RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

Feet of Climb Question

The route maps note on each day there are X amount of “feet climb”. Are these #’s in relation to there are 5,280 Feet in a Mile??

27 Replies

Michrider !!!, June 15, 2016 at 7:50 am

: The route maps note on each day there are X amount of “feet climb”. Are these #’s in relation to there are 5,280 Feet in a Mile??


BTW, RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


KenH, June 15, 2016 at 8:45 am

I’m not sure what the point of your question is. Like Michrider I think you perhaps come from a metric country and want to know what a “foot” is because you use it so rarely and in that case, yes, there are 5280 feet to a mile and if you are an average male, or know one, your/his own foot is roughly a foot long. The climb in meters would be roughly one third of the climb in feet and if you want to be more accurate divide the climb in feet by 3.28 to get the climb in meters. There are 304.8 mm in a foot.

Or maybe you are asking how the climb on a given day can be several thousand feet when there is only a few hundred feet difference between the elevations of the start and end towns. And in many cases the end town is at a lower elevation than the start town … ?? The answer to that question is that the climb in feet for a day is the sum of the heights of every hill that you will ride up that day. It is the height of the mountain that would exist if you could somehow stack them all on top of each other. It is a daunting number for those of us who live in the flatlands but the saving grace is that you don’t have to do it all at once and you can have a nice piece of pie every couple dozen hills or so! It is not like using the stairs to get to the top of a tall skyscraper, it is like climbing the stairs in your own house a hundred times. A lot of work in either case but spread out over a day it is a lot easier than a single climb.

Other statistics you will see in some RAGBRAI route descriptions are average climb and difficulty.

Average climb is the total climb for some segment of the route in feet divided by the length of that segment in feet. Since the route lengths are given in miles you have to multiply them by 5280 before you do the division to get the average climb. And the average climb is expressed as a percent rather than as the raw ratio. So an average climb of 0.7 is really 0.7% or if you want to know the actual ratio it would be 0.007 Average climb gives you some sense of how difficult a segment will be to ride.

Difficulty is an artificial metric that also attempts to express in a single number how hard a given route segment will be. Like average grade it accounts for both climb and length but it “weights” the two a little more evenly. An average climb of 23% would be a killer for 100 miles, it would not tax you much if it were for 100 feet. So average climb alone does not tell you much about the difficulty of a ride. Difficulty is just the feet of climb for that segment multiplied by the length in miles of that segment. It is not a scientific result then, just a seat of your pants estimate of the effort required. It is a number that means more to people who have ridden RAGBRAI or other long rides before. If you see a high number you can look at the numbers for other RAGBRAIs that you have ridden to see what days had comparable numbers and then remembering how you felt at the end of those days you can adjust your expectations and strategy for this year’s ride. If you’ve never done a ride like this before then all the numbers tell you is which days are likely to be the hardest and easiest. Weather can, and often does, upset that apple cart however!


Brian Wallenburg, June 15, 2016 at 10:59 am

Feet in climb refers to elevation. Every time you pedal uphill you are gaining elevation. Add up all those gains in elevation and you have the feet of climb. From my experience, in very few cases, the actual feet in elevation listed on a map is correct, and I don’t say that in a good way… Usually the number listed is a low estimate. Last weekend for example, I did a ride in Plymouth county Iowa, 57 miles, the map they handed us showed 1700 feet of climb. I ended up with over 2500 feet of climb. I use a Garmin 810 which calculates elevation gain and loss, it seems pretty accurate.


Gthomp0419, June 16, 2016 at 3:27 pm

I’m from Missiouri so i don’t need the metric conversions. I’m just trying to gauge the difficulity of each day’s ride from the daily route’s feet of climb RAGBRAI has posted..


Sandaltan ., June 16, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Heat, humidity, headwinds and worst of all intemperate behavior the evening before are more formidable obstacles than feet of climb. At least in my experience.



Ken Askew, June 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

Gthomp: If you ride in Missouri you will feel at home. Probably over-trained. Most of us from MO have one leg shorter than the other from growing up on a hill. The climbing numbers are estimates based on what technology or method is used. There is a separate site that has the best estimates. I think it is GEOBike or something close to that. My Garmin never matches the ride total that well. I’m originally from SEMO north of the bootheel.


jwsknk, June 20, 2016 at 11:13 am

http://www.geobike.com/geobike/gbmain.shtml this will show you every climb, almost. some little ones may not show. I just got back from BigBAM 300+ miles across Missouri fro St. Joe to Hammibal, 200 of that must have been uphill. Most of Iowa wont be that bad after the first half day.


Sean Barrett, July 1, 2016 at 11:44 am

But which climbing profile is more accurate? GeoBike or RAGBRAI? Day 2 (Monday) GeoBike has 4519 feet while RAGBRAI has 3994 feet. There is a flat gap between miles 22-30.


Brian Wallenburg, July 1, 2016 at 1:24 pm

I’m going to guess it will be at least 5500 feet of climb.


jwsknk, July 5, 2016 at 7:58 am

who’s more accurate? the one that takes the most sample points. most climbs are really several. you may have a 400 ft climb from valley to ridge but with enough little dips along the way to make it 450.


mootsman, July 5, 2016 at 8:05 am

The accuracy on feet of climb from what I’ve read can depend on the method it was collected. Some map software doesn’t compensate for bridge decks being elevated above the stream below so it adds the feet from the deck down to the stream. So every time we cross a bridge we get a vertical climb bonus so to speak.


Gthomp0419, July 5, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Thanks all for you input. BTW I am from St. Louis, MO and do not come from a metric country. My question wasn’t meant to be complicated. Just trying to get an idea of what RAGBRAI means when it references “Feet of Climb”. Day one is “Feet of Climb” at 2,616. Knowing that there are 5,280 feet in a mile. Does this mean for the 49.7 miles on day one, there is about a 1/2 mile of total climb for the whole day??


Ken, July 5, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Does this mean for the 49.7 miles on day one, there is about a 1/2 mile of total climb for the whole day??

Yes. But to be clear, that does NOT mean that there is only a half mile of the ride that includes climbing.


RDaryl Daryl, July 5, 2016 at 10:32 pm

Feet of climb is all about elevation and not about feet per mile (distance).
Day one has hills with an elevation start of 1075 (approx) and end of 975 (approx).
With 2614 feet of climb calculated on Sunday (give or take) it implies that there will be 2714 feet of “downhill”


orion12521, July 6, 2016 at 11:15 am

In my experience:

30 feet of climb per mile is a really flat day.
50 feet of climb per mile is moderately hilly.
70 feet of climb per mile is very hilly.
90+ feet of climb per mile is going to be a very challenging day.

Feet of climb per mile this year:
Sunday 52.6
Monday 53.1 / 53.3 with gravel loop
Tuesday 56.7
Wednesday 41.6 / 40.5 with Karras Loop
Thursday 38.7
Friday 37.1
Saturday 26.4

For the first two days we will be gaining elevation. After day 2 the elevation drops steadily all the way to the Mississippi River.


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