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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

KenH, August 6, 2019 at 10:39 am

I would not know how to quantify this mathematically and as an engineer that bothers me but the hills on southern routes just seem more wearing to me than their number and height would indicate. I do know that if you did not get enough hills this year then your should have ridden the gravel loop. There was a well packed trail for skinny tired road bikes to follow on its entire length. Hill after hill had grades of 10+ %. Maybe they all did, my bike computer’s grade indicator crapped out about half way around. Probably a rain drop had sealed its barometric pressure port since it worked fine the rest of the week. Unless you took special measures to clean your bike (a simple hosing off was not sufficient) the “gravel patina” on your bike was a badge of honor the whole week!

Yeah, either my age is starting to seriously catch up with me or I just under-trained this year. I know for certain that it was at least some of the latter. I hope not too much of the former….

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Wendy Fowler, August 6, 2019 at 6:52 pm

This has been a great conversation and I love to hear the stories of years past. Thanks everyone! I come from an area where we ride 1-2K feet of climb in a 20ish mile trek but the biggest hill is 7% grade. Plenty of the hills on Ragbrai this year were between 7% and 10%. I was actually quite pleased with how I handled them.

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BarryTantlinger, August 6, 2019 at 8:44 pm

All I can say is it would be nice for RAGBRAi to get the mileage right on the last day and to keep it under around 50 miles. A 65 -70 mile day to end means having to push to get finished. A little more leisure would be appreciated.

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Geoff Butland, August 7, 2019 at 6:37 am

@barrytantlinger – yes, a long last day can be problematic. Our group rides fairly slowly, and even with a very early start we weren’t sure half our team would make their 2pm (!!) bus ride cutoff back to Council Bluffs. We made it work, but a shorter last day would be welcome. My wife and I drove from CT and we only made it as far as Elkhart Saturday night. It made for a long Sunday on the road. This is in no way a complaint! “RAGBRAI don’t care”™ or something like that 😁. Just a “wouldn’t it be nice if…”.

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Alan_50501, August 7, 2019 at 12:38 pm

All I can say is it would be nice for RAGBRAi to get the mileage right on the last day and to keep it under around 50 miles. A 65 -70 mile day to end means having to push to get finished. A little more leisure would be appreciated.

I agree me and wife had to push it…needless to say we didnt stop a whole lot..Our group wanted to be back by 12:00 to 1:00 wife and I isnt the fastest we got back about 2:00 the wind killed us

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T. Gap Woo, August 7, 2019 at 4:21 pm

@barrytantlinger – yes, a long last day can be problematic. My wife and I drove from CT and we only made it as far as Elkhart Saturday night. It made for a long Sunday on the road. This is in no way a complaint! “RAGBRAI don’t care”™ or something like that 😁. Just a “wouldn’t it be nice if…”.

Greetings, fellow Nutmegger from a native Torringtonian (now living elsewhere)!

Mrs Woo and I have solved this issue! In those years where the route is north or central, we book a motel in the Quad Cities area. We sightsee on our way there on Saturday, get a good night’s sleep and then head east on I-80 to the greater Cleveland area, where we spend a day or two with the in laws before heading home to Pennsylvania.

A southern ending would have us staying overnight in metropolitan Keokuk/Ft Madison and then following the appropriate Illinois state highways until we reached the interstate that runs into Indianapolis, where we’d take I-70 to Columbus and then I-71 to Cleveland area.

This has worked very well for us in all years.

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

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swiifg, August 7, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Every year has it’s challenges. The longer final day shorts pass through towns since many of us are pushing to make it to the end by the team or charter cut-off. What stinks more in this scenario is when the “pro” in your group sets a really early cut-off because they have to get on the road back to home or the airport then you hustle non-stop and arrive only to find the rush was all a ruse and the rest of the group hasn’t even showered yet to make the trip home.

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Tom Hotle, August 11, 2019 at 5:10 pm

I don’t think we had any hills this year with greater than 7% grade, other than maybe that last one in Keokuk. Did anyone measure hills between 7 and 10%?

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LawnchairMan, August 11, 2019 at 8:09 pm

Hi Tom,
Yes, the first day I had at least two hills of 8 or 9%. About four miles into day 4 (century day) I saw 12% just before we turned onto Nevada street. That was tougher for me than Keokuk. I’m pretty sure that the hill on Bridgeport road at the Skunk river was over 8% too. I think we had our share of hills this year.

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“Bicycle Bill”, August 11, 2019 at 11:24 pm

It’s times like this that I really miss the Geobike site.

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Carl Anderson, August 12, 2019 at 8:04 am

This year proved challenging for me, as I did not have enough training miles in .The last day was a long and toughest day for me as I hit the mental wall.I did have the determination not to walk up any hills this year. At the last hill going into Keokuk I met my match and was just about ready to get off when a Gentleman ran about 50 yards and asked me if I wanted a pushed start to finish the hill, I am so grateful to this guy. It allowed me to reach my goal. So to the guy who helped out the guy in the American Legion Jersey, I would like to thank you

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Tom Hotle, August 12, 2019 at 8:56 am

The 2018 route maps on the RAGBRAI site have ride with GPS files which show the % grade over the entire ride. 2019 route maps don’t have that (as far as I can tell). Does anyone know where I could find that data for the 2019 route? – Thanks

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trknight, September 2, 2019 at 10:32 pm

I didn’t do the gravel loop but did do the Karras loop. Including to and from where my group stayed/camped in each overnight, at the end of the week (from my Garmin data) I totaled 515 miles with 19,300’ of climb. The disparity in mileage when counting to and from camp this year seemed a little higher than past years. My impression is distances and climb are sometimes projected short of actual so as not to scare off the masses.

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Jill Ellenbecker, September 10, 2019 at 10:54 pm

Per TJ on the latest “Just Go Bike” podcast, the posted distances are from city limit to city limit, and do not include the distance traveled within the towns/cities. Even in small towns, I would guess that extra distance can add up over the day and the entire route.

I was puzzled in the past that my Strava distance was so far off the official distance even when staying in the main campground and not taking detours, but, I suppose this explains it. The distance within towns isn’t counted. This wasn’t clear to me, and it appears others have been confused by this as well.

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