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Feet Of Climb Variances

Good morning, everyone.
I’m sure there’s a rational explanation for the variances in feet of climb listed on the routes page.
Does anyone know why there are variances and which one is most accurate?
Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide.

14 Replies

Geoff Butland, July 5, 2019 at 3:05 pm

I’m guessing measuring elevation is like using hand grenades – you just need to be close enough.


RagbraiJim, July 5, 2019 at 3:18 pm

I’ve heard people on our team complain about the variance in the official route versus what their computers say when they are on a bike. It seems to be the variance can be attributed to the type of vehicle used to take the measurements. If you are walking it is going to measure every pot hole you step in. If you are on a bike the shorter tire span (versus a car) might measure more climb (we have big pot holes in Iowa this Year). I don’t know if this theory is right but I’m sticking to it!


Paul Craig, July 6, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Thanks for your replies. I see the same variances on my local routes. Over the course of a week, those variances add up. Let’s hope I’m ready. This is my first one. And I’m…. concerned.


jelly0317, July 6, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Take your time, stay hydrated, and enjoy the experience. Seeing riders of all ages, and particularly those with physical challenges, on the road each day has a certain uplifting effect, at least for me.


Geoff Butland, July 7, 2019 at 7:26 am

My watch uses a barometric altimeter and I never get the same elevation numbers twice on identical rides.
I was pretty stressed out leading up to my first RAGBRAI and it turned out fine…. back for my third this year. Take it easy, eat well, stay hydrated and before you know it you’re in Keokuk making plans for RAGBRAI 2020.


LawnchairMan, July 7, 2019 at 5:52 pm

Variations I see could be due to the route changes on day one and day three. In some places they have the original distance and elevation gain, where others they have the new data. I also agree with Ride Spot for the distance on day four. The official distance with the Karras loop is 116 miles, where I calculate 120.


LawnchairMan, July 7, 2019 at 6:08 pm

The differences on day six and seven don’t make much sense to me. I can only guess that day six may or may not bypass Geode State Park. Day seven may just be different start / stop points in the towns. You got me. I will just roll with it. (pun incidental)


Paul Craig, July 7, 2019 at 6:52 pm

Thanks to all for the kind words. I’ve never believed I was all that bright. To know someone else is mystified brings some degree of comfort.


Brady Bisgard, July 8, 2019 at 10:13 am

Nothing is exact on RAGBRAI. The route will be longer or shorter depending on your camp site and how much of each town you explore.

I use Strava on the ride just to record the mileage – but don’t worry about the time or speed. The elevation given is just an estimate.

Never forget – RAGBRAI DONT CARE.


francoisvanzyl, July 8, 2019 at 10:40 am

Distance, feet of climb, wind, heat — none of it matters and will have any effect if you finish or not, it is after all RAGBRAI. Just have fun and go with the flow.


KenH, July 8, 2019 at 11:36 am

At the first RAGBRAI this gentleman who later claimed his training was to ride the bike described below for two or three times around the block did the whole ride:

Among the many interesting people the ride attracted was Clarence Pickard of Indianola. This 83-year-old gentleman, who hadn’t ridden a bicycle much in recent years, showed up for that first ride with a used ladies Schwinn and rode all the way to Davenport, including the 100 degree plus day from Des Moines to Williamsburg, a 110-mile trek. Pickard’s attire for the ride was a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet.

(quoted from the RAGBRAI Chronicles)

If he could make it, so will you.

People on this forum report that friends of theirs show up with 20 or 30 miles of training and they do the whole ride.

If they can make it, so will you.

If you have been able to ride 200 to 400 miles before the ride, you will be in fairly good shape.

If you have ridden 1000 miles in advance of the ride and have made adjustments to your bike and your clothing to maximize your comfort in all kinds of weather then you will be in great shape.

If you have followed coach Ertl’s training regimen to a tee then most of the rest of us will not be able to keep up with you!!

As Brady said above, nothing about RAGBRAI is exact. It is one huge exercise in going with the flow and adjusting your battle plan on the fly as conditions on the ground change, moment by moment. If you believe you can do it and have trained, at all, then you will do it. Don’t worry about the numbers, they give us something to discuss while waiting for the end of July to arrive but once you get out on the road everything is good. Even your bad days are good.


Paul Craig, July 8, 2019 at 3:53 pm

I have a few added challenges in that I’m diabetic with some complications. The caloric monitoring is critical. Past that, I’ve completed 2,000 training miles and recently finished an 80 mile, 3,000+ feet of climb ride in 6 hours of moving time. Your post gives me great relief. I fully believe “RAGBRAI DON’T CARE.” Bring it on, RAGBRAI. Bring… it… on.

See you fine folks on the road.


Marla Shifflett, July 8, 2019 at 9:18 pm

Hi Paul, Sounds like you are well prepared for RAGBRAI! Just thought I’d share that one of my riding partners is diabetic, and while everyone is different, he has gotten along well on RAGBRAI. Your training, coupled with a wide variety of caloric choices on the route, will serve you well. See you on the road! Marla


Paul H, July 8, 2019 at 11:25 pm

KenH could not have said it better. From my experience, I see that RAGBRAI seems to have a force that just pulls folks along. Some folks don’t even look like they belong on a bicycle have made it just fine and happy at that! I hope that all feel a sense of accomplishment and it leads them to more or bigger goals. Enjoy the small towns. Rest often and as my friend Emmma told me last week… Slow down and enjoy life!


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