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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

Larry Klaaren, August 1, 2019 at 12:32 pm

I guess I am in a different place than most people on this forum. The Register has this ride, they give an idea what it is like and people decided whether to ride it. It is what it is. If five extra miles, or a couple hills that are larger than you thought you might see there are a big problem, think again about what we are doing. It is a bit of a disappointment when the ride isn’t over when you think it is, but it is not a game breaker by any means. After my medical year, and at my age, I am glad I can ride this thing. I have been bragging that I did not walk a single hill and rode every mile. As far as the condition of the road, after seeing the roads in the Oskaloosa vicinity after all the water in May, I knew it had to be like that in some places. But at any rate, you are kind of foolish not to watch the road. Just saying.

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Geoff Butland, August 1, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Rough data from my Garmin Fenix 3.

Sunday: 77 miles, 4624 feet (includes gravel loop)
Monday: 75 miles, 2631 feet
Tuesday: 44 miles, 2047 feet
Wednesday: 121 miles, 4928 feet (includes Karras Loop)
Thursday: 68 miles, 2553 feet
Friday: 72 miles, 2067 feet
Saturday: 68 miles, 2087 feet
525 miles, 20,937 feet

Ride estimate given was 427 miles, 14735 feet
Gravel loop was 20.9, 1207 feet estimated
Karras Loop was 32.3 estimated, 1310 feet estimated
Subtracting the loops you have ~472 miles, 18420 feet.
About 10% over on miles, 20% over on elevation.

Close enough! Great Ride!

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jake d, August 1, 2019 at 8:08 pm

The charters tell riders when the busses are leaving on the last day, and advise you to plan your day accordingly. That’s not easy when you throw in 10 extra hilly miles.

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Wendy Fowler, August 4, 2019 at 8:02 pm

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!

You’ve missed my point though, I was asking what the hillier routes are like and how many people walk hills. I was simply gaining perspective as someone from a flatter area. 🙂

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3 Pedal, August 5, 2019 at 11:19 am

I certainly heard a few times over the week, if this is the 8th flattest, I don’t want to see a hilly route. If the elevation data used to calculate this is different than in years past, then you really can’t make an accurate comparison. It would be fun to reevaluate the old routes with then new data and see how things changed.

After 15 RAGRBAIs, this wasn’t the hardest, nor the easiest. If the heat had not broke at the start, it would would have been one of the hardest.

I think the numbers do not tell the whole story. Lots of short rollers you can get into a rhythm with can have a lot of total climb, but not feel as hard as the same climb in a couple large hills. Routes that have a good bit of level or close to level riding don’t seem as hilly, as you are not constantly going up a hill. When you have long segments of mid sized or larger hills, the slower 1/2 of the riders spend 3+ minutes climbing for every minute descending. You end up felling like you spent all day climbing.

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R-Daryl Daryl, August 5, 2019 at 11:37 am

Agree. 9.5 Miles of gradual downhill with 0.5 miles of steep climb feels completely different then 5 miles of gradual downhill and 5 miles of gradual climb even though the total climb may be the same in both situations. Obviously, most riders only remember the monster climbs as compared to the 5 mile long gradual climbs.
Seems like some from RAGBRAI nation is requesting that the staff clearly states these calculations. I don’t think that is reasonable or required.
I need to go back and recalculate the XXV climb as it’s calculations are among my steepest.
But then again, I am a few years older than then and the elevation climb impacts me a little differently these days. As a result, I try not to compare the elevation climb in the traditional apples-to-apples comparison.

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

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Amanda, August 5, 2019 at 1:08 pm

I personally thought it was the hilliest and hardest RAGBRAI. But then my wonderful cousin reminded me that I did not train enough. He said the riding I did was more of a leisure ride than full blown training. I guess I would have to agree. This was my 21st RAGBRAI – you would think I would know a southern route means hills and I should train. Oh well, next year!

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Chad Frana, August 5, 2019 at 1:23 pm

I think the headwinds made the hills seem far worse than they really were. At times I rode into for miles into headwinds and then hit a fairly short hill and it felt like a mountain.

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George A, August 5, 2019 at 2:22 pm

I posted this in another topic by mistake. Copied it here.

Obviously what seems like big hills to some are not to others and depending on where you live, or lived, and how you train makes a difference. With that said I felt this year was moderately hilly, not difficult, but definitely not a flat route. The hills were not the kind that you can roll over because of speed going in. All week long I was gearing down on climbs. My comment to my group was that from day one to day seven we were climbing each and every day pretty much the whole ride. Nothing crazy hard but just constant. Nothing as difficult as the hills at the end of 2017 in Northeast Iowa though.

All in all I thought it was a great ride with more interesting terrain than the checkerboard flat routes of Northwest Iowa.

I will agree with an above comment in that the winds played a role in how difficult the ride seemed. There were many days of either head wind, or head/crosswind and that added to the difficulty. If I recall there were only two or three sections of tail wind all week. Day 7 would have been a totally different day with no wind.

Even though it is the topic in another tread I do not feel the roads were that bad. My personal feeling is that when you feel the roads are bad slow down and then they do not seem as bad. In 2018 there was one day that the road was bad for many miles, constant cross cracks that jar you every few seconds. No way to get around those. I did not experience anything like that this year. There were sections here and there that required attention but road conditions were never a real topic with our group.

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Brian, August 5, 2019 at 9:22 pm

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!

You’ve missed my point though, I was asking what the hillier routes are like and how many people walk hills. I was simply gaining perspective as someone from a flatter area. 🙂

This post kind of turned into complaining about advertised climb vs reality and I continued to take it off topic! 🙂

The “hillier” routes would be more or less similar to what you experienced this year, just fewer flat sections in between the hills. Last year’s Karras loop through New Sharon and Sully had 5500 feet of climb. There were no real “killer” hills, though. It was just never ending rollers with a few “groaners” mixed in. The last day into Lansing a few years ago, didn’t seem that hilly on paper ( 1800ish feet of climb over 44 miles, but 1200 of that came on 4 hills! Still, I never saw a large number of people walking those hills, even the really long one coming out of Yellow River forest.

The worst hill I’ve seen in terms of number of walkers was Potter Hill outside of Graf on the way to Dubuque about 9 or 10 years ago. That day, half the left lane and the entire right lane were occupied by people walking the hill. There was 2 lanes available on the left to ride up the hill and if the person in front of you dropped their chain you were down to one lane.

But that’s the thing about the “feet of climb” stat. It’s not how many feet you climb it’s how that climb is encountered that matters. Is it a lot of short hills or long gradual climbs or several large steep hills?

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jwsknk, August 5, 2019 at 10:28 pm

Potters, saw 2 people tip over from lack of momentum. That pretty much brought everything to a stop. Had to walk past that spot then got back on and rode it out. Pretty much if the hill has earned a name, it’s a “scenic” Loess Hills, the Des Moines river in the southern 2/3rds and Little Switzerland (northeast). Also South East iowa Van Buren county , Bonaparte area and almond the Mississippi are the areas to expect hills. The 4 H’s (heat, headwind ,humidity and hills) can change a easy to hard or hard to easy.

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R-Daryl Daryl, August 5, 2019 at 10:36 pm

Do an internet search for “Saggy Thursday”
RAGBRAI XXIII history still exists.
But we were all much younger back they and had much stronger legs.

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jwsknk, August 5, 2019 at 10:57 pm

Do an internet search for “Saggy Thursday”
RAGBRAI XXIII history still exists.
But we were all much younger back they and had much stronger legs.

1995, Tama to someplace south. A little breezy, a little peadling down hill. How could uphill be easier than down? The hill is acting as a wind break. But that was the middle of the LA to DC Iowa 150. So for me it wasn’t too bad. And I got in later after a wind shift.

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R-Daryl Daryl, August 5, 2019 at 11:23 pm

Tama/Toledo to Sigourney.
Yes – a little pedaling DOWNHILL to maintain speed. Heat Humidity & Headwinds in the old school days.
Seemed like the top of each hill was a rest stop even though they were rollers.
OOPS – we got in during daylight. And the local bar on the town square would not serve a Martini !

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jayteeme, August 6, 2019 at 2:16 am

I’ve ridden the last 4 and this was the 2nd hilliest imo (WAAAAY behind 2016). I actually think the route had an excellent mix of hills and flat that kept everything interesting.
I do think that we are being lied to about the distance/climb. I rode over 60 miles over the advertised distance. Some of that is getting to and from host homes but a lot of it is just that the route was longer than we were told. I had maybe a mile on and off the route on Indianola-Centerville and rode 91.1 miles that day. Not that it “matters” but i do think we are being “lied” to.

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