The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

Steepest Hill?

I know I trained… err just rode more before RAGBRAI last year and 2010 than the years in between.

I feel like I easily made it up Mockingbird Hill last year.

I struggled, but made it up Potter’s Hill in 2010.

I made it out of Lehigh in 2012, but didn’t make the next hill after that.

I had to walk Twister Hill in 2011.

Again, my training in 2011 and 2012 was not very good. So I feel like I could have made those I couldn’t if I rode as much as I did before 2010 and last year.

So here is my question:

Wikipedia has a posting that Mockingbird Hill is the steepest ever on RAGBRAI. Is this true? I am having a hard time believing it steeper than Potter’s Hill.

9 Replies

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Davy Sprocket, December 31, 2013 at 7:57 am

Honestly, I don’t remember a Mockingbird hill, but I can tell you that I don’t remember any tough hills last year. I rode every inch of the route, including the Karras Loop (met him there too) on only 300 miles of training and I think I would have struggled if there was a tough hill. I don’t know if Potters was the steepest, but I would say if you factor all the conditions on that day, temperature, no wind, length and congestion, it was one of the hardest. Just getting around all the people that would stop in the middle of the hill or the ones that had the front wheel wobble was the hardest part.

Can’t wait to see what this year holds for us. I know I will have more than 300 miles training for sure.



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trknight, January 2, 2014 at 12:04 am

Of the past 5 RAGBRAI’s I thought Potter Hill was, by far, the hardest (and I rode every mile except the Karras loop in ’09). It was an average grade of close to 7% for about a mile but the steepest pitch hit ~19%. What made it the hardest was the congestion on the hill. When I rode it there was a narrow chute up the middle for people still on their bikes. I remember the guy in front of me was “wavering” (if he stopped I was done) and I “encouraged” him to keep it going which he managed to do (he thanked me at the top as he really wanted to make it!).

Twister Hill was a grind in 100 degree heat with parts of it around 10%. I remember hills out of Lehigh but don’t recall them being too hard. I think Mockingbird Hill was only about 1/2 mile long and had parts of it in excess of 10%.

Training does make a big difference, not just miles but climbing. The past two years I did the Death Ride (Tour of the California Alps, 120+ miles, 15,000′ of climbing, 5 mountain summit climbs and, yes, all in one day with cut off times to meet) which was right before RAGBRAI. The steepest on RAGBRAI seemed pretty easy after that. Even Potter Hill would have been easier after that.


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Cyclehulk, January 7, 2014 at 7:42 pm

I just remember the hill coming out of Lehigh in 2012. It was my First RAGBRAI, and my daughter had to walk the hill. I waited for her at the top and she told me that she couldn’t make it the rest of the way. I made her take a nap under a big shade tree across the road and once she had rested, I made her ride in my draft the rest of the day. It was, without a doubt, the longest day I’ve ever spent on the bike. 100 degree heat, a persistent headwind, a relatively novice rider in tow and 12 hours on the bike, but in the end, my daughter was extremely proud that she made it through the day. And I will always be proud of what she accomplished that day.


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cyduke, January 9, 2014 at 9:06 am

If I remember right, the Sunday paper for RAGBRAI in 1990 (Spencer, IA that day) John Karras had an article which listed the steepest hills in each county of Iowa. Who knows if I still have it. A good project on these below zero days.


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Ragbrai Nation, January 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Well we won’t have the Des Moines River valley valley to climb out of, so-to-speak, if the route is as far north as I believe it will be.


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jwsknk, January 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

nope, but we could do the Iowa Alps 🙂


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rab520, January 11, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Potters Hill….No Doubt!


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SFC JKL2, January 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Potter’s Hill was the toughest because of all the reasons listed previously. I used to live on a street that was 18 degrees so that seemed about right to me.

I’ll stand behind my claim that as long as they are still calling them “hills” I’ll be OK.
PS: I like the going down part much better…


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knees36, January 12, 2014 at 11:30 pm

If a particular hill has a name “attached” to it you can bet it can be a tough hill to climb for most of us casual cyclists. Potter’s Hill was the toughest hill I ever pushed my bike up. There’s a hill in Harrison County in Iowa between Woodbine and Magnolia (# F 32) that I can hit 50 mph going down and 3 mph max going up…but no name that I could “attach” to it without being banned. Cheers.


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