Let’s talk gravel day

It feels great to be able to say RAGBRAI is NEXT month, but I haven’t seen many details of the gravel route. I can’t see it on the interactive map so I don’t know which roads will be used and how many miles of gravel it will be.
My Aunt lives in Iowa Falls so I could leave a bike there and I briefly thought about switching from the gravel to the road bike there. However, I’ve decided to ride the road bike for the whole thing. I’ve got 32mm tyres on the bike so whether I can do the gravel miles depends on the conditions of the road. If it’s relatively smooth with lanes worked in I should have no problem. But if it’s recently graded or has new gravel I may be in a world of hurt.
So, has anyone recently ridden the gravel in Hamilton(?) county? What’s it like?
And how do I find out how many miles of gravel are before Webster City and how many miles are after Webster City?

6 Replies

Matt, June 5, 2021 at 7:33 am

From the RAGBRAI home page ‘scroll’, you can select the daily maps to see a rough route drawn. Near the starting, midway meeting, and ending towns, it’s on the regular paved route for a while. From one of the blogs talking with Drake, he mentioned 65-70 miles if going all gravel. The maps before the new format did show the route in more detail. Not sure on actual gravel miles. If you search the Ride with GPS app for RAGBRAI 2021 Gravel there are a few people that pre-mapped it (maybe from the earlier maps here) and they show around 70 miles as well. Obviously you can choose to do only one of the two gravel loops to trim that mileage down a bit.


Nanny, June 5, 2021 at 5:38 pm

I tried posting this a moment ago…I am a newbie so I believe that I was posting in the incorrect location. If you see me somewhere else as well, my apologies! Anyway, I have not ridden gravel in Iowa before, I cannot speak to that portion of the question. However, the Ragbrai site has an article posted that the full route is 70 miles on the gravel day, 44 miles of the 70 miles is gravel. I am still at only 25 miles of gravel on a 52 mile ride and that was exhausting…wanting to do it but waiting to see how training progresses and how I feel after Sunday and Monday of biking, lol! 😉 Best wishes with making all the best decisions for you and with training!!! https://ragbrai.com/ragbrai-training-gravel-goodness/


KenH, June 5, 2021 at 10:05 pm

Have you seen these maps? There was a link to them in a blog entry a while back but there does not seem to be a direct link to them from anywhere else on the website, as far as I can tell. They show the gravel route in some detail. Not road names but you should be able to work out the actual roads by pattern matching against your favorite online map service.

I could swear that Dieter Drake said in a podcast that gravel day would be 70 miles total, 50 on gravel. But 50 or 44, I don’t suppose it makes much difference. To me it looks like about a third of the gravel is before Webster City and two thirds after. If your bike is running 32 mm tires then I think you are well equipped for Iowa gravel. That’s not to say that it will be a picnic. In 2018 the then gravel loop was through the Loess hills area and the route was a thin layer of gravel over the underlying Loess. The earlybirds reported a normal gravel surface, those of us who followed them were faced with … with … well, if Loess isn’t literally the German word for sand it might as well be. That stuff was awful and of course the Loess hills are famously endless and on the gravel backroads they are unrelieved by cuts and fills. What a delighful nightmare that was!

I don’t think this year’s route will be anything like that, no other year has been, but I do not live in the area or in Iowa for that matter. I’ve normally ridden on 38 mm tires, gravel or paved. In 2019 I brought a new bike with 2.15 inch 29er tires so even better but 32s should be fine.

Normally RAGBRAI has done a pre-ride and I was thinking it would start this weekend as I thought that was about the normal time. I haven’t heard a word about it this year but I assume it will happen and probably start next weekend or the following one. Details about the gravel loop have always been a little light in the pre-ride reports but I think this year will be different because Dieter is excited about the new approach to gravel on RAGBRAI and I think it will be featured more as a result.


KenH, June 5, 2021 at 10:08 pm

I don’t know if I did something wrong or if the anti-spam software doesn’t allow posting links, even to RAGBRAI’s own webpage. The bold text above should have been a link. I will try again but it may not work this time either:

Link to alternate maps?


hnschipper, June 5, 2021 at 10:49 pm

Ken, RAGBRAI announced today that the pre-ride starts tomorrow. I thought it was odd there was mention of this leading up to the pre-ride.


KenH, June 7, 2021 at 11:41 am

Thanks for the head’s up although I did notice a post on a Facebook group about this a little before I saw yours here. It is odd that they aren’t keeping the web page up to date with this.


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