While RAGBRAI may be over for another year, plenty of other bicycling opportunities are available to keep Eastern Iowans pumped.
But for those who haven’t ridden since they were a kid with a one-speed, it can be hard to know where to start.
Kathy Murphy, membership and outreach director at the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, advised that while you don’t need a fancy bike to start riding, you do need to check your bike’s basic needs: make sure it has the right amount of air in the tires, that its brakes are working properly and that its chains are not rusty.
RENT A BIKE
What if you don’t own a bike?
In Iowa City, the Bike Library (icbikelibrary.org) offers a chance for cyclists to “check out” bikes for up to six months. Located south of the Ped Mall and across from several bike shops, the Bike Library offers bikes on a first-come, first-served basis for a refundable deposit once the bike is returned, minus a $50 sustainability fee. The deposit can range anywhere from $75 to $300.
The city of Cedar Rapids started a bike share program this summer, with 150 pedal and e-bikes (electronic-assist) located at green racks around the downtown, Czech Village and NewBo areas. It costs cyclists $1 to unlock the bike (which can be waived for low-income users) and 15 cents a minute to use.
“In the last couple of years, I feel like we’ve had an increase in riders, especially recreational riders,” said Brandon Whyte, multimodal transportation planner with Corridor MPO, who provided technical assistance to the bike share program.
“My hope is that as we create more facilities for cyclists that we can convert some of the recreational riders to commuters.”
LEARN FROM A GROUP RIDE
Several bicycle clubs around Eastern Iowa offer weekly rides.
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Goldfinch Cyclery in Cedar Rapids organizes no-drop gravel road rides — meaning no rider gets left behind — on Thursdays for those who like to use a wider-tire bike.
Bicyclists of Iowa City offers four rides a week, ranging from 10 to 50 miles; the Thursday evening ride is more leisurely and family-oriented.
Local bike shops post information on area clubs and upcoming rides on their message boards, and bikeiowa.com offers a calendar of events throughout the state.
Group rides are a great chance to be social and also bike with peace of mind.
“A lot of people, when they do solo rides, have a fear of having a mechanical problem or a flat tire,” said Baoli Yang, president of the Hawkeye Bicycle Association (hawkeyebike.org).
“When you ride with a group, the more experienced bikers will be able to help and always carry an extra tube,” Yang said. “It’s also fun to talk to people when you ride.”
The Hawkeye Bicycle Association offers three weekly rides in and around Cedar Rapids, on Wednesday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings. People can try out a ride once for free before becoming a member. Membership costs $30 per year for an individual or $40 for a family and covers the cost of insurance.
The Wednesday ride, which leaves from either the Boyson Road trailhead of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail or Sokol Park, has three to four groups, based on ability, pace and distance, All ages are welcome.
“Especially for people starting new, you have no idea which trail leads to which trail, what roads are the best to ride on. A group provides those resources,” Yang said.
Murphy is also the bike coordinator for Meet Me at the Market in NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, which is free and open to any level of cyclist every Thursday. The group leaves at 6 p.m. from the NewBo City Market and uses bike trails or low-traffic roads, usually with a destination like Dan and Debbie’s Creamery in Ely providing the rest stop for the 10- to 20-mile rides.
UNDERSTAND THE RULES OF THE ROAD
Murphy advises cyclists to visit ride-right.org for tips on road safety before heading out.
“When you’re out on your bike, always try to be predictable. Maintain a constant speed, make eye contact with drivers before crossing driveways, use hand signals when you’re turning, or if you have to stop suddenly, use your right-hand signal. This helps bicyclists be predictable so we can all get along,” Murphy said.
Ron Neyens, social outreach director of the Marion-Cedar Rapids Road Hogs club, says riding with clubs can be beneficial because more experienced riders can guide newer ones on things like the right tire pressure and benefits of wearing jerseys and gloves.
“The whole idea of the club is to support each other,” Neyens said.
The Road Hogs club doesn’t charge dues; everyone is welcome to show up and ride. A subgroup, called the Rhinos, meets for Wednesday and Saturday rides.
While bike helmets are not required in Iowa, they are an important safety tool that some clubs do require.
David Heitbrink, president of Bicyclists of Iowa City, also advises riders to always bring two water bottles during the humid summer months and on long rides — you’ll go through water a lot faster than you’d think, he says.
If you’re looking for a weekend social ride, annual events such as BRIC (Bike Ride of Iowa County) through the Amana Colonies and the 15th annual Courage Ride in Iowa City are happening in August. The Courage Ride offers six paved routes, including a 5-mile family ride that stays completely on the Iowa River Trail from Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City to the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and back. For the other five routes, there will be sag wagons, bike repair station, and several stops along the way with food, drinks and live music. University of Iowa physicians will also be conducting free skin exams
LEARN MORE ONLINE:
• Bicyclists of Iowa City: bicyclistsofiowacity.org
• Bike Ride of Iowa County: amanacolonies.com/event/bike-ride-of-iowa-county-b-r-i-c/
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• Cedar Rapids Bike Share Program: cedar-rapids.org/local_government/departments_a_-_f/community_development/bike_share_system.php
• Courage Ride: courageride.org
• Hawkeye Bicycle Association: hawkeyebike.org
• Iowa City Bike Library: icbikelibrary.org
• Iowa City Cycling Club: iowacitycyclingclub.com
• Marion-Cedar Rapids Road Hogs: northtownebikes.com/articles/road-hogs-information-pg881.htm
• Meet Me at the Market: meetmecr.org
• Rules of the road: ride-right.org