Gravel Loop Tires

I’m thinking about doing the gravel loop but I don’t want to carry any extra wider tires. I run the standard 700 x 23’s on my bike. Will these do ok on the Iowa gravel? I know some gravel can be deep and cause your bike to slide out from under you. Any suggestions, opinions, thoughts, or experiences appreciated.

23 Replies

andytetmeyer, July 12, 2016 at 4:43 pm

If it is deep, 23 will be on the skinny side. It will require some skilz. Why not just use wider tires – all week. Or all year? At 20mph there’s really not much measurable downside to something even as big as a 28.


Brian Wallenburg, July 12, 2016 at 5:35 pm

big discussion about the loop and tires…


RDaryl Daryl, July 12, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Note half of the loop is gravel (10.1 of 17.2 miles with 586 feet of climb).
Imogene back to the route is not gravel (420 feet of climb).


RDaryl Daryl, July 12, 2016 at 7:13 pm

New video from inspection pre=ride describes the gravel as of early June


KenH, July 12, 2016 at 8:56 pm

The executive summary is that wider tires are better, for every mile of RAGBRAI. But in fact most people run 23s, on the gravel loop and off. Ride in the well compacted tire tracks as much as you can. Keep your cool in the occasional deeper spot. and if the first mile or two doesn’t go well for you just turn around and call it a day.


GetAClue Blue, July 13, 2016 at 7:30 am

Good advice. Thx. I watched the video and I’m gonna check out the road on Google. I’m sure I’ll be riding it this year. Probably just stay with the 23’s because they are new and its a tire I’ve had great success with, you know, ride comfort, puncture proof, color, etc.. I also agree with your earlier posts about people cheating the route just for the patch. My motto “If you’re gonna do it, do it right and complete it to the end”.


KenH, July 13, 2016 at 8:43 am

Craig Cooper (Bikes to You, Grinnell) who appears in that video appears to be riding something fatter than 23’s, 28’s maybe? I bet he would respond if you asked him. Keep in mind what he says, the depth of the gravel and therefore the difficulty it poses depends on how recently the road has been graded. I am sure that traffic has compacted the gravel more than it was during the pre-ride. On the other hand the road may be scheduled for grading next Monday…. In the end others have done it on 23’s and so can you. I wouldn’t but you can!


Altidude, July 13, 2016 at 3:14 pm

In the 80’s we rode 700×19 tires.
In the 90’s we rode 700×21 tires.
In the 00’s we rode 700×23 tires.
In the 10’s we ride 700×25 tires.
In the 20’s everyone will be on 700×28 or larger.

I went to 700×28 on three of my road bikes and haven’t looked back. I rode one of my older bikes with 700×23 the other day and they seemed weirdly tiny. As tires wear out, I’m going 700×28 on all of them, as long as there is clearance. I have a cross bike and I expect I’ll end up on 700×35 Gatorskins on there if they ever make them.


Tom Vermeersch, July 13, 2016 at 5:36 pm

I will ride this section this weekend & report back. We’ve had quite a bit of rain recently & that helps pack gravel roads and make them more rideable for road bikes. But if its a rainy day – no guarantees


Houdini, July 13, 2016 at 7:29 pm

@GETACLUEblue, don’t worry too much about tire width, or “comfort, puncture proof”ness, so long as “color, etc” is good you’ll be fine on the gravel.


GORDON BROWN, July 13, 2016 at 9:44 pm

I’ve just upgraded from 23-28’s. What a great ride. On the road I can’t notice a difference on the 100 miles or so of pavement. On the 15-20 miles of gravel, a real improvement. I’ll probably never go back to skinny.


jonlumpkin, July 19, 2016 at 3:08 pm

I’m running a 25mm Continental 4000s II up front and a 28mm Continental 4 Season in back. They measure at 27.5 and 28.0 mm respectively on wide rims (18mm internal, 24mm external) and are the max that will clear my fork/frame. I have a spare 25mm 4000s II in my bag and may swap the rear after the first day as they roll a bit easier than the 4 Seasons on Tarmac.

So, I’d go with the biggest you can fit but also strongly advise against making any changes the week of the ride. Have fun out there!


GetAClue Blue, July 19, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Thx for all the good info folks. Hope to meet some of you on the ride. Possibly the gravel loop!


William Mugan, August 2, 2016 at 8:56 am

I rode this year’s gravel loop on a standard road bike with 700×25 Gatorskin tires at approximately 90 PSI and it was more difficult than I anticipated.

The road had “large aggregate” gravel with many stones at approximately one inch in diameter. I think that most gravel roads have smaller stones and therefore not as challenging to ride. Also the road did not appear to much vehicle traffic prior to Ragbrai which made it hard to find packed-down areas made by car tires.

In addition, I rode the gravel loop fairly early in the morning (9:00 AM?) so I only saw a hand-full of other riders. Later on, as the road had more bike traffic, I assume that it would have become easier to ride due to more bikes packing down the surface.

I made it through without incident, but “had my hands full.”

Anyone see it differently? Thanks.


Niles, August 2, 2016 at 10:18 am

I rode this year with my 23mm Gatorskin tires. I agree that the gravel layer is thick and the stone size is large. It was hard if I got off the two thin traffic-packed lines. Going downhill on the first couple of miles was the hardest part. I did swing at one downhill. I enjoyed the quiet part of the riding but I had to be so focused to keep a straight line. Done that and mission accomplished, I won’t return for another gravel loop, at least with my skinny tire.


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