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8th Flattest Route?

As a virgin rider this year from a relatively flat part of Texas, I hung my hat on this route being the 8th flattest. I handled the hills fine (with the exception of the last two coming into Keokuk) but I can’t wrap my brain around 39 routes being hillier. I’d love to hear more about the hillier routes from veteran riders. How different are they? Are people walking them in droves?

44 Replies

Brady Bisgard, July 31, 2019 at 10:54 am

I’ve done two rides (this year and 2017 which was the easiest ever) and I can’t imagine how hard some of the old rides must have been. I think RAGBRAI has been intentionally making them easier to accommodate more people. It seems like every year we hear “X flattest ever” or “X easiest ever”

#1310515

jwsknk, July 31, 2019 at 10:57 am

getting out of CB was this year was an easy route, the Loess Hills (west and SW corner)can be much worse. also if you get up NE around Decorah in “Little Switzerland” it can get hilly. Really, anyplace on the Iowa map where the nice road grid is broken up by squiggly roads usually means hills. Potters Hill was a walker for a lot, Mockingbird Hill got a few, Twister used to get more than now, Old 30 into Boone is a good one.

#1310518

Sandaltan ., July 31, 2019 at 1:31 pm

The Kalo hill out of Ft Dodge to Lehigh and the Pilot Mound hill are two of my favorites Skunky.

RIDE RIGHT

#1310542

Sunflower, July 31, 2019 at 1:56 pm

The numbers weren’t right- it was closer to 18k of climbing. It was a middling hard RAGBRAI.

#1310544

David, July 31, 2019 at 2:02 pm

The data to get the elevation hasn’t been consistent over time either. Until recently they were using GeoBike’s elevation maps which used the USGS elevation and greatly overestimated the elevation change in rolling terrain. Rounding errors & resolution are significant when going over a bunch of smaller hills.

The last few years they have used RideWithGPS or now RideSpot which has been much closer to reality.

If someone were to map out the historical routes with the same dataset the rankings would be different.

I would but I don’t have the route maps for the first 30ish years. RAGBRAI started long before I was born.

#1310545

bugs11, July 31, 2019 at 3:22 pm

It’s just a hill, get over it!

#1310547

jwsknk, July 31, 2019 at 4:29 pm

The data to get the elevation hasn’t been consistent over time either. Until recently they were using GeoBike’s elevation maps which used the USGS elevation and greatly overestimated the elevation change in rolling terrain. Rounding errors & resolution are significant when going over a bunch of smaller hills.

The last few years they have used RideWithGPS or now RideSpot which has been much closer to reality.

I only have a map that goes back to 78. but trying to sort out the routes now would be hard with so many using the same roads. Would have to go back and find each years route map again.

If someone were to map out the historical routes with the same dataset the rankings would be different.

I would but I don’t have the route maps for the first 30ish years. RAGBRAI started long before I was born.

#1310552

T. Gap Woo, July 31, 2019 at 4:49 pm

It’s just a hill, get over it!

Ha ha! Love that sense of humor. You’re a real card (joker, perhaps?). As the Sage of Rabbit Hash would say, “There’s no hill in Iowa I can’t walk!”

See you along the I-O-Way next year.

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R-Daryl Daryl, July 31, 2019 at 5:55 pm

After all these years, I guess I need to recalculate my RAGBRAI XXV statistics

Miles / Climb / Avg Feet per mile
S 78 / 5757 / 73
M 54 / 4137 / 76
T 70 / 3912 / 55
W 50 / 2858 / 56
Th 72 / 3209 / 44
F 75 / 3495 / 46
S 58 / 2000 / 34
week
458 / 25368 / 55

This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  R-Daryl Daryl.

This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  R-Daryl Daryl.

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Bikingaddict, July 31, 2019 at 7:41 pm

I think RAGBRAI does a huge disservice to riders by advertising each year’s ride as the “Xth flattest”. Even if they come up with a new “flattest RAGBRAI ever” route there are still going to be lots of hills. Advertising how flat a route is gives a false impression, especially for new riders (you know – the one’s they’re trying to attract with the “easy” label).

Case in point – when we finished in Lansing a couple years ago it was advertised as the 3rd flattest route in RAGBRAI history. Yet the final day through the Yellow River Forest and into Lansing might have been the single-most difficult climbing day I’ve ever experienced in my seven years (including on the gravel loops – and that’s saying something).

My suggestion to RAGBRAI is to stop advertising the flatness of the routes and lay it out that this is a fun, but challenging, event.

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Brian, August 1, 2019 at 7:03 am

Why does it matter what the advertised distance and climb are? I’m riding RAGBRAI even if they advertise 500 miles and 25k feet of climb. A couple of extra miles each day is not going to change how I train. If they advertised some insane amount of climb, then I might try and lose a few pounds to make the climbing easier!

This year, my Garmin recorded similar climb to what was advertised but I came in much longer on distance each day (ranging from 1/2 mile longer on Sunday to 7 miles longer on Saturday) . Most of that was due to the way towns routed you into and out of their town or me riding side streets to get around traffic jams. The best example was the official route ending at the Medical center on the west side of Burlington despite having another 4 miles to go to the high school.

#1310572

Bikingaddict, August 1, 2019 at 7:43 am

Why does it matter what the advertised distance and climb are? I’m riding RAGBRAI even if they advertise 500 miles and 25k feet of climb. A couple of extra miles each day is not going to change how I train.

The advertised climb doesn’t really matter to me that much either. But many people struggle mightily with hills and may decide to do a RAGBRAI advertised as “flat”. Number of feet of climb over a week may not even mean much to them – but “one of the flattest RAGBRAIs evah” might be enough to sucker them in. Those are the people that are being duped by false advertising. A few years ago we were camped next to two riders from New York who were so upset by how hilly the first day was that they booked flights home and left.

RAGBRAI needs to attract new riders if it’s going to keep building on its 47 years of success. But suckering people in with a false promise of relative flatness is the exact opposite of the way to attract and retain new riders.

#1310573

Dueywife, August 1, 2019 at 8:37 am

Ooohhh I remember that last day into Lansing, what a quad burner. I still made it up every single hill in my granny gear.

As for mileage, they advertised the route as 428 miles, but if you add up their route maps it came in at 447. We finished with 484 without loops and not staying too far off route. I also pause my computer when going through the pass-through towns and I’m off bike, so my mileage is only butt in seat distance. The last day especially was frustrating in that it was advertised as a 63 mile day and we came in at almost 75 miles.

I hope everyone commenting on the distance and elevation discrepancies plans to include this info into the survey. I wish they would be more honest about distance/elevation. It won’t change my plans to ride RAGBRAI, but riders need to be properly informed.

#1310575

jwsknk, August 1, 2019 at 10:35 am

12 bonus miles the last day? I believe that. we thought we were doing good, 30 to go, 4 hours to do it leaving West Point, average 10 mph on the bike for the last half and have an hour for stops. Somewhere that extra hour disappeared, made pretty good time on the SE leg but barely made it to our meeting spot on time.

#1310578

Jonathan Jones, August 1, 2019 at 11:59 am

I had been told that the Southern routes had more hills, but I didn’t think this ride was hilly at all.

That climb out of Yellow River measured at about 400 feet of elevation over a steady 1.7 mile climb. There are several spots on my Strava track that measure at over 8% grade. Nothing on this route came close to that.

Strava calls this a Category 4 climb. Strava segment link.

This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Jonathan Jones.

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