RAGBRAI LI July 20 -27, 2024

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

GetAClue Blue, August 3, 2016 at 7:09 am

I did the loop on a Jamison carbon bicycle with 35mm tires. I had to wait about 45 minutes for the right size bike to come around but it was worth it. Nice, quiet ride. Gravel took some getting use to even with the wider tires. I saw several 23mm tires on the gravel. Imogene was a fun town. Did my first adult size slip-n-slide at the church there. Great potato bar and friendly folks. Thanks “Jamison” for the loaner bike. It was a great ride.


KenH, August 3, 2016 at 8:03 am

The gravel loop was no problem on 38mm tires and neither were road cracks and most other road hazards, which is why I run them. The loop was harder this year because it was hotter, hillier, and the depth of the loose gravel off the compacted tire tracks made it harder to pedal through than last year. I was hot and tired enough by the time I hit the loop that I stayed to the compacted automobile tire tracks the whole way. I was not in the mood to exert the effort required to pedal through the loose stuff at that point although I did take pity on those of you brave souls who did the loop on 23s. As you came up behind me and wanted to pass I moved over into the loose gravel to make life easier for you. You should really buy me a beer sometime, don’t you think!?

For the most part you 23 mm guys and gals were riding the packed tracks and riding faster than me but on every downhill you were all riding your brakes. I spent the whole loop dropping behind y’all on the uphills and then catching you up on the downhills. I did one downhill run with no one in front of me so I just let it run. Yeah, at about 25 mph it did start to get a little “interesting”!

I saw one person fixing a flat and I saw one inner tube that someone else had discarded so unlike last year there must have been some significant amount of pinch flatting (I assume) going on. Just over a mile before Imogene I came upon a little knot of people assisting someone who had crashed. You could see the rut in the gravel he created when his front tire got away from him in the loose stuff. I don’t think he was seriously injured but since he was older (my age!) the others had convinced him to wait for an ambulance. A middle aged couple had “adopted” him by then and were determined to wait with him until the ambulance arrived so after making sure they had enough water and anything else they might need while waiting the rest of us rode on. I don’t think he would have had any trouble riding the rest of the week and perhaps after getting checked out by the medics he was able to complete that day’s ride. He was on a touring bike with fairly wide tires so he was well equipped to handle the gravel. Sometimes it just gets ahead of you.


kennejam, August 4, 2016 at 10:29 am

Rode Teravail Galena at 33mm for the whopping 6 miles of gravel, and for entire week. Seriously, if your having a gravel loop, put some miles in it. The Galenas were great for the gravel, though slow and comfortable for the rest of the ride. The rolled over everything.

You could of rode 23s, dropped the pressure, and been ok.

Showed up late to Imogene and missed the patch. Oh well.


jeffreydennis, August 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Rode it on my Madone with tubeless 25’s. It wasn’t easy. Took a lot of concentration. Do not feel the need to ever do it again. People couldn’t believe they were seeing a road bike.


Altidude, August 5, 2016 at 1:00 am

I did the loop on 700×25 Gatorskins with no problem. Stay in the groove if one exists, otherwise, just let the bike go. Most problems on surfaces like that come when someone tries to brake. Don’t brake! Leave enough space around you and let it go.

What is this about a patch? When I got to Imogene there were maybe 20 riders there, and no sign of anyone handing out patches. I ate an ear of corn and took off down the rail trail. Shade for nine miles into Shenandoah, and it dumped me right into camp. That was the best stretch all week.


GetAClue Blue, August 5, 2016 at 6:33 am

They were handing out the patch when I entered Imogene on the designated route. If you rode the trail in instead of the road, you missed the patch handout. Some folks took the paved exit route instead of the gravel loop entrance into Imogene and they missed the patch handout. If you weren’t a RAGBRAI registered rider, they wouldn’t give you a patch. May be that you arrived before or after they gave out the patches. I heard there was a nice shaded path into the overnight town but I had to take the designated RAGBRAI route so I could return the Jamison loaner bike at the entrance and exit location to the gravel loop. That is were the Jamison rep was set up.


Jedwards6192, August 5, 2016 at 11:41 am

I did the entire week on 700-35’s. I have a Cannondale Rival CX. The larger tires saved me several flats as well the disc brakes were great in crowded riding. Fantastic experience for a 55 year olds first Ragbrai.


FarleyBob, August 5, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I did the entire week on my fatbike. The 4″ tires handled the gravel just fine!


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