also run shuttles from, and later to, Des Moines. That’s about 2-3 hours each way (east-west across state takes 5-6 hours).

For parking at the start town, make sure you’ll be able to reach end town in time for a shuttle back — they tend to leave early in the afternoon.

If parked at end town, you could just put your stuff in your car and go.

Note that some shuttles are already sold out.


KeithMargavio, April 20, 2023 at 1:20 pm

Thanks for the advise.


Kevin Kosgard, April 20, 2023 at 9:06 pm

I ride with the Quad City Bike Club and we’ll ride the river trail to the Isle Casino in Bettendorf. A few bonus miles but ample parking and near the I-74 bridge. Easy departure from there


gas gas, April 21, 2023 at 7:09 am

If I only had one day to ride I would not choose Saturday . Many popular traveling venders skip Saturday . Many riders are in a rush to get to the end town to connect with their ride home . So less stopping along the route . If you were able to ride on Friday you might experience a more typical day on RAGBRAI . Also you would be able to avoid all the traffic / parking leaving the Saturday end town . Have a good ride .


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